April 23, 2009

Draft Day Wish List

Finally, mercifully, the NFL Draft is upon us.

For those old enough to remember when that meant little more than checking the Monday morning Washington Post sports section for the inside-page graphic listing the name, position and college of twelve mostly unknown new Redskins, the colossal hype machine surrounding 21st-century draft weekends is still the source of a little bemusement. It is no doubt a great weekend for any serious NFL fan however ... and all kidding aside, I count myself among them.

Bring it on.

Two of the best mock draft compilation sites I know of, DC Pro Sports Report and HailRedskins.com, both show roughly quarter of their compiled mock drafts predicting the Redskins will stand pat at pick number 13 and select Ole Miss OT Michael Oher.

Not being one to spend the hundreds of hours required to meaningfully assess an entire incoming draft class for the best prospect for any given teams' needs, I will assume, at the very least, that those who have put in the time have justifiable reason to believe Oher is worthy of being selected that high.

At 6'5”, 310 lbs., with no history of injury or "character issues" and widely considered a solid prospect, Oher would be a difficult selection to criticize. If ever a team needed a young, potential ten-year anchor at OT added to their roster, it is the 2009 Washington Redskins. If that is how it plays out Saturday, I will hail the pick.

Should it play out that the Redskins instead end up using that pick to select a similarly highly-regarded defensive end or linebacker, I will hail that as well. At some point the Redskins are going to have to begin restocking their offensive and defensive line and linebacker corps with young players, including, at long last, some drafted in the higher rounds rather than second-day hopefuls.

As much as an Oher or other similarly-rated DE or LB would feel "right" in terms of immediate on-field considerations, it would also send a comforting signal that the Redskins are willing to fight the impulse to chase "splash" with their top pick, and start the non-sexy but fundamentally sound process of rebuilding at the line of scrimmage.

Of course, then there's the whole QB Mark Sanchez thing.

I could write volumes on this, but in a nutshell ... the rules are different when it comes to quarterback. Given the buzz—hell, the roar—surrounding Sanchez of late, it would be a serious surprise to see him drop to #13. But if he does, and the Redskins are convinced he is The One ... they have to take him. And then, given the pressing needs elsewhere, they better damn well hope they're right.

I am not a fan of trading up to get him, however; the price will almost certainly be prohibitive given teams like the Jets and Broncos—both in more dire need of a QB and loaded with picks to offer in trade—are reportedly lusting after Sanchez as well.

With the Redskins' recent history of almost casual willingness to trade away high draft picks, the potential impact of giving up even one first- or other high-round pick is rather daunting. If the Redskins were in NY or Denver's situation and trying to trade away their stockpile of picks, Washington could pull the trigger on a move like this without blinking an eye.

But they are not (and despite their apparent loss of confidence in him, they do have a serviceable quarterback in hand in Jason Campbell) ... and with first-day picks so few and far between, the idea of parting with any, to say nothing of many, for anything other than a sure thing, toes the line between daunting and frightening.

Sorry about that sentence.

Bottom line, if the Redskins do end up getting Sanchez, there will be mixed feelings here. On the one hand, the longstanding dream of landing a true "franchise quarterback" after more than 20 years of watching the revolving door spin, is highly intriguing. If the thought of ending the drought doesn't get the burgundy in an any serious Redskins fans’ veins flowing, I respectfully submit they may have not been paying close attention to what that special one player, at that one key position, can mean to a professional football franchise.

On the other hand, given the acknowledged holes at OT, DE and LB, the idea of heading into 2009 without a stud rookie to project into at least one of those positions is a little daunting (okay, borderline frightening) as well.

If the Redskins end up pulling the trigger on Sanchez—be it via trade-up or having him slide unexpectedly to #13—they had better hope they're right, and the young man is indeed the real deal. Because if he isn't, they could well set the franchise back again on the order of the foundation-shaking, long-term hit they took with the mighty whiff on a certain Heath Shuler with the #3 overall pick way back in 1994.

Which, not coincidentally, is when the current QB revolving door spin-cycle in Washington began.

Cutting to the chase, my 2009 NFl Draft wish list:

1) Sanchez drops to the Redskins at #13 and a half-dozen teams throw offers their way hoping to trade up to get him, putting Washington in the enviable position of deciding between a guy they have decided is worth a shot as a franchise quartergack ... or accepting a bonanza in picks they cannot refuse to trade down. In the case of the latter, the Redskins use those picks on as many big, fast, aggressive, foul-breathed linemen and linebackers oozing evil intent for anyone wearing wrong-colored jerseys as their shopping basket can hold.

2) Use the #13 pick on the highest-rated OT, DE or LB left on their board. An Oher, say, or maybe a DE Tyson Jackson or DE Robert Ayers. Maybe even a stud LB like USC's Ray Maluaga or Brian Cushing. Then, use the remaining picks to bring in prospects at the other two positions. If they end up only using the four picks they have going in, use them on at least two linemen, one LB and one wildcard for best player available (young speed back, anyone?).

3) If they end up trading down, avoid the temptation to chase "skill position" players with the higher picks and focus extensively on the line of scrimmage.

If you think you sense a pattern, you're not wrong.

What do I think they should do?

Stay put at #13 and either use it on Sanchez, if he should happen to fall to them and they are convinced he's The Real Deal, or take the best OT, DE or LB left on their board.

What do I think they will do?

Something other than what I think they should. History teaches.

What do I think it all means?

1) that until the Washington Redksins start winning consistently again, those of us on the outside looking in legitimately get to criticize (and now again even poke a little fun) at the way they run their personnel business, and

2) that the offseason is much too long.

Draft Day is upon us. See you on the other side.


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Blake said...

I like your number 1 option, but unfortunately I think that the fact that we've shown so much excitement about him will make the teams that REALLY want him to trade to 12 or 11 to get him instead of waiting to trade with us.


AstonJay32 said...

If they're NOT convinced he's The One, I'd love to see how they behave when they do find him.

Personally, the closer we get, the more it seems that it's no longer a question of 'who', but rather a question of 'how much'.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

What's interesting about all this Sanchez talk is that we have yet to hear one word actually attributed to anyone in the organization indicating the rumors are true. Or if there has been, I've missed it. I *suspect* where there's this much smoke there's at least a glowing ember or two, but I'd also not be surprised if the whole thing turns out to have been nothing but smokescreen or the NFL Draft hype machine run amok.

Blake said...

You actually think we're capable of a smokescreen?

Like I said, if this is a smoke screen, then I think we've hurt our chances to trade down because teams will be trying to jump us to get Sanchez.

Now - on the other hand, maybe Vinny actually is smart and he doesn't want Sanchez, but he realizes that he won't likely be able to trade down, so he's trying to make sure that Sanchez gets picked before us so that somebody we want can drop.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Yes, I do think the Redskins are capable of NFL 101 stuff like playing the annual draft disinformation game. I haven't fallen prey (yet) to the common perception out there that the combined IQ of the front office wouldn't add up to the number a kicker wears.