With the Washington Redskins lacking both third- and fourth-round picks in this year’s draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them try to trade down from No. 10 to acquire an additional choice or two. But the question is whether they would be able to meet some of their most pressing needs if they dropped out of the top 10.
Outside linebacker and nose tackle seem to be the team’s top needs on defense. The draft’s top edge pass rusher, Von Miller, is expected to be gone well before Washington is on the clock, but the next best option, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, appears to be within reach at No. 10. And no nose tackle prospect is considered worthy of a top 10 pick.
But if the Redskins traded down from No. 10, would they still be able to find a top-flight outside linebacker to help their 3-4 defense?
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay believes the answer is no.
This draft is full of defensive ends with first-round grades – there’s a chance that a record 13 to 15 ends could be taken in the first round -- but not many of them are believed to have the ability to make the switch to outside linebacker. Missouri’s Aldon Smith and UCLA’s Akeem Ayers are both projected as DE/OLB prospects, but McShay believes both are better suited for the 4-3 than the 3-4.
“I think there’s a sizeable gap between Quinn and Ayers, and I’m not even sure Ayers is going to wind up being a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker,” said McShay, who took part in a pre-draft teleconference Thursday afternoon, and, in his latest mock draft, has Washington taking Quinn at No. 10. “He’s just not as explosive off the ball, and doesn’t rush the quarterback from tight spaces like Quinn can and potentially Aldon Smith can.
“Aldon Smith to me is best suited to play in the 4-3 and interestingly enough, a good percentage of his pass-rush production was when he was moved inside to that three-technique and [that] let him use that club move and initial quickness to get offensive guards off-balance and get to the quarterback.”
McShay continued: “When you’re really looking for guys that can project as a 3-4 outside linebacker and can make an impact as pass rushers, I think it’s Von Miller from Texas A&M, then Quinn and a drop-off after that. And then I think you get all the way down to Brooks Reed from Arizona before you get to a guy that fits well as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Some guys will be moved into that 3-4 outside linebacker spot anyway, whether they project well there or not, but I predict a real drop-off if they wind up moving back and taking one of those pass-rushers later in the first round.”
Reed (6-2, 263), who is projected to go late first round or early second round, is another player who played defensive end in college and would be making the switch to outside linebacker.
Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, who met with the Redskins this week, is another college defensive end mentioned as a possible OLB convert, but McShay also thinks he is better off sticking with his original position.
So McShay says that if the Redskins identify pass-rusher as their top need, they shouldn’t pass on Quinn (assuming he’s still there at No. 10) in the hope of finding another prospect at that position later on.