Redskins’ draft: Mel Kiper sees safeties, corner, tackles within Washington’s reach

January 16, 2013

Mike Shanahan and the Redskins shift their focus to the draft. (Toni Sandys / The Washington Post)

Player evaluations and projections for the 2013 draft are underway, and on Wednesday, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper held his first teleconference of the season to discuss some of the top prospects.

The Redskins don’t pick this year until the 22nd selection of the second round. However, the team has several needs, with both safety positions, cornerback and right tackle apparently high on the list.

Brandon Meriweather is talented, but will be coming off of an injury-plagued season that ended with a torn ACL after only one half of football. Free safeties Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson (who never played because of his drug suspension) are free agents. Williams had his fair share of struggles, but it remains to be seen whether Washington remains interested in Jackson.

Third cornerback Cedric Griffin also will be a free agent, and DeAngelo Hall faces uncertainty this offseason as he will carry a $7.5 million cap hit in 2013. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus also is a free agent-to-be.

Kiper believes the Redskins could use their first pick on a safety. Who could they find at that spot?

Kiper names Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas as a player who could draw consideration from Washington.

“The safety position is…what they would look at,” Kiper says. “When you think about that position at that point in the draft, I think Phillip Thomas of Fresno State is a very underrated player. Had a lot of productivity this year, was around the ball a lot, had a lot of tackles, a lot of impact hits, good in coverage as well.”

Thomas has good size at 6 feet, 1 inch, and 215 pounds. He has the ability to play both safety positions, but is listed as a strong safety. This season, he led the nation with eight interceptions and also tallied 82 tackles.

Another possibility, later in the draft, could be J.J. Wilcox out of Georgia Southern, Kiper says. Kiper describes Wilcox, whom we’ll get a look at next week at the Senior Bowl, as “a nice player, very versatile athlete, played both sides of the ball. But he emerged this year as a guy to keep an eye out for maybe in the fourth or fifth round area.”

The 6 foot, 215-pounder played slot receiver for the first three seasons of his career before making the switch to strong safety for Georgia Southern. He has good hands; he also handled kick return duties. Wilcox ranked second on his team with 88 tackles and had two interceptions.

Kiper doesn’t believe there are many first- and second-round quality cornerbacks, but thinks there will be some talented players worthy of going in the middle rounds.

He named William & Mary’s B.W. Webb as a good pick in the third-round range at cornerback.

Possible right tackles who could be within reach for the Redskins, include North Carolina’s Brennan Williams and Boston College’s John Wetzel, who could be available anywhere from the second to fourth rounds. Williams (6-foot-7, 315) pounds has battled injuries, but offers good size and athleticism. Wetzel (6-7, 313) has played both tackle positions.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · January 16, 2013

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