By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Before a contract impasse led to his release, the Washington Redskins were planning to use pass-rushing defensive end Jason Taylor in a hybrid role, toggling between linebacker and end, trying to fill a void on the left side of their defense. Should Washington end up selecting Texas defensive lineman Brian Orakpo in the first round this weekend, the Redskins envision him doing the same thing.
Orakpo could be gone prior to Washington's 13th overall selection on Saturday, but he is a player the team values greatly and someone team officials have indicated they would pounce on should he slip. University of Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez is also coveted by owner Daniel Snyder, according to sources, to the point where the Redskins might trade into the top five to draft him. But Orakpo is considered by some the best defensive player in the draft, and Washington views him accordingly.
Orakpo completed his two-day visit to Redskins Park last week and is back at Texas now, relaxing for a few days before flying to New York to attend the NFL draft. He said he feels confident he could fill the role the Redskins would want for him -- playing strong-side linebacker on running downs and a rush end in passing situations -- and said he has no preference between playing in a 4-3 scheme, like Washington's, or a 3-4 like Green Bay and some of the other clubs interested in him.
"The visit with Washington went really well," Orakpo said. "I got a chance to meet Mr. Snyder and [executive vice president] Vinny Cerrato and Coach [Jim] Zorn and the rest of coaching staff. We had a nice dinner, and I know Mr. Snyder likes to take care of his players, and we had a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, a good steakhouse, and it was a good chance for them to get to know you better and have a little fun.
"But then it got very in-depth as soon as the actual visit on site the next day. I watched film and talked to [linebackers] coach K.O. [Kirk Olivadotti], and what they see in me doing is some linebacker and also some D-end, and trying to use my versatility to my advantage."
Orakpo, a senior, stands 6 feet 3 and weighs 263 pounds, transforming his body after entering school as a lean basketball prospect. His workout prowess has become legendary, and despite missing time the past two years with knee problems, he was highly productive on the field (hamstring problems limited him at the combine in February). Orakpo played both lineman and linebacker and has strong instincts and intellect (he is an honor student).
Some scouts wonder if his pass-rushing ability will translate in the NFL -- the Redskins long have been desperate for more sacks off the edge -- and think he lacks elite burst, but Washington has no dynamic options at left defensive end or strong-side linebacker. Orakpo said he was comfortable with everything the Redskins asked of him, spending roughly four hours going over the defense with coaches.
Orakpo came to Washington last week after spending time with the Browns in Cleveland, the team with the fifth pick and likely the highest Orakpo could be chosen. Green Bay, San Francisco, Denver and Houston have also evaluated him closely and spent considerable time with him.
Orakpo has drawn more attention from the Redskins than other defensive ends. The team has not been in as close contact with Tennessee's Robert Ayers, Penn State's Aaron Maybin or Florida State's Everette Brown, and sources close to those players said they would be surprised if Washington selected them, especially if Orakpo was still available.
"I'm trying not to think about the draft too much, because you never know how it's going to go," Orakpo said. "If I do slip out of the top 10 it's not a big deal for me. I just want to play football. It doesn't matter where I go, and if I do slip, I'll be more eager to prove to the teams that passed me up exactly what kind of player they missed out on."