In NFL Draft, Redskins' new leaders face same old predicament

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2010; D01

Since taking control of the Washington Redskins, General Manager Bruce Allen and Coach Mike Shanahan have drawn glowing reviews from around the league for their quick maneuvering to improve the franchise's fortunes. But even as signs of change are evident in all corners of Redskins Park, the team will enter this week's draft situated similarly to years past: too many needs, not nearly enough picks.

The three-day draft commences Thursday night in New York and the Redskins have only four of the draft's 255 picks, fewer than any other NFL team. In fact, 21 teams have twice as many picks, and Cleveland and New England hold three times as many as Washington.

"I think the Redskins' mission statement over the years, particularly under Dan Snyder -- I think Dan wants to win now," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "Dan doesn't really want to wait three or four years, which is fine. You have to, I think, look at today in the draft and next year's draft and when you start giving away too many picks, it affects your ability to build that team from the ground up."

The Redskins traded away their second-round pick this month as part of the Donovan McNabb deal. They lost the third-round pick because they selected defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft a year ago. And their sixth-rounder belongs to the Miami Dolphins as part of the Jason Taylor trade in 2008.

Kiper believes a team with so many holes should better utilize the draft to build a foundation of talent.

"And the Redskins believe otherwise," he said. "They believe in packaging picks to move up, or giving away picks for this guy or that guy. That's not my philosophy. So the Redskins' way is not my way. That doesn't mean that you can't win that way . . . that can get you to a playoff once in a while, as it has. They've had a couple playoff games here and there. But to try to get to a Super Bowl, to me, that's not the way I would build a football team."

And it might not necessarily be the overriding philosophy of Allen and Shanahan either. Though they traded away the second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, they're largely playing the hand they've been dealt by the team's previous regime.

The Redskins have twice before had four draft picks or fewer -- in 2003 and 2004 -- but many around the league will be looking to see if Shanahan and Allen can successfully stockpile more picks.

The team has several players who could hear their names included in trade talks this week, including quarterback Jason Campbell, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safety LaRon Landry.

With the fourth overall pick, it's also possible the Redskins attempt to move down in the draft. Or up.

"Something tells me they're going to be the first team to shake things up before all is said and done," said Todd McShay, another ESPN draft analyst.

Asked if the draft is the best way to build a team, Allen was evasive and noncommittal on Saturday. "There's several ways," he said. "It's through the draft, free agency, trades and the waiver wire."

The roster he and Shanahan inherited was lacking in many areas. Currently holding only one pick in the draft's top 100, the team might have a difficult time addressing all its needs with prospects who can provide an immediate impact.

With the retirement of Chris Samuels, the team needs at least one tackle and has a couple of good options in Oklahoma State's Russell Okung and Oklahoma's Trent Williams.

If they're unsatisfied with Landry, they might also consider Tennessee safety Eric Berry. And then there's the big quarterback question.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, expected by most to be the draft's No. 1 overall pick, has impressed many in the organization. Despite acquiring McNabb, the team could still consider picking a quarterback and letting the draft pick sit behind McNabb for a couple of seasons. Such a move would be a costly one, as it'd likely require moving up to the No. 1 spot, forgoing a tackle in the first round and committing an unearthly sum to two quarterbacks.

If the Redskins' interest is simply a smokescreen, it's one that has required a lot of effort and money. The team scouted Bradford at his pro day last month and also brought him to Redskins Park for a visit, where he had dinner with Snyder. Last week, Allen, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan flew to Norman, Okla., to put Bradford through a private workout.

The team is leaning heavily on a scouting department that was assembled by Vinny Cerrato. Scott Campbell, the team's director of player personnel, has had an active role in researching this year's draft, but the final decisions will likely be made by Allen and Shanahan. McShay called the pair "a perfect marriage."

"They have a chance to work really well together," he said.

While the draft technically starts Thursday night, the gamesmanship and posturing has been underway for weeks. The Redskins have managed to get their name attached to most big-name prospects and are involved in much of the trade speculation. Allen certainly isn't complaining if his team has provided grist for the mill.

"He loves to get mind games going. He's the king of it," McShay said. "He wants people thinking he's capable of anything on draft day."

Shanahan recognizes some of his personnel missteps, which many believe cost him his job in Denver, but says he's better because of them.

"You're much more prepared for it because you've been through a few of them," Shanahan said. "You're always hoping for those great drafts. Those great drafts don't happen all the time. When they do happen, it's the difference in your franchise going this direction or that direction. So you know how important they are as you get older."

That's a big reason Washington could be more active than most during the three days of the draft, likely attempting to pick up at least a second- or third-round pick. They'll have to remain flexible, and a lot depends on other teams. Unlike in some recent years, the team selecting first -- the St. Louis Rams -- hasn't signed a contract with the No. 1 pick before the draft and could be open to trading the selection.

Similarly, some teams could be trying to move up to the Redskins' No. 4 spot, though the salary requirements of top 5 picks can scare others away.

Asked on Saturday whether the Redskins are actively involved in trade talks, Allen said: "We've had some talks with different people who are trying to trade some players, but I don't know what will happen."

Phones across the league will start lighting up on Monday, as trade talks -- and speculation -- really heat up. Though the Redskins will begin the draft with just four picks and enough trade bait to fill a U-Haul truck, they'll look to make the most of the three days.

"You're going to take a look at what gives you the best chance for the future, evaluate those positions and see what can help us win the quickest," Shanahan said. "Or what guy may be more dominating than the other at that position? Can you get that guy in the second round? Can you get that guy in the fourth or fifth round? Can you move back? There are a lot of intangibles that you have. What you're trying to do is put the best football team together."

Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.

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