In NFL draft, Redskins might still harbor a passing interest in Bradford

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. would be "shocked" to see the Redskins draft a quarterback with the No. 4 pick after trading for Donovan McNabb.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The first domino in this year's NFL draft stands a hair taller than 6 feet 4 inches, weighs around 230 pounds and depending on which way he falls, figures to have a noticeable impact on several teams' draft boards.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford could be the draft's top pick if the St. Louis Rams are confident he'll eventually sign a contract. Or he could find himself the target of a blockbuster draft-day trade. Either way, Bradford's landing spot should be determined in the draft's opening scene Thursday night and it will surely be noted at Redskins Park.

Despite acquiring Donovan McNabb in a trade this month to solidify the quarterback position, Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said Monday the team has not ruled out the possibility of selecting another quarterback in this week's NFL draft.

Even with a gaping hole at left tackle, the team has spent considerable time and money evaluating the draft's top quarterback prospects, particularly Bradford.

While many around the league project Bradford's as the draft's No. 1 overall selection, only two teams have conducted private workouts with the former Heisman Trophy winner: the Rams, who hold the No. 1 pick, and the Redskins, who are slotted to pick fourth.

Last week, Allen, Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan traveled to Oklahoma and Indiana and conducted private workouts with Bradford and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The Redskins did not consider canceling those trips after trading for McNabb because "those were a very important part of the evaluation," Allen said.

"[We] really got to know them even better, even though it's the third, fourth time I had an opportunity to talk to them," Allen said. "Both players had good workouts."

Even after McNabb arrived in town, the Redskins have done nothing to indicate they've scaled back their interests in quarterback prospects, particularly Bradford. When Bradford visited Redskins Park earlier this month, he had dinner with both Shanahans, Allen and Daniel Snyder. He is believed to be the only prospect to dine with the team owner during his pre-draft visit.

Several draft analysts have said the Redskins need to focus on offensive tackles, such as Oklahoma State's Russell Okung or Oklahoma's Trent Williams, and would be surprised if the Redskins pursued a quarterback. But ESPN's Todd McShay noted that "you never know."

"Donovan McNabb is certainly not a young quarterback and they don't have anyone, if you look, they don't have anyone on that team right now that you look at as their long-term developmental prospect," he said.

Shanahan has offered little publicly about Bradford, though the head coach did recently say: "Obviously a very, very, sharp guy. Good size, very accurate, smart. He has taken some snaps underneath the center, as well as in shotgun. I'll think he'll be a long-time pro."

Though many analysts have tabbed Bradford as the likely No. 1 pick, there are still questions. Former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, now an ESPN analyst, spent time dissecting film with the draft's top quarterbacks and said Clausen is more prepared to step on the field in Week 1, "but when you look at Sam, the upside is just incredible."

"[At Oklahoma] he didn't read a lot of coverage, a lot of the stuff was looking back to sideline, getting the play," Gruden said. "He wasn't adjusting his fronts to the blitzes. . . . I think in that regard, you've got to be real careful about when you think Sam is ready to go on the field and lead your football team against the types of defenses we see week in and week out."

But Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, said Bradford was simply playing the Sooners' system and he's capable of doing much more.

"We didn't do all of these things because he couldn't handle them or because we needed to hold his hand," Wilson said. "It was just our style and what suited our offense and our tempo best."

Wilson called Bradford "as bright a player as we've ever had play for us."

Gruden also noted that Bradford comes from a spread offense and could require time to adjust to a pro-style offense.

"I don't think people really understand how much I was under center at Oklahoma," Bradford said recently. "I think they just get this impression -- they don't even give it a chance -- 'Oh, they scored a lot of points, they were in the spread, he was never under center.' My first year playing, we were under center 50 percent of the time. Last year, we were in the gun a little bit more, but we were still under center a lot more than what most people think. I don't think it's going to be nearly as big of an adjustment as some people try to make it seem."

What no one questions is Bradford's throwing motion, his on-field demeanor and his size. At the NFL scouting combine, Bradford weighed in at 236 pounds, about 15 pounds heavier than his college playing weight. But he said recently that he's been walking around closer to 230.

Unlike some recent teams that have held the top pick, the Rams do not plan to sign their first-round choice prior to the draft. Though Bradford hasn't voiced any displeasure in St. Louis -- as Eli Manning did in 2004 about the prospects of playing in San Diego -- the Rams could be rolling the dice a bit by drafting a player that it couldn't simply sign beforehand.

St. Louis could also be awaiting trade offers for the pick. That means if the Redskins really are enamored with Bradford, they could either cross their fingers he slips by St. Louis or they might have to pay a steep price to move up to No. 1. It'd also mean the Redskins might be passing on the chance to grab any of the draft's top offensive tackles.

The Redskins don't have a second pick until the draft's fourth round. They sent their second-rounder -- the 37th overall pick -- to Philadelphia as part of the McNabb deal and used their third-round selection when they took Jeremy Jarmon in last year's supplemental draft.

"We're very pleased to get Donovan McNabb," Allen said. "When the 37th pick comes up in our draft room, there's going to be a nice cheer that we selected Donovan McNabb this year."

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