The debate has hung over the Washington Redskins during the entire draft season: Should the team, which has more than a handful of needs but only a handful of draft picks, take a quarterback first and then try to upgrade other positions? Or should they put together a better supporting cast (beefing up both the defensive and offensive lines, and adding a receiver) first, and worry about a quarterback next year?

As good as Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert appear to be, there are questions about each, and it appears that both will be off the board at No. 10, when the Redskins select, anyway. The second-tier quarterbacks – Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett – all have red flags for various reasons.

But former Redskins general manager and current NFL analyst Charley Casserly says if Washington has a need at quarterback, it shouldn’t pass on one this year and bank on a better option in next year’s draft.

“To me, the answer is ‘No,’ because the biggest problem you have is, who’s going to be in the draft [next year]?” Casserly said in a teleconference with reporters today. “And it’s hard to predict what juniors are going to come out. And it’s hard to predict how well a player is going to play in his senior year. To me it’s too unpredictable. Obviously, Andrew Luck is coming out next year, but you’re going to have to bet on being 1-15 and 0-16 to get him, and that’s assuming he doesn’t have an injury. So I don’t think it’s practical to look at the draft for next year.”

Fellow NFL Network analyst and former NFL executive Michael Lombardi agreed. He said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, whom he knows well, would never base a decision on what could happen down the road.

“Knowing Mike Shanahan, I don’t think Mike Shanahan thinks that he can’t win this year, so his thinking is going to be improving the team this year immediately and then let things unfold as they may,” said Lombardi, who also took part in the teleconference. “But I think they’re in the present day, and they’ll try to solve their needs by either trading down and collecting some more picks or doing something at the tenth pick overall.”

So basically, if the Redskins have a talented prospect within reach, they should snatch him up, groom him and help him address the problem areas.

Both former executives cautioned teams about over-reaching for a player just because they have a need at a certain position. But they both think that while a top quarterback might not be on the board at No. 10, Washington still could wind up with a promising passer in the second round.

Said Lombardi: “I think Jake Locker fits what [Shanahan] likes to do, because when you look at [what] Locker’s best skillset is, he likes to be on the perimeter, to be moving in the pocket. He’s not an accurate quarterback, and he’s not a drop-back passer. And Mike’s passing game is about being on the edges and challenging, whether it’s [bootlegs] or [roll-outs], and he’s looking for athleticism at quarterback. When I look at Locker, I see the things that Mike does.”

Said Casserly: “Ponder is smart and I think he’ll go there in the second, and in January, with Dalton, where was it he was going to go? It was third round, but too many teams need a quarterback. He’s smart and knows where to go with the ball, so I think he is heating up.”