After projecting the Washington Redskins to take either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the No. 10 pick of the NFL draft in each of his first two mocks, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper now things the Redskins won’t have a shot to land either.
Speaking today on a pre-draft conference call with sportswriters across the nation, Kiper said that Newton and Gabbert’s stocks have both risen since the combine, and Kiper now sees both passers going anywhere in the top eight picks in April’s draft.
Kiper says Newton and Gabbert both are worthy of going No. 1 overall – and mentioned as many as seven other players that could go to Carolina with the top pick – but he believes Newton has a chance to go second to Denver, fourth to Cincinnati or seventh to San Francisco. Gabbert, meanwhile, could wind up going to any of those teams that don’t take Newton or even fifth to Arizona, Kiper believes.
Even if Newton was on the board by the time the Redskins pick, Kiper doesn’t believe Washington should take him.
“I don’t think Newton fits the Redskins anyway right now,” Kiper said. “If you think about their offense, they’re trying to go for a guy with mobility, but also accuracy. Is Cam going to be accurate enough? And that goes for a number of the quarterbacks. What scheme do they fit the best?”
The quarterback that Kiper does believe Mike Shanahan would be attracted to is TCU’s Andy Dalton, whom Kiper expects to go early in the second round, anywhere from 33rd to 45th overall. Washington’s second pick is 41st overall.
“[Dalton] didn’t throw many picks, he wasn’t sacked much at TCU,” Kiper said of Dalton, who as a senior passed for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns, only eight interceptions and was sacked just eight times. “He was outstanding against the top ranked teams, about 70 percent. He was effective on third down, he gives you mobility and that’s what you need in that offense: to be able to throw on the run and with anticipation. I know he doesn’t have a great arm or the great height (6-3). He’s not 6-4, 6-5, and not the size of a [Ryan] Mallett or a Newton. But I certainly think he fit Mike Shanahan’s offense as good as anybody.”
(On a side note on Cam Newton: his agent, Tony Paige told me today the Redskins had scouts at the Auburn quarterback’s pro day yesterday, and that Newton interviewed with Washington – as well as the other 31 NFL teams – at the NFL Combine. At this point, however, Newton hasn’t received an invitation to come to Redskins Park for an additional interview with Mike Shanahan & Co.).
With Kiper expecting both the top two quarterbacks to be gone at No. 10, and also anticipating top pass-rusher Von Miller to be gone as well, he could easily see the Redskins addressing another offensive need by drafting Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
“I think the offense is the area they may end up having to go to,” Kiper said. “I still think they could go Julio Jones. Big, physical receiver. He did have some drops at Alabama, and had some injuries at Alabama and he now has the injury with the foot.”
The 6-4, 220-pound Jones clocked a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and boasted a broad jump of 11 feet, three inches at the combine -- all with a broken bone in his foot.
Kiper acknowledges that the Redskins have abundant needs on both offense and defense, and that if they took a receiver first and a quarterback with the second pick, that neglects the defense. But, the Redskins haven’t set themselves up for prime success in the draft.
“You can’t do it all. That’s the problem,” Kiper says. “You have to look at the draft, and they don’t have a lot of picks, and that’s the problem. You could maybe move down at some point and pick up some other picks. They’ve got to start stockpiling some picks. When you’ve had a minimal amount of picks like they did last year, you’re not getting much out of the draft. Some teams are getting seven, eight, nine guys out of the draft, they’re getting two. The numbers will catch up to you.”
If the Redskins don’t go receiver at No. 10, possible defensive candidates are North Carolina’s Robert Quinn or Missouri’s Aldon Smith, who both played defensive end in college but are expected to make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL.
Second-round defensive options are a pair of nose tackles in Baylor’s Phil Taylor, or Oregon State’s Stephen Paea, whom Kiper actually has rated higher than Taylor. At 6-foot-1, 311 pounds, Paea is a little smaller than the 6-4, 340-pound Taylor, but Kiper believes Paea is more of a playmaker and gets better penetration. Taylor moreso takes up space, Kiper says, and he also points to questions about his stamina as negatives.