The NFL draft is still roughly three months away, but with the East-West Shrine game taking place this week, and the Senior Bowl next week, and the NFL combine a month from now, the buzz has gotten underway.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft on Wednesday, and today hosted a conference call and offered his opinion on the early projections.
The Redskins currently hold the sixth overall pick, but Kiper believes that the team will have a tough time getting a much-needed franchise quarterback at that pick. Stanford’s Andrew Luck is a shoo-in for the first pick, and Kiper believes Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will go anywhere from second to fourth.
Unless the Redskins are able to trade up to get Griffin before Cleveland (the next QB-needy team after Indianapolis), Kiper predicts that Mike Shanahan & Co. would draft for need and take LSU’s Morris Claiborne.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Claiborne last season recorded six interceptions and 51 tackles for LSU and could help bolster a Redskins secondary that recorded only 10 interceptions and is in need of a strong nickelback.
“There’s no other quarterback after [Griffin] to even consider in the early to mid first round, or even the late first as well. I don’t see a quarterback figuring in there,” Kiper said. “Claiborne, to me, it’s a need area. It’s a kid that has a high grade. [Oklahoma State receiver Justin] Blackmon I think will be gone by then. ... I’d put Claiborne there because other guys I was considering [for Washington], I feel will be off the board.”
But what about quarterback?
After Luck and Griffin, the pedigree appears to drop off significantly, but Washington still could wind up with a quarterback. The Redskins have a high second-round pick, and Kiper doesn’t believe any of the other quarterbacks in the draft are first-round worthy.
“The guys you’re looking at would be Brock Osweiler from Arizona State, who I think would be a little high for, same thing with Nick Foles from Arizona, or Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M. So those will be your next three quarterbacks with no specific order right now, because we’re still very early in the process.”
Kiper points out there are questions about each of those passers, and they could be more developmental players than franchise saviors.
Tannehill was set to display his talents in the Senior Bowl, but now will miss the game with a broken foot. He could have helped his stock with a strong performance during Senior Bowl week, Kiper believes. Also hurting Tannehill is the fact that he has struggled in big games.
The knock against Osweiler is his questionable decision-making (too many games with multiple interceptions), and Foles struggles with accuracy at times as well.
Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State is an interesting prospect, but he will be a 29-year-old rookie, and he too has accuracy issues. So Kiper projects him to go in the third round.