The Washington Redskins this offseason expected to upgrade their safety position, possibly through the draft. Despite not owning a first-round draft pick, things could play out favorably for them, NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock believes.
As the draft guru breaks down this year’s crop, he doesn’t believe that the first-round talent — particularly players rated among the top 10 — is as impressive as it was last season. However, the overall depth of the draft has increased.
“Because of the juniors, we probably have better depth than in the last 10 years,” Mayock says. “In the top 10 picks, I don’t see the difference-makers.”
Mayock currently has only two safeties deserving of first- or high-to-mid second-round range.
He believes that the Redskins are capable of getting an impact safety with their first pick of the draft (51st overall). That player, in Mayock’s opinion should be Johnathan Cyprien from Florida International.
Mayock has the 6-foot, 209-pound Cyprien rated as the third-best safety in the draft, behind Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and Florida’s Matt Elam.
“He had a great Senior Bowl week, and I have him as my No. 3 safety,” Mayock said on a pre-combine conference call on Monday. “He’s a guy that’s going to be around in that middle to end of the second round. I think he could start immediately for the Washington Redskins, and he makes a lot of sense.”
Cyprien, who last season recorded 93 tackles and four interceptions, can play both free and strong safety, but Mayock believes he’s better suited for free safety in the NFL.
From there, the safety class drops off, but still boasts good depth with USC’s T.J. McDonald, Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas, Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo and Georgian Southern’s J.J. Wilcox all projected as third-round picks in Mayock’s book.
But if the Redskins opt to go after a player at another position — say, cornerback — then they will have their options there as well.
“If you’re talking corner in that range, I think you’re going to start talking about guys like Marc Anthony from Cal, Blidi Wreh-Wilson [from] U-Conn., and two small-school kids that I love, Robert Alford from Southeast Louisiana, B.W. Webb from William & Mary, and Logan Ryan from Rutgers. There’s five guys there.”
Given the current state of their roster, it seems that the Redskins should go safety if possible. If they can restructure DeAngelo Hall’s contract, they still have him, Josh Wilson, and second-year player Richard Crawford that could work as their starting corners and nickelback. The hope would be that Crawford could make strides of improvement this year and help solidify that unit.
Safety, meanwhile, is a rather shaky area. Brandon Meriweather is coming off of a torn ACL and is no sure thing at strong safety. And Madieu Williams struggled mightily at free safety. DeJon Gomes, Reed Doughty and Jordan Pugh chipped in, but the Redskins need to find more of an impact player at that position.
One defensive back expected to receive a high level of scrutiny this week in Indianapolis is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, who is hoping to get his football career back on track after off-field issues forced him off LSU’s team.
“The Honey Badger” is just 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds. He’s not seen as a great cover guy, but made an impact with 59 tackles and two interceptions in 2011 when he was a Heisman Trophy candidate.
But given his legal issues and questions regarding character and size, Mathieu isn’t expected to go high. The combine will be important for him, however, Mayock says.
Mathieu “is a real interesting wildcard this weekend. My gut tells me he’s a better football player than he is an athlete. He’s small, and I don’t know if he’s going to run real well. A lot of people have him as a nickel and a kick returner. I don’t think he’s going to run better than a 4.5, 4.55. If he does, that will help him. So, most teams I’ve talked to have him more in the fourth-round. They don’t think he’s very big, he’s not going to run very fast and he’s had off-the-field issues.”