Washington also has deficiencies at safety, edge rusher, guard and receiver, but all are secondary to the most important position in football. That doesn’t mean the organization will, or must, select a quarterback with the 15th pick in the draft’s first round April 25, but the homework done this week will go a long way toward making that determination.
A list of 10 players to watch this week could be made up entirely of quarterbacks, but we’ll include a few others who could also be in play in the first two rounds of the draft. The Redskins, armed with a second-round pick, two third-rounders and two fifth-rounders, also have some draft capital to make moves.
Everything starts with the Heisman Trophy winner. Predictions have Murray all over the top 15 picks, and ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said it’s possible Murray could be the first quarterback off the board. Few question his productivity: 4,361 passing yards and 42 touchdowns with a 69.0 completion percentage as a junior in 2018. He also rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. Murray threw only seven interceptions and led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Alabama. The questions surrounding Murray — the Oakland Athletics’ 2018 first-round draft pick — center on his size. He was listed as 5-foot-10, 195 pounds on Oklahoma’s roster. The Redskins may have to trade up to get in the Murray range.
“The height, the hand size, the body type, the interview is going to be important to see if he goes anywhere between four and 13 in the first round,” Kiper said. “His arm strength, his accuracy, his football IQ; today’s NFL suits him perfectly. … Does he in fact go ahead of [Ohio State’s] Dwayne Haskins? He could.
“He’s kind of a wild card. To compare him to Dwayne Haskins isn’t fair because they’re totally different quarterbacks. [Murray’s] style of play would change the way you go about your business on offense if you bring him in. Haskins is a traditional drop-back pocket passer. Kyler can do everything. He can throw from the pocket, but you want him outside the pocket. … The height’s not a big deal. It’s throwing through windows. He’s smart. … He lit up Alabama. Kyler, right now I think it’s a two-horse race. … It’s not a lock that Haskins will be the first quarterback taken.”
Lock falls into the second tier of quarterbacks behind Murray and Haskins. Accuracy and consistency are the major question marks for the 3½-year starter who threw for more than 3,300 yards in three consecutive seasons. His 12,193 career passing yards rank No. 2 in SEC history and his 99 career touchdown passes rank No. 3. Lock (6-4, 225 pounds) led the nation with 44 passing touchdowns in 2017 but finished with a 56.9 career completion percentage.
“There’s no built-in consensus on where Lock’s going to go,” Kiper Jr. said. “He’s got the big-time arm. He had a really good finish to the year with the last seven games, 16 touchdown passes, only two picks. … Finally beat that elite team [Florida], which he had been 0-9 against elite teams going into that game. He’s got the big-league arm, big-time arm talent.
“Two years ago, during the season, I got a call from a GM in the NFL saying, hey, you know the guy with one of the best arms in college football [is] Drew Lock. And [2018 No. 7 overall pick] Josh Allen was still playing at Wyoming.”
Jones didn’t light the world on fire statistically with 2,674 passing yards, a career-high 22 passing touchdowns and a 60.5 completion percentage in 2018 with just nine interceptions. He has the measurables at 6-5, 220 pounds and was tutored by Coach David Cutcliffe, who’s known for his work with quarterbacks. Jones doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but makes up for it with smarts and good athleticism. Former Redskins general manager and current NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly had the Redskins selecting Jones in his mock draft.
“Doesn’t have the arm that Lock does, but he had a really good year for David Cutcliffe,” Kiper Jr. said. “Finished off with that impressive bowl game against Temple. Average week [at the Senior Bowl] in Mobile, but was the MVP of that.
“He’s got that size … can make all the throws.”
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
While the former three have garnered more attention, Kiper Jr. pointed to Thorson (6-4, 226 pounds) as a possible mid-round selection if the Redskins decide to wait on a quarterback. Thorson suffered a torn ACL in the final game of the 2017 season, but played all 14 games in 2018. He reached career highs with 3,183 passing yards and a 61.1 completion percentage while also throwing 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
“Clayton Thorson from Northwestern is interesting,” Kiper Jr. said. “He came back from the injury sustained in the bowl game. … He played through that injury. People say he struggled. He wasn’t that impressive. He was playing hurt. He was out there gutting it out.”
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Sweat has the physical stature that coaches love — 6-6, 245 pounds, with long arms and upper-echelon athleticism. He posted 101 tackles and 22½ sacks in two seasons with the Bulldogs. He tied as the SEC leader in sacks in 2017 and finished No. 2 in 2018, also ranking No. 6 in the nation. Sweat stood out at Senior Bowl practices and hopes to improve his draft stock with another strong showing. The Redskins need to affect the quarterback more, but the need increases if Preston Smith leaves via free agency.
Winovich was a ball of furious energy for the Wolverines and was named first-team all-Big Ten. He posted 18½ sacks and 43 tackles for loss in his final three years playing on one of the nation’s dominant defenses. Winovich recorded 132 tackles in his final two seasons in Ann Arbor. At 6-3, 255 pounds, he isn’t expected to come off the board on Day 1, but could be in play on Day 2.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein wrote, “Physical edge defender who plays the game like he has zombie blood pumping through his veins. Winovich is relentless, determined and takes no plays off, but his lack of physical traits and explosiveness as a rusher could limit his upside. Scheme fit could determine his role as 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 rush linebacker, but his football character and physicality improve his odds for success as an eventual starter.”
Zierlein compared Polite (6-2, 242 pounds) to the Falcons’ 2015 No. 8 overall pick Vic Beasley as an edge rusher with elite speed. Polite’s 11 sacks ranked No. 8 in the NCAA last season, and his six forced fumbles led the nation. This is another pass-rushing prospect that could have increased value if Preston Smith departs.
“Instinctive rusher with natural feel for attacking the pocket and the explosive athletic ability to finish the job,” Zierlein said. “Polite's frightening speed to the edge is the foundation for his pass-rush success, but it's the potential diversity and fluidity of his attack that makes him such a compelling prospect.”
Deionte Thompson — Alabama
NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks ranks Thompson the No. 2 safety prospect, but he is not expected to participate in drills after having wrist surgery last week to repair a torn ligament. Knowing the Redskins’ affinity for Crimson Tide players, though, Thompson (6-2, 196 pounds) can’t be ignored. The first-team all-American had 78 tackles as a junior in 2018 with two interceptions and 3½ tackles for loss. Washington is already light at safety depth after cutting D.J. Swearinger. The team could address the position in both free agency and the draft if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix departs in free agency.
Adderley is more likely a Day 2 selection, but again, free agency could push the Redskins toward a safety in early rounds. Adderley (6-0, 200 pounds) had 87 tackles and four interceptions in 2018.
“Adderley is a natural ballhawk with cornerback-like cover skills,” Brooks wrote. “He can cover wide receivers and tight ends in the slot or man the deep middle as a pure center fielder in a single-high defense. Although his size is a bit of a concern in run defense, the Delaware star shows enough courage and toughness to be a dependable player in the box.”
Ford played right tackle for the Sooners, but is believed to have the ability to also play inside. The Redskins have a hole at left guard, but both Trent Williams and Morgan Moses have dealt with injuries recently. Versatility along the offensive line is never a bad thing for a team that went through three sets of guards in 2018 and was forced to get creative due to injury. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Ford (6-4, 338 pounds) going to Washington in his first mock draft.