“We’re open to doing either [moving up or down] right now,” Mayhew said. “It’s just going to depend on the entire process, and we’re working through some things right now.”
Rivera has maintained Washington will read and react when the first round of the draft begins April 29. The top three picks are expected to be quarterbacks, which would leave two remaining prospects among those considered worthy of first-round selections — probably some combination of Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones. But several teams ahead of Washington in the draft order could select a quarterback, including the Denver Broncos (No. 9) and New England Patriots (No. 15).
Rivera said he doesn’t feel pressure to define a franchise quarterback this season and won’t move up unless the price is right.
“Everybody is a projection, in my opinion, first of all,” the coach added. “There are very few sure hits, and even those are questions. There is a lot of guesswork that’s going to go into it. The quarterback position, as much as any, is such a tough one to figure out.”
Mayhew declined to reveal which quarterback traits are important to him but said he valued those with “time spent on the job.” This would seem to be a plus for Fields (34 games) and a concern for Lance (19; one last season). Top quarterbacks aren’t sure things — none of the first-rounders from 2009 to 2016 are still with their original teams — but Mayhew and Rivera said the trend isn’t concerning, because not all of those failures are solely the player’s fault.
“A lot of it has to do with that person’s makeup,” Rivera said. “A lot has to do with your team. Do you have the ability to protect that player, and do you have playmakers around that player? There are a lot of factors that go into it. It’s a little bit of a crapshoot as well.”
On the other side of the ball, Rivera said he would like a linebacker who can play more than one position “because today’s game does ask that.” He said Cole Holcomb could play either of the team’s outside linebacker positions — the Will, which is more of downhill defender, or the Sam, which he calls the “Buffalo nickel” role and includes more coverage responsibilities. He noted this lets the team target a Will or a Sam in the draft. The team’s emphasis on versatility could be a plus for linebackers such as Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins, who are considered by many evaluators to be capable of playing multiple roles.
The atypical nature of last college football season and this year’s draft process has created unique challenges. Some of the top prospects in this year’s class are players who opted out of last season, while others had seasons shortened or canceled, and Rivera said the hardest part of this year has been relying on game film from 2019 to form evaluations.
To compensate, Rivera said, Washington has used all five of its allowed Zoom interviews with some of those players to gather intel. Still, he said “it is hard” to rely on them because he values in-person interaction. But Mayhew noted a season away from football could be a positive because the player didn’t have as much wear-and-tear on his body.
“We evaluate each situation individually,” Mayhew said. “I don’t think [the virus is] going to have a dramatic impact on the players that we will end up selecting, but it is a factor that we have to evaluate.”
If Washington trades the No. 19 pick, the parameters will be in place beforehand. Mayhew pointed out groundwork for draft-day trades is laid in the weeks leading up to the draft by calling other teams to determine whether they want to move and at what cost. Rivera said the pro personnel department, helmed by Eric Stokes and Chris Polian, will monitor needs of those around Washington to help make the decision in the moment.
“All of that is very fluid,” Mayhew said. “All of that happens on draft day, and we will definitely be prepared for that.”
“This is all part of the situation,” Rivera said. “[The circumstances] should not drive your decision one way or the other. Each team will have to deal with this as well. We’re going to have to, again, react to what happens in front of us. We pick No. 19 in the first round, and we’ll see what happens.”