The first round of the NFL draft usually ranks among the most exciting days of the year in Washington.
Emphasis on usually.
Because Thursday night, the Redskins will be on the sidelines as 29 other teams make their selections, having dealt this year’s and next year’s first round picks to the Rams for the right to draft Robert Griffin III.
The lack of a pick certainly eliminates much of the anticipation and drama, particularly for fans. But it doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us Washingtonians to watch for when the draft gets underway at 8 p.m. In fact, there are a number of Redskins-related story lines to monitor.
So here it is, the Redskins fan’s guide to the first round:
1-Don’t waste your time wishing for Mike Shanahan to trade into the first round. On Wednesday, he called such a scenario a “one-in-a-million” chance. Simply put, it would cost too much to move from No. 51 into the top 32.
“It’s always pretty deep rounds 2-4 every year,” Shanahan said. “There are quality guys you can get. …There are a lot of those guys that will get picked in the third, fourth, fifth round that are football players. And you are hoping that you get the right guys targeted if they are there.”
Washington owns picks 51, 85 (third round), 119 (fourth), 154 (fifth), 162 (fifth, from the Patriots), 191 (sixth) and 228 (seventh)
2-The Redskins’ primary position need in this draft is safety, followed closely by cornerback. Keep a close eye on which players get picked and which ones don’t.
Although the pool of defensive backs is deep, a run on safeties and corners could hurt the Redskins’ odds of landing a blue chip prospect on Friday.
“Obviously, the guys you want with the 51st pick [you hope] don’t go,” Shanahan said. “The interesting thing will be the next day, waiting for our pick [and] seeing which guys are picked” 33-50 in the second round.
It’s okay if Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro goes early. It’s not so good if Eric Reid (LSU), John Cyprien (Florida International), Matt Elam (Florida) are selected as well.
3-The Eagles, at No. 4, are the only NFC East team that owns a pick inside the top-17. After a 4-12 season, new coach Chip Kelly has been busy renovating the roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
What the Redskins don’t want to see is Kelly drafting another impact player on ‘D’ like Shariff Floyd (Florida), Star Lotulelei (Utah) or Dion Jordan (Oregon). They’d much rather Kelly take an offensive lineman or, even better still, reach for a quarterback like Geno Smith (West Virginia) or a wide receiver like 5 foot 8 Tavon Austin (West Virginia).
4-Which player do the Rams take at No. 22? That, of course, is one of the first round selections the Redskins traded in order to nab Griffin.
Although virtually no one is second guessing that deal, Griffin and those picks will be forever linked – and compared. A number of draft analysts are projecting safeties Reid, Elam and Cyprien as well as corners Xavier Rhodes (Florida State), Desmond Trufant (Washington) and D.J. Hayden (Houston) to be drafted in the early-to-mid-20 range.
5-Keep tabs on top prospects who aren’t selected Thursday.
Because every team’s draft board is different, there’s a decent chance that a player the Redskins regard as top tier slips into the second round – and perhaps beyond.
Although need trumps best player available when they are comparable in ranking, Shanahan has also shown the willingness to buck conventional wisdom when a prospect is simply too good to pass up (see: Kirk Cousins).
“You get ready for each round and sometimes a guy will fall a little bit further than you think he will,” Shanahan said. “And if you are lucky enough to get that situation, you gobble him up.”