Redskins' draft revolves around RG3's past, future
WASHINGTON (AP) - As with everything Washington Redskins these days, the draft revolves around Robert Griffin III.
RG3 is the reason the Redskins are scheduled to sit out the first day of the draft both this year and next, part of the steep price they paid a year ago to move into position to select the Heisman Trophy winner coming out of Baylor.
RG3's performance is why the Redskins don't mind. He showed last year that he's well worth the investment, leading the team to its first division title in 13 years and winning league's Offensive Rookie Of The Year award.
Assuming he can stay healthy, that is. While coach Mike Shanahan and the front office brain trust have been reviewing film of the top college players, Griffin has been elsewhere inside Redskins Park rehabilitating from major knee surgery in January. All the updates that he's ahead of schedule are more or less meaningless at this point: Even Shanahan concedes that he won't know the true status of his quarterback's prospects for the regular season until training camp practices begin in late July.
Regardless, the draft is all about building a team around Griffin, one that can peak along with him and contend for an NFL title in short order. The Redskins last year were not a team without flaws, and addressing them in the offseason has been a challenge because of the second half of a $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the league for the way the team manipulated contracts during the 2010 season.
As a result, the roster has remained pretty much status quo through free agency. The front office had to restructure contracts and re-sign players at a lower price just to get under the cap, and they are due full credit for their financial wizardry: Pro Bowl special teams player Lorenzo Alexander is the only major contributor from last year's team who has signed elsewhere.
But that leaves the draft as the primary means for upgrading the roster, and that's not as easy to do without a first-round pick. Washington's first selection is set for No. 51 overall in the second round. Unlike last year, when they knew it was virtually certain they would be taking Griffin at No. 2, the Redskins will need some educated guesswork to figure out who will be on the board when it's their turn on Friday.
If they draft solely on need, the Redskins will target a defensive back. The defense ranked 30th against the pass last year. Safety Brandon Meriweather played in only one game, and he's recovering from a torn ACL. Safety Tanard Jackson never played at all because of a suspension for failing a drug test, and the team is awaiting word on a possible reinstatement.
DeAngelo Hall took a pay cut to return, so he and Josh Wilson are again the projected starting cornerbacks. If nothing else, the Redskins would like to add a rookie who can instantly fit in as a nickel back and challenge the two veterans.
Right tackle is also a question. Tyler Polumbus held down the job last season and signed a two-year deal to return. The Redskins also added veterans Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood, both inexpensive and coming off injuries. The door is wide open for a rookie to come in with a genuine shot at taking the job.
But getting three ready-to-start players at safety, cornerback and right tackle in the second, third and fourth rounds would truly be hitting the jackpot, so Shanahan might have to wait another year before he has finished assembling the complete team he has envisioned.
Then again, last year the Redskins waited until the sixth round to take a running back from Florida Atlantic, a team coming off an 1-11 season.
The player's name was Alfred Morris. All he did was rush for 1,613 yards, a franchise record and the second best total in the NFL.
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