It used to be that the advent of April meant the spots talk around Washington focused almost exclusively on the release of the Redskins' schedule and the NFL draft. Now, with the Wizards in playoff contention and the Nationals about to take the field for the first time, the talk of the town is, you guessed it, are the Skins going to open at home or on the road and what they will do with the ninth pick.
OK, there is some love for the Wiz and certainly there is a loud and growing buzz about the Nats. But this hasn't detracted from Skins talk; it just means that there's more talk going on overall.
This draft is still a very fluid situation. By this time last year, the Skins were in the fifth spot and honed in on choosing one of two Miami Hurricanes, tight end Kellan Winslow and safety Sean Taylor.
This year, however, the choices aren't nearly that clear. To be sure, a large part of the difference is that the Redskins are drafting ninth instead of fifth. Still, this draft is much more unsettled than the last for a few reasons:
- There isn't a consensus number one pick. Last year, it was Eli Manning; in fact, going back to Michael Vick in 2000, the top pick has been a quarterback for the past five years and seven of the last eight. From March on it's generally been a scenario where we knew who would go first, it was just a question of if the team in the top spot would deal the pick. Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith just haven't been able to grab the bull by the horns and become The One. We have the unusual scenario of the top pick being dependent on who's using it.
- There are a three running backs rated in the top ten players. Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams and Texas' Cedric Benson, all currently projected to go in the top ten picks, may slide back. This would not be because of any perceived flaws by the two. It's just because teams may want to move up to take another player that it wants and the team trading out of the position might believe that it can get a running back later in the draft. Prize RB's aren't a dime a dozen, but you don't have to spend a high first-rounder to get a good one. The Skins could find one of the top rock toters fall into their lap at #9. They would then desperately seek to deal the pick, being locked into a deal with Clinton Portis.
- The Skins don't have a glaring need. While the Skins might want to replace some of their recent losses by free agency and trade, it appears that they will be perfectly willing to go into the season with Walt Harris at corner, Santan Moss and David Patten at receiver and Lamar Marshall at middle linebacker. If the top two corners and top two receivers in the draft are gone by the time the nine hole rolls around, what do the Skins do--take the third-best at either position or take the best player available?
- There is unlikely to be a player so good that the Skins would be fools to pass him up. Last year safety wasn't an area of great need--it rarely is on any team. But the consensus was that Taylor, a defensive back with linebacker size, was just too good a combination of skills and accomplishments to pass up. There won't be such a player at 9 this year.
Things will begin to gel as April 23 approaches, but there still is likely to be plenty of suspense at sunrise on draft day. Stay tuned.