In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Should the Redskins draft a starting running back?
El-Bashir: As I wrote yesterday, fixing the ground attack needs to rank first, second and third on Jay Gruden’s to-do list this offseason. I also firmly believe that an infusion of new blood at the running back position is at the core of the solution.
What I’m a bit torn about, though, is how the Redskins should go about acquiring that top-tier talent.
Using an early draft pick is certainly one way. In fact, six of the NFL’s top-10 rushers in 2015 were first round picks, including the top four (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley, Darren McFadden.) If that’s the route the Redskins want to pursue (and I don't suspect it is), would Ezekiel Elliott fit the bill if, as one recent mock draft suggested, the Ohio State star remains on the board at No. 21?
But I continue to lean toward addressing the Redskins’ many needs on defense—cornerback, linebacker and defensive line, to name a few—in the early rounds. And signing a veteran to mentor and pair up with second-year running back Matt Jones, who possesses a lot potential but struggled as a rookie with ball security, injuries and consistency.
If I’m constructing the Redskins' 2016 roster, I’d prefer additional experience/track record in the offensive backfield. And there could be some enticing options on the open market in a few weeks, with proven commodities like Matt Forte, Martin, Chris Ivory and Lamar Miller topping the list. (This all assumes Alfred Morris is not re-signed...which, after three years of declining stats, seems likely at this point.)
Yeah, I know Scot McCloughan is a build-through-the-draft type of general manager. And that's definitely a sound philosophy. But McCloughan has also shown that he’s not afraid to spend money to acquire a veteran at a position of immediate need. Just last year, he signed Chris Culliver, Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea and acquired Dashon Goldson via trade.
And, in my opinion, that seems to be the best option at running back.
Would a running back taken early in the draft be a good addition to the Redskins? Certainly. You could plug Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State in as the starter, have Matt Jones be his relief, and roll on from there.
The problem is that you could say the same thing about a defensive lineman or a cornerback or a safety. This team has a plethora of needs and they can’t buttonhole themselves into drafting a player at a particular position.
The draft is much more about future seasons than it is the coming season. Even first-round picks are not always instant starters. Of the 32 players taken in the first round last year, only 18, just over half, were their teams’ primary starters at their position. The player drafted No. 21 overall last year, the Redskins’ first-round spot in this draft, was offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. He played in only five games for the Bengals.
Only 13 second-round picks were primary starters. So going in with the idea of drafting a starting anything is a flawed plan to begin with.
They clearly need a running back assuming that Alfred Morris departs via free agency. If the right guy is available when they are on the clock, McCloughan should grab him. But if the best available player on the board (or very close to the best) isn’t a running back then they shouldn’t draft a running back. They can go to the post-draft free agent market and pick up someone like Pierre Thomas to compliment and/or compete with Matt Jones. And then go in next year and see if things will fall your way in the 2017 draft.
25 Questions series
- Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?
- Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?
- Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?
- Will there be a surprise cap casualty?
- Will DeAngelo Hall return?
- Should the Redskins draft a quarterback?
- Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?
- Should the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?
- Should Pierre Garçon return?
- What should the Redskins do at tight end?
- Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?
- Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016?
- Who will start at inside linebacker?
- Who on defense will take the next step?
- How can the Redskins make it to the Super Bowl?
- Who on offense will take the next step?
- Should DeSean Jackson return?
- How can the Redskins fix the running game?
- What will the depth chart at safety look like in 2016?
- Should they re-sign Darrel Young?
- What is the single most impactful improvement the team can make?
- Today: Should the Redskins draft a starting running back?
- Should the Redskins draft a defensive lineman early?