Peter King inserted a major NFL Draft thought into my brain.
King, a true luminary among NFL writers and now part of NBC Sports, joined our Redskins Talk podcast crew Tuesday in Atlanta ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl. Not surprisingly, a chunk of the conversation focused on Washington’s various dilemmas. Primarily, what can the Redskins do at quarterback with Alex Smith likely out for the 2019 season?
King joined a growing chorus of voices stating Washington should draft a passer in the first round. It’s possible that three to four quarterbacks – Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones – come off the board in this range.
That does not mean the Redskins automatically get their choice (or even land one) with the 15th overall selection.
King added that one of the potential hurdles involves a number of other teams – seven – in the top 15 with “major” quarterback needs.
Having now done several 2019 mocks drafts, I’m well aware that several teams picking ahead of Washington could target a quarterback. The potential quibble involved lumping them all into a “major” bucket.
Considering the positional importance, even a modest need becomes a focus. Most thirsty teams are obvious. Think Cleveland for most of the prior two decades before selecting Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in 2018.
Others lurk. With Alex Smith under center, Kansas City did not have a “major” need ahead of the 2017 season, yet the Chiefs traded a bushel of assets to jump from the 27th overall selection to No. 10 for Pat Mahomes.
Not all act on those desires. Last year, the Giants selected running back Saquon Barkley over one of the available quarterback prospects despite concerns with an aging Eli Manning.
Including the Redskins, here’s an assessment of the level of quarterback thirst for the teams currently holding top 15 selections.
Cardinals (1), 49ers (2), Jets (3), Lions (8), Bills (9), Packers (12), Falcons (14)
Arizona, New York, and Buffalo spent first-round picks on quarterbacks last season. San Francisco, Detroit, Green Bay and Atlanta pay its respective starters hefty salaries for largely justifiable reasons.
Let’s run it back
Buccaneers (5), Bengals (11)
Rank the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL. Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton make the cut. Both arguably need a change of scenery to rise into the top two-thirds. That is unlikely in 2019.
Winston, the No. 1 overall selection in 2015, is 21-33 as a starter, and Tampa Bay went with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at times in 2018. The Buccaneers ultimately made a coaching change and hired the offensive-minded Bruce Arians in part to help turn Winston around.
Dalton, 31, completed his eighth season as the Bengals starter. If there’s a ninth, it will be under a new head coach after Cincinnati fired Marvin Lewis. The new guy, wunderkind Zac Taylor, may ultimately want to bring in his own guy. Dalton offers little inspiration, but considering the 35-year-old Taylor’s likely growing pains as a first-time head coach, it makes sense sticking with a veteran for now.
How good are we?
Giants (6), Broncos (10)
It feels odd seeing these two teams with a combined 13 Super Bowl appearances selecting in the top 10 – except this marks two years in a row both sunk this low. Despite the dips, neither situation screams rebuild. That’s a combination of those running the show seem focused on immediate turnarounds and the rosters have several headliners, namely Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller.
There’s another factor: Both teams have quarterback options, especially New York’s Eli Manning, which the organization’s decision-makers could talk themselves into thinking he’s good enough for now.
Manning is coming off a 4,300-yard season with only 11 interceptions. He also started every game for the 5-11 Giants and just turned 38. There’s some fool’s gold in those positive statistics, but it seems like New York believes there’s enough left in Manning’s right arm that it could target other needs at six.
Denver signed Case Keenum to a two-year contract last off-season. While he threw for nearly 3,900 yards, Keenum could not recapture the magic from his prior year with Minnesota.
There are reports that Broncos general manager has fallen for Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. The Broncos also have needs at tackle, cornerback and wide receiver. Players at those positions plus an improved Keenum offer more immediate hope than a rookie passer.
Hooray for Herbert, Tank for Tua
Maybe Jon Gruden becomes smitten with one of the 2019 options. The Raiders do wield power with three first-round selections.
Oakland, on the move to Las Vegas in the near future, is the one NFL team that should openly tank with the goal of landing heralded quarterback prospects Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa in 2020. Vegas loves headliners and the Raiders’ current roster lacks such pizzazz. This approach also gives Gruden one more season to resurrect Derek Carr.
Jaguars (7), Dolphins (13), Redskins (15)
Assuming Miami dumps Ryan Tannehill, these three have major concerns at quarterback. Jacksonville’s pick position offers the best bet to land one without trading up.
Murray, Lock and Jones may all be available in the 10-15 range, meaning the Dolphins and Redskins could wait patiently. That ultimately depends on how many teams believe they have a “major” need at quarterback.
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