Ever since the Redskins landed at the No. 5 spot in the NFL draft, the chances that they will take an edge rusher with that top pick have seemed to be very strong. The departure of Brian Orakpo as a free agent and the fact that there were several top edge rushers in the top end of the draft rankings seemed to add up to a great combination of need meeting the best available player. In various mock drafts over the past few months the Redskins and the No. 5 pick have been linked to Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, Dante Fowler Jr. and Vic Beasley.
However, that group has been thinned somewhat over the past month. In late March it was revealed that Gregory failed a test for marijuana at the combine. Then earlier this week Ray was cited for possession of marijuana.
Those issues could well knock those two out of consideration for the Redskins, at least at the No. 5 pick. When asked about signing veteran players with character issues, Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was very clear.
“If there is any kind of question mark that he might be a bad guy, we’re not going to do it,” he said at the team’s pre-draft news conference on Monday.
Although he was specifically talking about signing free agents, it’s hard to see McCloughan having a markedly different attitude when it comes to draft picks, especially selections high in the first round. While many NFL organizations do not believe that marijuana use necessarily makes a player a “bad guy”, the bad timing and poor judgment of the incidents involving Ray and Gregory are red flags in the eyes of most. Taking on one of those players with a top draft pick is not a risk that a team in the Redskins’ position can afford to make.
That leaves Fowler and Beasley from the list of top edge rushers. But is Beasley really in play? He is 6-3 and he played at 235 lb. at Clemson and he weighed in at the combine at 246. Even with the added weight he is very light for an NFL outside linebacker.
And Beasley is a speed player, not a powerful one. His first step and ability to get around the corner are excellent. But when it comes to setting the edge against the run and disengaging from a tackle who is blocking him, Beasley struggles.
With that in mind, here is what McCloughan had to say on Monday when he was asked about what he looks for in edge rushers.
“I like big guys, long guys, length, but you need to have speed and you need to have quickness but you also need to have power,” he said. “If you get all three, now you’re talking about a really good prospect. But some guys just have two of the things or one of the things. It doesn’t make them not a prospect for us; it’s just a different value in the draft for us. But I think it’s very important to have physical traits that allow you to dominate a guy one-on-one and get to the quarterback.”
Beasley fills the bill as far as speed and quickness. But since he lacks the size and power he is not the complete package for McCloughan based on what he says here. That might make him a target at some point later in the draft, perhaps even later in the first round if the Redskins trade back. But it’s hard to see McCloughan going for a player who is less than “a really good prospect”, one who has a “different value” than the guys in the top tier, with the fifth pick in the draft.
That leaves Fowler, who at 6-3, 261 with arms 34 inches long has the size, length, and power that McCloughan likes along with 4.61 speed in the 40-yard dash as the one edge rusher who meets all of McCloughan’s criteria.
If he is gone when the fifth pick comes around, McCloughan might look to other positions or accept a less-than-ideal offer to trade down rather than taking a player who doesn’t have everything he’s looking for at the position.