MOBILE, Ala.—During my trip to the Senior Bowl this week, I spent some time with NBC Sports’ draft expert Josh Norris to get his thoughts on 12 prospects that could/should be on the Redskins’ radar, given the team’s needs in this year’s draft. Let’s start today with the defensive players that Norris believes are a fit in Washington:
Jihad Ward (6-6, 295), Illinois
2015 stats: 54 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks
Norris’ take: “I ranked him as the 13th prospect here heading into the week. He plays outside, but then in sub situations, moves inside. If someone has negative things to say about his tape, I absolutely understand. It’s not great all the time, but when he’s on, it’s awesome. To me, someone at that size that can move like that and understands who he is in terms of winning with power and length, that’s a great asset. Maybe not a first rounder but he’d fit that Jason Hatcher role really well. Another senior that’s not here, Jonathan Bullard from Florida, might be able to do that, as well.
Vernon Butler (6-3, 309), Louisiana Tech
2015 stats: 50 tackles, 10 for loss, 3 sacks.
Norris’ take: “I love Vernon Butler. He reminds me a lot of [Jets tackle] Mo Wilkerson. They play the position similarly. They move the same way, and use their hands and use their athleticism the same way. Butler is athletic and has intent when he’s pass rushing. He uses his hands to shed, push-pull, to disengage. I think Butler could be a first round pick.”
Kyler Fackrell (6-4, 244), Utah State
2015 stats: 82 tackles, 15 for loss, 5 sacks.
Norris’ take: “He’s not a traditional inside linebacker but he really likes and wants to model his game after [Green Bay’s] Clay Matthews. Fackrell missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. He's someone who played safety in high school so he’s very comfortable in coverage. He’s still developing as a pass rusher, but he’s another one of these guys that moves really well. Guys that can move differently and look natural and comfortable in space, especially in the front seven, are the ones I drift to. I could see a team playing him inside.”
Reggie Ragland (6-2, 252), Alabama
2015 stats: 102 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 7 passes defended.
Norris’ take: “He reminds me a lot of Kevin Minter [of the Cardinals]. He’s Alabama’s middle linebacker so you know that he understands and he prepares and that he knows where things are going to go a lot of the time. … In a 3-4, if you need someone to thump the middle and clean lanes, he can absolutely do that.”
Sean Davis (6-1, 202), Maryland
2015 stats: 88 tackles, 3 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles.
Norris’ take: “He played corner and safety during his time at Maryland. I think more safety and they shifted him to corner because he was the most athletic defensive back on the team and they were like, ‘We’re going to play you at boundary against the X and No. 1 receiver.’ And he’s good. I could definitely see him as a surprise top-64 selection.”
Tavon Young (5-10, 188), Temple
2015 stats: 41 tackles, 7 pass defended.
Norris’ take: “He’s competitive, he has ball skills and he has stood out. And having ball skills in terms being aware is a super-important part of playing corner. Guys that can disrupt the catch point, that’s more and more important especially against receivers that can win those contested situations.”