By Jake Russell
The Washington Redskins have many holes to fill and, sitting at 13 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, are in an advantageous situation to improve their roster. They have the flexibility to do that through staying put and taking the best player available or trading back and recouping a third-round pick to make up for the one they surrendered in the January trade that landed quarterback Alex Smith. Trading up in the draft appears very unlikely and unnecessary at this stage.
Every year at this time there are always a handful of teams in need for a quarterback, even if it means reaching high in the first round to get one. That helps out the Redskins, who regained stability at the position for the first time in years. Pushing back non-quarterbacks in the draft gives the Redskins more options to address positions of need with top-tier talent.
With pick No. 13, here are the only five players the Redskins should consider when Thursday night rolls around:
Team needs: DL, RB, G, LB, S, C, WR, CB
- Saquon Barkley – RB – Penn State
The chances of Barkley being available for the Redskins at No. 13 are slim to none but if he is, the teams needs to secure his services the instant they’re on the clock. Barkley would add a dynamic, playmaking component to a team that has been searching for a quality running back since Alfred Morris. The electric Nittany Lion is the only running back I’d take this high in the draft. Barkley would stabilize the position for years to come, giving Smith another weapon at his disposal while taking pressure of 2016 first-rounder Josh Doctson and newly-signed Paul Richardson. He would also become the first running back drafted by the Redskins in the first round since Ray McDonald (also 13th overall) in 1967.
- Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia
Pairing this agile playmaker with Zach Brown at inside linebacker would cure many ills for the Redskins’ front seven. Drafting Smith would also ease the pain of not selecting a top interior defensive lineman such as Washington star Vita Vea, especially if they can also sign free agent defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins after the draft. However, Smith’s stock rose from just a “first-round pick” to a “top-10 pick” after his performances in the Rose Bowl and National Championship.
- Vita Vea – DT – Washington
While Vea is not as flashy of a choice as Smith, he’d provide a high level of comfort for coaches and fans alike while working alongside 2017 first-round pick Jonathan Allen, who paid immediate dividends in helping the Redskins shore up their run defense last season. At 6’4”, 347, Vea is sneaky athletic, having played both running back and defensive lineman in high school. Vea appears to be the most realistic option for the Redskins at No. 13, unless a team really needing defensive line help like the San Francisco 49ers (9th overall), Oakland Raiders (10th overall) or Miami Dolphins (11th overall) snag him first.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick – S – Alabama
Fitzpatrick was penciled in to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 overall for months before the team acquired safety Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers to pair up with fellow safety Jabrill Peppers. Where he lands now is anyone’s guess but he does possess top-five talent. He has the ability to play cornerback or safety but would be a natural fit with the Redskins playing the latter. Working alongside D.J. Swearinger would give the Redskins one of the best safety tandems in the league and the best duo the franchise has had since Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry roamed the secondary.
- Derwin James – S – Florida State
James is another talented and intriguing safety option who would fit in right away with the Redskins and solidify the safety position like Fitzpatrick would. The versatile James can play close to the line of scrimmage and also has the ability to return kicks. A likely top-10 pick, it’s possible James could slide all the way to No. 13 due to other teams not prioritizing safety this high in the draft.
As someone who likes the idea of building from the inside out, I believe the ideal draft would have the Redskins selecting a top-tier defensive front-seven option (like Smith or Vea) in the first round and grabbing a quality running back who can make an immediate impact (such as Sony Michel or Nick Chubb out of Georgia or Ronald Jones III from USC) in the second round.
If none of the five players profiled above are available, the Redskins should find a way to trade back in the first round (hello New England Patriots) and add a second- or third-round pick and address their needs that way. If that’s the case, they’ll have more options to choose from than if they stay at No. 13, albeit with a very slightly diminished talent pool to choose from.
Top plug-and-play prospects such as Alabama defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst Jr., UTEP guard Will Hernandez, LSU running back Derrius Guice, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward and Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson should be available to choose from in the mid-to-late first round.
Based on the number of needs the team has and the talent available, the Redskins are primed to land a first-round player who will contribute effectively right away.