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ESPN’s Todd McShay Talks About Middle-Round Picks, Redskins’ Options

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay hosted his second teleconference of the offseason with national reporters on Friday and, for once, talk was not centered around quarterbacks and, specifically, [Baylor] quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Sure, Griffin questions surfaced, but in the context of what the Washington Redskins need – they’re virtually a lock to take Griffin with the No. 2 pick overall, unless Indianapolis somehow passes on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick – the call and questions were more focused on what the team can do in the later round.

McShay said the Redskins have needs at right tackle, in the defensive backfield, and perhaps at inside linebacker and running back. Here’s a selection of questions and answers from that call:

What could Washington be looking at with regards to help at right tackle in the third or fourth round?

“I just mentioned [California’s] Mitchell Schwartz. Jeff Allen from Illinois is another one. You’ll see him on some lists as a guard, but I think he can play right tackle. Kelechi Osemele … the Iowa State offensive guard/right tackle prospect is another one. Mitchell Schwartz, to me, is probably the best fit if he were to fall to them at that spot.

“You know, it’s interesting. There’s a lot of depth in the first round. You’ve got one elite offensive tackle in [Southern California’s Matt] Kalil, and then there’s a drop off, but then there’s a group of different guys that can fit holes. I think Riley Reiff is never going to be elite, but he’s always going to be very solid coming out of Iowa. [Georgia’s] Cordy Glenn is a guard/right tackle prospect. [Stanford’s] Jonathan Martin needs to get stronger and may not be ready to step in and be a good starter at left tackle now, but he has the potential to be. [Ohio State’s] Mike Adams is maybe the second-best offensive lineman in this draft, but he’s inconsistent and you just don’t trust him and he gets lazy at times. And then there’s a drop off after those guys, and I think any number of guys can come off the board in that middle-to-late second, or even early third round range.

“Like I said, [Ole Miss’s] Bobby Massie, Mitchell Schwartz, Donald Stephenson is another name you might hear out of Oklahoma, and then a couple of those guards that could play right tackle. I think the best of that group could probably be Allen coming out of Illinois.”

Could it be likely the Redskins will select a safety in the third round?

“Looking in the third round, to me, safety? Yeah, it’s a possibility. That’s kind of where the value starts to get even better. I mean, yeah, you’ve got Mark Barron of Alabama in the first round, and Harrison Smith of Notre Dame in the second round, and probably, I’d say later in the second round, probably Brandon Taylor from LSU. But then those are the only three that I have first- or second-round grades on. It’s a thin safety class.

“There’s some good options after that, though. I’ve got five guys in the third, fourth round range. Antonio Allen from South Carolina – only 201 pounds, but has good range and is just a ball hawk. He’s always around to make big plays and always seems to get involved and can really run. Phillip Thomas [from Syracuse] I think is a little bit underrated. The more I watch of him, the more I like him. I just watched his tape, I think, last week, and he’s growing on me. He may be the fourth- or fifth-best safety. He doesn’t have great size, and again, he can cover a lot of ground and make some big plays. [Notre Dame’s] Robert Blanton is a cornerback who I think can move to safety. Same with [Alabama’s] DeQuan Menzie, who I actually graded him as a cornerback in the preseason, but I wrote in his report from day one, I think this guy just has safety written all over him. He’s physical for 195 pounds and he’s great in man-to-man coverage, but in zone, he’s pretty good. He’s versatile and he’s real comfortable around the line of scrimmage.

“A little bit later than that, Justin Bethel from Presbyterian – 13 blocked kicks. He’s a versatile athlete. I think he’s one of the small-school guys who could creep up early in day three. Then Janzen Jackson, who’s got all sorts of off-the-field issues, transferred from Tennessee to McNeese State and just – he’s not polished and needs a lot of work, but he’s supremely talented athletically and he’s one of the better man-to-man cover safeties in this entire draft. Those are the second-, third-, fourth-round safeties. I think inside linebacker for them is a possibility. Right tackle and running back as well. I think you can go a lot of different directions when you get to that third-round pick.”

Who do you think would be a good fit for the Redskins at running back, should they decide to go that route in the middle rounds?

“When you look at what they look at [with] the running back position, they evaluate a little bit differently for their scheme in the zone blocking. A wide base – you’ve got to run with a wide base. You’ve got to be able to turn your legs and finish runs. You’ve got to be able to stick your foot in the dirt and accelerate. That’s probably the one area that’s more important to them in zone-blocking, run-oriented teams than the rest of the league. That’s something that they’re really going to evaluate and will be important in the process. They also are obsessed with durability and ball security, which they should be.

“I think when you start to look in the third-round, fourth-round range, who are the guys who fit that mold? I think [Temple’s] Bernard Pierce, to a certain degree. The toughness issue – again, I don’t see it, necessarily, but Bernard Pierce wouldn’t be a horrible pick. [Washington’s] Chris Polk would be, I think, a good fit, a really good fit, if he can stick his foot in the dirt and accelerate. He runs with a wide base. He finishes runs. He can protect, which is another thing that’s high on their list. You’ve got to be willing and tough enough to protect – pass-pro. Of all the running backs, he is the one that has the best ball security in this class. He didn’t fumble the ball at a high percentage. He was one of the top 15 guys that I did a study on with the stats crew.

“After that, I think there’s a drop off, and I don’t think that anyone fits until probably the fourth round, but then you get into guys like Robert Turbin from Utah State, who’s had durability issues and might not fit. Ronnie Hillman [from San Diego State] is not – he’s a narrow-based runner and he doesn’t fit. [Tennessee’s] Tauren Poole, maybe at 5-10, 205 pounds. He runs with a little bit of a base. [Michigan State’s] Edwin Baker is moving up and he could be a fit in the third-round range. He’s the type of runner that really fits what he wants to do. Nick Ballard from Mississippi State is in the fourth-, fifth-round range. He kind of fits what they want to do.

“So, to me, in rounds three through five, I would say Chris Polk if he were there, Bernard Pierce if he was there. Robert Turbin a possibility. Tauren Poole from Tennessee. Edwin Baker would be, if not tops on the list, maybe No. 2 just behind Chris Polk … and then probably Ballard after that out of Mississippi State.”

What kind of adjustments do you think Robert Griffin III will have to make in Washington?

“RG3, you wanted to know an adjustment for him? Obviously, learning the offense and what to do within the offense – I think he’s always done a great job of protecting the ball. He really limited his mistakes this past year. I think throwing underneath and working on his footwork and continuing to become more consistent with his feet, which will allow him to be more consistent with his accuracy in the short- to intermediate game.

“He’s as good as anyone in this draft, or the last couple of years, probably, in terms of accuracy with the deep ball, but learning how to be more consistent in ball placement – the window, I know it’s cliché, but the windows are so much tighter in the NFL than they are in college, and especially in that offense. I mean, he throws to wide-open receivers. It doesn’t mean he can’t, but it’s gonna be an adjustment. I think that’s gonna be the biggest thing. He’s patient in the pocket.

“A lot of time with guys who are athletic, you worry about them taking off too early, but I don’t worry about that with him. he really is a passer first, and he’s patient. I really think he’ll know when to say when and he’ll take off running. But for me, it’s really learning how to be consistent and how he can place the football in those throws within 20 yards – especially on those timing throws, where you just don’t have a lot of room to fit the ball in.”

What do you think Detroit could be looking at in terms of cornerbacks in the early rounds, and how does your board look at that position?

“There’s Morris Claiborne from LSU. Stephon Gilmore is really moving up from South Carolina. [North Alabama’s] Janoris Jenkins who, I said already, is the second-best cornerback in this entire class but likely to fall to the second round. Who knows? He legitimately could fall to the third. Detroit needs to be prepared and make a decision and maybe they already made a decision – he may already be off their board like he is for several NFL teams. Jenkins is a possibility. Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama, I think, is the fourth-best corner in this class, and what he doesn’t provide in terms of ball skills he provides in terms of run support and instincts and all that.

“Then there’s a drop off, and then there’s a whole bunch of players I think are in that second, third-round range. I think the depth is great. I think you can almost get the same quality of player in the third round as you can get in the second. I’ll just give you a list of guys I think belong in that second-, third-round range: Jayron Hosley from Virginia Tech. Chase Minnifield from Virginia. [Georgia’s] Brandon Boykin, who I talked about earlier with the versatility but not necessarily the best cover corner – I don’t think he would be a guy that Detroit would want, necessarily. Josh Robinson from Central Florida, who I gave a third-round, a late third-round grade to off of tape and then he went and ran a 4.33[-second 40-yard dash]. I moved him up a little bit, but he’s probably going to get drafted higher than I have him rated, so that’s why I put him in the second round because that’s what a mock draft is. It’s not what I believe but it’s where I think guys are gonna end up going.

Trumaine Johnson from Montana, one of those small-school players [at] 6-2, 205 pounds – great athlete, can jump out of the gym, but he ran a 4.61 and it just surprised me. I thought he was going to be faster. Dwight Bentley from Louisiana-Lafayette, undersized, played high school ball with Janoris Jenkins, had a great week at the Senior Bowl and I think he could be worth it, a good No. 3 cornerback. Also, Alfonzo Dennard from Nebraska who, I think, is a little bit overrated. I wouldn’t draft him until the third round, but he’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s physical, and I think if you protect him vertically, he has a chance to be a pretty good player.”

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