McCloughan looking to fill needs, expand draft pool

WASHINGTON — Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan made it very clear when he arrived in town last year that he was determined to build through the draft and not rely on free agency. Don’t expect a fundamental shift in philosophy just because the Redskins signed All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman last week.

“It doesn’t really change,” McCloughan said this week. “The thing that’s cool about it is that it gives us another good football player on the field. You can never have enough corners … ever.”

McCloughan has said this offseason that he would love to accumulate 12 picks in this year’s draft, which begins Thursday night. Right now, he has eight.

The Redskins have a number of needs heading into this draft and secondary was among them, and perhaps the most pressing along with the defensive line. McCloughan addressed a big need with the signing of Norman. The Redskins gave up over 258 yards a game through the air last year and have plenty of question marks coming into this season.

DeAngelo Hall is expected to make a full-time transition to safety along with possibly Will Blackmon. Duke Ihenacho is also in the mix at safety. Cornerback Chris Culliver is coming off an ACL/MCL injury and may not be ready for the season. Bashaud Breeland emerged as a playmaker last year, and should make a pretty good combo alongside Norman. Quinton Dunbar is also in the mix at corner.

The Redskins’ second biggest need is along the defensive line. Terrance Knighton signed with Patriots and Jason Hatcher retired after the team parted ways with him in March. That’s two starters lost in one offseason.

The Redskins hold the 21st overall pick in Thursday’s first round. This could be a nice opportunity for McCloughan and company to trade down if another team offers multiple picks. If they do stay put, addressing that defensive line could be a strong possibility with Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed at the top of a lot of mock drafts. Baylor’s defensive lineman Andrew Billings and Louisiana Tech’s defensive tackle Vernon Butler are names you could hear announced as well.

“Hopefully, we’ve got a couple of them,” McCloughan joked about possible options at 21. “But yeah, it’s a strong draft. It really is on both sides of the ball. Of course, I’m not going to say names or anything like that. My personal opinion, there will be a handful of guys in the first round, but also second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, that are football players and there’s a value for each one of them. It gets lesser and lesser, but I’ll take the lesser height, weight, speed guy for the more consistent football player that you know exactly, character-wise, toughness, competitiveness, what they bring to the Redskins.”

This is a deep draft for defensive lineman so if they do trade out of the first round, there should be a pretty good opportunity to fill that need in the later rounds while acquiring additional picks.

With Alfred Morris leaving for the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins now have an opening at running back. Expect Matt Jones to take over the reigns as the starter with Chris Thompson still on board. Drafting a running back in the later rounds is a route that the Redskins could go as well.

Washington could take a developmental quarterback in the fourth round or later. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are in place as the starter and backup, but drafting a third quarterback is a move that makes sense. Scot McCloughan said as much his pre-draft press conference this week.

“There’s never too many quarterbacks,” he said. “Not saying first round, fifth round, seventh round, a college free agent, who knows? The thing that we’re going to do is identify, have a value for that position and that player, and that’s when we’re going to take him.”

Former Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg did visit Redskins Park within the last two weeks.

Also on the offensive side of the ball, the team needs a center. They should be able to take a center in this draft and let him develop alongside Kory Lichtensteiger.

We saw McCloughan work some magic in his first draft in Washington being able to turn seven draft picks into 10. We’ll see if he’s able to add the four additional picks he’d like to the eight they have now, and what he’s able to do with the haul.

George Wallace

George Wallace is the WTOP sports director. He began at WTOP on Christmas Day of 2000.

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