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Defense Could Be Redskins' Focus, Kiper Says


ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. fielded phone calls from the national media on Wednesday and he really couldn't say definitively what the Redskins might do with their scattered array of picks in the April 28-30 draft.

His latest mock draft has the Redskins taking Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, who is 6-5, 290 pounds, and well-suited to play in the 3-4 scheme, in the first round.

Watt has been a fast riser on many draft boards. He led the Badgers in tackles for loss and was second on the team in tackles.

"At 10, you're looking at Watt and Robert Quinn (the North Carolina defensive end who also projects at linebacker)," Kiper said.

The 6-4, 265-pound Quinn has also been turning up in many mock drafts as the Redskins' first choice. He had 11 sacks as a sophomore but was suspended last season for improper dealings with an agent.

Quarterback is also a perceived need but Kiper is not particularly enamored of this year's class.

"The quarterbacks have red flags. Every one of them," he said. As to how teams rank them? "It's all over the place," he said.

He questioned Cam Newton's work ethic but he did not expect either Newton or Blaine Gabbert to be available with the 10th pick.

Though he touted Washington's Jake Locker before the last college season as the potential top pick, he raised the usual issues of Locker's accuracy throwing from the pocket.

Now he says Locker could go as high as 12th to the Minnesota Vikings or perhaps 25th to the Seattle Seahawks but he did not mention the Redskins as suitors. Coach Mike Shanahan has likened Locker to Jake Plummer, who played for him with the Denver Broncos.

Knocking Locker down stemmed from "performance," Kiper said. "You have to perform to the level of a first-round pick. The accuracy is an issue."

Another player often mentioned as a possible first-round pick for the Redskins has been Alabama receiver Julio Jones but Kiper now sees the Cleveland Browns taking Jones with the sixth pick.

The Redskins don't have picks in third or fourth round due to previous trades. They own two in the fifth round, one in the sixth and three in the seventh round (one a compensatory). He did not seem to think the Redskins had enough in that arsenal to package their selections and move up.

"They could deal some of next year's picks," he said. "You can find a team, give up a pick next year. I don't like doing that."

Given that the Redskins' only running back with significant rushing experience is now Ryan Torain, and with Shanahan's history of finding backs later in the draft, Kiper also offered some possibilities for the fifth round and beyond.

Those players included Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech), Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech) and Bilal Powell (Louisville).

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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