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Shanahan Embraces Opportunistic Approach


When head coach Mike Shanahan arrived in January 2010, he inherited a roster in desperate need of an overhaul.

In the three NFL drafts since then, the Redskins brass added a potentially elite quarterback, left tackle and bookend pass rushers, the traditional cornerstones of any franchise. They have also stockpiled young depth and talent across the board.

The results were obvious in 2012, as the team enjoyed its first winning season since 2007 and the first NFC East division title since 1999.

Looking to build momentum on last year's success, Shanahan told the media today that he intends to follow the same principles for adding talent in this year's draft.

"I think you always try to look at your board and take each position, try to get a priority on which guys you feel are a certain skill level," Shanahan explained. "You get a game plan and if a certain player is there at that time, you are going to take him. If not, you try to trade back; sometimes you try to go forward.

"A lot depends on how it all falls in place. You have to be ready for different types of scenarios. We have done it both ways."

In 2010, the Redskins needed to replace long-time offensive tackle Chris Samuels, who was retiring after a decade on the quarterback's blind side.

Shanahan and his coaching staff became enamored with Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams, who was available at the team's No. 4 overall pick.

One year later, the team had options in the middle of the first round, allowing the team to trade down six spots in exchange for extra picks later in the draft.

"When you have a lot of needs, sometimes what you will do if you have a lot of guys ranked in the same area, sometime you will go back and get an extra two or three draft picks, like we did with [Ryan] Kerrigan," Shanahan explained. "You go from 10 to 16 and wind up getting three extra picks, those three guys we needed on our football team.

"A lot depends on where your football team is and what direction you think you need to go."

Last year, the need was obvious at quarterback, which caused the Redskins to swap picks with the St. Louis Rams in exchange for two first round picks (2013, 2014) and the 2012 second round pick.

Later in the draft, the Redskins had Robert Griffin III in hand, but had Michigan State product Kirk Cousins as the highest-rated player on the board.

Shanahan and company stuck to the evaluations of the draft board and selected Cousins with the 102nd overall pick.

"Last year, you ask me, 'Why would I take a quarterback [Kirk Cousins] in the fourth round?'" Shanahan used as an example. "We had him ranked as a first-round guy, inside the top-32, and you are picking him in the fourth round. The value is there and you have to do what you think is best for your football team and the draft.

"[Cousins] makes your football team, steps in and plays like the guy we thought he'd play like. At least you're hoping. It doesn't always work out that way. A lot of different philosophies. [You] always have to be ready for everything."

The alternative to following the pre-draft evaluations board is to be accused of reaching for an inadequate player to fill a roster need.

"You try not to reach. You might have a position need and you push the envelope a round or two and you are looking for that one piece to what you consider a championship team," Shanahan said. "What I have learned through the years is that you have to be true to your board, you have to look at every player.

"As a head coach, a lot of hours go into looking at all these guys. You are ready on draft day. No matter what situation arises, you're hoping you can take advantage of the opportunity."




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