At every public speaking moment available, the Redskins have made clear that a running back is in the team's future. But the first round of the draft could present numerous options to them.
"There's going to be a good football player," Redskins President Bruce Allen said.
"We'll get a good player," head coach Jay Gruden said.
That was the message at the NFL Owners Meetings this week when both were asked about the team's 13th pick in next month's draft. While the Redskins have been doing their due diligence in free agency, hosting players, signing a few and looking for more deals to cut, they also know that another talented player will be available for them in the first round.
For the last couple of months, at least, it's been clear the team wants to add a running back into the mix. Senior Vice President Doug Williams said so at the NFL Combine, and then reiterated that message during quarterback Alex Smith's introductory press conference.
Certainly this draft boasts a strong class of running backs, and there's been reported interest from Washington in LSU's Derrius Guice, a player projected to be taken in the first round and who would likely be available by the time the Redskins make a selection. Gruden, however, was cautious this week in stating whether a running back might be taken so early.
Not saying it won't, but I'm not saying it will," he said cryptically. "We have some guys in house that we are excited to see. You know, it'll be a great competition, but there will be another running back in the building by the time we start training camp and probably after the draft, yes. When we're going to get him, how we're going to get him, I don't know. But there will be more backs in here to compete. There always are."
Gruden explained that with running back Chris Thompson, the team has its all-purpose running back, but made clear, in a somewhat joking fashion, that a back that can run through the tackles is still capable of catching passes and would be ideal to substitute in when needed.
"That's ideal, you know, if you got your first down guy, you got your next guy who's an every down guy who can back up both Chris and the first down guy would be a perfect world," Gruden said. "Harder to find those guys nowadays but it's not impossible."
Of course, the Redskins may also have the urge to acquire more draft picks and trade down with another team if their board suggests doing so.
"If we see that we have a group of player with the same grade, that's what allows you the comfort of trading down a few picks," Allen said. "If we know we're going to get one of the five players with the same grade, you're able to trade back, so once again it will be incumbent on us to come up with a Redskins grade. Then it makes the draft process very simple."
The unpredictability of this year's draft hinges largely on the amount of top-level quarterbacks taken before the 13th pick. Because several teams need a young quarterback and believe this year's draft could be their chance to find a star of the future, the remaining crop of premium first-round talent is likely to fall, and make some teams more desperate.
Allen stated that choosing a player based off need isn't the perspective the Redskins hold, citing last year's draft and the opportunity to take defensive lineman Jonathan Allen with the 17th overall pick. Then, there were last year's numerous injuries that decimated depth. It was a reminder that you can never have too many good players at any one position.
"I saw a chart there, our offensive line combinations, there's no one who came within two-thirds of our number," Allen said. "So we are going to draft the best player that's available based on our grade when he gets there because you need every prospect, you can't predict where the injuries are going to come."
The Redskins also can't predict the draft. That doesn't mean they can't think about the possibilities.
"If four or five quarterbacks go in the Top-10, then you're looking at, heck, you're going to get possibly the best corner, possibly the best nose tackle, defensive tackle, possibly the best inside backer, possibly the best receiver on the board," Gruden said. "So there's a lot of different ways we can go and it's exciting to see how it all pans out, it always is. We'll get a good player."