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Tough Decisions Loom In Draft

The Redskins have begun the evaluation of the crop of college football players in earnest, with most of the Redskins' coaching staff and scouting department in Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL scouting combine.

This process coincides with the evaluation of pending free agent players, as well as those players who could be acquired via trade. The NFL's free agency signing period and trading period both begin officially on March 3.

Regarding the draft, head coach Joe Gibbs said during a press conference at the combine this weekend that he hopes to balance taking the best player available with taking a player at a need position. The Redskins will select fifth overall in the first round of this April's NFL Draft.

"There's going to be any number of guys who are real, real good players," Gibbs said. "I think you're always balancing that: Where do you feel like your biggest needs will be? And then also, can you afford to pass up somebody who's a great football player? That was always tough for me."

Selecting fifth, the Redskins are sure to have the opportunity to grab an elite player at any position. Among those positions the team is expected to look at include defensive line, safety, tight end and running back.

But Gibbs doesn't expect the Redskins' draft strategy to focus solely on those positions.

"I don't think you go in there and say we're going to fill an offensive tackle or whatever," he said. "You go in there and say, What do you think is going to be there?' What are the other players around him?' Is there a big drop-off?' It's hard to separate that."

"Obviously we're going to lean probably to the place where we feel like [the player at No. 5] gives us the best chance to be a good football team right now."

That could be an indication that Gibbs and the Redskins intend to draft a player who they deem is ready to start in the NFL right away. In the Redskins' last two drafts, Patrick Ramsey and Derrick Dockery have seen significant playing time in their rookie seasons.

The Redskins have had an army of coaches and scouts in Indianapolis-and they're all expected to come together later this week and next week to pool their evaluations of the college players. Eventually they will come to a decision-as a group, Gibbs emphasizes-on which players to consider with the first-round draft pick.

In describing the process, Gibbs said the coaches and scouts will all sit in a conference room together to look at film. Following a lengthy report on each player, in which "about 25 different things on each one of the players" are discussed, the coaches and scouts put a grade on each player.

"What I really like about what we're doing is, it truly is going to be our player," Gibbs said. "If we take him, our feeling is that every single person had their say in it. I feel real good about the process."

Meantime, Gibbs has been re-acclimating himself to the ways of today's NFL. The salary cap is the biggest difference, something that Gibbs did not have to deal with during his first tenure as Redskins head coach.

"I think in the old days, if I could convince Mr. [Jack Kent] Cooke that we needed a player, he'd spend the money and we'd go get it," Gibbs said. "Today, I think there is a difference in that you only have a certain amount of money&It does limit you and I think that's a totally different approach to acquiring players."

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