Bruce Allen approached this year’s NFL Draft with the mindset that he had needs here and there to fill on the current Redskins roster, but wanted to make sure to keep the future of the franchise top of mind, as well.
The Redskins general manager this week said his staff accomplished those goals, as the team made some moves on Friday and Saturday in rounds two through seven to get eight new players, many of whom could contribute immediately at their positions or on special teams, but could also be key pieces to the puzzle in 2015 and beyond.
The Redskins – who did not have a first-round pick this year – started off their involvement in the 2014 draft with a bang, trading their 34th-overall pick to their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, for the Cowboys’ picks at No. 47 overall in the second round and No. 78 overall in the third round.
Allen – who used those picks to select Murphy and Moses – said “both teams got a chuckle about the irony of the trade.
“But I must say we also talked to the Giants and the Eagles while we were on the clock at different points, so it worked out well for them, and it worked out well for us.”
The Redskins weren’t done making draft moves there, however. On Saturday, they also traded their 178th-overall pick in the sixth round to the Tennessee Titans for their 186th-overall pick (which Washington used on Bolser) and their 228th-overall pick (which was used on Hocker).
Allen said the team, for the most part, plans on keeping Murphy – a Stanford product who led the nation in sacks in 2013 – at outside linebacker.
“(Defensive coordinator Jim) Haslett has some other ideas for him where we can use him for various linebacker roles for us,” Allen said. “He’s a good football player (and) he obviously had a strong scouting report with us.”
Allen said Stanford head coach David Shaw had nothing but praise for Murphy.
“Coach David Shaw really told us some of the intangibles that (Murphy) has that fit exactly what we are looking for in players,” he said.
Allen said the team also targeted some inside linebackers early on in the draft, but said he is extremely satisfied with how things ended up taking shape.
“There are a couple of guys that went in the first round that would have fit in beautifully – for a lot of teams in the NFL,” Allen said. “They were not available, and we feel good about the group that we’ve got.”
The Redskins believed they got a steal by taking Moses – a Virginia product – in the third round of Saturday’s draft. Allen said Moses has all the traits that the team was looking for in an offensive tackle.
“He’s got great size and length, he has shown the athletic ability to play left tackle, even though we’re going to move him over to the right side,” Allen said.
The general manager said Moses impressed Redskins personnel during his draft prospect visit to the team’s Loudoun County headquarters.
“When we brought him up here, he was one of the 30 players that we brought in for visits here [and] the coaches had a good exchange with him,” Allen recalled. “He’s a very smart player, [and] we feel that he can pick up our offense pretty quickly and we like his competitive spirit.”
The Redskins continued to work on improving its offensive line when it took guard Spencer Long out of Nebraska, also in the third round.
Allen said Long was among those players he sees being a major part of the team’s offensive plans in the future.
“As I said before the draft, this draft is as much about 2015 and ‘16 as it is 2014,” he said. “Hopefully some of these players can make an impact for us this year, but we see these type of people coming into our football team and making us better in the future.”
Long told the media shortly after his selection that he is currently recovering from injuries to his left MCL and PCL, but Allen said the team was encouraged by his progress and his workouts.
“What helped most was his pro day,” Allen said. “He was healthy enough to conduct a pro day and not everybody was able to go to it around the league and what we saw in him, was he was back physically for him injury, because the tape that you had seen before, you saw a tenacious, tough [player]. We like what we saw on tape and once the doctors and the medical people cleared him and you saw him moving around during his pro day, we felt very comfortable.”
Allen said Breeland – a Clemson product – is a player the Redskins envision helping out immediately in the secondary, as well as on special teams.
“We’re going to put him at corner, but he has good size and you can put him at a lot of special teams spots to help our football club,” Allen said.
Breeland’s coaches at Clemson, meanwhile, “were very high” on the 5-foot-11, 197-pound South Carolina native.
“They gave a great recommendation to our coaches about (Breeland’s) seriousness about being a football player,” Allen recalled.
Like at linebacker, Allen said the team would’ve liked to have added on at safety, as well, in the draft this year, but the Redskins are still satisfied with what they’ve got at that position moving forward.
Heading into the fifth round, Allen said the Redskins just couldn’t pass on taking Grant, a wide receiver out of Tulane.
Although the Redskins do have depth at the receiver position, Allen said he foresees Grant being a playmaker all around the field.
“A very smart player, a heady player,” Allen said of Grant. “The coaches and the scouts really liked his position flexibility. He can play a little X, a little Z and in the slot.”
Allen said Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica also envisions Grant contributing to that unit, as well.
With their sixth-round selection upon them, Allen said they were happy to get a “home run” threat like Seastrunk, who excelled as a big-play threat out of the backfield for Baylor the past couple years.
Allen said his staff was baffled at the fact that Seastrunk had not had more receiving opportunities while at Baylor, but they think he’ll do just fine catching the ball with the Redskins.
“Our coaches talked to the Baylor coaches, and that’s really not part of what they do – they just do not throw to the running backs,” Allen said. “We like what he adds to our football team. He obviously has home run ability for us. We know about his character, and I think we’re excited about what he’ll bring to this offense.”
Bolser was another one of those players drafted that Allen, Gruden and their staff believe can be key contributors on special teams.
Gruden even went as far to describe Bolser, an Indiana University product, as a “war daddy” for his relentless nature in seeking out a kick returner.
Allen said improving special teams was a priority in the draft this year.
“It’s something we lived through last season and it was painful at times, and that’s not Redskins football,” Allen said. “Anytime you talk to Jay, you’ll hear that out of his voice and that a part of the legacy of this franchise is special teams. We have a few of the players we’ll need, we added a few guys from this draft and in free agency that we added that can make a big impact for us on special teams. That is the difference between winning and losing in this NFL.”
Allen said competition at every position makes the entire team better, including at kicker.
“Ben Kotwica did a good job once again of scouting all of the punters and placekickers in the draft [and] he felt (Hocker) had a chance to compete,” Allen said. “Yes at kickoffs, and yes, also at field goals. Kai’s obviously been a very consistent kicker for us ever since we got him, but like every other position on this team, we have to have competition because that’s the only way we get better.”