Holding the No. 19 pick in the NFL draft always comes with uncertainty, as Washington will have to let the draft unfold before seeing who might be available.
But the Football Team is leaning into those unknowns this year, producing one of the most intriguing — and inscrutable — picks for the franchise in many years.
Predraft rumors have included everything from Washington trading up to get a top-tier quarterback, to trading out of the first round to stockpile young talent for future seasons.
With new general manager Martin Mayhew about to conduct his first draft, he said he wants to say as little as possible.
“I would say one of the benefits for us in this draft is people not knowing what traits I’m really excited about,” Mayhew said.
If Washington makes a selection at No. 19, speculation has centered on two positions — linebacker and left tackle.
Coach Ron Rivera was a linebacker himself, and his best defenses have had world-class athletes calling the shots from the middle linebacker position, like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Washington lacked that last year, and Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady exploited the deficiency in a playoff loss.
The two linebackers most likely to be on the board at that time are Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins.
The two are opposites in some regards. Owusu-Koramoah is light enough there are questions about his NFL durability. At 216 pounds, he’s been discussed as a potential hybrid linebacker-safety, which doesn’t scare away Rivera.
Collins, on the other hand, recently weighed in at 270 pounds, leading to questions about whether he’d be moved to a pass-rushing role by whichever team takes him. Washington, of course, has no need for another one of those.
On the offensive line, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw would add to the team’s collection of homegrown talent, and would bookend UVA’s Morgan Moses.
Left tackle is always a position of need in the NFL, but is particularly so for Washington since the departure of Trent Williams.
The wild card is whether Washington will fall in love with one of the draft’s second-tier quarterbacks. If so, would Mayhew trade up to get him?
“That’s a really good question, and one I won’t answer,” Mayhew said. “I won’t get into that for strategic reasons.”
If the coaching staff likes him, Washington would seem to be a desirable landing spot for North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Lance is seen as the least NFL-ready of the major prospects, but would be under no pressure to start in 2021 with Ryan Fitzpatrick already under center.
There’s also the saga of Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who has loads of talent but also must deal with how past Ohio State quarterbacks have fared in the NFL (not well). On the heels of the disastrous Dwayne Haskins experiment, would Rivera be willing to try again if Fields has a draft-night slide?
Washington also has a number of needs to address in the second and third days of the draft, including safety, running back and adding at least one more receiver.
Rivera said Washington’s moves in free agency allowed him to take a long-term approach and not put too much on whoever gets selected.
“When you’re picking a guy in the top five, top 10, you do expect that immediate impact,” he said. “At 19, pretty much everybody that you’re looking at in that spot, there’s going to be something that they have to work on that’s pretty significant.
“You do want to pick a guy that’s going to be, obviously, with you for a long period of time, a guy that’s going to fit your scheme offensively or defensively. You want to pick a guy with the right character that exemplifies what you want to represent. I think all of those things are really important.”