The Washington Football Team could be considered one of the winners of the 2021 offseason so far. Ron Rivera and new general manager Martin Mayhew re-signed quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke, and also made an exciting addition with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not only that, but Washington bolstered the wide receiving corps by signing Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries, and made a big addition on defense in cornerback William Jackson.
Washington has done a good job up to this point setting themselves up for a chance to repeat as NFC East champions, but it can't bask in their free agency victories just yet. The 2021 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and this is where true contenders are built. Washington has a chance to potentially become more than just a feel-good playoff team next season, but there are a couple of things they need to accomplish later this month.
Washington will of course look to fill needs and find value in all seven rounds of the draft, but there are some issues that are more important than others. Below, we will map out three objectives Washington must accomplish if they want to pull off the perfect 2021 NFL Draft. First, let's address that quarterback issue.
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Don't reach for a quarterback
Realistically, Fitzpatrick, Allen and Heinicke are not the future under center for Washington, but that doesn't mean this team has to mortgage the future to move up in the first round or take a quarterback at No. 19 overall. The San Francisco 49ers made a big decision by trading up to No. 3 overall, which has to make the other teams considering quarterbacks in the first round feel antsy. The Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 overall could trade down, but it would take a king's ransom for them to do so. At least five quarterbacks are expected to go in the first round, and it's very possible the first four picks of the draft could all be signal-callers. Washington should not throw its hat into the ring with teams like potentially the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots to trade up into that top five range. This means that Washington likely won't take a quarterback with their first-round pick -- and that's completely fine. Washington should do their due diligence on players like Davis Mills out of Stanford, Kellen Mond from Texas A&M and Jamie Newman out of Georgia, but I do wonder where that rookie quarterback would immediately fit in with Rivera. He has his two former Carolina Panthers quarterbacks who both earned extensions this offseason. Allen was clearly Rivera's favorite before he was injured, and then Heinicke quickly became a fan favorite by proving he could be competitive in the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The success of Washington's 2021 NFL Draft does not hinge on the team taking a quarterback or not, but making an aggressive move in the first round is not the play this year.
Draft a potential left tackle
Washington needs a legitimate left tackle. It's not Geron Christian or Cornelius Lucas, Saahdiq Charles couldn't stay healthy enough to even get some run at guard in his rookie season and you would ideally like to keep Morgan Moses on the right side. Not many players enter the NFL and immediately start at left tackle, but Washington needs to select someone who can potentially become a legitimate starting blindside blocker.
A couple of our CBS NFL Draft writers have Washington accomplishing this objective with their first-round pick by taking a prospect like Alex Leatherwood out of Alabama or Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC. In my hypothetical Washington seven-round mock draft, I also filled this need immediately by selecting former Oklahoma State left tackle Teven Jenkins at No. 19 overall. He could serve as a guard at first, but Jenkins has experience playing both tackle spots and is one of the best in this class. Washington doesn't have to absolutely take a tackle with their first-round pick, however. For example, Stanford's Walker Little will likely go somewhere in the middle rounds, and he has potential as a legitimate franchise left tackle. Finding a talented offensive lineman with that tackle potential is important for Washington in this draft.
Take at least one wide receiver
With Kelvin Harmon returning off of a torn ACL and Washington having signed Samuel and Humphries, some may believe the wide receiver issue has finally been solved. I disagree. In fact, I took two wide receivers in my Washington mock draft -- including one in the second round with Amari Rodgers out of Clemson. The thought process here is simple. Much like last year, this is a very deep and talented class when it comes to wide receivers. I truly think you can find talent in every round at this position, and Washington doesn't have to take a wideout with one of their first picks. Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette in Day 3 would be enticing, Seth Williams out of Auburn is a big body on the outside and Illinois' Josh Imatorbhebhe is an all-world athlete. He registered a 46.5-inch vertical, which would have been a combine record if there had been a combine this year! Still, he's not expected to be picked early.
It was tough having to watch Terry McLaurin be the only consistent wide receiver on roster last year, and this team can't have that if they want to elevate their status as contenders. Finding another gem at wide receiver would be absolutely huge for what Washington's ceiling could be this season.