Who will the Washington Redskins draft first in 2017?

The month of April is upon us. That means NFL fans are preparing for the NFL Draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia. The Washington Redskins finished with an 8-7-1 record in 2016, which earned them the 17th pick in this year’s draft. The Redskins enter 2017 with some intriguing questions.

Will they use the 17th pick on a quarterback? That’s very unlikely. Incumbent starter Kirk Cousins has thrown for 9,083 yards, 54 touchdowns and 23 interceptions over the last two seasons. The Redskins finished with a 17-14-1 record over that span, which included an NFC East title in 2015. That’s a big deal considering Washington’s penchant for losing seasons. Those statistics suggest that a long term deal is imminent for Cousins. But that deal hasn’t been realized yet. As of this writing, Cousins will play under the franchise tag for the second straight year. Redskins’ management has not indicated what they’ll do next. They could either give Cousins the long term deal he wants, or they could trade him to quarterback starved franchises like the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are an intriguing bunch, considering that new head coach Kyle Shanahan was Cousins’ offensive coordinator during Cousins’ first two years in the NFL. Could Washington trade their most statistically prolific quarterback to San Francisco for the 49ers’ second overall pick in this year’s draft? I wouldn’t be surprised one way or another.

Could Washington use that pick on a running back? The Redskins’ rushing attack has been ordinary since the demotion of tailback Matt Jones due to fumbling issues in 2016. Robert Kelley is the incumbent starter, rushing for 704 yards and six touchdowns (with zero fumbles) in nine starts last season as an undrafted rookie. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns in 39 games. If he’s available at 17, it might be hard to resist selecting Cook as a backup to Kelley and running back Chris Thompson. Washington might decide to let Kelley and Thompson compete for the starting job in 2017 instead of drafting Cook.

And what about the Redskins’ defense, a unit that has struggled mightily in recent years? Washington lost starting defensive ends Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers, respectively. In an effort to solidify this unit, Washington signed defensive lineman Stacy McGee, safety D.J. Swearinger, and inside linebacker Zach Brown. All are solid if not spectacular defenders as the Redskins have so far avoided the big name free agency signing that doesn’t pan out more often than not.

University of Michigan safety Jabril Peppers has been mentioned in a few mock NFL drafts for the Redskins because of his versatility on offense and special teams in addition to defense. Could the Redskins select Peppers at 17 with visions of him returning kickoffs and punts? Could they use him on offense at wide receiver? The possibilities are endless when factoring in Peppers’ versatility.

I would like to see Washington use the 17th pick on University of Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, who won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker in 2016. Foster led Alabama with 115 tackles, including 13 resulting in negative yardage, and five sacks. He would be a perfect fit at inside linebacker to go alongside Brown, who recorded 97 tackles for the Buffalo Bills in 2016.

The Redskins are a team with a few holes to fill in 2017. It’ll be interesting to see which side of the ball management will decide to solidify with that pick come April 27.

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