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Redskins to Address 'Needs' In NFL Draft

With the 2004 NFL Draft less than 48 hours away, head coach Joe Gibbs said Thursday that he expects the team to place a strong emphasis on drafting for need with the fifth overall pick in the first round.

That could mean the Redskins are focusing on positions such as tight end, defensive line, middle linebacker or safety when the draft starts Saturday.

"I'd say there's a strong influence on need--because I'd say you could make eight or nine guys you make a case for in the top five," Gibbs said. "So you can't get away from need. There are probably some positions we don't want to take."

Among the top players expected to be available at the No. 5 spot are Miami (Fla.) tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., Oklahoma State defensive tackle Tommie Harris, USC defensive end Kenechi Udeze and Miami (Fla.) safety Sean Taylor.

Gibbs said he has not yet pinpointed one player the team could draft.

"I'd say that it's real close for us--on a couple of players," he said.

Commenting on Winslow and Taylor, Gibbs said: "On their side of the ball, they can change a game. With the receivers at the top of the draft and obviously the quarterbacks too, you have in that group players who could be stars, players who go to Pro Bowls.

"So Winslow and Taylor are two players who could probably do that."

Trading down from the fifth overall pick remains a possibility, but it is unlikely that the team would trade up in the draft, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said.

"I think trading back is a lot more likely than trading up," Cerrato said. "We have no ammunition to trade up. To trade up into the top five is expensive, with picks that we don't have--and it's expensive financially to do that. So that's highly unlikely.

"To me, with the fifth pick, we can't lose. We're going to get an outstanding player--it's just which one."

Team officials have spent much of the past few weeks behind closed doors finalizing their draft board and preparing their draft strategy.

The draft board was revised Thursday with a published report that the San Diego Chargers, who have the top overall pick in the draft, may be willing to trade down.

The team that acquires the top pick is expected to draft Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning.

"Where that could impact you is if somebody leapfrogged you and kind of changed things--mainly because we have everybody in the top four picks figured where they could go," Gibbs said. "So if the Giants were to trade up there, it doesn't change much. But somebody trading ahead of us, that could change things. Still, you expect [Manning] to be going at that spot."

The Redskins also have fifth-round (139th overall) and sixth-round picks (180 overall).

Gibbs added that he was also looking forward to the post-draft process of acquiring undrafted rookie free agents.

With only three draft picks, the Redskins are placing a high priority on landing a handful of rookies who could make an impact or develop into solid players.

"I'm fired up about finding rookie free agents," he said. "Someone from that group is going to go to the Pro Bowl someday, but for whatever reason someone told them they couldn't do it and they went undrafted. I'm excited about finding that player."

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