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Potential vs. value: 'Skins go with latter
GRANT PAULSEN: Best available suited Redskins in draft

Date published: 5/4/2008

WITH EXAM week about to begin at most colleges, students are shooting for A's. The Washington Redskins may not have bubbled in any scantrons during last weekend's draft, but they still should receive an A grade for their draft class.

It's hard not to be impressed with what Vinny Cerrato and his front-office staff did last weekend. Whether or not you're a Redskins fan, you at least have to admire them for taking the "best player on the board" every time.

The age-old argument is whether teams should draft the best player on the board, or pick for need--even if the player may not be as good. Most executives say the best way to improve a team immediately is to select the best player available.

But not everybody does that. With their first several selections, the Redskins did.

Their top need going into the draft was at receiver, where the Redskins relied on midseason signings like Reche Caldwell and Keenan McCardell during a playoff run a year ago.

After trading out of the first round, the Redskins addressed that need with their first choice: Michigan State's Devin Thomas, whom many experts considered to be the best pass-catching prospect available.

But they didn't stop there. Washington also spent its two second-round picks on players who will be catching passes in 2008: Southern California tight end Fred Davis and Oklahoma wideout Malcolm Kelly.

All three receivers Washington took provide the size (6-2 or taller) the Redskins have lacked lately. While Thomas should catch more passes than the others, Davis and Kelly should bolster Washington's sub-par red-zone offense.

Did the Redskins have other needs they could have addressed on day one? Could Cerrato and company have taken a defensive end or a defensive back and still slept well? Yes and yes.

But Davis and Kelly were both the top players on Washington's board when the Redskins were on the clock. And the team's offense will be better for it.

The Redskins waited until day two to fill needs: depth on both lines and at defensive back. What wasn't predictable was the way the Redskins opted to spend the 198th overall pick on the nation's top punter from a year ago, Durant Brooks.

The choice made a lot of people scratch their heads, but it was another example of the Redskins' taking the player that they liked the most. And more importantly, it was another situation where Washington got the best player at a position in the draft.

Will there be enough balls to go around for all of the playmakers on Washington's offense? I can't answer that yet. Will the play of Washington's defense make the Redskins rethink the way they spent their first three picks? Possibly.

But will the Redskins also ultimately be better off for having taken the best players available? History says yes.

Grant Paulsen can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, or by fax at 540/373-8455.