Live coverage of the NFL scouting combine begins Saturday on the NFL Network. Tight ends, offensive lineman and special teams will be featured at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis to kick off the weekend. Who should you be keeping an eye on?
Tight End- With all the focus on needs in the secondary and the offensive line, the glaring need for a solution at tight end has been largely overlooked. It seems unlikely that Fred Davis will be brought back as using the franchise tag on him again will cost in excess of $6.5 million dollars. Logan Paulsen did a fine job starting ten games after Davis' injury and he is a restricted free agent. With converted receiver Niles Paul the only other tight end, inking Paulsen is a must. With tight end's becoming a bigger part of the passing game across the NFL, the Redskins will certainly be looking for one in the draft, free agency or both. I would expect Washington to look tight end mid-draft, perhaps with one of their two fifth round selections.
-Dion Sims (Michigan State) 6'5" 285- Sims is my favorite target at the position for the Redskins this April. Sims has the size of an offensive tackle, but the mobility of a tight end. Sims has soft hands and uses his big body well to shield the ball from defenders. Sims is tough to tackle in the open field and has surprising speed when in full stride. Sims is a solid blocker, with nimble feet and quickness in both the running and passing game. Sims has difficulty adjusting to errant throws and is not as strong in the run game as his size would indicate.
-Jordan Reed (Florida) 6'3" 225- How athletic is Reed? He spent time during the 2010 season at quarterback in the Gators running formations. Reed is adept at route running and is one of the best tight end's in the draft after the catch. Projects as a "joker" at the next level and has drawn comparisons with another former Gator, Aaron Hernandez. Due to his size, Reed has trouble with in-line blocking. Needs to work on footwork and technique in getting to the second level.
-Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn) 6'5" 250- Lutzenkirchen's red zone prowess landed him as Auburn's all time touchdown leader at tight end. "Lutzy" has seen projections drop him in mock drafts due to shoulder surgery, which cost him most of his senior season. Displayed versatility for the Tigers, lining up at tight end, H-back, fullback and even wide. Philip's weakness are inability to contribute in the vertical game and although an effective blocker, has trouble at times sustaining in space.
-Joseph Fauria (UCLA) 6'7" 260- Does his name sound familiar? Uncle Christian played in the NFL for 13 season, also at tight end. Both played for Rick Neuheisel, Christian at Colorado and Joseph with the Bruins. Fauria actually began his career at Notre Dame, but transferred to Westwood, closer to home. Fauria is long and excels in the red zone, especially jump balls in the end zone. Good after the catch, he is a tough matchup for linebackers. Fauria needs to put on some weight and has struggled in run blocking.
Offensive LIne- Washington has two major decisions to make along the offensive line. 1) Should they pursue unrestricted free agent Kory Lichtensteiger? The left guard has some injury concerns, but did start 16 games in 2012. The team has some young options from last season's draft, but would probably try to replace him via free agency, should he not come to terms. 2) Is Tyler Polumbus adequate at right tackle? The unrestricted free agent started all 16 games after the annual injury to Jammal Brown. I am bullish on Polumbus and would like to see the 'Skins sign him to a multi year deal and focus their energies elsewhere.
-Xavier Nixon (Florida)- 6'6" 310- Consistency is the only thing keeping the four year starter from being an early round pick. Nixon has a long, athletic build and has played to the level of the competition. Nixon shut down projected first round pick Damontre Moore of Texas A&M, but struggled at times against lesser foes. High school All-American has a huge upside, but thus far has been an underachiever. Very worthy off a mid-late round gamble.
-Ricky Wagner (Wisconsin)- 6'6" 320- Another four year starter, Wagner arrived in Madison as a dual sport star (basketball). Wagner held down the left tackle position for the Badgers, but projects as a right tackle at the next level as run blocking is his strength. Quick enough to sustain blocks in zone running game. His weakness is in pass protection and what you see is what you get as he has overachieved at the college level.
-Brennan Williams (North Carolina)- 6'7" 315- Williams has been my favorite all season long as someone the 'Skins should target in the '13 draft. One of the nation's most sought after high school lineman, Williams operated mainly in a reserve role his first two seasons in Chapel Hill. Williams started at right tackle his junior and senior seasons, but missed the last four games this Fall with a shoulder injury. Williams strength is an enormous wingspan, which helps ride pass rushers out of the pocket. Williams lacks quicklness to play on the left side, but he fits right in where the 'Skins need him, at right tackle.
-Terron Armstead (Arkansas Pine Bluff)- 6'5" 305- Coached by former Redskin linebacker Monte Coleman, Armstead chose Pine Bluff because Monte allowed him to participate in track and field and football. Armstead was a three time All- Conference performer in football and eight time track and field champion. Armstead is not only a fantastic athlete, he has a high football IQ as well. Armstead needs improved lower body strength and excelled against sub-par competition in college. Some project him at guard, versatility that the Redskins love, especially along the offensive line.
Special Teams- Punter Sav Rocca is an unrestricted free agent and also 39 yards old. Time for the team to move on and find a younger (and cheaper) option. There is a special gamechanger at the position in this year's draft and the 'Skins should make sure to get him. More on him in a moment.... Long snapper Nick Sundberg is a restricted free agent and obviously needs to be brought back. Kicker Kai Forbath was Mr. Automatic and has earned a multi-year deal. As the team evaluates defensive backs, it would be a good idea to find one that doubles as a kick returner (Honey Badger).
-Brad Wing (LSU punter)- Former Australian rules football player is an absolute weapon. Wing not only has a big leg, but is great at pinning the ball inside the 20. Wing averagd nearly 45 yards per punt in two seasons in Baton Rouge, tops in school history.
Up next a preview of Sunday's coverage on the NFL network with a look at the skill positions, quarterback, running back and wide receiver.