Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
The problem with the Washington Redskins this past season was the lack of an obvious MVP. It should have been quarterback Robert Griffin III; that is, if everything had gone well. He was That Guy the previous season. They went 10-6. He wasn’t that guy this season. They went 3-13.
There were other reasons for the drop-off, but his performance -- blame it on the knee surgery, his lack of an offseason, need to develop, whatever -- certainly didn’t help.
But there was an MVP, whether overlooked or not, in receiver Pierre Garcon. Running back Alfred Morris had a strong season, but some of his fumbles cost them in games. Garcon was steady and productive throughout the season, with an NFL-best 113 receptions. He caught at least five passes in every game and blocked his you know what off; he was the only high-profile Redskin you could count on each week to produce at a certain level.
Fortunately for Washington, Garcon is signed through the 2016 season, though a re-working of his contract might be necessary before that point. But as the Redskins saw in 2012, they don’t have good options when Garcon is not around. They were 9-1 with him playing in 2012 and 1-5 when he did not. (Of course, they were 3-13 with him healthy in 2013). Without him, they not only lose catches but attitude; he plays angry and with an urgency few on the roster possess.
They still don’t have a strong No. 2 option and that must be addressed at some point in the offseason (it’s a good draft for receivers and a shaky free-agent group). For now, Aldrick Robinson is Garcon’s backup, but in his first two seasons he caught a combined 29 passes. He improved late last season, but he’s nowhere close to Garcon’s level. Leonard Hankerson could play Garcon’s X spot in a pinch, but he’s not a threat after the catch and, besides, might be out until mid-August because of ACL surgery.
Josh Morgan did not produce and was eventually benched. He will be a free agent March 11. Even if he’s re-signed, the Redskins need to find a No. 2 receiver. Fortunately, they have a promising young tight end in Jordan Reed. But they need more than one good pass-catching tight end. That’s why, if the Redskins don’t address this position and something happens to Garcon next fall, they will struggle in the pass game.