Redskins seek their version of Kareem Hunt to pair with Alex Smith

The Washington Redskins would like to recreate what quarterback Alex Smith had in Kansas City. That means finding another speedy receiver -- and it also means looking for more help at another position. Which leads to this week's mailbag.

John Keim: I do think it’s a position they will try to upgrade.

As long as Chris Thompson recovers from his fractured right fibula, the Redskins have their third-down back. Thompson was a game-changer in 2017, especially early in the season, on screens and other plays. Of his 39 receptions, nine gained at least 20 yards. The previous season, only two of his 49 catches gained at least that amount. He’s a dangerous player and valuable weapon.

But, at 5-foot-8, 191 pounds -- and with durability concerns relating to his past -- he’s not a full-time back. The Redskins need to find one who can serve a dual role as the full-time guy.

The Redskins have a lot of options, with players such as Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine and a number of others who played because of injuries. Perhaps Perine develops in his second year -- and improves ball security -- to convince the coaches he could be the full-time guy. Kelley is a tough runner who has averaged 3.9 yards per carry on 230 career runs. There’s no doubt the Redskins need to fix their run blocking, even when the line is healthy. They also need more consistency all over -- from the tight ends, the receivers, and how the backs set up blocks, and more.

Good health along the line will help, too. The Redskins, with weekly changes along the front, ranked 28th in yards before first contact last season, but with a healthy group in 2016 were 17th in this area.

However, if the Redskins can upgrade at running back, they will (which should be the mindset for most positions).

It’s hard to spend on free-agent backs, but one player they have spoken highly of in the past will be on the market: Isaiah Crowell, who showed he could catch and run while with Cleveland. He’s only 25 years old. Before, and after, the Redskins played the Browns in 2016, players raved about him. Whether or not the Redskins pursue him, he's someone they respect.

Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell might hit free agency, too, but he would be expensive. And Carlos Hyde will be available. Dion Lewis is another option and would provide speed. Pairing Lewis and Thompson at times would give Washington interesting options. It also would ensure the Redskins a speedy back at all times. Lewis has only one season as a mostly full-time back but showed he could be effective in that role. He also showed he could help in the pass game. He and Thompson could split duties, too.

But with good options in the draft, there’s no need to overspend at running back. Two of the league's best backs last season -- the Chiefs' Kareem Hunt and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara -- were rookies.

In fact, the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout, compared Georgia’s Sony Michel to Hunt because of his explosiveness.

And here’s what ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said of Michel last month, explaining why he’d be drafted higher than teammate Nick Chubb: “He’s got that burst outside, the bounce outside ability, the inside running ability. He blocks extremely well in pass protection. He catches the ball out of the backfield. I think Sony Michel helped himself late this year. He probably went from a fourth- or fifth-round pick up to a second-round pick.”

There’s also Derrius Guice (LSU), Ronald Jones (USC) and Kerryon Johnson (Auburn), among others. Picking one at No. 13 might be too high, but there will be attractive options beyond the first round.

The Redskins will have numerous choices. They'll have to ask themselves if it's a legitimate upgrade -- and what they are willing to invest.