As the 253rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Redskins nose tackle Chris Neild was selected ahead of only one other player. Now, as one of the top performing rookies on the NFL’s opening weekend, there’s only one name above his among the league’s sack leaders.
Neild’s two sacks against the New York Giants represent quite a climb for a guy who was a borderline draft pick, and then appeared doomed to Washington’s practice squad. Suddenly, he’s a key contributer.
“Everybody’s been talking about the draft and everything. When it happens, it happens. That’s when it ends,” Neild said. “That’s in the past. Training camp is in the past. Preseason games are in the past. And [Sunday] is in the past. What happened [Sunday] is great. We’re 1-0. We got to move on. We’ve got to look forward to this week.”
Still, Neild’s path to Washington is an interesting one.
The No. 253 draft selection was a compensatory pick that was awarded to the Redskins in March. The Redskins weren’t due any compensatory picks because they didn’t lose any significant free agents the previous year.
Only 21 teams received extra picks because their free agent signings were valued less than their free agent losses. But league rules call for 32 total compensatory picks, so the other 11 picks were bestowed upon teams based on draft order. The Redskins held the 10th overall pick, so they received the 253rd overall selection. And that’s how Neild came to be the big guy bursting through the Giants offensive line last Sunday, twice hauling Eli Manning to the ground.
As one of only two nose tackles on the Washington roster, he’ll see plenty more playing time this season and knows he has to prepare carefully each week to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“I got in the film room, really trying to pick up on some things I could read from the center and the guards and tried to make the most of it,” Neild said. “When I got out there, I knew the amount of reps I was going to get. I knew I was going to be fresh, so I had to give it my all.”
Neild had only three sacks all of last season at West Virginia, so getting two in his pro debut prompted plenty of phone calls and text messages from family and friends. But he says he doesn’t have time to dwell on last Sunday’s win over the Giants.
“That game’s over,” he said. “We got to move on.”