At the NFL draft, Redskins will play the role of wild card

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 2010; D01

NEW YORK -- One by one, they strolled through Redskins Park on job interviews these past several weeks, and Thursday night, the top prospects of the 2010 NFL draft finally will find out which will be tabbed as a cornerstone of Mike Shanahan's rebuilding project.

As they prepare to take the Radio City Music Hall stage, the players have about as much inside information as fans.

Asked about his prospects of landing in Washington, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, expected by many to be the draft's No. 1 overall pick, said he thinks "it's a possibility."

"It was great," Bradford said of his recent visit to Redskins Park. "I had a good time in Washington. Obviously Coach [Mike] Shanahan has had some success; he's had quite a bit of success in the NFL. I thought their staff was great."

The Redskins are viewed by many as something of a wild card entering the three-day draft, which gets underway Thursday night with the first round. They currently hold the No. 4 pick but could trade up if they have sincere interest in Bradford, a player who had private workouts with just two teams -- the Redskins and the St. Louis Rams, who hold the draft's top overall pick. Washington could attempt to trade down and stockpile more picks (the Redskins enter the draft with only four picks, fewer than any other NFL team). Or they could stand pat at No. 4 and address one of their myriad needs, such as left tackle.

The NFL Network's Mike Mayock predicts "the most movement we've seen in 10 years in the first round of the draft. I think people are going to be all over the place."

But that doesn't necessarily include the Redskins, he said.

"They don't have a whole lot of ammunition obviously except for that fourth pick," Mayock said. "They've got [Albert] Haynesworth, and they're creative. The way I look at it is, it's a lot simpler than that. I look at it, okay, they've got [Donovan] McNabb, who is not as old as people think. I think he's got three or four years left in him. They've got a solid defense. They've got a running attack, and because of what Shanahan does, it'll be a better running attack.

"They need a left tackle. I happen to think Trent Williams fits what they do better than Russell Okung. But they're both very good football players. I think they stay put at four."

Williams is an athletic, versatile tackle out of Oklahoma who's enjoyed a quick climb up many draft boards. Though Oklahoma State's Okung is rated by many as the draft's top tackle, the Redskins might find Williams to be a better fit in their zone-blocking scheme.

"I think he's probably one of the most athletic big men I've ever seen," said Bradford, who played behind Williams the past three seasons. "Just his footwork, his quickness, his strength. He's the total package. He was able to pretty much do everything for us at Oklahoma. He played center for us his last college [game]. I mean, how many guys can go from left tackle to never playing center to play center -- and to look really good doing it? He's just an impressive athlete. I think he's got all the potential in the world."

Williams said he felt at home during his visit with the team. He's already friends with Redskins wide receiver Malcolm Kelly and safety Lendy Holmes, former college teammates, as well as Robert Henson, a high school friend.

"I got friends on the Washington team, so I enjoyed it a little bit more [than some other visits]," he said. "Just being able to kind of reunite with my old teammates and get a chance to meet Coach Shanahan and Mr. [Bruce] Allen, the GM -- I had a great time."

Since Washington acquired McNabb via trade earlier this month, many analysts have projected the team to focus on the left tackle spot in order to protect the new quarterback. The Redskins haven't used a first-round pick on an offensive linemen since 2000, when they drafted Chris Samuels, who appeared in six Pro Bowls before retiring last month. Samuels is scheduled to represent the Redskins in New York on Thursday night, charged with relaying the team's draft pick to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Among the draft's other top offensive line prospects, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga said the Redskins did not invite him to Ashburn for a pre-draft visit. The team did, however, host Okung, who said he enjoyed meeting with Washington coaches.

"Surprisingly, it wasn't a lot of football. I guess they were trying to get to know me as a person," Okung said. "I'm sure they know -- they've scouted me for the longest -- I'm sure they know what they're going to get."

Okung could also be on the radar of the Detroit Lions, who pick at No. 2. If the Lions take him, that'd likely mean one of the draft's top defensive tackles -- either Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy -- will be available at No. 4. Because neither projects as a prototypical tackle in a 3-4 scheme, Suh and McCoy might not be good fits for Washington but could intrigue other teams enough to potentially trade up to No. 4. Mayock says Suh and McCoy are the two best players in the draft, regardless of position.

"The problem is getting into that top five is prohibitive financially and from a draft-pick perspective," he said.

The Redskins have had only one other top-five draft pick in the past 10 years. In 2004, they selected Sean Taylor, who played in two Pro Bowls and was murdered in 2007, before he had a chance to complete his fourth season in the league.

This year's draft class boasts another highly touted safety who has drawn comparisons to Taylor. Even though that position might not seem like Washington's biggest area of need, Tennessee's Eric Berry is well-regarded within the Redskins' organization and is an outside possibility as the team makes its first-round selection.

For Berry, his visit to Washington stands out from some of the others because of the connection with Taylor, Berry's favorite player.

"When I visited, it was actually on [Taylor's] birthday. So I think -- I don't know if that was some kind of sign or what -- but I think that was pretty cool that I visited on his birthday," Berry said. "A lot of the coaches said they see the same mentality that he had in me. I felt like Washington was a pretty cool place."

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