Washington Redskins personnel executives, scouts and coaches have been confined to meeting rooms for weeks, poring over draft data and engaging in debates over the ability, injury history and character concerns of hundreds of college prospects. Days of internal discussions among the group of 20 have been in preparation for Thursday night’s main event: Round 1 of the NFL draft. And, according to Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, the anticipation is palpable at Redskins Park
Williams, who assumed his new title in June, likened the days leading up to the draft as a walk-through practice for players, saying: “We took off the pads, as far as preparing is concerned, and waiting on Thursday to kick the thing off. So there’s a lot of excitement in the building.”
Washington, a team with needs on the offensive and defensive lines, at linebacker and at cornerback, has the No. 13 pick. And while it’s unclear whom it will select, Williams said: “At the end of the day, you get the best football player.”
Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have dominated much of the offseason chatter, but Washington’s trade for veteran Alex Smith all but ensured the Redskins won’t target a signal-caller in the first round.
“We’ve got the best third-round pick in the draft, I don’t care what nobody say,” Williams said of the 33-year-old Smith, whom they acquired from Kansas City in exchange for their 2018 third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Predicting the draft is an inexact science, and the Redskins’ choice ultimately will be dictated by which players remain on the board when they’re on the clock. That means front-office members will be spectators like the rest of the draft’s audience during the early picks on Thursday night.
“The draft is so funny,” Williams said, highlighting the fact that former Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen, a Top 10 prospect, surprisingly fell to them at No. 17 last year. “When you’re in that seat at 13, number one, you sit there and just watch the draft as it goes. And you’ve got your guys that you’d like to have. You’ve got about six or seven guys on that board that you’re hoping is there when you get there. … So when you get to your turn, a couple of minutes out, then you sit there and have your little powwow and you come up with the player that you’re going to pick out of that group.”
This year’s draft class features strong players at a variety of positions, notably cornerback, safety and running back. But even though Williams feels “pretty good” about the Redskins’ current stable of running backs, the organization would still consider drafting a back early.
“Running back is a place that we always say we need a little more help,” said Williams, “but if everybody is healthy … [Samaje] Perine for his second year, Rob Kelley is healthy, and Chris Thompson is by far the guy that we need to be healthy to make this a great corps of running backs. But at the same time, if there’s a player that we feel like we can plug in and help us, we have no problem with that.”
The Redskins’ roster was decimated by injuries last season, but those injured players won’t dictate the team’s course of action on draft day. Williams maintained Washington isn’t looking to find replacements for starting tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses and added that guard isn’t an overwhelming area of need either. In fact, Williams believes the roster is close to being complete.
“When you have the injuries that we had, at a certain point, that competitive edge you lose because your best players are not playing,” he said. “I think the team that we’re looking for is in the building now.”
The Redskins’ order in the draft could change with a day-of trade, but with a slew of quarterbacks expected to be selected within the first six picks, “the chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” Williams said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to have somebody to trade with. And I don’t think you go in there saying, ‘I’m going to trade down.’ And we’re not trying to recoup the third-round pick [in the Smith deal].”
The Redskins expect the phones to be ringing all night with executives from other teams “wanting to know, ‘Do you want to come up or do you want to go back?’ ” Williams said. “But it all depends on who’s there when they’re calling you.”
In essence, every possibility is on the table for Washington. And because “it’s not a one-man show,” there will be plenty of discussions among Williams, Team President Bruce Allen, Coach Jay Gruden and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith.
“And that’s the good part about it,” said Williams.
More on the Redskins: