“The football gods were looking after us this weekend,” Williams said Monday during his post-draft news conference at Redskins Park.
Washington drafted eight players, five of whom play on the defensive side of the ball. But the pick garnering the most attention is Guice, the standout running back whose slide to the second round because of reported character concerns earned national attention. His unexpected fall allowed the Redskins to grab him to with the 59th overall pick, even after they moved down from No. 44 to obtain a third-round pick via a trade with San Francisco. Washington “took a chance” in agreeing to swap picks with the 49ers, Williams said, but there were no reservations about taking Guice when the Redskins finally were on the clock.
“We’re talking about a guy that we had in the first round on the draft board,” Williams said, defending the polarizing prospect.
The 5-foot-11, 224-pound running back with speed and tremendous lower-body strength rushed for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Tigers as a junior last season while dealing with a lingering knee injury.
“When he’s there at your pick, you have to take advantage of it,” Williams said, adding that the organization had “about six to seven other players” on the board when the Redskins were ready to make their pick, “and we chose Guice. . . . We didn’t let what other people said influence us. What influenced us is the information that we had gotten from him and the people around him. We had a lot of sources that we talked to.”
Rumors of Guice’s immaturity ran wild immediately before the draft and during the first round. The former LSU star, who recently fired his previous agent, reportedly was late to pre-draft meetings and had a situation, initially described by some outlets as “an altercation,” with the Philadelphia Eagles. A day before the draft, the NFL also announced that an investigation did not confirm Guice’s claims that he was asked by a team during the NFL Scouting Combine whether he is gay and whether his mother “sells herself.”
During the broadcast of the draft, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Guice “had several issues meeting with teams,” including some missed flights, and that some teams “didn’t like his attitude.” Mayock also said “there is another investigation out there that could be potentially embarrassing for the kid and the team that drafts him.”
The Redskins, however, say they know better.
After meeting and going to dinner with the running back, and gathering “some inside information” on the Baton Rouge, La., native, Washington was giddy to get Guice.
“Where Guice is from, I’m from the same area, basically,” said Williams, a native of Zachary, La., a small town roughly 20 miles from the LSU campus. “I know who he is. I know where he comes from. And when you talk about a kid that has produced on the field the way he has, other than what was out there, and you look at this kid, man, he’s just a [happy-go-lucky] kid who likes to play football. And I think we were fortunate enough to get a guy like that.”
The front office also felt fortunate to get Payne, a 6-3, 311-pound versatile nose tackle. For the second straight year, the Redskins targeted an Alabama defensive lineman on Day 1, but they were pleasantly surprised to see he still was available. In 2017, they walked away with Jonathan Allen at No. 17. Now, they’re excited to see him paired with Payne.
“At 13, we got our guy,” Williams said of Payne, an athletic, run-stopping defensive tackle who turned pro after his junior season. “I think his career speaks for [itself]. . . . He completely dominated the [national] championship game, and that’s what you’re looking for in a football player up front.”
The Redskins didn’t set out to address roster needs specifically but rather aimed to find players who fit “what you’re looking for,” Williams said. The end result is a draft class that features a pair of defensive linemen (Payne and fifth-rounder Tim Settle) and defensive backs (fourth-rounder Troy Apke and Greg Stroman, a seventh-round pick) as well as a swing offensive tackle in third-round choice Geron Christian — all players the Redskins are hopeful will develop into key contributors.
And, of course, there are Payne and Guice, two potential NFL stars in the making.
“What these guys are going to do is fit in with what we already have and will make us a better football team,” Williams said of their rookie draft picks. “At every position.”