In the days and hours leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, a fear began to creep in among the Redskins’ fan base when a report emerged that owner Daniel Snyder had “taken over the first round of the draft,” a sign that the wheeling and dealing Snyder of the past had returned.
Snyder’s opinion on whom the team should take with its first pick also raised red flags because it reportedly differed from those of the people inside Redskins Park who spend all year evaluating college talent.
Former Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato played a big role in the first half of the Snyder era. He received a lot of scrutiny for how he viewed roster construction, as well as his relationship with the owner.
Cerrato, now a host on Baltimore’s 105.7 the Fan, joined “The Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast on Friday to offer insight on what it was like to work with Snyder in the Redskins’ draft room, and if the owner’s decision to “take over the first round” was such a bad thing.
“I really liked [Dwayne] Haskins,” Cerrato told Sheehan. “From all reports, Dan was running the first round. I think Dan did a good job. I think the evaluations he had on Haskins, I liked. Because when I watched Haskins, I thought he could make all the throws. I thought he was a big, strong quarterback. He had decent feet in the pocket. He’s not a runner, of course. I thought it was a good pick for them. It may take him some time because he only played one year [as the full-time starter]. So it’ll be interesting to watch his development.”
The Redskins selected Haskins at No. 15 and traded back into the first round to draft pass rusher Montez Sweat at No. 26, both picks meant to fill pressing needs. After three days and 10 selections, the team received high praise nationally (a rarity in the Snyder era) for addressing areas of need, accumulating talent and recognizing value. The franchise appears to value the draft more than at any point since Snyder bought the team in 1999.
“It turned out to be a good thing,” Cerrato said about Snyder reportedly taking over the first round.
“We don’t know yet if it turned out to be a good thing, right?” Sheehan replied.
“So far, so good, yes,” Cerrato said. “Let me say this: Part of the job of whoever [is] there, if it doesn’t go good, part of their job is the owner’s always right, so you got to take the hit. So if Haskins doesn’t turn out well and Sweat doesn’t turn out well, it’s not Dan’s fault; it’s whoever’s fault. That’s just part of the job duties.”
Another part of the job, at least according to Cerrato, was having to change Snyder’s opinion when the owner was set on whom he wanted to draft.
“We would just have to convince him otherwise a lot of the times,” Cerrato said. “He would listen. And if we had a good enough evaluation and good reasoning, then he was cool with it. He was good at listening at those things, especially when Joe Gibbs was there. If the scouts wanted somebody else and Dan took the other [player], they didn’t do a very good job of portraying their case to get somebody else.”
Cerrato recalled Snyder being amiable during the 2003 draft, when the Redskins made just three selections.
“I remember one time when we took Derrick Dockery,” Cerrato said. “We were sitting in the third round and we had Derrick rated as a late first-round pick. He was sitting there on the board and Dan says, ‘All this work that you guys do — if you believe in your board, you’ve got to take Dockery,’ which was the right thing. Dan was fun to be with.”
Sheehan asked Cerrato about the possibility of Snyder stepping in and forcing the Redskins’ coaching staff to start Haskins before he may be ready. Cerrato brought up Sean Taylor’s impressive preseason debut in 2004, followed by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams not rushing the fifth overall pick into the starting lineup.
“Dan says, ‘You think Gregg will start him now?’ ” Cerrato said. “I said, ‘I would hope so.’ And, no, he didn’t. [Williams] said he’s got to earn it. Dan never influenced that one. Dan wants [Haskins] to succeed. I think Dan will just sit back and kind of let it happen when the kid’s ready.”
During his 10 seasons with the team, Cerrato appeared to be very close to Snyder. Cerrato said that’s not the case anymore.
“I haven’t talked to him for a while, but he was a good family friend,” Cerrato said, adding the last time he talked to Snyder, they discussed the owner’s late father.
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