“I believe so and I feel very fortunate to get him, I really do,” Rivera said after the first round on a video news conference. “I think for what we would like to do going forward for us, I most certainly do believe he’s the best player.
Watching from the living room of his family’s house, Young was on the phone with the Redskins when the team chose him around 8:30 p.m. On the table before him was a photo of his grandfather, who died in 2012. Rivera called him on his cellphone right before the pick was announced on television and said Washington was going to choose him. Young then handed the phone to his father, who spoke to Rivera for several minutes.
“Man, it was just an exciting, exciting moment,” Young said on a conference call with reporters.
About 15 minutes after Rivera’s call, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder called to congratulate Young as well. Later, he walked outside the house, where several people were waiting and cheering his selection.
“It was great,” Young said of the crowd, adding that “he appreciated them coming” and expressed surprise they had stood in the rain just to wish him well.
In three seasons at Ohio State, Young had 30.5 sacks, including a school-record 16.5 last year that helped him become the ninth defensive player since 1982 to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. While some scouts and draft analysts have pointed to a need for him to develop more pass rushing moves, he also is seen as having the strength and quickness to make an early impact. Rivera has said he believes a player taken in the draft’s first five picks should be someone who can play immediately.
Rivera, who was hired Dec. 31 after eight years as Carolina Panthers coach, began to seriously consider drafting Young soon after taking the job, when it became clear the Cincinnati Bengals were going to take LSU quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow, an Ohio native, with the first pick, which they did Thursday night.
Even though the Redskins talked to Burrow and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at February’s NFL scouting combine, Rivera called those meetings “due diligence” and said he was mostly focused on Young.
Kyle Smith, the team’s vice president of player personnel, made a strong case for taking Young early in the offseason, but Rivera seemed sold after a glitch in Young’s combine interview schedule left him with an empty 15 minutes. Rivera pulled Young aside for a conversation that Rivera said “really helped me in terms of just solidifying who he was for us."
Smith said in the same video news conference as Rivera that he called former Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday night, just to be sure about Young.
“He was raving about the kid,” Smith said, adding that Meyer told him “[Young] has just continued to grow and mature since he stepped foot on that campus. He’s a perfectionist, he’s a self-starter, all the things you look for in a football player. He’s wired the right way.”
The Redskins were so settled on Young that they turned down at least two significant offers in the past week from teams looking to trade for the second overall pick, a person familiar with the offers said Thursday.
One of those teams was offering draft picks as well as a top player who wanted to be traded from that club. The person, who did not identify the two teams, said that the player the Redskins coveted most after Young was Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and that the team might have been more open to a trade if it could ensure it would land Okudah after moving back. The Detroit Lions drafted Okudah with the third overall pick Thursday night. Fox Sports reported Thursday that Washington rejected a move by the Atlanta Falcons, who entered the first round with the 16th selection, to trade for the second pick.
The Redskins did not trade unhappy star left tackle Trent Williams on Thursday, and may have lost two potential trade partners when the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets drafted tackles. Smith said the team is still trying to work out a deal.
“It could happen in five minutes, it could happen tomorrow, it might not happen in the next few days,” he said.
Young joins a loaded defensive front that already has four-time Pro Bowl player Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, a first-round pick from last season, rushing from the outside, and former first-round selections Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne in the middle along with Matt Ioannidis, who is considered by many coaches to be a rising star. Washington is transitioning to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Jack Del Rio, and Young figures to play a key role in the team’s rebuilding process.
“I feel like we’re going to be a great D-line full of first-rounders,” Young said, “and I’m going to be a sponge and work the hardest to be a guy who can make an impact with those guys.”
He said he wants to speak with as many of his teammates as possible and start preparing for the start of practices, whenever that is; the league remains shut down because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which also forced the NFL to conduct a remote draft.
Young said he knows there will be “expectations” given the spot he was chosen in the draft, “but I’m just trying to be the best player I can be.”
“There’s an impact that getting to the quarterback has on the other rushers, the linebackers and the secondary,” Rivera said. “If we can create that type of immediate disruption, it’s going to help the back seven. If we can get to that point, create the takeaways, create the three and outs, it’s going to help the offense. When you take a guy like that, that’s what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to impact your team.”