In the span of about five minutes early Saturday afternoon, the Washington Redskins traded star left tackle Trent Williams and drafted a player who could potentially help replace him in Louisiana State’s Saahdiq Charles.
The Redskins followed up their Charles selection by taking Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden later in the fourth round, San Diego State center Keith Ismael and Michigan linebacker/safety hybrid Khaleke Hudson in the fifth round, and Arkansas safety Kamren Curl and NC State defensive end James Smith-Williams in the seventh round.
The 20-year-old Charles started at left tackle on the Tigers’ national-championship winning team last season, but disciplinary issues caused him to fall in the draft.
Charles missed nine games over the past two years for suspension and injury, but having started at left tackle, right tackle and right guard in Baton Rouge, he provides the flexibility Ron Rivera prizes. He has size — 6-foot-4, 321 pounds — and was solid as both run-blocker and a pass-blocker last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Charles was born in the New Orleans area but bounced around from Georgia to Alabama to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown in 2005. He was athletic growing up — an all-state soccer goalie, a state champion shot-putter — and he moved from defensive end/tight end to tackle as a senior at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. He possessed top-50 talent coming into the draft, according to scouting reports.
On Saturday afternoon, from his draft party at home in Jackson, Miss., Charles owned up to making “dumb mistakes” while at LSU. He said he was “truthful” and transparent with the Redskins throughout the pre-draft process and has learned from the experience. He said he watched Williams growing up and could be prepared to step in at left tackle.
“I wasn’t exactly sure where I would go,” Charles said, adding, “They believe in me; they’ve given me a chance. And for that, I feel like I’m going to give the Redskins organization everything I’ve got.”
Charles joins right tackle Morgan Moses, 2018 third-round pick Geron Christian and veteran swing tackle Cornelius Lucas on the Redskins. It seems likely Charles will compete against Christian and Lucas for the starting left tackle job.
With their second pick in the fourth round, the Redskins added Gandy-Golden, a 6-foot-4 receiver out of Liberty. He is viewed as an intriguing playmaker who is deceptively quick, but who may need time to develop in the NFL. Last year he had 71 catches for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Gandy-Golden attributed his improvement last year to Liberty’s hiring of Maurice Harris as receivers coach before last season. Harris, he said, put an emphasis on receiving drills, forcing his players to catch countless balls from a Juggs machine. “Just paying attention to the small things,” Gandy-Golden said.
Early in the fifth round, Washington used the pick it got from San Francisco in the Williams trade to take Ismael, who played both guard and center in college. A three-year starter, he is likely a player who will need a year to develop and joins a group of young, promising, flexible offensive linemen on the Redskins roster. He believes the Aztecs offensive line coach, Mike Schmidt, prepared him for it.
“He put a lot of responsibility on me to lead the line,” Ismael said. “Wherever he needed me, week in and week out, I was ready to play. He rotated me in over my years at right guard and at center, so I feel comfortable playing all positions.”
Later in the round, the Redskins added Hudson out of Michigan. He is a linebacker/safety hybrid who could find his way onto the field in a variety of ways. His snaps throughout college went like this, according to Pro Football Focus: 371 at strong safety, 210 at slot corner, 200 on the defensive line, 52 at deep safety and 20 at outside corner.
Hudson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds at the combine, and though he’s smaller than most linebackers at 5-foot-11, he might play a lot on special teams because he has shown an ability to block punts.
“I feel like sometimes you get caught up in what a guy who doesn’t have a true position [can’t do],” Hudson said. “Sometimes that really doesn’t matter because, once he’s on the field, he’s a playmaker — and that’s how I see myself.”
In the seventh round Washington took Curl, a safety who started for three seasons at Arkansas. Curl is considered to be more of a strong safety than free safety. He had 76 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks for the Razorbacks last season.
They finished the draft by choosing North Carolina State pass rusher James Smith-Williams, who went from 196 pounds to 260 in college and developed into a strong defensive end his junior year with six sacks. Injuries ruined his senior season and dropped him to the bottom of the draft.