One day and two rounds after selecting quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins rejoined the NFL draft Friday night and resumed trying to improve the talent of the players they’ll put around their new franchise quarterback. The Redskins selected Josh LeRibeus, a guard from Southern Methodist University, in the third round.
The Redskins, who didn’t have a second-round choice, picked LeRibeus on the eighth pick of the third round, the draft’s 71st overall selection. That came after a trade with the Buffalo Bills in which the Redskins moved down two spots and add a seventh-round pick from the Bills. The draft’s final four rounds will be held Saturday.
Fortifying their offensive line was a top priority for the Redskins in the draft’s middle to late rounds. In LeRibeus, who is listed at 6 feet 2 and 311 pounds, they added a lineman who could compete for playing time at guard. LeRibeus started every game at left guard last season for SMU after he missed the 2010 season because he was academically ineligible.
“It feels amazing,” LeRibeus said in a conference call with reporters. “It’s definitely a welcome surprise.” LeRibeus said he had expected to be taken in the third or fourth round. Draft analysts offered mixed projections, with some saying he would be a third- to fourth-round pick and others that he would be a late-round selection.
LeRibeus said he lost 70 pounds to get back to his playing weight after returning from the season he missed.
“I lost a toddler off the side of my belly,” he said.
Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is returning from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in October, and LeRibeus may be able to provide depth to a line that featured Chris Chester at right guard.
The Redskins declined to make Coach Mike Shanahan or other team officials available to comment Friday night.
It was a lengthy wait for the Redskins after they chose Griffin soon after the draft’s 8 p.m. start Thursday night with the second overall pick. The Griffin choice was anticlimactic; it had been firmly established before the draft began that the Indianapolis Colts would take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top selection and the Redskins would add Griffin. But it still was a memorable moment for a team that has searched for so long for a franchise quarterback.
Redskins officials had to put their elation behind them Friday and get back to work. Griffin was at Redskins Park on Friday and will be formally introduced at a news conference Saturday at FedEx Field. The coaching staff soon will begin to determine whether Griffin will be ready to open his rookie season as a starter.
In the meantime, the Redskins must continue to find ways to upgrade a team that totaled only 11 victories in Shanahan’s first two seasons. Shanahan said repeatedly in recent days that Griffin must demonstrate on the field that he is as good as projected, but his success will depend in large part on the quality of the players surrounding him.
The March trade with the St. Louis Rams that enabled the Redskins to move up four spots and draft Griffin cost the Redskins their second-round choice Friday. The Redskins also had to surrender their first-round picks next year and in 2014, so every remaining draft choice has increased in value.
The Redskins will have six picks when the draft concludes Saturday with the fourth through seventh rounds — two in the fourth round, one each in the fifth and sixth rounds and two in the seventh. They added the draft’s 217th overall choice in Friday’s trade with the Bills.
The Redskins also could gain an additional pick by trading wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. Shanahan said Wednesday that he has given Gaffney the chance to explore opportunities with other teams after the Redskins signed wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan as free agents.
Gaffney had said last week that the Redskins had told him he would be traded or released. But Shanahan said Wednesday he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that Gaffney could remain with the Redskins and compete for playing time.