- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2017

ASHBURN, Va. — In just a couple of days, a group of Washington Redskins front office executives, scouts, coaches and staff will convene in the team’s draft room to select the players who will make up the 2017 rookie class. They will not have slept much, and they will be hoping that most of the hard decisions are behind them.

“The goal is to not have panic on draft day,” Scott Campbell, the Redskins‘ director of college scouting, said Monday.

The team’s draft board, hopefully, makes things run smoothly. The board is not yet set but will be by 8 p.m. on Thursday, when the draft begins. Campbell and the Redskins scouting department has been working on the board since August. With less than three days left, they are mainly getting input from the coaching staff, much of it related to how players would fit within the Redskins‘ scheme.

Coach Jay Gruden, as always, is eagerly involved.

“Our input as a coaching staff has always been used, so we have the scout’s grade, we have the coach’s grade, I have my input, and we go from there and make our decision,” Gruden said last month at the NFL’s annual meetings.

Once the draft begins, two main tasks must be handled. One involves watching the draft unfold to see which players come off the board. The other is to make and take calls around the league to discuss trades.

Chief contract negotiator Eric Schaffer and Alex Santo, director of pro scouting, man the phones, with team President Bruce Allen serving as the point man. Allen will tell them who to call and when to pull the trigger on a deal. The Redskins have 10 picks spread over the three-day draft, starting with No. 17 in the first round, so the lines should be busy.

If the Redskins decide they want to trade up, they should be able to find a partner. Campbell called this draft class “one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve seen” and teams are more inclined to trade down when there is late value to be had.

If Washington loves a specific player, that could happen. Otherwise, they’re as inclined as anyone else to stay put and go for that late value like everyone else. The Redskins need the defensive help this draft can provide and, though 10 picks is a lot, it is far from too many.

“In terms of using the picks to acquire more picks, moving up or down certainly, having three rounds with two picks in them this year is exciting and I hope we can add more,” Campbell said.

As has been expected and assumed, the Redskins plan to take the best players available according to their board. In practice, there are enough good players for teams to eliminate most need vs. skill debates even if there are positions a team would rather not prioritize.

“I’m going to take the best player available and if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus,” Campbell said.

Game tape, above all else, determines the team’s rankings of players, followed by information from the scouting combine and other sources. At the combine, the testing and measurements are secondary, the Redskins say, to the team’s 15-minute, in-person interviews.

Campbell said Scot McCloughan, the former general manager who was fired in March, helped set the initial draft board ahead of the combine. McCloughan did not attend the combine, though, and much has changed since then.

“He certainly had influence on it because we all met as we always did the last couple of years and every team does,” Campbell said.

After the first two rounds of the draft, Campbell said the board is “reassessed” to account for the players still available. Teams often try to trade up at the beginning of Day 3 to get players they expected to be off the board by then.

“We’ve got this guy, he was our third-rated corner, or we had a guy in the second round that’s still there, so let’s trade up and get him before waiting whenever our pick is.’ There’s a little bit of that going on,” Campbell said.

Something similar takes place after the draft, when teams go after the free agents who did not get picked. Scouts are assigned to each Redskins coach and, in tandem, they go after the players who had draftable grades on their board first.

With Schaffer crunching the numbers to figure out how much Washington has left to spend, the scouts call the agents to figure out what other offers a player has. The coaches call the players themselves, and try to hook them on playing in Washington over anywhere else. Many of these players never wind up with a contract and earn just a few thousand dollars in stipends, so money is not necessarily the deciding factor.

“Everyone that’s left up there, that’s who we’re frantically chasing and trying to sell opportunity,” Campbell said.

Over the course of the extended weekend, Washington’s draft room will be a flurry of energy powered by adrenaline, caffeine and the drive to succeed.

After the initial rush, though, it can take years for the results of a draft to materialize. Last year’s class has yet to pan out the way Washington hoped, mostly due to first-round pick Josh Doctson’s ongoing Achilles’ issues.

Campbell thinks the jury is still out on the 2016 class. He feels no more pressure than he usually does in April.

“Every year’s pressure,” Campbell said.

On Thursday night, the pressure will be on again.

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