- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

The Washington Redskins' first-round options seem to fall into two categories as tomorrow's NFL Draft looms: First, they could trade up to grab quarterback Joey Harrington or one of the four premier defensive tackles; second, they could trade down to get more value in selecting quarterback Patrick Ramsey or a less-heralded wide receiver.
What appears increasingly less likely, though, is the move that is most logical: Stay put and take a top guard at No.18.
Two prospects on the interior line, Nebraska's Toniu Fonoti and Colorado's Andre Gurode, would give Washington the value it seeks and fill one of two starting roles clearly vacant (the other being defensive tackle).
Guards suffer on draft day because so many teams feel that interior line positions can be plugged cheaply in free agency or with a mid-round pick. Most teams these days believe they simply can't pass up prospects at the "premium" positions: quarterback, defensive line, offensive tackle and cornerback.
Last year's top guard was Michigan's Steve Hutchinson. Washington held off on him at No.15 to take receiver Rod Gardner. The Seattle Seahawks took Hutchinson 17th, and he helped them to the No.9 run game and now contributes to what is considered one of the league's best left sides.
During a pre-draft news conference this week, owner Dan Snyder termed "silly" the notion that a guard wouldn't be an exciting enough pick for him. And he played down his role in the war room. The veracity of those claims will be tested by the Redskins' ultimate selection and perhaps disputed if they make a splashy move into the top 10 for Harrington.
The Redskins' guard vacancy is on the left side, where Dave Szott played last season before signing with the New York Jets. Actually, none of 2001's interior starters has returned, but free agents Larry Moore and Rod Jones were signed to play center and right guard, respectively. Their versatility makes their roles somewhat flexible.
Left guard generally is manned by a quicker, more agile player than right guard. Running back Stephen Davis, for example, set franchise records by leaning on the right-side gaps opened by Tre Johnson in 1999 and Ben Coleman last season. The left-side player usually is asked to pull and trap more frequently.
Offensive line coach Kim Helton said yesterday that he is not looking for a particular body type at left guard. But he added, "If you've got one big guy and one little, itty-bitty, quick guy, then, yes, the itty-bitty, quick guy would play left guard. But we're not trying to [find such a player]."
Fonoti (6-feet-4, 349 pounds) is the consensus prize among draft-eligible guards. He dominates by exploding off the snap and overpowering opponents. At the NFL Scouting Combine in March, he bench-pressed the standard 225-pound weight 32 times; as a Cornhusker he set a school record with 379 career "pancake" blocks.
The only question about Fonoti is pass-blocking, which he did infrequently at run-dominant Nebraska. The Redskins, of course, are expected to throw the ball plenty in the creative offense of coach Steve Spurrier. That said, Fonoti is such a force that Washington would find it difficult to pass him up at No.18.
If the team feels it must have more mobility, it would look to Gurode (6-4, 316), who is lighter on his feet while maintaining blocking power. Another option might be Kendall Simmons (6-3, 311), who manned left tackle at Auburn. However, there are some concerns about Simmons' ankle, which was operated on in 1999, and he would be a reach at No.18.
If the Redskins look for a guard in the second round (52nd overall), they might be able to pick up Tennessee's Fred Weary. The 6-4, 308-pound blocker plays with considerably more finesse but gets the job done. His agility makes sense at left guard, though some NFL scouts believe he projects as a center.
Weary's productivity despite somewhat unconventional size and style fits with Helton's priorities and what ultimately might determine who the Redskins get to start at left guard.
"The overriding evaluation is, did he get it done," Helton said. "Some guys are 350 pounds, some are 305. I don't care. I've had too many different body types. Production overrides technique, it overrides everything."

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