It is a new day for Redskins director of player personnel Scott Campbell and his staff.
Campbell and the organization’s scouts are charged with evaluating hundreds of college football players and assembling a coherent tier of players entering the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in New York.
Campbell has been with the organization for 13 years, but with a hybrid coaching staff in place under new leader Jay Gruden, his philosophy changes — to a point.
“It takes a little bit of time, but I think through the meeting process, you really get to zero in on what’s important to [the coaches],” Campbell said.
The Redskins fired coach Mike Shanahan on Dec. 30 and replaced him with Gruden on Jan. 9. But there were few other major staff changes. Campbell and his staff are still responsible for scouting the colleges. His top assistant, director of pro personnel Morocco Brown, still oversees the acquisition of free agents. Both report to general manager Bruce Allen. In years past, Shanahan technically had the final say in personnel matters.
That process of working with a first-year coaching staff, which includes holdovers from Shanahan’s group and new hires, happens organically, according to Campbell, through informal office meetings. That only increases as the organization prepares for free agency in March and the draft, which has been pushed back from late April into May.
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That’s where strong opinions on players are part of a vigorous back-and-forth dialogue and Campbell’s staff learns what’s really important not only to Gruden, but also offensive coordinator Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett or secondary coach Raheem Morris.
“Raheem Morris is famous for campaigning [for players],” Allen said. “And he might put a bumper sticker on my car in the morning. But really the debates have already taken place.”
It’s a different scenario from the one Campbell and his staff faced in previous years. Shanahan had specific types of players he needed, especially along the offensive line, where lighter, more athletic athletes who could block in space were a necessity. Gruden might have different types of players in mind to run his system. That isn’t a change that happens overnight, but it is an added tweak on draft night.
“I think it inspires the scouts and that’s exactly what you want — to be involved in the process,” Campbell said. “It’s not just about me. It’s about all the scouts getting together, us building a consensus Redskins grade at the very end along with when Jay gets involved, and the coaches, that we all feel good in the room and we’ve got a player that we can be happy with.”
Washington again doesn’t have a first-round pick. Their 2014 first-rounder was part of the Robert Griffin III trade two years ago, so St. Louis now has the No. 2 overall pick. The Redskins, who didn’t have a first round choice last year, either, will have to wait until the second round on Friday when they choose at No. 34 overall. They’re scheduled to have six picks in total, one in each subsequent round through the seventh.
Campbell insists there is depth in this year’s draft class, with elite wide receivers at the top end but quality available at other positions throughout. That’s good because after adding DeSean Jackson at receiver and with Pierre Garcon in place, there isn’t a big need at that spot.
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Safety is an area of need, but with few impact players at that position this spring the organization might be content to stick with free agent signee Ryan Clark and veteran Brandon Meriweather. Thoughts of Tanard Jackson playing a role disappeared Tuesday when the veteran was released by the team hours after being reinstated by the NFL after a 20-month drug suspension.
But the front office feels confident it will find someone of value at No. 34, possibly a right tackle, another area of need, or a college left tackle who can switch to the right side with Trent Williams firmly in place on the left. It’s an area the organization knows it must be consistently better at even with the reduced top picks thanks to the Griffin trade.
“I don’t think you can say we’ve done well [drafting] because of our record,” Allen said of his team that finished 3-13 last season. “I don’t really believe in grading drafts because we have a record. The Washington Redskins have got a lot of hardware and flags up there not through the draft, but through other means of player acquisition. We’re looking forward to changing that and developing our players.”