- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2015

Had someone sat down with Scot McCloughan last week and handed him a list of the 10 players the Washington Redskins selected in the NFL draft, the first-year general manager would have shaken his head.

“I don’t think it can happen,” he would have said. “I don’t think we can get those 10.”

Instead, McCloughan arrived at his post-draft press conference Monday afternoon with a smile, overflowing with optimism as he addressed reporters at Redskins Park. He said he couldn’t have been more pleased with how the three-day event unfolded, from the discussions in Washington’s draft room to the players he was ultimately able to pick.

“I’m a little biased, but I’m telling you. You wait and see. It’s a good group,” McCloughan said.

In his first draft with his new team, McCloughan set out to turn Washington’s seven original picks into 10 or more. He wanted to add large, physical, nasty players in the trenches on both sides of the ball. And he wanted to stray from those with questionable character, adding only players who would help foster a positive culture in the locker room.

Standing at the podium Monday, McCloughan was confident that the Redskins were able to accomplish each of those goals.

SEE ALSO: 2015 NFL Draft: Redskins stockpile prospects on Day 3

“We hit what we wanted to hit, not just from the standpoint of good players on the field, but off the field as well,” he said. “That’s very important to me, and I think the character off the field plays into a player going from good to great, and great to special. It was very important to me, especially in my first draft, to let the Redskin community and fans and everybody out there know that we all take pride in this and we take ownership in it and we got better because of that.”

McCloughan is a well-respected talent evaluator and made the final decision on all selections. But throughout the process, he also sought advice from all levels of the organization, from area scouts and assistant coaches to team president Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder.

“Obviously Scot was the lead dog. That’s the biggest change. But really we all had input,” coach Jay Gruden said Saturday. “There weren’t any head-butting issues. Everything went along really smooth. Once the pick was made, we were all in and we were all really excited about the players we got.”

One of McCloughan’s priorities entering the draft was to acquire more picks in a trade. He said he fielded calls from multiple teams looking to move up in the draft to select Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. But when the Jacksonville Jaguars picked Fowler at No. 3 overall, the phones went quiet, so McCloughan selected Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, whom the general manager said is “somebody you can build around.”

That pick set the tone for the three-day event. Among the common themes in this year’s draft class, McCloughan said he wanted size along the offensive and defensive lines and players who had productive collegiate careers, namely in the SEC. Under McCloughan, the Redskins selected five SEC products in one draft for the first time since 1966.

“That’s important to me, because they’ve been in the big games,” he explained. “They’ve been around 80,000 fans. They’ve been playing Alabama’s and LSU’s. It’s not too big for them when they come out there.”

SEE ALSO: Redskins turn back clock with draft picks

McCloughan also showed a preference toward seniors, players who stayed in college for four years and earned a degree. He recalled a story from his days as a scout in which coach Mike Holmgren asked him to study quarterbacks who graduated and evaluate their performance against those who left school early. McCloughan said he didn’t see the value in it at first, but has since come to understand the importance of fulfilling a commitment. That may be why nine of Washington’s 10 picks were seniors, with Florida running back Matt Jones the lone exception.

“I’m not saying there hasn’t been underclassmen who didn’t get their degree who aren’t really good football players, and there always will be,” McCloughan explained. “But I think when it comes down to getting close to it, I’ll take the guy that committed to something and finished it.”

In the end, McCloughan hopes this draft class makes a similar commitment to the Redskins. He is just as interested in the long-term success of these 10 picks as the immediate impact they will make.

“I’m not worried about just a one-year bang,” McCloughan said. “I’m worried about the guy [getting] a second contract and is going to be the core of the Redskins, going forward. And each year we get better and better because of it. When guys walk in here, in this locker room, in this weight room, and they see young guys growing up and getting better, they follow them. And that’s what makes them better.”

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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