ASHBURN — Josh Doctson, Su’a Cravens and Nate Sudfeld all have something in common, aside from the obvious fact that the three of them were drafted by the Washington Redskins over the weekend.
The trio of college standouts had hardly any idea they’d be getting the call from the defending NFC East champions when they were drafted in the first, second and sixth round, respectively.
Doctson, a wide receiver from TCU drafted 22nd overall, had just one informal meeting with the Redskins at the NFL combine. Cravens, a hybrid outside linebacker and safety from USC, also met with the team in Indianapolis and didn’t hear from it again until defensive coordinator Joe Barry detoured from his vacation to visit the Trojans’ pro day. Sudfeld, a quarterback from Indiana, met with general manager Scot McCloughan at the East-West Shrine Game and had no idea what to make of it.
“I really didn’t talk to them after that, so I thought I either made a really good impression and he liked me and wanted to keep it quiet, or I tanked it,” Sudfeld said after he was selected 187th overall. “So, I’m glad to know that I did pretty well in that interview and they liked me.”
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff felt similarly after meeting with the team before it surprised him and selected him fifth overall last year. McCloughan strongly believed Scherff’s character epitomized the culture he was trying to shape within the organization and was able to find similar personalities with the seven players of this year’s draft class.
The Redskins didn’t add players who are expected to be immediate starters, but coach Jay Gruden said the team felt comfortable taking prospects that could contribute and represented the identity it began building last season.
“I feel really good about the depth on our football team already,” Gruden said. “Now, the draft is about adding good football players that love to play and are tough, and we did that.”
Consider why Gruden was so high on Temple defensive end Matt Ioannidis, whom the Redskins selected in the fifth round with the 152nd pick — one they acquired from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for their fourth-round pick, 120th overall, and a fifth-rounder in 2017. At 6-foot-3 and 299 pounds, Ioannidis is a versatile player who can move inside and outside freely. Gruden said he could see the defensive lineman gaining 15 or 20 pounds and plugging in at nose tackle, which was previously occupied by Terrance Knighton.
More importantly, Ioannidis was the bona fide leader of Temple’s defensive line and was named captain his junior season. He helped turn around a team that went 10-4 last year after going 8-16 in the previous two seasons.
“Matt’s a quality person,” Gruden said on Saturday. “He’s a captain on their football team and really helped establish that attitude at Temple. They were very competitive this year — on defense especially — and he’s a catalyst behind it.”
Sudfeld, who the Redskins are adding behind starter Kirk Cousins and backup Colt McCoy, spoke about his excitement to learn from both Cousins and McCoy as well as quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. Like Cousins did at Michigan State, Sudfeld excelled as he got older and enjoyed a breakout senior season. He was also the keynote speaker at the Big Ten’s media day last summer and said he meticulously studied Cousins’ well-received speech from 2011.
Gruden said he liked Sudfeld’s accuracy and ability to anticipate throws in the pocket. That said, sharing these acute similarities with Cousins does not automatically qualify Sudfeld as a strong fit for the Redskins, though being called on by the Big Ten to speak on behalf of his peers shows his leadership abilities — something the team appreciates.
Since McCloughan was hired as the general manager last year, he has tried to find talented players who can contribute and strengthen the character of the organization. He looks for hard workers, players that put the team ahead of themselves and make others around them better. Of course, whether the players picked this year pan out that way will not be immediately known.
One example: The selection of Doctson, who ditched Wyoming after his freshman year, was shrouded in anonymity as a walk-on at TCU and thrived to become a first-round pick.
“I thought, ‘Man, I’m gonna be the janitor of this team,’” Doctson said to reporters in Chicago on Thursday, about his time at TCU. “You go in this room, see the room is clean. You’re going to wonder who cleaned it, and I’m there smiling because I know I did it. So, that’s really how I approached TCU. That’s how I was able to stay grounded throughout my years there, and I plan on doing [that] on this next level.”