- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams acknowledged the cliche, but couldn’t help himself while discussing the team’s draft plans Tuesday.

“It’s always going to be the best player available,” Williams said during a Tuesday meeting with reporters.

Of course. Can the draft please get here already?

You can’t blame him. Until the actual picks are actually announced Thursday, every team official’s quote, tweet and utterance is thoroughly dissected by the football press and the fans who’ve turned the annual draft into a week-long stat-and-roster geek’s dream.

NFL suits and coaches talk about their plans for draft day like they’re protecting state secrets, and Williams on Tuesday was no exception.



But look more closely, and there’s useful information to be gleaned. It just has to be translated from NFL “executive-speak.” Let’s try it:

WILLIAMS: “It’s a good class overall. Not one particular class. We know there’s some strong people in an area, whether or not it’s cornerbacks, safeties, running backs. You know, lineman are down a little bit. … You never know who’s going to jump out at you. So at the end of the day, those are the chances you take when you draft a guy.”

TRANSLATION: Williams said cornerbacks, safeties and running backs are the strength of this year’s class. The Redskins executive has been open about wanting to draft a running back, but the insight into the defensive backs is interesting, particularly when it comes to the Redskins’ first-round pick.

Defensive tackles Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne have been linked to the Redskins in mock drafts, but so have Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Derwin James. Both are defensive backs. If the strength of this class is that, then will the Redskins lean that way in the first round?

Williams added there are six or seven players on their board that “you’re hoping is there when you get there” at No. 13.

WILLIAMS: “The thing about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft. I don’t care what nobody says. You can’t get a better third-round pick.”

TRANSLATION: Williams and the Redskins brass seem a little sensitive still over criticism that the Redskins overpaid in sending a third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Alex Smith trade. The Redskins have eight draft picks overall, but no third rounder.

Based on what Williams had to say, don’t expect the Redskins to try and recoup a third-round pick. He said the chances of trading up “might be a little slimmer’ than trading down.

WILLIAMS: “If we had to line up today, if we had to line up with everybody healthy, remember, we ended with a guy. [Arie] Kouandjio is going on his third year now. So we can play with him. We’re not going in saying we’ve got to get a guard.”

TRANSLATION: Left guard seems like an obvious hole for many who follow the Redskins, but Williams feels differently. Or, if he agrees, he’s not coming out and saying it. The player he mentioned, Arie Kouandjio, started six games in 2017. But he was waived initially after training camp, only to be brought back because of injuries during the season.

WILLIAMS: “Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control. We [were] very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing. I think the team that we’re looking for is in the building now.”

TRANSLATION: Sure, the Redskins might have finished 7-9, but Williams said he feels like injuries were the root of last season’s problems, not a lack of talent. That might allow the Redskins to be a little more flexible in the types of players they’re aiming for. They don’t need to rebuild around a new core.

Over the last two drafts, the Redskins have had mixed success in getting their first-round picks to contribute. Jonathan Allen, taken at No. 17 last year, was transformative along the defensive line, but his season was limited to five games after suffering a foot injury. In 2016, Josh Doctson appeared in just two games, while dealing with an Achilles injury.

Williams pointed out all 10 of the Redskins’ rookies last year saw some playing time. Besides Allen, safety Montae Nicholson made the biggest difference, but he missed half the season with injuries.

“At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right,” Williams said. “But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go.”

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