- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

For the second year in a row, the Washington Redskins took a defensive lineman from Alabama in an attempt to fix the team’s defense.

On Thursday, the Redskins took defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

At the NFL scouting combine, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said there was “no doubt” the team had to upgrade the interior of the defensive line after giving up 134.1 rushing yards per game in 2017.

Payne is a 6-foot-3, 311-pound tackle that is “built like a wall of granite with exceptional lean muscle mass,” according to NFL.com. Payne had 53 tackles and one sack at Alabama last season. He was a standout in the team’s final two games against Clemson and Georgia, being named the team’s defensive MVP in the National Championship.

Payne will be reunited with former teammates defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Ryan Anderson, who were taken in the first and second rounds of last year’s draft. On a conference call, Payne said Thursday he was happy for a chance to play with old teammates.

“I love the Washington Redskins,” Payne said. “I just liked the vibe I got there when I went down there. It was like a real family.”

Payne did not attend the draft in Dallas, instead spending the night with his family in Birmingham, Alabama. The 20-year-old described himself as a “relentless lineman” who can get after quarterbacks and dominate the run at any chance he can get.

Based on his college experience, Payne has the track record of doing exactly that. In the Sugar Bowl, he dominated the Tigers, hauling in a goal-line touchdown shortly after recording an interception.

He was even better against Georgia. In the National Championship, he recorded a sack and an interception in Alabama’s 26-23 win. Payne remarked he was trying to make his name known on every play.

“I can take that winning mindset and the whole mentality it takes to be a winner and just take it to the Washington Redskins,” Payne said.

Entering the draft, Williams said the Redskins had identified six or seven players they were “hoping” would still be available with the 13th pick.

In theory, the Redskins were set up to benefit from this year’s draft being a quarterback-heavy class. Four quarterbacks were projected to go in the top 12, clearing the way for the Redskins to pick a talented defensive player. Washington, of course, did not need a quarterback after trading for Alex Smith.

Like clockwork, four quarterbacks went in the top 10, starting with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield at No. 1 and ending with Arizona trading up for UCLA’s Josh Rosen at No. 10. USC’s Sam Darnold went third overall to the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills traded up to take Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the seventh pick.

The quarterback run allowed the Redskins to choose from a talented pool of prospects, and they settled on Payne — who was regarded as one of the top defensive tackles in this class.

Interestingly enough, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12, one pick ahead of the Redskins. Vea was seen as this year’s top defensive tackle, a 6-foot-4, 347-pound force.

But the Redskins will be happy with Payne, seen as the better pass rushing prospect than Vita.

Payne, though, will still have to prove he can get to quarterbacks on an NFL level. Payne said he believes his ability with translate.

The Redskins now have seven picks left in this year’s draft with Rounds 2 and 3 to begin Friday. They still need to address running back, left guard, cornerback and safety.

“I’m ready to get after it with the Washington Redskins,” Payne said.

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