- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2018

With four quarterbacks going in the top 10 of Thursday’s NFL draft, the Washington Redskins had their choice of several talented defensive prospects with the 13th overall pick.

They chose Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne — notably passing up Florida State safety Derwin James and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Wondering why? Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Payne was the “perfect fit.”

“There’s quite a few worthy of that pick, quite frankly,” Gruden said. “But for what we were looking, and the fit, Da’Ron was perfect for us, what we were looking for. Derwin James is a great player. Edmunds is a great player. Both Edmunds brothers are great players. But what we were looking for, all the work we’ve done on Da’Ron Payne … the room was unanimous on who we should take.”

Gruden said Payne will help shore up their run defense, which gave up 134.1 rushing yards per game in 2017. The Alabama product will be slotted at nose tackle initially, but Gruden said he believes Payne can be slotted at multiple positions along the defensive line. Payne is known as a run stopper. 

There are concerns about Payne’s ability to rush the passer, with analysts citing his tendency to come to a “grinding halt” if his first move is stopped.

Gruden said Payne can “disrupt the passing game.” In addition, the 20-year-old, Gruden said, will help create more opportunities for linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith to break free.

Washington opted not to trade back and take its chances on Payne still being available later in the draft. Gruden said the team had discussions about trading, but preferred to stay at No. 13.

“We saw that he was on the board and that was the guy we wanted,” Gruden said. “There’s a risk, if you trade back, you risk losing him and everybody else that you covet. But (Payne) is one of the main guys that we coveted throughout this draft process and we’re happy that he fell to us.”

Edmunds went 16th to Buffalo Bills, while James went 17th to the Los Angeles Chargers.

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