Red­skins hop­ing hard de­ci­sions are be­hind them for draft.

With in­put from staff, goal is to take best player avail­able

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

ASHBURN | In just a cou­ple of days, a group of Washington Red­skins front of­fice ex­ec­u­tives, scouts, coaches and staff will con­vene in the team’s draft room to se­lect the play­ers who will make up the 2017 rookie class. They will not have slept much, and they will be hop­ing that most of the hard de­ci­sions are be­hind them.

“The goal is to not have panic on draft day,” Scott Campbell, the Red­skins’ di­rec­tor of col­lege scout­ing, said Mon­day.

The team’s draft board, hope­fully, makes things run smoothly. The board is not yet set but will be by 8 p.m. on Thurs­day, when the draft be­gins. Campbell and the Red­skins scout­ing depart­ment has been work­ing on the board since Au­gust. With less than three days left, they are mainly get­ting in­put from the coach­ing staff, much of it re­lated to how play­ers would fit within the Red­skins’ scheme.

Coach Jay Gru­den, as al­ways, is ea­gerly in­volved. “Our in­put as a coach­ing staff has al­ways been used, so we have the scout’s grade, we have the coach’s grade, I have my in­put, and we go from there and make our de­ci­sion,” Gru­den said last month at the NFL’s an­nual meet­ings.

Once the draft be­gins, two main jobs need to be han­dled. One in­volves watch­ing the draft un­fold to see which play­ers come off the board. The other is to make and take calls around the league to dis­cuss trades.

Chief con­tract ne­go­tia­tor Eric Schaf­fer and Alex Santo, di­rec­tor of pro scout­ing, man the phones, with team Pres­i­dent Bruce Allen serv­ing as the point man. Allen will tell them who to call and when to pull the trig­ger on a deal. The Red­skins have 10 picks spread over the three-day draft, start­ing with

No. 17 in the first round, so the lines should be busy.

If the Red­skins de­cide they want to trade up, they should be able to find a part­ner. Campbell called this draft class “one of the strong­est, deep­est classes on the de­fen­sive side of the ball that I’ve seen” and teams are more in­clined to trade down when there is late value to be had.

If Washington loves a spe­cific player, that could hap­pen. Other­wise, they’re as in­clined as any­one else to stay put and go for that late value like every­one else. The Red­skins need the de­fen­sive help this draft can pro­vide and, though 10 picks is a lot, it is far from too many.

“In terms of us­ing the picks to ac­quire more picks, mov­ing up or down cer­tainly, hav­ing three rounds with two picks in them this year is ex­cit­ing and I hope we can add more,” Campbell said.

As has been expected and as­sumed, the Red­skins plan to take the best play­ers avail­able ac­cord­ing to their board. In prac­tice, there are enough good play­ers for teams to elim­i­nate most need vs. skill de­bates even if there are po­si­tions a team would rather not pri­or­i­tize.

“I’m go­ing to take the best player avail­able and if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus,” Campbell said.

Game tape, above all else, de­ter­mines the team’s rank­ings of play­ers, fol­lowed by in­for­ma­tion from the scout­ing com­bine and other sources. At the com­bine, the test­ing and mea­sure­ments are sec­ondary, the Red­skins say, to the team’s 15-minute, in-per­son in­ter­views.

Campbell said Scot McCloughan, the for­mer gen­eral man­ager who was fired in March, helped set the ini­tial draft board ahead of the com­bine. McCloughan did not at­tend the com­bine, though, and much has changed since then.

“He cer­tainly had in­flu­ence on it be­cause we all met as we al­ways did the last cou­ple of years and ev­ery team does,” Campbell said.

Af­ter the first two rounds of the draft, Campbell said the board is “re­assessed” to ac­count for the play­ers still avail­able. Teams of­ten try to trade up at the be­gin­ning of Day 3 to get play­ers they expected to be off the board by then.

“We’ve got this guy, he was our third-rated corner, or we had a guy in the sec­ond round that’s still there, so let’s trade up and get him be­fore wait­ing when­ever our pick is.’ There’s a lit­tle bit of that go­ing on,” Campbell said.

Some­thing sim­i­lar takes place af­ter the draft, when teams go af­ter the free agents who did not get picked. Scouts are as­signed to each Red­skins coach and, in tan­dem, they go af­ter the play­ers who had draftable grades on their board first.

With Schaf­fer crunch­ing the num­bers to fig­ure out how much Washington has left to spend, the scouts call the agents to fig­ure out what other of­fers a player has. The coaches call the play­ers them­selves, and try to hook them on play­ing in Washington over any­where else. Many of these play­ers never wind up with a con­tract and earn just a few thou­sand dol­lars in stipends, so money is not nec­es­sar­ily the de­cid­ing fac­tor.

“Every­one that’s left up there, that’s who we’re fran­ti­cally chas­ing and try­ing to sell op­por­tu­nity,” Campbell said.

Over the course of the ex­tended week­end, Washington’s draft room will be a flurry of en­ergy pow­ered by adren­a­line, caf­feine and the drive to suc­ceed.

Af­ter the ini­tial rush, though, it can take years for the re­sults of a draft to ma­te­ri­al­ize. Last year’s class has yet to pan out the way Washington hoped, mostly due to first-round pick Josh Doct­son’s on­go­ing Achilles’ is­sues.

Campbell thinks the jury is still out on the 2016 class. He feels no more pres­sure than he usu­ally does in April.

“Ev­ery year’s pres­sure,” Campbell said.

On Thurs­day night, the pres­sure will be on again.

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