(Photo courtesy University of Alabama)
Already getting a glimpse of a defensive line that featured Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, the Redskins believe their 2018 first-round pick will be a key cog for years to come.
During last year's evaluation process for the 2017 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins did extensive research on University of Alabama All-American Jonathan Allen.
While watching Allen -- who they would ultimately select with the No. 17-overall pick -- on film, the Redskins noticed another player standing out play after play. That player was fellow defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, who the Redskins selected with the No. 13-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"Putting some of that tape on from a year ago and watching those two guys side-by-side working, it's tough sledding," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "They are both very strong at the point of attack. They eat up [offensive] linemen and I think it's going to make Mason [Foster] and Zach [Brown] a lot more comfortable and free to roam around the field. It will make Zach a lot more comfortable to use his lateral speed."
The selection of Payne marks the first time in Washington's history that they have selected defensive linemen in the first round two consecutive years in the Common Draft era.
"There were quite a few guys that were worthy of that pick, quite frankly, but for what we were looking for and the fit, I think Da'Ron is perfect for us and what we were looking for," Gruden said. "Derwin James is a great player, [Tremaine] Edmunds, great player – both Edmunds brothers are great players – but for what we were looking for, all the work we've done on Da'Ron Payne… I think Coach [Jim] Tomsula felt very good. Kyle [Smith] felt very good. Doug Williams felt very good. I think the room was unanimous on who we should pick."
Payne joins the Redskins coming off a season in Washington finished 32nd against the run. According to his Alabama profile, the 6-foot-2, 311 pounder collected 45 of his 53 tackles during the 2017 season against the run.
He should provide the defensive unit an anchor when faced against the likes of Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas, Jay Ajayi in Philadelphia and now Saquon Barkley in New York in the NFC East.
Check out photos of Alabama defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, who was selected with the No. 13 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"Our ranking on defense wasn't quite up to speed at 32nd and we feel like Da'Ron paired with Jonathan Allen and the rest of the guys – Stacy McGee and Matt [Ioannidis] and Terrell [McClain], Anthony [Lanier II] – I think he's a perfect fit," Gruden.
When Payne was asked about what he'll bring to the Redskins, the 20-year-old's response was simple but to the point.
"Just a relentless lineman," Payne said. "I'm going to get after the pass rush and just dominate the run every chance I get."
Along with his ability to be a nuisance in the running game, the Redskins believe that Payne will be able to collapse the pocket creating sack opportunities for his new teammates.
"I think he's got great power, and a lot of times the sacks that don't show up on the stat board, he enabled other guys to get them because of the push of the pocket that forces the quarterback outside," Gruden said. "I think Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Ryan Anderson will be very happy to have Jonathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne in the middle pushing that pocket. It enables the edge rushers to get home a little bit. So he's been very productive for Alabama, I promise you that, and not just in the running game but in the passing game.
"And stats don't always tell a story about pass rushers. And I think being a 20-year-old kid, as strong as he is, as big as he is already, he's got room to grow, having Coach Tomsula work with him, I think it's going to be a great match and be fun to watch."
While Payne watched the draft unfold from his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., he enjoyed his time speaking with the franchise during the pre-draft process.
"I love the Washington Redskins," Payne said. "I just liked the vibe I got when I got down there. It was just like a real family, so I'm pumped about that."