The Redskins shored up their offensive line by selecting Keith Ismael in the fifth round (156th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about Ismael:
1. Ismael comes from a football family.
Ismael, who starred at San Diego State, is one of many family members who played collegiately.
His father, George Ismael, played at Florida A&M, while one of his uncles played defensive end at Oregon and another uncle, Tavita Pritchard, played quarterback at Stanford. (Pritchard is now the Cardinal's offensive coordinator.) There's also a third uncle who was a first-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1970s.
"Football is in my blood," Ismael told the local media shortly after being drafted. "It definitely drove my passion. It wasn't the determining factor in me playing the sport when I was young, but it definitely helps to come from a football family. It's just given me a lot of insight. I have a lot of resources, a lot of family that have played that have given me knowledge over the years, just how to play the game and the right way to approach it."
2. He was a three-time all-conference player at San Diego State.
After redshirting in 2016, Ismael earned all-conference honors in each of his final three seasons while combining to start 38 games. As a redshirt freshman, he made second-team All-Mountain West after starting 13 games. He then made the first-team in 2018 and 2019, establishing himself as one of the top centers in all of college football.
Upon arriving at San Diego State, Ismael said he was focused on being the best possible player and teammate as he pursued his degree. It was not until after his redshirt sophomore year that he realized he could make a career of playing football.
"It was just my consistent play," Ismael said. "I was going out there and I was beating the competition week-in and week-out. I was showing signs of professional-level play and ability that could put me in a position to compete for a starting job and starting at the next level. I was just doing things -- my body was developing, my mental approach to the game was developing. Then I saw that I could really turn this into something special and into a career and be professional."
3. He finished with the nation's top pass-blocking grade in 2019.
Ismael saved his best season for last. Not only was he recognized as a first-team all-conference performer, but he made the watch lists for the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) and the Rimington Trophy (nation's best center).
Ismael was also named a third-team All-American by Pro Football Focus, which graded him college football's best pass-blocker in 2019. On 474 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed six pressures for a grade of 88.8.
Combined with a run-blocking grade of 77.3, Ismael finished with the sixth-highest overall grade (80.3) while playing 99.2% of the Aztecs' offensive snaps.
4. He can play all three interior offensive line positions.
Ismael was widely seen as a top 5 center prospect in the Class of 2020, but he's confident in his ability to play all three interior offensive line positions (left guard, center and right guard).
"My offensive line coach [Mike] Schmidt, he put a lot of responsibility on me to lead the line," Ismael said. "Wherever he needed me week-in and week-out, I was ready to play. He rotated me in over my years at right guard and at center, so I feel comfortable playing all positions. Wherever they need me, I'm willing to put the work in to contribute."
As redshirt freshman, he started eight games at center and five at right guard because of injuries. The next season, he split his time between right guard and center and even played a game at left guard. And while he logged 13 starts at center in 2019, he'll provide the Redskins with versatility along the offensive front.
"Just a stout, physical football player, a smart football player that had a really good test score as well," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We just feel confident when you add those kinds of young men that have that kind of ability."
5. He could push for playing time as a rookie.
It's highly unlikely Ismael will overtake center Chase Roullier or right guard Brandon Scherff in the starting lineup, but he could compete for the left guard spot if the Redskins believe that's where he fits best.
After losing starter Ereck Flowers in free agency, Washington entered the draft with a few options, including 2019 fourth-round pick Wes Martin and newcomers Wes Schweitzer and Jeremy Vujnovich. And of the Redskins' 12 additions (draft picks and college free agents) Ismael is the only interior lineman.
If Ismael cannot crack the first-team lineup, he'll offer some much-needed depth.
"Ismael is a rhythmic move blocker with footwork and feel to find his landmarks," NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein wrote in his draft profile of Ismael. "He's also scrappy enough to hang in against power across from him, but he can't do it alone. While he hasn't consistently faced off against NFL-caliber competition, he appears to have enough anchor to help fortify the pocket for quarterbacks. He could find early work as a backup G/C, with the potential to become a starter.