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'The Best Part Of The Year': Despite Circumstances, Kyle Smith Excited As Ever For NFL Draft

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Three days before the 2020 NFL Draft, Redskins Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith sat in front of a computer screen at his house. He was interviewing with Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael about the draft process, and at one point, he was asked to characterize his emotions during these unprecedented times.

Smith admitted the strangeness. All club facilities are closed in response to the novel coronavirus, and the NFL Draft, for the first time ever, will be fully virtual. Pro Days and official visits were cancelled. In-person draft meetings have been replaced with videoconferences. His family room has been transformed into a personal war room. It's where he'll spearhead the team's draft strategy.

But amid the uncertainty and anxiousness of the upcoming virtual draft, Smith sounded excited as ever. He cannot wait to continue adding to the Redskins' roster

"This is the best part of the year for us as scouts," Smith said Monday. "I'm a scout at the end of the day...and this is where all of your work throughout the fall, it comes to [fruition].

"You have that opportunity now to see that board unfold, and you watch that board start speaking to you with where you've placed players, and all of the sudden you're 10 picks away and you just see the guys going, and some guys go low, and all of the sudden you've got a cluster of players that you know is there and you're going to have an opportunity to take, and you're all fired up. It's more excitement than anything."

Fueling Smith's enthusiasm is the "tremendous confidence" he has in the Redskins' scouting department. The area scouts have been researching the 2020 draft class since last May -- a process that included on-campus visits, conversations with coaches and support staff and an inordinate amount of game film.

And that was before the NFL Scouting Combine. For a week in February, all of the top prospects congregated in Indianapolis for medical examinations, physical and psychological testing, on-field workouts and interviews with NFL personnel.

Head coach Ron Rivera said that without Pro Days or official visits, scouting will be more important than ever during this year's draft. Rivera and Smith seem to agree the Redskins are in good hands.

"It's been a long process and a different type of deal that any of us have been used to," Smith said, "but we're ready to go."

In the simplest sense, a successful draft is "just about getting better," according to Smith. And to do so, Smith said the Redskins will target tough-minded, good character prospects who offer specific skillsets that help the team immediately or in the future. 

As of last week, Rivera said the draft board was nearly set. Now they'll wait to see how the rounds unfold.  

"We're really excited to move forward," Smith said. "We've gotten our group of guys, we've gone through the process, we've talked to the coaches. We're just ready to roll now."

As the Redskins contemplate what to do with their seven selections, Smith said they will not be burdened by having to fill specific needs because of what they accomplished during free agency.

By adding 14 players and re-signing four others, Smith believes they've added competition, depth and value, both in terms of money and contract length.

They've also addressed what Smith referred to as "positions of focus," which he said minimizes the pressure of having to sacrifice quality for necessity when they're on the clock. Instead of reaching for a prospect with a lower grade, they can follow the draft board they've spent countless hours constructing.

Smith admits there are many different ways to build a roster, but he's always thought of free agency as a way to set teams up for the draft. And in his first year as top personnel executive, that's the philosophy he's followed.

Now comes the pinnacle of scouting season, the event Smith has obsessed over for the months. And despite unparalleled circumstances, the objective remains the same.

"It doesn't matter if we're at Redskins Park, if we're on virtual video, if we're in a bunker somewhere," Smith said. "We have our plan, and we're going to execute our plan come draft day. We just gotta know who to call and how to execute the picks."

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