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Williams a Building Block For Redskins' Future

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One round of one draft hardly builds a franchise. Yet the building must start somewhere.

In some ways, it began on Thursday night when the Redskins, with the fourth overall choice, selected Trent Williams.

"We will pencil him at the left tackle position and hope he helps us there," head coach Mike Shanahan said at a late-evening news conference.

Williams, of Oklahoma, was one of the players the Redskins brought in for extensive interviews and one they liked (obviously). Williams expressed similar sentiments about the Redskins.

"I got a great feeling about the team. I just didn't know if they were going to pick me or not," he said in a conference call.

He's the newest piece from this draft but not really the first.

The selection process commenced a long time ago for the Redskins. It essentially began with the supplemental draft last summer when the club exercised this year's third-round pick for defensive end Jeremy Jarmon. Jarmon played in 11 games before a knee injury felled him.

Count him as part of this draft.

Count the quarterback as well.

Donovan McNabb was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for this year's second-round pick and another, likely a third-rounder, next year. McNabb won't solidify the position for the next 12 years, as a fresh new No. 1 choice might, but he has said he wants to play four more years. If three of them are at his customary level, the Redskins have plenty of time to seek his eventual replacement.

Williams, at 6-5 and 318 pounds, can play either left or right tackle and even played center in one game for the Sooners. As the fourth choice, it's hard to imagine how he wouldn't be the heir to the throne Chris Samuels famously occupied for 10 years, going six times to the Pro Bowl before being forced to retire due to a spinal condition.

Williams, in New York for the draft, called his selection "a 20-year-old dream come true."

It's at least a one-year-old dream come true for the Redskins.

A line that crumbled last season got one upgrade in free agency with Artis Hicks, who worked at right tackle during minicamp while Stephon Heyer played the left side. Williams figures to bump Heyer, who might now be the swing tackle for this line.

Samuels, in New York to represent the club, spoke will be a coaching intern through the summer, working with the line. He got a chance to chat with Williams.

"He told me he's going to do everything in his power to help me become a good pro tackle," Williams said.

The Redskins almost could not go wrong, at least on paper, in this spot. If they wanted a tackle, they had their choice of Williams and Russell Okung, generally rated higher but maybe not quite as good a fit for the Redskins. Williams is bigger than Okung and faster as well. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's wish list for the o-line is size and speed. He got it.

"You're looking for a guy with speed and quickness in the zone-blocking scheme, so it is a big plus," Mike Shanahan said.

Williams, Jarmon, McNabb. We keep thinking the Redskins went into this draft with only four draft choices and so many needs. Where Jarmon fits in the new defensive scheme is a question yet to be answered but McNabb already commands the locker room and the respect of his teammates.

Nine players remain from the 2008 draft. Receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly should make great strides as third-year players with an improved offensive scheme and McNabb calling signals. Same could be said for tight end Fred Davis.

The '09 class yielded less. Brian Orakpo made the Pro Bowl, led all rookies in sacks with 11 and figures to rush the passer more than once in every four pass plays as he did last season.

The Redskins got very little from the rest of that class and piddled away choices for players who never panned out (Jason Taylor, Erasmus James) while still paying off a choice for guard Pete Kendall, who was not brought back.

That, sadly, was the history here. Too many picks dealt away for too little return. In 2007, the Redskins had no picks in rounds two, three or four. In 2006, none in the first, third or fourth. In 2005, no second or third.

All those missing picks, or the players they were traded for, should have been the nucleus.

And the prize of that '05 class, Jason Campbell, still sits under a cloud, supplanted by McNabb and either bound for another team or a reserve role. He was the second first-round pick in '05 after the club traded back into the round to get him.

The Redskins may be able to build through the draft in the future. They've already given up what will likely be a third-round choice next in 2011 for McNabb. They still have needs and will have them going forward.

By choosing Williams and adding McNabb, they've improved with limited resources. They have the quarterback and the blindside protector.

Williams said he looked forward to keeping McNabb free from pesky pass rushers and working with the six-time Pro Bowl pick.

"It's going to be an honor. I've looked up to Donovan as long as I can remember," Williams said.

If nothing changes, the Redskins will not have any choices Friday night in rounds two or three. As Shanahan put it, "We did get one pick – Donovan. We're not going to give up the farm to get a second-round draft pick."

If they can find some quality people in the Saturday finale to this draft extravaganza, Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen will have done as well as they could have with a cupboard nearly bare.

Think about it. A franchise-type left tackle and a proven quarterback. In a draft that started with a dearth of picks.

It's a start. A good start. A running, passing, blocking start.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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