In one of the more unpopular selections of the first round, the Washington Redskins selected Da’ron Payne (DT, Alabama) with the 13th overall pick. This was with the likes of Derwin James still on the board, and it was labeled mostly as a boring and reactionary pick.
The thing the pick essentially reacted to was the Redskins woeful run defense of last year, which allowed 4.6 yards per carry to opponents, a number only the Chargers and the Patriots managed to be below. The Redskins nose tackle position was one occupied by castoffs such as Ziggy Hood and A.J Francis, and it was obvious that they were going to take one in the 2018 draft. The main criticism of this pick from Redskins bloggers and fans was that you can get big bodies in the mid-rounds, but the upside is what makes Payne a more attractive option than some of the more high-floor prospects in the mid-rounds.
My main knock on Payne was that he did not use his frame well enough at the collegiate level, and he lacked consistency as a pass rusher. He did take his game to another level in the Championship game as he had six run stops and seven pressures, which is an obscene number, and a limited talent scout such as Bruce Allen probably put more stock into this game than he really should have. However, the Payne pick is sensible because his weaknesses and limitations as a pass rusher will not matter on this team.
I am of the belief that the Redskins defence was made to look a lot worse than it actually is last year, because they had a dismal injury list. Jonathan Allen, Mason Foster, Zach Brown, Bashaud Breeland, DeShazor Everett, Matthew Ioannidis and Preston Smith were amongst those who missed time, and by the end of the season, they were playing random guys from around the League on their defensive line.
Da’Ron Payne will be a day one starter on this defence at nose tackle, and in honesty, even if he does not develop pass rush moves, it will not matter, because of who he is surrounded by. Jonathan Allen slipped because of health and durability concerns, but in the present, he is one of the most disruptive defensive front players in the NFL. Before Jonathan Allen went down in week five against the 49ers, the Redskins were 2-2 and giving up around 16 points per game. After his injury, the Redskins defense fell apart and they were giving up 25 points per game. Even if you think this may be false causation, the numbers Allen had before he went down were excellent, as he had three sacks, three hits and 10 hurries.
Not only do the Redskins have Jonathan Allen, but they have the best player that no one talks about in the form of Matt Ioannidis. The former Temple player has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL in the last 12 months, with the majority of advanced metrics show that he has a huge impact. Pro Football Focus grades are not for everyone, but in terms of measuring pass rush, I feel they are excellent, and Matt Ioannidis ranked as the 12th best interior defensive player in terms of pass rush productivity last year. The issue with him was against the run, as he ranked 120th against the run, and the tape shows that he was pushed around a lot.
It is for this reason that once I started to watch Redskins tape and look at metrics and statistics, the selection of Payne began to grow on me. The pick was possibly a reactionary one by a very flawed front office, but he is at minimum going to plug the gaps up front, and hide the weaknesses of some of his teammates, which is worth a first-round selection in my opinion. I am always going to question this front office because Bruce Allen has constantly proven himself to be a below average talent scout with the ego of Ted Thompson, but this pick was solid, and the Redskins defense fixed its major weakness, which is literally the point of draft picks.
Grade – B