ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Taking a defensive lineman from Alabama in the first round for the second consecutive year, the Washington Redskins chose tackle Da’Ron Payne with the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Payne is considered a top-notch run-stopper, and he’ll line up next to former college teammate Jonathan Allen, Washington’s initial selection in 2017.
“That’s my guy,” Payne said.
It’s the first time the Redskins drafted players from the same school in consecutive first rounds since getting Oklahoma’s George Thomas and Leon Heath in 1950-51.
Payne also joins another Alabama defender, linebacker Ron Anderson, selected by Washington in the second round a year ago.
“I get the opportunity to play with old teammates,” Payne said in a conference call from a party with family members in Birmingham, Alabama. “At Alabama, I won a bunch of games. I think I can take that winning mindset and the whole mentality it takes to be a winner and take it to the Washington Redskins.”
Asked to describe his style of play, Payne said: “Just a relentless lineman. I’m going to get after the pass rush and just dominate the run every chance I get.”
His most famous play for the Crimson Tide might actually have come on the other side of the ball: He caught a touchdown pass against Clemson in a College Football Playoff victory last season.
After missing the playoffs and going 7-9 last season, the Redskins entered the draft with all sorts of areas of need on the roster, but perhaps nothing as pressing as various places on defense and at running back. While the Redskins will be expected to try to improve an ineffective rushing offense later in the draft — only four teams ran for fewer yards last season — they opened by beginning to address the problems on “D.”
Having traded for Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs and signed him to a four-year extension, they were not among the many teams in the market for a young quarterback. So with an unprecedented four QBs taken in the top 10, some highly regarded players on the defensive side drifted down toward Washington.
And that unit could use the help, particularly when it comes to Payne’s specialty: stuffing runners.
Only four teams gave up more points per game than the 24.2 allowed by the Redskins, and none was as easy to run against: They were gashed for a league-worst average of 134.1 yards on the ground. They also were prone to ceding chunks of yardage at a time, with opponents recording 54 plays of 20 or more yards; only a half-dozen clubs let up more than that.
And in the NFC East, it’s vital to stop the run. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, have 2016 NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott, and the New York Giants made Penn State running back Saquon Barkley the No. 2 overall pick Thursday night.
“You see what’s going on in our division, with Saquon Barkley and Zeke Elliott and Philadelphia, the way they run the ball,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “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 … is a perfect fit.”
A year ago, Washington got Allen with the 17th overall pick. He played promisingly when he was on the field, but only appeared in five games before getting injured and missing the rest of the season.
The Redskins have seven other picks in this year’s draft, starting in the second round with No. 44 overall. They do not have a choice in the third round, because it was sent to Kansas City in the Smith deal.
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