Trent Williams: 4th Overall Pick Analysis

NFL holds 2010 draft in New York

Oklahoma’s Trent Williams is the newest Redskin.  Last night around 8:00 PM, he became the first offensive lineman drafted by the Redskins in the first two rounds since Chris Samuels was drafted a pick higher than Williams in the 2000 NFL Draft.

This drought, if you want to call it that, lasted the length of Chris Samuels’ career, which isn’t entirely a coincidence.  As long as Samuels was healthy and in the lineup, there was not any other room for a left tackle to get any playing time.  Samuels and Jon Jansen both were remarkably durable players, unfortunately, at about the nine year mark of their respective careers, they ceased to be durable, and were clearly in decline.

My biggest problem with the Trent Williams selection, which is a very minor complaint compared to my thoughts on the McNabb deal, is that he’s not Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung.  The Redskins took Williams because they feel he’s the best fit for their scheme, but I don’t really want to support a coaching staff that suggests that their scheme is more important than having good players.  If you want to tell me that Williams, not Okung, is the best tackle in the draft, we can agree to disagree.  If instead, I’m going to be fed some bullsh-t about how the inferior player from a college zone blocking scheme is somehow a better pick than than a superior player from a similar zone blocking scheme, well, now you’re talking bollocks at me.

Contrary to coach speak, the real reason the Redskins valued Trent Williams over Russell Okung is the flexibility he brings to their offensive line.  If Okung was the pick, he would have been inserted at the LT position, played out his contract, got another contract, and been the LT of the Redskins for the next eight years.  This concept was fairly offensive to the Redskins: one guy at a premium position for eight years?  Screw that.  Trent Williams gives the ability to play him at either LT or RT at different points in his career.  Reportely, this is something that Mike Shanahan really values over scheme and such.

So how much did passing on Okung hurt the Redskins?  In my estimation, a lot in the long term, but in the short term, it’s basically negligible.  And that flexibility is something tangible that allows the Redskins to entertain all sorts of trade options for the second OT, so this is possibly even a net gain within the first two years, based on the concept that the Redskins can obtain the best available OT on the trade market and slot him in wherever he is comfortable.  The team that benefitted from the Redskins passing on Okung were the Seahawks, and while they are an NFC team, the Redskins only see them just more often than once every three years.  I’d compare it to the Redskins benefitting from the Bills passing over Brian Orakpo for Aaron Maybin (how’s that working out for their scheme?), but that’d be unfair to Williams, who is a MUCH better prospect than Maybin was coming out.

Most of my concerns about this pick were related to those concerns I still harbor about our decision makers.  As for Silverback Trent Williams, the real reason you are reading this analysis, I couldn’t be happier about the player.  You see, I decided around Novemeber of last year when it appeared doubtful that the Redskins would finish with fewer than 7 wins that, at the value we’d get for the pick (which I thought would be between no. 9 and no. 15), Trent Williams should be our draft pick.  More than 5 months later, Trent Williams is officially the newest Washington Redskin.

Effect of Trent Williams on the team

Concerns about Okung aside, the Redskins got it right.  The way they handled this whole situation was excellent: they didn’t try to downplay their interest in Williams, but they never publicly denied Okung like Vinny Cerrato may have (in honesty, if Cerrato is the GM, Okung is probably the pick).  They planted a perfectly executed smokescreen centered around Eric Berry, which was bought hook-line-and-sinker by other GMs and media types: Jason Reid and Rick Maese from the WaPo had sources who were adamant that Berry would be the pick.  It sure smelled like a smokescreen, but there were so many people in on it, that they could have just selected Berry and everyone would have been prepared for it.  Berry ended up going with the very next pick, which Kansas City had decided to do a while ago, which made it all the more believable.  The execution was perfect.

I think I speak for Tony Brown when I say that Hog Heaven is quite satisfied that they went with the tackle instead.  It’s not that Berry would have been a bad scheme fit, he and Landry would have complemented each other quite well, but if the Redskins weren’t going to take an offensive tackle now, then when?  This pick makes the offense a serious NFL offense.  Sure, there’s still questions on the OL.  Right now, we don’t know who the second tackle will be.  We don’t know who the RG will be.  We don’t really feel confident that Casey Rabach can play center in the NFC east.  Having Williams makes those very minor questions, as opposed to reasons to think the Redskins cannot compete.

Most of the questions now center around the receivers: they are young, but are they any good?  If they are good, why were they passed over in the draft by every team once, and some teams twice?  Why haven’t they shown anything substancial in two years?  Can Donovan McNabb get the most out of Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly?  Who is the backup plan?

Effect of the team on Trent Williams

I think this is a good situation for Williams to come into.  I think he’ll be asked to take on a large load as a rookie, but he will also be given every opportunity to receive coaching and help us win games.  Otherwise, this is something where the player will have to make the best of the situation.

Conclusion

There is little question about how well the value of this pick fits the need.  Was he the best player available at the need position?  Probably not.  The biggest positive is the most important point, and it’s where the Redskins screwed up with the Donovan McNabb deal: the Redskins are a much better team at the end of the day than they were at the beginning, and that’s a first for this offseason.

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