Well...if you were sitting in Caddie’s on Cordell last night with us as we ushered in the latest first round pick in the Washington Redskins storied saga, you heard it as loudly as I did.
A deep breath, followed by a very cautious hesitation that led to a...pause (during NFL Draft parties, hesitation and pause are two completely different things).
Let’s be fair though—there were NO boos. There were no looks of disgust. There were no eye-rolls and no furniture was broken.
If we’re being honest, there is no way the Redskins draft Payne without consulting Jonathan Allen. Even if it were a simple, “Would you recommend this guy,” it would be informative. Clearly, Allen and the Redskins think this pair’s familiarity adds value to the selection.
So why were people acting weirder than the night the team drafted Ryan Kerrigan? (Don’t lie—most of you were incredibly NOT psyched that night.) I love draft day/night for this very phenomenon. It’s instant. It’s raw. It’s real.
Here’s what I think happened:
- Vita Vea was stolen from us literally at the last second. Anyone out to lunch on this guy over the last month woke up to the reality that he was a top-10/top-12 prospect in this draft. Teams clearly warming to the idea of taking him in the top ten picks, with Oakland being a strong rumored landing spot. When the Raiders traded back, I started to get excited and when Derwin James started slipping, something magical happened. After months of arguing over who the Redskins might choose between Vita Vea and Derwin James, and with one team sitting in front of the Redskins with both players available, we were about to find out. Derwin James had been mocked to Tampa Bay endlessly...by everyone. It seemed a not-so-well-kept secret. Their selection of Vita Vea was rather heart-breaking because most of us probably think he would have been the pick over Payne had they both been available.
- Derwin James was probably the “best player available” when the Redskins picked. Whether or not you valued the addition to the secondary over the beefing up of the defensive line, James’ talent is undeniable, and his upside is jaw-dropping. When we lost out on Vea, there was a lot of consolation in the fact that the best player available was a guy who could help us out right away. I felt the pain in the voices and texts I heard and read after the pick, and it was not about disliking the pick we made as much as it was worry that the team passed up on a game-changing athlete at the safety position.
- Many Redskins fans still don’t get jacked up for the big, fat guys that the game of football relies on to move and stop the ball. Here at Hogs Haven, we embrace that old Bobby Beathard adage that “the game is won and lost at the line of scrimmage.” Still, there is a real ceiling on the amount of sexiness attached to a 6-2, 310-lb beast of a man. I get it. There was something epic about the Vea potential, while Payne seemed like very much like a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of football player.
Well, what you see in Da’Ron Payne is bona fide football player that found the field for one of the most storied football programs in the land as a freshman. He was a leader in that Crimson Tide locker room full of five-stars and during games, he took on double- and triple-teams that freed up his teammates to do great things. We have talked about his sack totals ad nauseam, though it is fair to point out that he is not simply a run-stuffer. We believe Tomsula will figure out how to unleash Payne’s athleticism to help him get to the quarterback just a little bit more. We believe he will do for his Redskins linemates what he did for his Crimson Tide linemates: draw attention and make them better.
A sneaky aspect to this selection is what the impact might be on Ryan Anderson. I continue to think he will be a factor this season, and now he will be playing behind two defensive linemen that he has a lot of familiarity playing behind. It says here that Major Payne is exactly what we needed to unleash the full potential of our linebacking corps.
I am sorry if you were part of what seemed like a large crowd of underwhelmed Redskins fans last night. I got pulled into it myself for a brief millisecond (and the Caps losing to the Pens sucked the life out of me as well), but it says here that our defense is far better in the place where it had the most improvement needed.
Welcome to the family, Major!