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Redskins pass up top-rated prospect for OT Scherff

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ASHBURN, Va. — Southern Cal defensive end Leonard Williams, considered by some as the best player in the draft, was available for the taking with the fifth overall selection. Instead, Washington’s new general manager, Scot McCloughan, pulled somewhat of a surprise by taking Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff.

The move made sense in that the Redskins signed five likely starters for their defense, including two linemen, during free agency, while not adding one to their offense despite the weakness of the line beyond Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.

The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Scherff won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman last season, his third as the Hawkeyes’ starting left tackle.

Scherff follows Williams (2010), six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels (2000), bust Andre Johnson (1996) and Hog Mark May (1981) as the fifth offensive lineman taken by the Redskins in the first round during the nearly five decades of the modern draft.

Coach Jay Gruden plans to use Scherff at right tackle where Tom Compton succeeded Tyler Polumbus, who wasn’t re-signed, at midseason 2014.

“We felt he was the best person for what we wanted, the best player available, a big, physical guy,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We want to bring that mentality back to this football team and it starts up front, get us back to the glory days of running the football and being physical. We addressed the defensive front in free agency. We had to address the offensive line.”

Scherff could eventually wind up at guard, where incumbents Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester struggled last season, or left tackle if Williams, who’s unsigned beyond 2015, departs as a free agent.

Asked to self-scout, Scherff said, “nasty, physical, like to finish blocks, gets after people.”

Gruden praised Scherff’s toughness, tenacity, non-stop motor and passion for the game and said that the Redskins were so impressed after talking to him at the combine that, unlike so many prospects, they didn’t feel the need to bring him to their facility for a follow-up visit.

“He’s a very smart guy, loves football, studies the game, been well-coached,” Gruden said. “I think the transition will be smooth (to the NFL) for him (because he’s played in Iowa’s pro-style offense). There’s a premium on great offensive tackles. They’re hard to find. When you have a chance to get one, you have to stand up and take him. When you have a guy this tough and it just echoes every play that he plays, it only makes your football team better.”

And after going 4-12 last year, 7-25 the past two seasons and finishing in the NFC East cellar in six of the past seven years, as Gruden said, “There are a lot of things we need to fix. We addressed some in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. Brandon’s the perfect fit.”

Gruden said that the Redskins didn’t field a lot of offers to move down, which might well have been their preference with all their needs. However, as the coach said, “If you trade back too far, you risk not getting him. Brandon’s a Redskin and we couldn’t be happier.”


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