The Redskins took LSU running back Derrius Guice with the 59th-overall pick in the NFL Draft, an opportunity many didn't predict heading into last week.
It would have been hard to convince anyone that LSU running back Derrius Guice would be available for the Redskins in the second round, let alone late in the second round with the 59th pick, just a few weeks ago. Guice was projected to be taken at the end of the first round, rated as arguably the second best running back in the draft with a mixture of speed and power, running and receiving skills.
But as the draft approached on Thursday, reports about Guice’s character and attitude surfaced, along with a since disputed report about his behavior during a team interview, and seemed to conspire against him. He fell out of the first round and kept dropping in the second round. The Redskins traded back 14 spots from their original position at No. 45 to acquire another draft pick, and still had the opportunity to take him.
And so, after six running backs had already been chosen ahead of him, the Redskins agreed on Guice, a decision that didn’t cause any concern in the team’s front office, especially Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams.
Both Williams and Guice grew up in Baton Rougue, La., in impoverished areas. Williams spent a good amount of time speaking with Guice throughout the draft process over the last few months, sharing stories over their connection with the place they call home. The relationship they forged went a long way in determining his character, according to Williams.
“We had met with the kid, we went to dinner with the kid, we brought the kid up here,” Williams said. “Where Guice is from, I’m from the same area basically. I knew Guice. I know who he is. I know where he comes from and when you talk about a kid who has produced on the field the way he has, other than what was out there, and you look at this kid, man, he’s just a happy-go [lucky] kid who likes to play football and I think we were fortunate enough to get a guy like that.”
As Guice continued to fall in the draft, Williams and the rest of the team’s scouts didn’t buy into the outside noise.
“You and I both know the way social media and the media and a lot of other things happen out there when it comes to players,” Williams said. “Most of them take one thing and they run with it. Unfortunately they don’t know the kid. I think you’ve got to give the kid some credit to say that from where he comes from and what he’s accomplished and what he’s done, let me take it from that standpoint.
“What other teams thought doesn’t necessarily mean what we thought,” he said. “There were some players that went in this draft that we probably didn’t have on the board. At the same time, it all depends on the team. We’re talking about a guy that we had in the first round on the draft board. When you talk about a value pick, you’ve got to say that Derrius Guice is a value pick that will fit in perfectly with this football team. When he’s there at your pick, you’ve got to take advantage of it and pick that guy. And we did that. We didn’t let what other people say influence us. What influenced us is the information that we had gotten from him and the people around him. We had a lot of sources that we talked to.”
Players fall every year for a variety of reasons, but this instance put the Redskins in a unique spot, knowing that they had already taken Da’Ron Payne to fill a need at defensive line and recognizing that another need at running back could be a real option with a player atop their board.
Throughout the draft process, Williams had essentially promised that another running back would be added to the team – the way his language indicated, it would be a top-rated one, too – but as more backs kept being taken, the Redskins made a bet that Guice, and the few other players rated similarly, would still be around after their trade back. They were right.
“We took a chance moving down to [No.] 59, but what 59 afforded us was another draft pick in the third round to get another good player and we had some players on the board,” Williams said. “Guice wasn’t the only guy on the board. We had about six or seven other player’s names on this board and usually when you sit there, when you see one go, you pull that one down, the next one goes, you pull him down. It just so happened at 59, Guice and a couple more guys were on the board and we chose Guice out of those guys.”
Head coach Jay Gruden echoed what Williams said about trading back and eventually landing Guice. He didn’t have any concerns after his visits and is confident that the people in the building and the veteran players will provide a smooth transition for him.
“He’s a fun guy to be around and I enjoyed the small time that we had with him, but we’ll wait and see,” Gruden said. “I can’t wait to get him here and spend more time with him, teach him the playbook and let him get out there and see what he can do.”