When the Redskins converged on Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine last February, they had a list of prospects they planned to keep an eye on.
One defensive end prospect jumped out at coaches and scouts as he ran through drills at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Ryan Kerrigan impressed with his athleticism, quickness and agility – it was exactly what the Redskins were looking for in a pass rusher at outside linebacker.
Kerrigan may have won over coaches with his performance at the combine.
He made a good impression on head coach Mike Shanahan, who selected the 6-4, 263-pounder out of Purdue in the first round (16th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Shanahan called Kerrigan a “blue-collar guy” and made a point to bring up Kerrigan’s showing at the combine drills.
“A lot of times when you take a defensive end that has been in the three-point stance most of his career and you have them do linebacker-related drills, it takes them a while to get going,” Shanahan said. “I thought Ryan was very athletic, very agile. We think he can make the conversion [from defensive end to outside linebacker] fairly quickly.”
Kerrigan began the draft process knowing he needed to show versatility in case an NFL team wanted to use him as a 3-4 rush linebacker.
“I wanted to be as valuable as I could coming into the draft,” Kerrigan told Washington, D.C., reporters on April 29, one day after the Redskins selected him with the 16th overall pick. “I really wanted to show that I am athletic enough to play the outside linebacker position. With a lot of work throughout my combine training, I feel like I made a lot of strides. I’ll continue to make those strides in the future.”
Kerrigan, 22, arrives in Washington after starring at defensive end the last three years at Purdue.
He logged 210 tackles and 33.5 sacks in his college career, including 23.5 sacks the last two seasons.
Asked about transitioning to the 3-4, Kerrigan said: “I think it’s just seeing the game from a different perspective. You’re standing up and you kind of can see the whole field, whereas when you’re in a three-point stance you only have your straight-ahead vision. So that will be the biggest adjustment.”
Another reason the Redskins were drawn to Kerrigan? His ability to create turnovers.
That has been a focus for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett ever since he arrived in Washington in January 2010.
In addition to posting one interception and three fumble recoveries in his college career, Kerrigan tied an NCAA record and set a Big Ten mark with 14 career forced fumbles.
“Just the way he plays, he’s a guy who is relentless,” Shanahan said. “He gets a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, so he forced fumbles. He’s just a guy who hustles and makes plays, and you always like those guys.
“I like guys who are overachievers, are very smart in the way they play the game, stay in great shape – it’s what you look for in players.”