Late selection fueling Brandon Washington

Brandon Washington was told he could be drafted as early as the second round. If not the second, surely the third. Worst case scenario, the fourth.

Washington talked it over with his family, considered his options and decided to take the plunge. He would leave the University of Miami one year early and enter the NFL draft.

You can imagine the sinking feeling in Washington’s stomach as he watched the draft unfold. He was not selected in the second round. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth round that Washington’s name finally was called. The Eagles selected him with the 200th overall pick. He was not in a mood to celebrate.

“If I knew I was going to be drafted that low, I would’ve stayed in school,” the 6-2, 320-pound lineman said. “It was disappointing. I mean, I know I’m a better player than that.”

But that was a month ago, enough time for Washington to get over the disappointment and focus on the opportunity he has in Philadelphia. He is taking part in the OTAs at the NovaCare Complex and hoping to show the Eagles that he is a keeper. He is using the draft experience as motivation.

“My goal was to get a chance to play in the NFL,” Washington said. “I’m here now. I’ve got the opportunity. Most guys never get this far. I’m looking at it like that. I’m in a great situation with a great team. Now it’s up to me.”

Washington was the next-to-last pick in the Eagles’ draft. His name is in the fine print at the bottom of the page underneath Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry. But don’t be surprised if Washington emerges as a pleasant surprise this summer.

He was a two-year starter on the offensive line at Miami. He played right guard in 2010 and moved to left tackle last season. He was an all-conference selection at guard and he adjusted well to the tackle position. He graded out highest among Miami’s linemen last season.

An explosive drive blocker, Washington had 56 pancake blocks in one season. When he was invited to play in the Astroturf NFLPA Bowl in January, he was the best offensive lineman on the field even though he split time between guard and tackle.

So why did he slip in the draft? There were several factors.

Some scouts felt he was a little raw and could have used another year in college. Also, the fact that he switched positions was problematic for some evaluators. They could not decide whether he was a guard or a tackle so he did not fit neatly into every draft board.

Some reports referred to a “lack of urgency” in his play. In other words, he appeared to loaf at times. Scouts love guys with a high motor but no one used those words to describe Washington. Once a guy like that starts falling in the draft, he can wind up falling to the bottom of the barrel, which is what happened to Washington.

But there comes a point where a team – in this case, the Eagles – looks at the tape again, sees the athletic ability and decides to take a shot. That’s what you see in Washington, a big man with power and balance. If you are looking for sheer tools, he has an impressive array.

The Eagles drafted Washington as a guard and that is probably where he is best suited to play in the NFL. He can use his strength to its fullest advantage in close quarters. He is hard to move when he drops his hips and anchors against a bull rusher. When he comes off the ball, he knocks people backwards.

“I like the physical part of the game,” Washington said. “I like to steam roll people.”

The Eagles changed their blocking scheme last season under line coach Howard Mudd. They got away from big mauling linemen and went with smaller, quicker blockers who could execute Mudd’s zone techniques. 

At a glance, Washington would not appear to fit the Mudd mold. He is built more like an old school road grader. But Washington says that’s not the case. He is not the second coming of Max Jean-Gilles, in other words.

“The man who coached me at Miami, Jeff Stoutland, studied coach Mudd,” Washington said. “We talked after the draft and he said it was a good system for me. You have to be able to move. You need quick hands and quick feet. Bend your hips. Those are all things I can do. I’ve done them.

“I’ll learn from the (players) here, I’ll learn from the coaches. I’m studying the playbook and learning the concepts. I’m trying to get better every day. I have a lot to prove.” 

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