Senior Bowl director believes Keith Ismael can challenge for starting job
Keith Ismael is ready to challenge for a starting job with the Washington Redskins according to one notable executive.
In the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins made a move that surprised some. They addressed the depth situation on the offensive line and added San Diego State center Keith Ismael to the fold.
Ismael was viewed by a mid/late-round prospect depending on who you asked and his athletic ability at the center position is very good. But the Redskins already had Chase Roullier in the fold and 2019 fifth-round pick Ross Pierschbacher. So, it didn’t seem like center was a big need, but you can never have too much depth on the offensive line at the next level.
It’s also worth noting that Ismael may be a long-term replacement for Roullier, who is set to be a free agent after the 2020 NFL season. While Roullier should still be favored to start at center for the Redskins, Ismael does have some notable supporters. And Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, believes that Ismael should be able to compete as a starter early in his NFL career.
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“If (Roullier) has just been solid, I would expect Keith to compete for that starting job,” Nagy said, via Ben Standig of The Athletic.
“Keith can probably help (in a pinch) at guard, but he’s a starting-level NFL center. I have no doubt about that. He’s a better player than a lot of guys starting in the league that I’ve scouted. I thought that was one of Washington’s better picks. He’s quick. He’s athletic. He’s really tough. Strong hands.”
Nagy’s assessment of Ismael is duly noted and lines up well with the tape available on Ismael. That said, given the shortened offseason and the fact that Ismael does have a lot of areas to improve upon to be an effective starter, it may behoove him to serve as the backup for a year behind Roullier. It would give Ismael time to add a bit more strength and improve his reaction time to ensure that he can find success for the Redskins and be more than a backup.
It will be interesting to see how Ismael factors into the equation on the offensive line. He’s unlikely to be involved in the guard competition but could he unseat Roullier? Will he be the backup center? Or will he find himself behind Pierschbacher because of the shortened offseason and have to work his way up? There are many potential outcomes for the fifth-round pick.
Even if Ismael doesn’t start in 2020, he will likely have a chance to do so down the line, unless the ‘Skins decide that they like Roullier enough to keep him around at what will likely be $7-$9 million per year. Either way, Nagy’s faith in Ismael is certainly encouraging as the veteran scout has a good track record of evaluating talent for the Senior Bowl that will develop into NFL contributors.