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Niles Paul Can Do It All

Posted by Matt Terl on May 9, 2011 – 8:54 am

The Redskins selected three wide receivers in this year’s NFL Draft. We’ve heard a lot about Leonard Hankerson, but less about the other two. Redskins.com intern Brian Tinsman was determined to change that. Fifth-round draft choice Niles Paul spoke to ESPN980’s Chris Russell not long after being drafted, and Tinsman has the highlights:

by Brian Tinsman

In a league that increasingly values a player’s versatility, the Redskins may have struck intangible-gold with wide receiver Niles Paul.

After being drafted out of Nebraska by the Redskins with the 155th overall pick, Paul had a chance to catch up with Chris Russell on ESPN 980, where he took the oppportunity to talk about … his value in the running game.“[Nebraska’s wide receivers] Coach Gilmore was there and he said ‘you won’t be able to see the field if you don’t run block,'” Paul said.

Nebraska-led by Redskins draft pick Roy Helu-was one of the top rushing attacks in the nation last year. More than three-quarters of the offensive plays were rushes, leaving the receivers with the important task of blocking downfield.

“We used to have little things going on each game, to see who could get the most knock-downs,” Paul explained. “That was like the ultimate goal: to get a knock-down in a game. Getting a knock-down in a game was like getting a catch.”

Except statistically. For a wide receiver that was looking to get drafted, Paul had to accept his role in the run-first offense and hope that teams would recognize his ability.

“I think it hurt my draft value,” he said. “Because, y’know, some of the other guys-who I thought I was better than-went ahead of me ’cause they had more production than me.”

Another appealing aspect of Paul’s game is his ability to contribute to special teams.

At his pro day, he displayed good speed (4.4 in the 40), and excellent strength (24 reps on the bench)- both important aspects of coverage and returns. He has experience as both a returner and a gunner on the coverage team.

“I played on the kickoff team and punt team for Nebraska, so I’ve played in all aspects of the game,” Paul told the media in his post-draft conference call. “I think I’m ready to come there and play my role on special teams.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that he has expectations for where he’ll play on the Redskins units. He understands that he will have stiff competition from the incumbent returner in Washington.

“There’s no doubt that Brandon Banks is amazing at what he does,” Paul said. “I remember him in college. I had to actually tackle him one time and it was almost impossible.”

Last year, Banks handled the team’s roles of primary kick and punt returner, with 84 total returns. However, there are questions about whether his small frame (5’7, 150) can handle the long-term rigors of returns in the NFL.

Paul (6’1, 220), may, at least, be able to share the duties, giving the Redskins two homerun threats in the return game.

“I definitely bring a different running style to the game because I’m a heavier-built receiver, who is fast.”

So how does that sit with Banks? Actually, not too badly.

Banks (@speedybanks16) welcomed Paul (@Niles_Paul) on Twitter, and the two even engaged in what may or may not have been some friendly jousting about the NBA Playoffs.

Regardless of basketball allegiances, look for this to be an interesting competition in training camp and into the season. If Brandon Banks is lightning in a bottle, look for Paul to bring thunder to the return game.

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