Aztecs’ Keith Ismael selected in fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, 156th overall


Kareem Jones

SDSU junior center Keith Ismael looks down the field during the Aztecs’ 23-14 win over UCLA on Sept. 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

by Kyle Betz, Assistant Sports Editor

San Diego State junior center Keith Ismael was highly regarded as the first and only SDSU player to be taken off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Saturday morning, that became true.

Ismael was selected by the Washington Redskins with the 156th pick in the fifth round on the third day of the draft.

He enters the scene as the third center on the roster alongside former Wyoming offensive lineman Chase Roullier and Ross Pierschbacher.

Ismael will now compete against Roullier and Pierschbacher to protect Redskins’ second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins this upcoming 2020 season.

The 6-foot-3, 309-pound center signed with Steinberg Sports & Entertainment earlier this year. The agency also represents former Alabama stars Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy — both of whom were selected in the first round to the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos, respectively.

Ismael was initially projected to end up a fourth-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys according to CBS Sports’ R.J. White.

With size and “snap-to-step quickness,” Ismael was graded as the third-best center in the class, according to NFL Network draft analyst Chad Reuter. But Ismael ended up being the fifth center selected.

Ismael, who only missed two snaps last season, is one of the more versatile interior offensive linemen in the draft. Although he got most of his starting experience at center, he played guard positions during his SDSU career.

In a February interview on Sports Radio 810 WHB, Ismael said SDSU’s offense prepared him to play professionally.

“We ran a real pro-style offense,” Ismael said. “We ran the ball a lot, so just being in that system, we had a lot of NFL carryover.”

In his past two seasons at SDSU, the Oakland, Calif. native was given first-team all-Mountain West Conference honors, while being named second-team all-conference as a freshman in 2017.

Ismael was also named a third-team all-American by Pro Football Focus after the college football regular season last December.

He also received an invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama after the season. The competition showcases the best college football players who are set to graduate or have completed their designated period of eligibility.

At the Senior Bowl, Ismael got the chance to compete against top collegiate talent, including South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who was selected 14th overall by the 49ers — Ismael’s favorite NFL team growing up.

After February’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ismael received a draft grade of 6.10 and was labeled a “good backup who could become starter” by NFL scouts.