I nearly dropped my drink when I saw that the Washington Redskins had moved up into the second spot in the draft by sending the St. Louis Rams their first- and second-round picks and their first-rounders for each of the next two years late last night.
My initial reaction was that the Rams had set themselves up nicely for a Super Bowl run in 2015.
After that, my thoughts drifted to one thing only: How in the world could the Redskins give up that much just to move up four spots?
I understand that there was some real competition for the Rams’ draft slot; after all, St. Louis already had their young franchise quarterback, and Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III is considered one of the most dynamic all-around players to enter the NFL in a long time. Cleveland and Miami (both of whom owned top-10 picks) both made offers, as did a pair of mystery teams who were picking outside the top 10. So it makes sense that the price was higher than normal.
But really, three first-round picks is an extraordinary amount to move up four spots.
I can’t help but be reminded of a similar situation in 1998, when the San Diego Chargers traded two first-rounders, a second-rounder and Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf in order to move up one spot in order to draft a potential franchise quarterback coming off a legendary career for one of college football’s backwater programs. That quarterback, Washington State’s Ryan Leaf, flopped so miserably that he is now a permanent fixture on the list of all-time draft busts (though he did get a guest spot on The Simpsons, which is nice).
Now there are many reasons why Leaf couldn’t cut it in the pros, but one of the major reasons that Leaf flopped is that the Chargers traded away the resources needed to build a young core around him. Not only had they traded away their top pick in the 1999 draft (which Arizona used on WR David Boston), but they also traded away their first-rounder in 2000 (TE Bubba Franks was available) in order for an additional second-round pick in 1998.
In effect, San Diego had put Leaf in a situation where he would need to shoulder much more of the burden well before he was capable of handling it—and then were unable to reinforce him when they realized he couldn’t.
This is what I fear will happen to Robert Griffin III, as the Redskins have essentially mortgaged their future on the potential of one player and will have some serious problems if he is unable to carry the load.
While it is true that there were a lot of problems with Leaf (immaturity, poor work ethic) that will likely never apply to RG3, it is also important to remember that young quarterbacks are volatile stocks by their very nature. Robert Griffin III is one of the most remarkable young men I have ever observed in all my years watching college football, but this trade has greatly stacked the deck against him.
I wish him all the luck in the world at the NFL level, because he is going to need it.
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