Washington Redskins' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

Washington Redskins' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

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    For a franchise so often associated with shunning the draft, the Washington Redskins have plucked a number of talented players from the collegiate ranks in the last decade.

    The collection of their best selections is headlined by a back-to-back 1,000-yard runner, along with a feared pass-rusher. There are also places for a roving tight end and accomplished O-lineman.

    The roll of shame features another tight end and a pair of touted wide receivers who never delivered. There is still room for a quarterback seemingly destined to struggle, as well as a safety whose hard hits masked consistent failings.

    Here are the best and worst picks from the last decade, beginning first with some honorable and dishonorable mentions.

    All selection information via NFL.com.

Honorable Mentions

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    A second season wrecked by injury, surgery and spats with coaches is enough to keep Robert Griffin III off the list of best team picks of the last decade.

    The second player taken in 2012 dominated the NFL as a rookie, proving to be the catalyst for a first NFC East title since 1999.

    But as good as he was in 2012, Griffin was every bit as bad in 2013. With his mobility diminished post-major knee surgery, the ex-Heisman Trophy winner was confined to the pocket.

    Disaster followed as it soon became apparent that Griffin has trouble reading defenses, progressing through his reads and responding to pressure.

    He has a great chance to correct all of these follies under new head coach Jay Gruden, aided by a stronger supporting cast led by new arrivals DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.

    For now though, the jury remains out on Griffin.

    Kedric Golston and Rob Jackson are two late-round defenders who deserve a nod of appreciation on any list of this type. Drafted in the sixth-round in 2006, Golston has survived three coaching changes and a switch in defensive schemes.

    The try-hard lineman has remained a solid rotational player.

    So has Rob Jackson, the defensive end selected in Round 7 of the 2008 NFL draft. Converting to 3-4 outside linebacker has kept Jackson relevant.

    He has shown a flair for producing turnovers, intercepting five passes and forcing a pair of fumbles in his last two seasons.

    Finally, 2013 third-round pick Jordan Reed needs to build on an exciting debut year. The "move" tight end could eventually emerge as one of the better selections of the ill-fated Mike Shanahan era.

Bad, but Not Quite the Worst

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    LM Otero

    As a third-round pick in 2011, Leonard Hankerson was expected to offer an immediate impact to a dormant passing game. But injuries, poor concentration and inconsistent technique have all meant the former Miami Hurricanes standout has been a disappointment.

    With the current receiving corps now brimming with talent, Hankerson faces a fight to stay in the thoughts of his new coach.

    Evan Royster looked like yet another late-round steal by Shanahan as a sixth-rounder taken in 2011. The ex-Penn State ace topped 100 yards in each of first two career starts.

    Royster combined power and smarts with the ability to make the quick first cut essential in Shanahan's famed zone-based system. But the runner never built on the positive end to his rookie season.

    He was usurped by another sixth-rounder in 2012, and has since only carried the ball 25 times in meaningful action. That's a major fall from grace.

    Another player who began brightly, but saw his star fade just as fast, was strong safety Chris Horton. Plucked from the seventh round in 2008, Horton started 10 games as a rookie.

    He quickly established a reputation as a brutal hitter and opportunistic defensive back. But a slew of injuries have meant Horton has not played a meaningful down in the NFL since 2010.

7th-Best Pick of the Decade: Perry Riley Jr., LB

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    Julio Cortez

    When Perry Riley Jr. joined the Redskins as a fourth-rounder in 2010, he faced an uphill battle to make the team. He was competing for time behind established pairing London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh.

    However, it didn't long for the former LSU prospect to ease McIntosh out of the lineup. Riley quickly showed he was more suited to the demands of playing inside on a 3-4 front.

    He assumed a starting role midway through the 2011 campaign and hasn't relinquished his spot since. Riley has over 100 tackles and at least three sacks in his last two seasons.

    His active style and natural versatility have made him a key leader on defense and were enough to earn him a new contract paying $4 million annually.

7th-Worst Pick of the Decade: LaRon Landry, S

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    If he could get near you, he'd hit you for keeps. Assuming he didn't wildly overpursue and leave wide open space behind him.

    That was the story of LaRon Landry's stop-start career in Washington. Taken in the first round in 2007, Landry never justified that status.

    He was allowed to switch positions to try to maximize his talent. But after being a liability as a covering free safety, Landry was reckless as a box-playing strong safety.

    It didn't help that he missed 16 games during his final three seasons in D.C. The brittle bruiser always promised more than he delivered in burgundy and gold.

6th-Best Pick of the Decade: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB

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    Using a first-round pick on Ryan Kerrigan in 2011, was one of the best things Mike Shanahan did during the torturous four years he ran things in Washington.

    The ex-Purdue ace made an instantly smooth transition from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. The 6'4", 260-pounder has since justified his first-round status with 24.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles as a pro.

    He has also started every game since he was drafted. Kerrigan hasn't always had the support on the other side to really help his own skills flourish.

    Brian Orakpo was injured for most of 2012, and Kerrigan himself endured a midseason slump in 2013. He went six straight games without a sack.

    Those are the only reasons this rapidly developing talent isn't higher on this list.

6th-Worst Pick of the Decade: Anthony Montgomery, DT

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    Anthony Montgomery was the second player the Redskins picked in 2006, although they had to wait until the fifth round to do it.

    Initially, he seemed to justify the wait. Montgomery started 15 games in 2007 on a defense that inspired a late playoff push. But that was as good as things got for the beefy D-tackle.

    Montgomery only started six more games for Washington. He never displayed the power his 6'6", 330-pound frame should have guaranteed.

    Montgomery has been out of football since 2009.

5th-Best Pick of the Decade: Trent Williams, LT

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    The fourth-overall player taken in the 2010 NFL draft, Trent Williams has survived some rough performances and off-field issues to become one of the better young players at his position in the league.

    A dominant force in the running game, Williams is a formidable left tackle. He has steadily improved his footwork and bend to effectively handle some of the best outside pass-rushers in football.

    Since incurring a four-game suspension for substance abuse in 2011, Williams has twice made the Pro Bowl and is the one credible performer on a mediocre O-line.

5th-Worst Pick of the Decade: Jordan Palmer, QB

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    Jordan Palmer's family connection to brother Carson convinced the Redskins to roll the dice on him in the sixth round in 2007. But Palmer was nothing like his older brother and couldn't muster even serviceable production in Washington.

    In fact, the younger Palmer couldn't make it through a single offseason in D.C. He was cut as a rookie and has since made trips to Arena football, the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars.

    He is currently warming a bench for the Chicago Bears.

4th-Best Pick of the Decade: Sean Taylor, S

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    The late Sean Taylor was an exceptional safety during his brief playing career. He wasted no time justifying his place as a first-round selection in 2004.

    He was an all-action free safety who could make a difference at every level of a defense. Taylor was a Pro Bowler in 2006 and a budding star around the NFL.

    He was killed in 2007 during an armed burglary at his Florida home.

4th-Worst Pick of the Decade: Fred Davis, TE

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    Fred Davis is a player of immense talent, seemingly determined never to put it to any use. A second-round pick in 2008, Davis started his career as he apparently meant to finish it.

    He missed his first team meeting because he overslept, a pattern of sleep before team that has continued. Since then Davis has contrived to stunt his development into one of the better roving tight ends in the NFL.

    He was given a four-game suspension for substance abuse in 2011. In February this year, the league finally lost patience with Davis and served him with an indefinite suspension.

    There are players on this list who contributed less after being drafted, but Davis is worse because he had the talent to be a great player in Washington.

3rd-Best Pick of the Decade: Alfred Morris, RB

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    Plucked from sixth-round obscurity to play fullback in 2012, Alfred Morris became an instant star in Washington. He has established a niche as a tireless, punishing and intelligent zone runner.

    Morris has produced consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has been one of the few payers the franchise can count on. A pair of trips to the Pro Bowl have been worthy reward for the way Morris has dominated defenses.

    He has provided superb return on a late-round investment. Even though his numbers dipped in 2013 and Shanahan has since left town, count on Morris still being effective this season.

3rd-Worst Pick of the Decade: Malcolm Kelly, WR

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    How do you make a mess of having three picks in the second round? Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato know the answer.

    That's exactly what they did in 2008 when they selected Malcolm Kelly with one of their three prime picks. Kelly actually made 10 starts during his second season, but managed only 25 catches.

    The scariest aspect of Kelly's legacy in the last decade of team drafting is what his selection revealed about how the Redskins were making picks back in 2008.

    According to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, speaking on ESPN 980, Cerrato wanted to take dynamic running back Jamaal Charles, but was overruled, despite his supposed control of front office matters.

    Apparently, someone though Kelly would be the "next Andre Johnson," per ProFootballTalk scribe Mike Florio. If you need a snapshot of why the Redskins have been mired in losing for so long, there it is.

2nd-Best Pick of the Decade: Chris Cooley, TE

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    A classic Joe Gibbs-style H-Back, Chris Cooley was more than a pleasant surprise as a third-rounder in 2004. He was a prolific weapon in two seasons that resulted in playoff appearances.

    In 2005, Cooley caught 71 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Washington made the postseason and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before succumbing on the road to the Seattle Seahawks.

    Cooley was still a force in 2007, recording 66 receptions for 786 yards and a career-best eight touchdowns. The 9-7 Redskins returned to the playoffs but were again brushed aside in Seattle.

    Cooley had two more great years to deliver. He hauled in 83 catches in 2008, tallying 849 yards. He made 77 catches in 2010 before injuries took over.

    Cooley was always productive and especially reliable in clutch situations. He should be remembered as a great pick during a troubled period in franchise history.

2nd-Worst Pick of the Decade: Devin Thomas, WR

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    It shouldn't be possible for a team to take Devin Thomas ahead of players like DeSean Jackson, Curtis Lofton, Brandon Flowers, Jordy Nelson and Matt Forte.

    Yet that's just what the Redskins did when they picked Devin Thomas with their first pick in 2008. That decision yielded just 11 starts and 40 receptions in three seasons.

    To add insult to injury, Thomas did manage to help NFC East rival the New York Giants win a Super Bowl, before retiring at just 25.

Best Pick of the Decade: Brian Orakpo, OLB

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    Brian Orakpo has amassed 39.5 sacks in five seasons since coming to Washington as a first-round selection in 2009. He has successfully shifted from defensive end to outside linebacker in both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts.

    He missed 14 games in 2012, but when healthy, Orakpo has been the most destructive defensive playmaker on the team. He enjoyed perhaps his best season in 2013, having mastered the nuances of 3-4 rush linebacker.

    There were times when Orakpo was unplayable in both the running game and against the pass. He made the decision to slap the franchise tag on him a necessary one.

    The next step is the for the franchise to award its best draft pick of the last decade a new long-term deal.

Worst Pick of the Decade: Jason Campbell, QB

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    It's still a shock that Washington actually used a first-round pick on Jason Campbell. Taken in 2005, the hapless quarterback never made the grade in D.C.

    He was named a starter in 2007, but ended that season watching greybeard Todd Collins lead the team into the postseason. Things were supposed to change in 2008 when the franchise gave Campbell the keys to kingdom.

    He responded by not remembering where he last saw them.

    Campbell threw 38 interceptions during his five seasons in Washington. Since leaving D.C., he has warmed the bench for three different teams and is preparing to do the same for the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Five forgettable seasons in Washington, followed by four teams since 2009, make Campbell easily the worst pick of the last decade.