2011 Washington Redskins: Evaluating the Redskins Recent 1st Round Draft Choices
Reading other people's mock drafts is funny when you're a Redskins fan.
It seems nearly every mock draft has the Redskins selecting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in the first round. The reasons for him being selected aren't because of his intangibles, his considerable athleticism or his upside. No, when people mock the Redskins' draft choices, they often find a way to mock the Redskins.
The general consensus?
"The Redskins always take a big name player in the first round over a player they really need."
That the Redskins' draft choices often mirror their free agent signings: big names over productive players, bust, and generally inept drafting.
If you were to believe this course of thought, you'd think the Redskins were amongst the worst drafters in the league and that their first round picks have all blown up in their faces. But, as with many things people think about the Redskins, this simply isn't the case. It's a matter of 1.) getting Redskins fans talking and 2.) insulting the team and Dan Snyder in backhanded way.
The Redskins have had more luck in the first round that one would think. In fact, they've made some bafflingly smart draft choices that make you wonder why the hell they haven't won more football games.
So, let's take a look at the Redskins' recent history in the first round of the draft and see the successes (or failures) the franchise has had.
1999: Cornerback Champ Bailey
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Not a bad way to start of a list, is it?
Champ Bailey was drafted with the Redskins first pick of the 1999 NFL Draft and immediately established himself as one of the premier defensive backs in the league. Playing alongside Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Darrell Green helped him, but Bailey was a top flight prospect from jump street. Bailey has made the Pro Bowl a staggering 10 times, and even as he gets older, he still ranks amongst one of the elite corners in the league.
He totaled a combined 18 interceptions and one touchdown in his stint with the Redskins and has 48 interceptions in his career.
You'll hear many a person complain that the 'Skins should've never given Champ Bailey for Clinton Portis in a trade, but the truth was, Bailey had absolutely no intention of returning to the team and threatened to no show training camp. In that way, it was something of a stroke of genius that the Redskins traded Bailey to the Broncos, where he would go on to record a 10 interception season in 2006.
Bailey's time in burgundy and gold may have been short, but there's no doubting he was a true, top flight talent for the team and a draft pick that did not go to waste.
2000: Linebacker LaVar Arrington
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Lavar Arrington has made himself a second career out of badmouthing the Redskins lately, but before he decided to badmouth the team that paid him millions and drafted him with the first pick in the first round, Arrington was a very productive member of the Washington Redskins defense.
Drafted out of Penn State University (or Linebacker U, if you're going by history), Arrington was a three time Pro Bowler. He totaled 23.5 sacks in his career, including a monster 11 sack season in 2002.
Unfortunately, Arrington's career was mared by knee injuries, and towards the end of his tenure with the 'Skins (despite them signing him to a monster contract), he frequently clashed with head coach Joe Gibbs and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, leading him to buy out his own contract.
He signed with the division rival New York Giants in 2006, but injuries sidelined him this season, and he finally retired in 2007.
Though Arrington was somewhat injury prone, he was still a solid member of a growing defense, and had he been able to stay healthy (and if he weren't such a head case), he could very well still be having a solid career for the Redskins. Yet another player who wasn't a bust for the Redskins.
2000: Offensive Tackle Chris Samuels
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The Redskins had two first round draft picks in 2000, and they gave up a lot to move up to third and draft Chris Samuels, giving up two first round picks and a fourth and fifth to draft the offensive linemen.
Samuels was a six-time Pro Bowler and the only truly solid component of a Washington Redskins offensive line that has had more hits than misses. One of his most impressive seasons came in 2008, when he helped open up running lanes for Clinton Portis to rush for over 120 yards in five straight games.
A leader and a class act, Samuels played his entire career in Washington and could very well still be starting, but a conditioning known as spinal stenosis struck him in a 2009 game versus the Panthers in which his upper body became paralyzed following a helmet-to-helmet hit. Following the 2009 season, he retired for fear of long time injury, opening the way for another first round offensive lineman, the only one since Samuels himself was taken.
Samuels was more than worth the cost to get him and served the Redskins well at the left tackle position. He served as the team's assistant offensive line coach in 2010 and is now the offensive coordinator for his son's high school.
Samuels was a surefire, hit it out of the park first round draft choice and the kind of player and man you can only hope to have on your favorite football team.
2001: Wide Receiver Rod Gardner
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The Redskins drafted Rod Gardner with the 15th overall selection in 2001. While he never amassed a ton of great stats, he was still a solid, productive receiver during his four year tenure with the football team.
He accounted amassed 22 touchdowns and 2,997 yards in his playing time while also passing for two touchdowns on trick plays.
In 2005, he was traded to the Panthers, where his career fizzled out. He spent time with the Packers and Chiefs following that season but never had as much success as he did in Washington.
As far as Gardner goes, I wouldn't call him a bust, exactly; he was productive, for the most part, moreso than he was later in his career. Still, the kind of stats he amassed are the kind of thing you'd want from a receiver you draft in the late second, early third rounds. Not entirely a bust, but not exactly a homerun hitter, either.
2002: Quarterback Patrick Ramsey
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And about here is where we get into "bust" territory.
Ramsey was drafted with the 32nd pick of the first round but has never started 16 games in his NFL career. In his first season, he struggled in Steve Spurrier's "fun and gun" system, which led to him splitting time with Tony Banks and other quarterbacks. His first season as a starter was horrible, which led to further benchings. In 2004, he was named the starter over Mark Brunell in November of that season and was named the starter going into 2005, but was ultimately benched for Brunell.
Ramsey has bounced around from team to team as a back-up, but he is almost always released as soon as a better option is found; this season alone, Ramsey signed with the New Orleans Saints, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings. Three of those teams were so ravaged by quarterback issues that teams couldn't help but sign a quarterback for fear of having to put the punter in at some point.
Can I pick a guy that didn't get drafted until the last pick of the first round be a bust? Sure, why not; David Carr is considered a bust and he was drafted first overall. Then again, the 2002 quarterback class was so insanely thin that no quarterback drafted in it had any sort of success.
Chalk this one up as a swing and a miss for the Redskins.
2004: Free Safety Sean Taylor
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There may be no single player missed more by Redskins fans than No. 21, Sean Taylor.
The Redskins didn't have a first round pick in 2003, but they more than made up for it with the their first round selection in 2004. Sean Taylor was a beast when he played from the University of Miami in college, and he was no different when he entered a league.
Very few players are legitimately feared in football, but Taylor was. Being on the other side of a hit from Sean Taylor was never a fun experience, but he was not only a threat when he hit you. Taylor picked off four passes, forced two fumbles, a sack and defensed nine passes.
Taylor was truly a player you always had to account for on the field. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice and amassed 12 interceptions in a career that was cut far too short. Taylor was the rare kind of player that impacts every game and every play, and had he lived on, we'd probably be talking about him being one of the best of all time.
I don't throw around hyperbole; when I say that about Taylor, I meant it. A great player, teammate, and someone this team could always cheer for. What more could you ask for in player?
2005: Cornerback Carlos Rogers
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When Rogers was drafted out of Auburn in the draft, his name was flirting with the title of "shut down". Finally, the Redskins might've found an answer to a whole left by the exiting Champ Bailey. The Redskins passed on drafting Aaron Rodgers and instead drafted 'Los.
Is he a bust? Depends on who you ask. To some, he's been a solid cover corner in the Redskins secondary, breaking up passes and wrapping up people on tackles. To others, they are livid that Rogers seemingly allows easily caught interceptions bounce of his hands. His inability to catch has spawned dozens of "Stone Hand" jokes (i.e., when Chris Cooley had a ton of drops versus Jacksonville this season, he caught a lot of Rogers jokes, despite the fact that Rogers actually had an interception in that game).
It's not for lack of trying, and it's something that has visably annoyed that corner in his playing time. It's something he's tried to work on, but never seems to get good at. Still, Rogers is a well rounded corner, and sometimes, what's more important than catching interceptions (D-Hall always goes for the INT and it burns him sometimes) is stopping the other guy from catching the ball. Rogers has been great at doing that, regardless of some of the dropped picks.
Worth the Redskins first first round pick? Maybe, maybe not. But Rogers has been a solid player, and I wouldn't consider him a bust on any day.
2005: Quarterback Jason Campbell
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Jason Campbell is another member of the "We shoulda drafted Aaron Rodgers instead!" club and a solid quarterback who never got his due.
Campbell was drafted one pick after Rodgers in the 2005 draft, oddly tying their fates together. Both were bought in to replace veterans, but only one won a Super Bowl, and that's the only thing that matters to some people.
Despite some people's mostly irrational dislike of the former Auburn Tiger, Jason Campbell was a solid quarterback that actually got better as his career went on. He didn't see any playing time in his first NFL season, but in 2006, following a slow start for the Redskins, Campbell was named the starter. He didn't win his first start, but showed a lot of pose and grace. A somewhat mobile guy with a rocket arm, Campbell's completion percentage and quarterback steadily climbed each season he was with the team.
This was despite the fact that the team changed offensive coordinators and then offensive schemes. Then, two of his major weapons and his left tackle went down with injuries in 2009, and he posted his best season. Still, the Redskins fans and the Redskins front office seemed to have some sort of odd problem with Campbell.
They openly tried to draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and (ironically enough) tried to get in the hunt for Jay Cutler. You would think Campbell was a tremendous jerk or a bad player, but he wasn't; he just didn't have a team willing to build around him, instead hoping he could win with what little he had.
Campbell was traded to the Oakland Raiders after the Redskins brought in Donovan McNabb (boy did that plan backfire...), where he was then screwed around with by then head coach Tom Cable. Still, Campbell managed to help pilot the Raiders to an 8-8 season, going undefeated in the division.
Campbell's story still has to be told, but when it's all said and done, I don't think people will consider him a bust.
2007: Strong Safety LaRon Landry
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The Redskins continued a string of solid defensive draft choices when they picked up LSU's LaRon Landry, and he and his freakishly large arms (seriously, look at that!) have become a huge part of the Redskins secondary.
The hard hitting safety joined a backfield that still included Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, and free agent signing DeAngelo Hall. Landry and Taylor immediately became one of the best safety tandems on the league, a feared pair of hard hitters that could creme you if you crossed them.
Taylor's untimely murder left Landry in an odd space. The decision was made to move him to free safety, despite him being a natural strong safety. The move did not do well for Dirty 30; he struggled a bit in coverage and worked much better closer to the line of scrimmage.
When the Redskins moved to a 3-4 defense, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett put him back in his natural position, and Landry went on to have a Pro Bowl season, despite the fact that he only played nine games and ended the season injured reserve. Landry thrived at his natural position, solidgying his status as a player who was more than worth the first round pick.
Landry's best days are yet to come, and with the Redskins signing O.J Atogwe, the 'Skins can finally let Dirty 30 thrive like he never has before.
2009: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Brian Orakpo
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I'm not sure who the Redskins' defensive scout is, but I sure hope they kept him.
Brian Orakpo has been a force since his first game and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Drafted 13th overall, Orakpo was heralded out of college, but some thought he was too small to be a huge threat on every down in the NFL.
He proved them wrong accordingly. Orakpo posted an absolutely unbelievable 11.5 half sacks in his rookie season as a defensive end. In 2010, the Redskins stood him up and converted him to outside linebacker. He still managed 8.5 sacks and gave offensive tackles nightmares. Brian Orakpo was third in the league in receiving holding calls, which is to say nothing of the numerous holding penalties that didn't get called.
Orakpo is a cornerstone piece of a growing defense and seems set up to have a long, productive career in the NFL.
2010: Offensive Tackle Trent Williams
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Trent Williams was the first offensive tackle the Redskins drafted in the first round in 10 years, and though he struggled at times this season, he still figures to be a productive starter and an awesome tackle for years to come, well worth the draft pick and placing him in the left tackle spot left by Chris Samuels.
It's been ridiculous to me that people have suggested this early that Trent Williams is a bust and that the Redskins should use their first round pick on another left tackle and move Williams to right tackle and...what? Are you kidding me?
I would break down in tears if I were Trent Williams, looking over the schedule and thinking about all the defensive nightmares I'd have to face.
Williams underwent a trial by fire in his first NFL season; in his first NFL game, he was lined up against DeMarcus Ware (five Pro Bowls, three First Team All Pro Selections, two All Pro Second Team Selections, NFC Defensive Player of the Year, NFL 2000 All Decade Team). He would then have to contend will Mario Williams (two Pro Bowls and two All Pro bids), Trent Cole (two Pro Bowls, one Second Team All Pro), Julius Peppers (six Pro Bowls,five All Pro selections, named to the NFL All Decade team for the 2000s), Kyle Vanden Bosch (three Pro Bowls), and Justin Tuck (two Pro Bowls, one All Pro Selection, and a Super Bowl ring). And I'm still missing people.
Want more proof? Look at any game in which Trent Williams is in the game. He occasionally struggles, sure, but overall, he performs well, and the whole o-line performs better with him in the game.
Now, look at any game where he's not in at left tackle, and you will see a dramatic difference in quarterback hits and overall o-line performance. He's a playmaker on a line that doesn't have a whole lot of talent.
Go back to that first Dallas game. Donovan McNabb throws a screen pass to Chris Cooley, and Trent Williams is blocking DeMarcus Ware all the way down the field. Trent Williams was running stride for stride with Anthony Armstrong when the two of them were trying to stop a McNabb pick from going for a touchdown, and if Trent Williams (the offensive linemen) hadn't caught up with Anthony Armstrong (one of the fastest wide receivers on the football team) and bumped into him, Williams would've outrun Armstrong to make the tackle. On a friggin' cornerback speeding towards the end zone.
Williams played a lot of the season dealing with injuries, but always wanted to play and compete. I like that in a left tackle. He's big, has a nasty streak, and works and plays hard.
Think that's not worth a first round pick? You''re dead wrong.
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Between all the Redskins first round draft picks, they have 25 Pro Bowl bids. Nearly every one of them has contributed to the football team in a big way in their careers. Some went on to success elsewhere, but they made a lot of money and gained a lot of fans after they were drafted in the first round in Washington.
While they flamed out on the offensive side of the ball, when the Redskins went defense, they usually came away with a solid playmaker the impacted the game. They've drafted quality guys who, for the most part, have stayed out of trouble. It's a weird thing to see so many people insist the Redskins will take the biggest name in the draft just because he's the biggest name, when that's clearly not the case.
If you're worried about the Redskins drafting the biggest, brightest name, because so-called analyst and people who only pay cursory attention to the team, you should be. The Redskins have had more first round success than you'd think, and if they keep it up, the Redskins will have no where to go but up.