5 Biggest Draft Mistakes in Washington Redskins History

Scott FitzGerald@scott_iCorrespondent IApril 11, 2012

5 Biggest Draft Mistakes in Washington Redskins History

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    To date, the Washington Redskins have had 75 drafts that included a number of hits and misses. The 76th edition finds the Redskins in the No. 2 spot with arguably a can't-miss pick. With two franchise quarterbacks available, the only way the team could screw up this pick is if they traded down to pick Morris Claiborne based solely on his Wonderlic score.

    A scenario that seems utterly ridiculous now that Vinny Cerrato is no longer with the team. Vontaze Burfict in the first? Cerrato would have done it in a heartbeat.  

    But under the Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen administration the colossal misses have become a thing of the past. While we cannot say they will not make a mistake in this month's draft, if they happen to miss on a pick, it will pale in comparison to the top five draft mistakes of all time.  

    For those of you looking for hard-hitting opinions on why the 'Skins shouldn't have used their first-round picks in 1940 and 1941 for QBs Ed Boell and Forest Evashevski while Slingin' Sammy Baugh was revolutionizing the game, I'm sorry. Kudos for knowing those two names because I didn't before today.  

    I'm sticking to the "Modern Era" of the NFL for this one (1970 onward) because the burgundy and gold have had one of the more unique draft histories than any other team. In fact, from 1970 to 1990 the team only made three first-round selections.  

    Thankfully those three picks were Art Monk, Mark May and Darrell Green. However, the team consistently traded down from the first or traded away their picks for veterans. For those of you keeping score at home, the Redskins didn't have a single first-round draft pick throughout the 1970's.  

5. Tackle: Andre Johnson, Penn State

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    Back in 1996, the Redskins were in the midst of the Norv Turner era that plagued them most of the 90's. The team was desperate to reclaim their winning ways that left when Joe Gibbs retired for the first time. After going 6-10 the prior season, GM Charley Casserly was desperate to upgrade the roster.

    That year, the 'Skins entered the draft without a first-round pick since they had traded what had become the sixth overall pick to the St. Louis Rams for Sean Gilbert. How did that work out again?

    After seeing a run on offensive tackles in the first round, Casserly made a deal with the Devil sending the team's second- and third-round picks to the Dallas Cowboys for the 30th overall selection. Washington selected the 6'5", 300-plus pound Penn State grad Andre Johnson.  

    The organization knew that Johnson was a bust by the end of training camp and the tackle never played a regular season down in Washington. Cut after his rookie year, Johnson would end up playing in three games total in his NFL career.  

    If it could have been done all over again, I would have rather seen the team draft a 14-year-old Andre Johnson to play WR for DC instead of him going to the University of Miami and being draft by the Houston Texans in 2003.   

4. Wide Receiver: Rod Gardner, Clemson

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    Wide receiver seems to be a position that the Redskins have always struggled with. If only Art Monk could have played for 30 years then maybe this article would be different. 

    In Marty Schottenheimer's only season in DC, the team lost Brad Johnson as their starting QB in favor of an aging Jeff George and Tony Banks. Unfortunately, the team decided to not target a replacement quarterback in the draft. 

    While Michael Vick was the first overall pick, the draft was mostly forgettable at the QB position. Other than a short passer out of Purdue who was taken with the 32nd pick overall, Drew Brees.  

    The Redskins front office would pass up on Brees and instead select Rod Gardner 17 picks earlier out of Clemson. The team decided it wanted another weapon to pair with Michael Westbrook (I can't even type that sentence without laughing).  

    Gardner would spend four seasons with the Redskins before getting cut by three other teams and retiring after the 2006 season. In his defense, Gardner did have one pretty good year: 2002, 71 catches and 1,006 yards. However, in his other three seasons with the team he would average 52 receptions and 664 yards per year.  

    Gardner saw more playing time and was more productive than some recent picks at WR; I'm looking at you Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. However, he never lived up to the expectations of a 15th overall pick.  

    For those of you keeping score at home, Santana Moss was selected right after Gardner. The team also missed out on Steve Hutchinson, Casey Hampton, Nate Clements, Will Allen, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Wayne, Todd Heap, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Alge Crumpler and Kris Jenkins before selecting Fred Smoot with the 45th overall pick.  

3. Wide Receiver: Michael Westbrook, University of Colorado

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    While at Colorado, Michael Westbrook formed a deadly passing combination with Kordell Stewart. He won the Paul Warfield Trophy as the best wide receiver and was a first-team All-American. How could the Redskins pass him up with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1995 draft?

    What many Redskins fans may not remember is that Westbrook wasn't terrible in 1999 when paired with Brad Johnson. He had his best year recording 65 receptions, 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns. However, he would only start 16 games in a season twice in his seven years in the nation's capital and averaged 46 catches, 713 yards and four TDs per year.  

    Westbrook is best known for punching teammate Stephen Davis in the face repeatedly during practice in 1997. The incident was broadcast all over the DC area and Westbrook was fined $50,000.  

    Westbrook was drafted in between Pro Bowlers Steve McNair and Kerry Collins. The 1995 draft produced one of the better busts of all time, Ki-Jana Carter, and also produced a number of Pro-Bowlers; Tony Boselli, Kevin Carter, Joey Galloway, Warren Sapp, Ty Law, Korey Stringer and Derrick Brooks.  

2. Wide Receiver: Desmond Howard, University of Michigan

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    This completes the trifecta of awful wide receivers taken by the Washington Redskins. Desmond Howard had all of the accolades you could want for a player entering the 1992 draft. Howard was the Heisman Trophy winner and Player of the Year in 1991. He also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award and was a first-team All-American.  

    Can't miss right?!

    Joe Gibbs certainly thought Howard was bust-proof. The Redskins, coming off of their Super Bowl XXVI victory, were hoping the rich could get richer and traded their sixth and 28th overall picks in the first round with Cincinnati to move up two spots for Howard.  

    Howard would go on to be a Super Bowl MVP in 1996 and make a Pro Bowl in 2000. However, neither of those honors were bestowed upon Howard in a Redskin uniform. The wideout only made it through three seasons in DC and was never the special teams weapon he was drafted to become in Washington.  

    From 1992 to 1994 Howard recorded one return for a touchdown out of 10 punt returns and 43 kick returns. As a receiver, his best year statistically was 1994 when he tallied 40 receptions for 727 yards and five TDs.  

    While Howard would go on to set the single-season punt return yardage record with 875 yards in 1996, he never lived up to the expectations that came with being the fourth overall pick.  

    The 1992 draft has yet to produce a Hall of Fame inductee.  

1. Quarterback: Heath Shuler, Tennessee

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    The eternal struggle to find a franchise quarterback should (hopefully) come to an end this year. However, one of the most ill-fated chapters in team history revolves around the 1994 No. 3 overall pick, Heath Shuler.  

    Unlike our No. 2 bust, Desmond Howard, Shuler was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1993. Understandably, Shuler lost out to Charlie Ward who would go on to skip the NFL to pursue his NBA career.

    Shuler didn't have the look of a bust right out of the gate even though he was a training camp hold out until he received a seven-year deal. Perhaps Shuler knew what he was getting into and wanted to get as much money as he could up front.

    He started eight games his rookie year and put up Rex Grossman-like numbers, 10 TDs and 11 INTs. However, for a franchise that had developed a preference for winning Super Bowls, Shuler's inconsistent play led to a QB controversy with Gus Frerotte. Yes, Gus 'I've never met a wall I didn't want to run into head-first' Frerotte.

    Shuler would depart Washington with a 4-9 record as a starter throwing 13 TDs and 19 INTs over his three seasons in DC. The best lowlight of Shuler's time with the 'Skins was his five-interception performance against the Arizona Cardinals.  

    Had the Redskins been given a mulligan on the Shuler pick, the team could have selected Willie McGinest or Trent Dilfer. The 1994 draft also marked the year Kurt Warner went undrafted. Hindsight is certainly 20/20.  

Honorable Mentions

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    There's been a significant amount of draft busts in Redskins' history and, frankly, I had to make some sacrifices when putting together this list of the top five.  

    But I did want to include a handful of players who I believe deserve some recognition for how awful they were in their time with the Washington Redskins.  

    If you feel I've missed out on an honorable mention, you are welcome to mention it in the comments below and I'll make my best effort to include it on this slide.  

    Dennis Morris: 2010 draft, sixth round (174th overall) traded less than three months after signing with the Redskins to the St. Louis Rams for a conditional pick. The pick was based on Morris seeing the field which he has yet to do in his NFL career.

    Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly: 2008 draft, second round (34th and 51st overall) products of the Vinny Cerrato era, Thomas struggled to learn the playbook while Kelly struggled to stay healthy. While Kelly is out of the league, Thomas recently signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears

    Dallas Sartz: 2007 draft, fifth round (143rd overall) Sartz is of particular mention because not only is his first name just a bad omen for a Redskin, he was cut two months after signing with the team. The 'Skins have been looking for a London Fletcher backup for some time and Zorn's crew knew Sartz wasn't worth their time right away.  

    Taylor Jacobs: 2003 draft, second round (44th overall) The "old ball coach" didn't do too well with this Florida Alum. Injuries and a lack of talent slowed Jacobs leading to his trade to San Francisco.  

    Patrick Ramsey: 2002 draft, first round (32nd overall) The next Brett Favre, right? Ramsey was another victim of Steve Spurrier and ended up being the most-sacked QB in the NFL in 2003. Once Gibbs came back to the team, he used the first chance he had to remove Ramsey as starter and promote Mark Brunell. After Ramsey took a hit to the neck from Lance Briggs in the first game of the season, Gibbs subbed in the lefty and Ramsey would only see action in three other games all year. In relief of an injured Brunell, Ramsey would hit Santana Moss on a 72 yard bomb beating the New York Giants on Christmas Eve (h/t Matthew Landon).

    For more by Scott and his cohorts, check out The Recap.