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Redskins Finding First Round Gold, But Still Need Late Round Help

by David Elfin
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Ryan Kerrigan on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft. (credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Ryan Kerrigan on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft. (credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s selection as a replacement for San Francisco’s Aldon Smith on the NFC Pro Bowl squad which yesterday whipped the AFC team, that included former Washington strong safety LaRon Landry, gave the Redskins an amazing run at the top of the draft.

Kerrigan, Washington’s first pick in 2011, and Landry, who was so designated in 2007, are just the latest Redskins first-rounders to be Pro Bowl players.

Left tackle Trent Williams (2010) and quarterback Robert Griffin III (2012) were also chosen for this year’s game although neither played. Williams was slightly injured in a dispute in a Honolulu nightclub last Friday and Griffin is recovering from knee surgery on Jan. 9.

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, Washington’s first-rounder in 2009, was picked for the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010. The Redskins didn’t have first-round selections in 2008 or 2006, but cornerback Carlos Rogers, the first of their first-rounders in 2005, went to the Pro Bowl last year with the 49ers.

That makes quarterback Jason Campbell, chosen after Rogers in the first round in 2005, the last Washington first-rounder not to have made a Pro Bowl. Late free safety Sean Taylor (2004) was chosen in 2006 and 2007.

The Redskins didn’t have a first-rounder in 2003 so quarterback Patrick Ramsey (2002) is the last player they chose with their only first-round pick who didn’t eventually wind up in Hawaii. And since Washington shipped its first-rounders this year and next to St. Louis in the 2012 deal which allowed Griffin to become a Redskin, the streak will keep going barring a trade up into the first round in 2013 or 2014.

Receiver Rod Gardner (2001) never made a Pro Bowl, but both of Washington’s first-rounders in the 2000 draft, outside linebacker LaVar Arrington (2001-03) and left tackle Chris Samuels (2001-02, 2005-08) were multiple selections. So was 1999 first-rounder Champ Bailey (2000-03 before being traded to Denver for whom he has been selected to another eight all-star games).

The Redskins also didn’t have a first-round pick in 1998. So during the past 15 drafts Washington’s first-round scorecard reads: 10 Pro Bowl players (Bailey, Arrington, Samuels, Taylor, Rogers, Landry, Orakpo, Williams, Kerrigan and Griffin), three who didn’t make it but started at least 27 games for the franchise (Gardner, Ramsey and Campbell), and four years without a first-rounder (1998, 2003, 2006 and 2008).

That first-round success is especially impressive considering since that decade and a half span covers five men in charge of the drafts: general manager Charley Casserly (1998-99); executive vice president Vinny Cerrato (2000, 2002-03, 2008-09); and coaches Marty Schottenheimer (2001), Joe Gibbs (2004-07) and Mike Shanahan (2010-12).

Washington was just 24-40 in the four seasons in which it didn’t have a first-round pick. However, proving that success at the top of the draft hardly guarantees team success, the Redskins were just 68-76 during the nine seasons in which they chose a Pro Bowl player in the first round.

For further proof of the lack of correlation of hitting on a first-rounder to the team’s record during his rookie season or vice-versa, Washington had a winning record in all but two years from 1969-79 (going 6-8 in 1970 and 8-8 in 1978) without having a first-round pick. The Redskins then chose Hall of Famer Art Monk in 1980 but went 6-10. They were 14-2 in Hall of Famer Darrell Green’s rookie year, 1983, but that was the only season from 1981-90 that they used a first-rounder while posting eight winning records, an 8-8 season and a 7-9 finish.

Washington whiffed on defensive tackle Bobby Wilson in 1991 but won the Super Bowl. Receiver/return man Desmond Howard (1992) failed with the Redskins even during his playoff-bound rookie season but made a Pro Bowl with Detroit eight years later.

Cornerback Tom Carter (1993), quarterback Heath Shuler (1994), receiver Michael Westbrook (1995) and offensive tackle Andre Johnson (1996) were all flops in one way or another while defensive end Kenard Lang (1997) also wasn’t special for a team that continued a six-year run of not reaching postseason.

In summary, it’s wonderful to have the Kerrigans, Orakpos and RGIIIs, but a team also has to find sixth-round gems like Terrell Davis, Tom Brady or Alfred Morris to really succeed in the long-term.

David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin

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