Ten years of history don’t lie.
When the Redskins had a first-round pick during the past decade, they struck gold. When they had to wait until the second round of the draft to add a player, as is the case this week, the results weren’t nearly as golden.
Washington’s track record with first-rounders has been amazing of late whether Vinny Cerrato (2003, 2008-09), Joe Gibbs (2004-07) or Mike Shanahan (2010-12) has been in command of the war room.
As easy as it is to bash Cerrato for his wrongheaded decisions in free agency, he came up aces with safety Sean Taylor (fifth overall in 2004), cornerback Carlos Rogers (ninth in 2005), and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (13th in 2009).
Taylor was in the midst of a stellar season when he was shot to death at 24 in November 2007 before he could play in a second straight Pro Bowl. Rogers, a solid starter for most of his seven years in Washington, was picked for Hawaii after leaving for San Francisco in 2011. Orakpo was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. The college defensive end recorded 28.5 sacks from 2009-11 before missing most of last year with a torn pectoral muscle.
Although the Redskins already had superior athlete Taylor in place at free safety in 2007, Gibbs realized that free agent signee Adam Archuleta wasn’t the answer, prompting Washington to choose strong safety LaRon Landry sixth overall. An immediate starter, Landry was a feared hitter until an Achilles injury in 2010 ended his Redskins tenure prematurely the following year. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl with the New York Jets last season.
Shanahan arrived in 2010 and picked offensive tackle Trent Williams fourth overall before following with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan at No. 16 in 2011 (after trading down six spots with Jacksonville) and quarterback Robert Griffin III at No. 2 in 2012 after a trade with St. Louis that cost Washington its first-rounders in 2013 and 2014. All were chosen for last year’s Pro Bowl although Williams and Griffin were injured and unable to play. Griffin, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Williams, who protects his blind side, are franchise building blocks. Kerrigan had 16 sacks and six forced fumbles during his first two seasons and forms a dynamic pass rushing duo with Orakpo.
Taylor, Rogers, Landry, Orakpo, Williams, Kerrigan, Griffin. That’s an impressive collection of talent. That can’t be said about the trio – receivers Taylor Jacobs and Devin Thomas and linebacker Rocky McIntosh — whom the Redskins chose with their top selections during the past 10 drafts in which they had traded away their first-rounder.
Jacobs, who had starred for then-Redskins coach Steve Spurrier at Florida despite a less-than-robust body, was chosen 44th overall in 2003. In 38 games (seven starts) over three years in Washington, Jacobs caught just 30 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown. After doing even less in stints with San Francisco and Denver, he was out of the NFL at 27.
Thomas, the 34th pick in 2008 out of Michigan State, had the sculpted upper body that Jacobs lacked. However, Thomas still flunked rookie coach Jim Zorn’s conditioning test on the eve of training camp, a harbinger for the less-than-rigorous work habits that would prompt Shanahan to cut him a month into his third season after he had produced just 40 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns in 34 games. Thomas quickly washed out in Carolina before making the New York Giants as a kickoff return specialist. He blocked a punt to help the Giants beat the Redskins in 2011 and recovered a fumble in New York’s subsequent NFC Championship Game victory en route to winning a Super Bowl ring. But his lack of love for the game prompted his retirement last year at 25.
McIntosh, the 35th pick in 2006 out of Miami (Fla.), wasn’t a bust in Washington like the receivers, but he was never a Pro Bowl candidate either. A starter and a reliable tackler from late December of his rookie year until midseason 2011, McIntosh, who’s now with St. Louis, was always in the shadow of fellow linebacker London Fletcher and then those of Orakpo and Kerrigan, too.
Expect the Redskins to try to fill their void at free safety during Friday’s second round with a player who’ll be able to step in and start right away. Just don’t expect him to become a star.
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 three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin