WARNING - Bumpy Draft Ahead

When the Redskins' initial pick in the draft, a second rounder, the 44th overall comes up sometime in the early evening on April 27, there will be a strong temptation to draft based on need. While the needs could change between now and then, right now a defensive tackle would seem to be the top priority.

So when your pick comes up, you look at your list of defensive tackles, take the best one available, proclaim that you had him rated as the 10th-best player in the entire draft and be done with it. Simple, right?

 

Simple, yes. Smart, no. The Redskins have made some of their most disastrous draft decisions when they have drafted for need.

 

The classic example of this came in 1994. The Redskins were an aging team coming off of a 4-12 season and had needs at every position, but Norv Turner was the new coach and he had to have his franchise quarterback. With the third pick in the draft, he tabbed Heath Shuler, an athletic but unpolished quarterback out of Tennessee. Left on the board were players who have made Pro Bowl squads and are still contributing today such as defensive linemen Willie McGinest, Bryant Young, and Sam Adams, and linebacker Jamir Miller. Shuler, of course, was a total bust and the Redskins started a remarkable run of several successive seasons being ranked last or close to last in the NFL in rushing defense.

 

Not learning from their mistake, the Redskins targeted receiver Michael Westbrook with the fourth pick the next year. Warren Sapp and Hugh Douglas were still sitting by their phones.

 

Think this is a modern phenomenon? Think again. In 1967 the Redskins had the NFL's best air game with Sonny Jurgensen throwing to Charley Taylor, Jerry Smith and Bobby Mitchell. The problem was that the defense couldn't stop anyone. However, coach Otto Graham wanted to further bolster the offense, and took Idaho fullback Ray McDonald with the 13th overall selection. Left on the board was Notre Dame defensive tackle Alan Page and the Viking snapped up the future NFL MVP a few picks later. As for McDonald, well, he made the mistake of showing up late for one of Vince Lombardi's meetings in 1969 and was summarily dismissed from the team.

 


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