Draft Busts

To be sure, not having a first-round selection does make draft day a bit less interesting, but keep in mind that boredom can be a good thing. As the other NFL teams snag the players that have Kiper and Boomer and the rest of ESPN's broadcast crew ooh-ing and aww-ing, just remember that not all of these guys will live up to their advance billing; in fact a good number of them won't

There is ample evidence to be found in Redskins history to back up this assertion. Here is CPND's list of some of the team's all-time first-round draft busts:

B Cal Rossi (UCLA, drafted in 1946, #9 overall)--He wasn't eligible for the draft when the Redskins took him in '46, so they spent the third overall pick in 1947 to take Rossi again. He was not at all flattered by the gesture and never signed with the Redskins.

K Charlie Gogolak (Princeton, 1966, #8)—One of the first "soccer-style" kickers, Otto Graham made him the first pure kicker to go in the first round. He couldn't stay healthy, however, and while the sidewinder technique was fairly accurate his range wasn't very impressive. Vince Lombardi took one look at Gogolak and went out and signed Curt Knight, a (then-conventional) straight-on kicker, to compete for the job. Well before training camp was finished, "Go-go" was gone-gone and Knight had the job.

FB Ray McDonald (Idaho, 1967, #13)—Gogolak wasn't Graham's only first-round pick who was summarily shown the door by Lombardi. McDonald made the mistake of showing up late for a meeting in training camp. Lombardi stopped speaking and asked the third-year player what his name was. "Ray McDonald," the player said. Those were his last words as a Redskin as Lombardi announced to the team right then and there that McDonald had been cut. He was well on his way to becoming a bust anyway, having rushed for just 223 yards in two seasons before being dismissed.

DB Yazoo Smith (Oregon, 1968, #12)— He had a promising rookie year, but in the season finale tragedy struck. A teammate accidentally kicked Smith in the neck while trying to jump over a pile that the rookie was in. The injury left Smith unable to play football again. (It probably isn't fair to include Smith in this list. It's only to point out that this meant that the Redskins went into 1969 with none of their previous three first-round draft picks on the roster. Any wonder that Lombardi and, two years later, George Allen had to virtually start building the team from scratch?)

WR Walter Murray (Hawaii, 1986, #45)--OK, this one technically doesn't qualify as a first-round bust since he was drafted in the second round. Bobby Beathard, though, traded the team's 1987 first-round pick to obtain the pick to draft Murray, so he's included here. Murray's agent argued that his client should be paid like a first-round pick since the Redskins had given up one to get him. While Beathard was enamored with Murray's ability, he apparently wasn't too crazy about this negotiating ploy. Murray never signed with the team and the Redskins were only able to get some lower picks in exchange for his rights.

WR Desmond Howard (Michigan, 1992, #4)—It seemed to be the perfect heist. Charley Casserley, working in concert with Joe Gibbs, packaged their own first-round pick (the last of the round) and a high first-rounder that had been stolen from Beathard and the Chargers in a deal for a second-round pick the year before to move up to snag the Hesiman Trophy winning receiver. The Redskins were giddy until Howard showed up at Redskins Park with what amounted to an entourage of assistants. Gibbs' gut told him right then and there that they had made a mistake. As usual, Gibbs' gut was right as Howard had three unproductive seasons before he was left exposed in the expansion draft and the Jacksonville Jaguars took him off the Redskins' hands.

QB Heath Shuler (Tennessee, 1994, #3)—This bust has been well chronicled. The only debate is whether Norv Turner or Casserley is more to blame. It says here both of them share a ton of blame, along with many others in the organization. It takes a team effort to screw up something this badly.

WR Michael Westbrook (Colorado, 1995, #4)—He was big strong, athletic, and fast. He also needed "handle with care" stamped on his forehead. This applied both physically, as he was constantly spending time on the injured list, and mentally. He was a bit unstable, to say the least.

T Andre Johnson (Penn State, 1996, #30)—Although Johnson probably would have fallen to them at the sixth pick in the second round, the Redskins had to make sure they got him and packaged that pick along with their third-round selection to move up to take him with the last pick of the first round. That meant, of course, that they had to pay him first-round money. Any money spent on him was wasted as he never played a down.

Have your own ideas about draft busts? Come talk about it!

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins from A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. For details about this unique book, which chronicles all 925 games the Redskins played from 1937 through 2001, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com




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