Over the past 50 years, the Washington Redskins have been known for many things. The dominant 1980s, the Over the Hill Gang, the Fun Bunch and the Hogs. One thing the Redskins have not been known for is proper management of the NFL Draft. Surprisingly, the Skins have had amazing success in one area in the draft: first-round wide receivers. Now, before you go all Chris Benoit on me, prior to the selection of Josh Doctson, the Redskins had drafted five wide receivers in the first round. Of the five, there were two Hall of Famers, a Super Bowl MVP and two pass catchers who put up 1,000-yard seasons in D.C. Some may consider three of these five picks busts. and you can certainly argue that point. Here is a look at the Redskins' first-round wide receivers:
With the 3rd pick of the 1964 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Charley Taylor, wide receiver, Arizona State
Charley Taylor is the greatest draft pick in team history. He was the most dominant WR of his time and upon his retirement was the league's all-time leader in receptions. Before the NFL became a passing league, Taylor’s 649 receptions was a magical number that few thought would be approached. The future Hall of Famer put up the single greatest rookie season in Redskins history, and I would put it up there with some of the best ever. Taylor, who mostly played running back during his rookie season, accumulated 814 receiving yards, 755 rushing yards with 10 TDs in 1964. His 53 catches that year were an NFL record for receptions by a running back. His 42-yard touchdown grab from Billy Kilmer in the 1972 NFC Championship game versus Dallas is one of the most iconic plays in team history. The eight-time Pro Bowler was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
With the 18th pick of the 1980 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Art Monk, wide receiver, Syracuse University
James Arthur Monk is the face of the Joe Gibbs Redskins of the 1980s. The understated wideout was a master at moving the chains. If it was third and 8, Monk would get 8 1/2 EVERY TIME. His 1984 season was the single greatest season for an NFL wide receiver at that time as he amassed a record 106 receptions. Monk also knew how to rise to the occasion in the playoffs, totaling 69 catches for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 career playoff games. Monk’s 12,026 yards are almost 3,000 more than any other receiver in team history. Monk was a three-time Super Bowl champion, a member of the 1980's NFL All-Decade team and became a Hall of Famer in 2008.
With the 4th pick of the 1992 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Desmond Howard, wide receiver, University of Michigan
Never in the history of the NFL had a Super Bowl champion drafted as high as the Redskins' No. 4 overall pick in 1992. The 'Skins were coming off a blowout of the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. They had "The Posse" at wide receiver in Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders so the selection of college football’s best all-around player and Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard felt like stealing. The Redskins ended up with the fourth pick after coupling their own pick (No. 28) with a pick acquired the season before in a deal with the Chargers (No. 6). Gibbs famously said Howard has no flaws. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice one major weakness: Howard couldn’t get off the line when pressed and jammed by bigger corners. Howard was an excellent return man, but the Redskins already had Brian Mitchell, who was one of the best returners in the NFL, so Mr. Heisman Trophy couldn’t get on the field. Howard recorded only 66 catches with the Redskins before being taken by Jacksonville in the 1995 expansion draft. Howard went on to Green Bay and became the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI. the only return man in history to win that honor.
With the 4th pick of the 1995 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Michael Westbrook, wide receiver, University of Colorado
Westbrook was taken a year after Washington selected Heath Shuler third overall. Shuler and Westbrook were supposed to be the Redskins' version of Aikman and Irvin for head coach Norv Turner. It never panned out. Westbrook was an enigma. He was arguably one of the most physically gifted receivers the 'Skins have had. The problem was he didn’t enjoy the game. When he played, he performed. Westbrook is 10th in team history in career receptions and touchdowns. His 12 100-yard receiving games are two more then Ricky Sanders. His career average of 15.3 yards per reception is comparable to Gary Clark’s 15.9. Few fans will remember his 1999 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,191 yards and nine scores. More will remember him sucker-punching Stephen Davis on the practice field or illegally ripping off his helmet during a 7-7 game, drawing a 15-yard flag and denying the Redskins a chance to beat the Giants in 1997.
With the 15th pick of the 2001 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select, Rod Gardner, wide receiver, Clemson University
The Rod Gardner era in Washington can be summed up by the nickname given to him by his teammates: 50-50. He earned that nickname because when you threw him the ball, there was a 50 percent chance he would catch it and a 50 percent chance he would drop it. Gardner still caught 242 balls as a Redskin, and his 22 TD grabs are enough for 11th all-time. He also had a 1,000 yard-season in 2002, hauling in 71 balls on 141 targets. Yep, 50-50. But in my eyes, Rod’s legacy will be tied to my favorite story ever attributed to a Redskins player. In 2004, ol' 50-50 rolled up to his favorite club and tossed the keys to his brand-new SUV to the valet. When Gardner was ready to leave, he found out the club did not offer valet service and the person whom Rod tossed his keys to stole his car. Too bad the “valet” didn’t drop the keys.
With the 22nd pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Josh Doctson, wide receiver, Texas Christian University
We won’t know for at least three seasons if the selection of Doctson will pan out, but every other wideout taken by Washington in the first round has had at least a flash of brilliance, with two of them making it all the way to Canton. As fans of the Burgundy and Gold, let’s be thankful Doctson wasn’t selected in Round 2. There, he would have joined the names of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Taylor Jacobs and Walter Murray. All major busts. For now, I say we trust in Scot and wait to see if this Horned Frog can leap over Westbrook and Gardner to become another great Redskins first-round wide receiver.
Chuck Sapienza is the Executive Producer of the Naval Academy radio network and the former VP/Programming for ESPN980. He was also a part of the Washington Redskins Radio Network from 2009 to 2015, serving as the network's Executive Producer. He can be reached at SapienzaChuck@gmail.com
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