Finding Gems

Joe Gibbs helped find some late-round gems in his last stint as head coach in Washington. With all of the second-day picks the Redskins have this year, he'll need to regain the touch if the Redskins are to have a productive draft.

In 1981, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, while working out another player at Portland State, noticed a tight end on the field. The guy had a big chest and looked strong.

So Gibbs asked him to run. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

''The guy can run,'' Gibbs told himself.

Then he asked him to catch a couple passes, which he did so smoothly.

So Gibbs called Bobby Beathard and asked him about Clint Didier, why no one was considering this tight end. Beathard told him: ''There is no tight end at Portland State; they run the run-and-shoot.''

But the Redskins saw something in Didier and drafted him in the 12th round in 1981. Didier wound up playing six years for Washington, becoming a crucial pass-catcher.

The Redskins hope they can find another Didier. Or Brian Mitchell (fifth round). Or Mark Rypien (sixth round). Or Dexter Manley (fifth round). Or Mark Schlereth (10th round).

With six picks in the fifth round and below, the Redskins must try to find some golden nuggets, something they haven't done lately. Only four of their last 21 picks in the fourth round or lower remain on the roster.

''Those stories [like Didier's] are out there,'' Gibbs said. '''There will be some great players drafted from the fifth on down. The team that hits on a couple of those, it changes the atmosphere of a team. They'll be here a long time and they won't be a big cap guy. Those are where the home runs [of the draft] are.''

The Redskins knew they would not draft certain positions in the second round, such as running back. So they told coaches at any position they wouldn't draft there to focus on guys in the lower rounds. One coach already told them he's excited about two guys who won't get drafted and they can sign as free agents.

The Redskins hope that putting an emphasis on these picks, and not wasting much time on the high choices, will result in unearthed gems.

''We think we're well-prepared,'' Gibbs said.


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