At the turn of the century, the Washington Redskins had a lot of things going for them. We were coming off of a playoff appearance where we were a botched hold away from the NFC championship game, we had a quarterback (Brad Johnson) who threw for over 4000 yards (including the playoffs), a running back (Stephen Davis) who rushed for a club record 1405 yards (including playoffs), and we were heading into year two of new owner Daniel Snyder's tenure. The 2000's were sure to be a great start to a new breed of Redskins football.
We had just come off of the 1999 draft that saw us land all-everything Georgia defensive back, Champ Bailey and stud Michigan right tackle, Jon Jansen, both of whom started all 16 games (plus 2 playoff games) as rookies. We were entering the 2000 draft with two first round picks (thanks to the genius that was Charley Casserly), the second and third overall selections, which was unheard of for a team coming off a deep playoff run. Those two first's brought us LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. We now had two bookend offensive tackles, and two defensive superstars to build this team around. We had drafted wisely, and it was bound to pay off. The future was sure looking bright!
The 2000 season started out with a bang, with the Redskins winning five of their first eight games, but the second half of the season saw a reverse outcome, as the team went 3-5 down the stretch to finish the season at a disappointing 8-8. During this slide head coach Norv Turner was fired and replaced by Terry Robiskie, who held the title of interim head coach until seasons end. He was quickly replaced by former Browns and Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer. The dark days were now upon us.
The infutility that became the Redskins drafts lasted for 10 years. It saw names like Rod Gardner, Patrick Ramsey, Taylor Jacobs, Carlos Rogers, Jason Campbell, Laron Landry, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, who all never lived up to their draft positions. We had some success with players like Ladel Betts, Derrick Dockery, Chris Cooley and Rocky McIntosh, but none became difference makers to this team. One of the two players we did hit on, the late great Sean Taylor(the other being Brian Orakpo in 2009)left this world well before his time. The dark cloud grew even darker.
During this 10 year span of draft infutility, the Redskins drafted for need, often overlooking the best players avaliable, in favor of a guy at a position the team was currently lacking, but who also may have been a great reach where he was drafted. Jason Campbell was a perfect example. The team desperately needed a quarterback, and traded back into the first round to aquire him. By doing so we ended up with a below average signal caller, and a lack of a first round pick in 2006. Had we just hung tight in 2005, and drafted best avaliable, we could have been sitting in a position to take Jay Cutler the following year.
2007 yet again saw us pass by the best players avaliable in Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and Mississippi's Patrick Willis, both who are now considered to be one of best in the game at their respective positions. Instead we took Laron Landry because we had a need at strong safety. Landry is no longer with the team.
We certainly needed offensive playmakers in 2008, but because of the incompetent drafting nature of then general manager Vinny Cerrato, we ended up with a model, a pot head and a gimp. We passed on players like Jordy Nelson, Curtis Lofton, Matt Forte and DeSean Jackson.
Since Mike Shanahan has taken over, and Vinny Cerrato has gone to become a singer on a cruise ship, we seem to have righted the ship. In 2009 we selected Brian Orakpo at number 13 overall. He has become a pretty good player for the Redskins. 2010 saw us select Trent Williams, and although he hasn't quite lived up to the hype just yet, he has the potential to be very good. 2011 was the best draft example of taking best player avaliable since 2000. We traded back multiple times, picked up some much needed draft picks, and secured the services of Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson, all players of value at positions of need.
In 2012 we traded away the farm to move to the number two overall spot in the NFL draft. We have an opportunity to not only take the best player avaliable, but also a player at a position of dire need. The question remains, what will we do with our third and two fourth round picks? There are still many needs on this team, but can we afford to chase those needs, and bypass the best avaliable?
The start of the draft is just over two days away, but the interesting rounds are going to come on Friday and Saturday, where the Redskins have an opportunity to turn the fortunes of a decade long draft drought into a potential gold mine.
As the great Robert Browning once wrote, "Ah, But a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for", but could reaching for a player(s)because of need alone, cause the Redskins another decade long drought of disappointment and despair?