When you think of late round draft prospects, you think of players who will add depth to your team. You think of players who may have slipped due to character concerns. You think of players who will need to take a few years to develop into anything useful. On the rare occasion, you will find a player who has somehow fallen through the cracks and produces at a high rate over a long period of time. A "draft gem," if you will. With the Redskins having two picks in the 5th round this year (thanks Haynesworth), I've decided to take a look at the Redskins best 5th round pick of all time.
In the 5th round, with the 119th overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected: Dexter Manley, DE, Oklahoma State. In his rookie year, he played in all 16 games and started nine of them. That is a lot to ask for a 5th round pick but the results were better than expected. He had 6 sacks in his rookie year (except they didn't count as sacks because it wasn't an official stat until the following year). In year two, he exploded onto the scene. Starting all nine games he played in, Manley racked up 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 fumble recoveries culminating in a Super Bowl XVII victory. It only got better from there. In 1983, his third year in the league, he started all 16 games, racking up 11 sacks and 1 interception on the way to a Super Bowl loss to the Raiders. Manley, or the "Secretary of Defense," began giving opposing quarterbacks, offensive lineman, and coaches nightmares. He racked up 13.5 sacks in 1984, 15 sacks in 1985, and broke a Redskins single season record with a whopping 18.5 sacks in 1986. In 1987, in a strike-shortened season, Manley was still able to rack up 8.5 sacks in 11 games and played an integral part in the Redskins Super Bowl XXII run. He played for the Redskins for two more years, racking up 9 sacks in each of them, respectively, before moving onto the Phoenix Cardinals (played 4 games) and lastly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (added 6.5 sacks)
Dexter Manley's story is as much sad as it is triumphant. In 1989, Manley failed his third NFL drug test and was banned from the NFL for life with an opportunity to apply for reinstatement after one year. Cocaine proved to be the culprit. It was at this point that the Redskins released the troubled lineman and a year later, when he was reinstated, he was claimed off of waivers by the Phoenix Cardinals. After a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year, he failed his 4th drug test and was ultimately banned for life. He announced his immediate retirement on December 12th, 1991. He played one year in the CFL but in 1995, he was tried and convicted of cocaine possession, and sentenced to prison. He blamed his drug issues on his abusive, alcoholic father, his low self-esteem, and his ultimate issue with being an illiterate adult. Since then, Manley seems to have gotten past his demons. He is now married, has survived brain surgery and speaks often about addiction at functions for young adults.
All in all, that 1981, 5th round, 119th overall pick still holds the record for most sacks by a Redskin with 91. He still holds the record for most sacks by a Redskin in a single season with 18.5. He played in three Super Bowls for the Redskins, winning two of them. He knocked out Dallas Cowboys QB Danny White in the 1982 NFC Championship game (not an actual achievement, but its against the Cowboys so it fits). He has been named to both the 80 Greatest Redskins and the Redskins Ring of Fame. With the 2013 NFL Draft coming this week and the Redskins not only having two 5th round picks but ALSO the 119th overall pick (in the 4th round this year), the Washington Redskins would be extremely lucky to draft a player in any of those spots who could contribute half of what Dexter Manley contributed.