The Washington Redskins had an incredible bounce back season this year. Many pundits and fans were ready to fire Jay Gruden due to Robert Griffin III not progressing as a quarterback under him. Instead he handed the reins to Kirk Cousins, a man who was a fourth round pick in 2012, the year they selected RG3 second overall. Fans were outraged over the team seemingly giving up on Griffin so quickly, as it seemed at times the organization wasn’t patient enough with him. This season, the ‘Skins shocked everybody by winning the division and by all looks of things, they seem like they’ll be able to contend for it again this coming year.
When looking at Washington in the 21st century though, it’s full of disappointment as the team has been notorious for overpaying free agents and whiffing on way too many draft picks. The franchise we knew as a powerhouse back in the early 80s and early 90s is long gone and while they may contend in a weak NFC East, they’re still very far from a Super Bowl. The ‘Skins have far more needs as a team, and that will have to keep being addressed in future drafts. For now, we’ll be looking at their first round picks of the 21st century and see where things went wrong. We’ll be excluding this year’s draft, as it’s silly to re-draft for a player that hasn’t even played yet. Josh Doctson is not on this list, as we’d like to see him play in the NFL first. We’ll be going from 2001 to 2015. Going through this list, you’ll also notice a common mistake that the ‘Skins made and that was constantly giving up first round picks.
2001: Reggie Wayne
Original Pick: Rod Gardner
The 2001 draft produced 17 Pro Bowlers in the first round alone. This is an extraordinary batting average for a draft and it was a great year to be looking for a wide receiver. The Redskins were in that situation, and they selected Rod Gardner with the 15th overall pick. The highlight of his Redskins career came in a 208-yard game in his first season. Gardner had a background as a quarterback and the team used that in gadget plays.
Washington ultimately passed on a guy that will one day be going into the Hall of Fame and a guy who became Peyton Manning’s no.1 target in Reggie Wayne, who fell to the Colts at 30th overall. Santana Moss may have been a good option at 16th overall, who the ‘Skins acquired anyway in a trade later, but Wayne was by far the best receiver of the draft and he would have helped Washington’s passing attack throughout the decade.
2002: David Garrard
Original Pick: Patrick Ramsey
David Garrard was by no means a superstar quarterback, but he did turn out to have a few good years in the league. The Redskins found themselves picking 32nd after a trade with New England and took QB Patrick Ramsey with the final pick of the first round. Ramsey turned out to be an incredible disappointment for the ‘Skins, as he only lasted four seasons with the team, and constantly found himself battling for a starting job.
Garrard rode the pine in Jacksonville for several years, before the Jags eventually decided to cut Byron Leftwich for him. You may be asking yourself why a re-draft would have an underwhelming pick in Garrard, but in a year where the Redskins were hunting for a quarterback, he really was the best option available in terms of where Washington was picking. Maybe under Joe Gibbs in Washington, Garrard’s career could have been better.
2003: Troy Polamalu
Original Pick: Surrendered 13th overall pick to sign RFA Laveranues Coles
Here is where we start running into a common theme of this article. The Redskins have given up far too many first round picks in their recent history. In this case, they made a run for restricted free agent Laveranues Coles and by signing him, they gave up their 13th overall pick as compensation to the New York Jets. Had the Redskins simply held onto the pick, they had an elite safety waiting for them.
Troy Polamalu was perhaps the greatest safety of his generation and he anchored the modern Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh, helping lead the Steelers to two Super Bowls and three appearances. Polamalu also made eight Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pros. He was also the Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. His no.43 has already been unofficially retired by the Steelers and he’s going to Canton the second he is eligible. The Redskins missed out on that opportunity.
2004: Sean Taylor
Original Pick: Sean Taylor
I am not going to re-draft this pick, simply because Sean Taylor’s death was a tragedy and it was a cowardly act by home invaders that not only cost Taylor his career, but his life. Taylor was well on his way to becoming one of the NFL’s elite safeties and many will remember his hard hits and his refusal to go at anything less than 100%, including the Pro Bowl.
In just four years in the league, Taylor made the Pro Bowl twice. At the time of his death in late 2007, he was tied for the NFC lead in interceptions. Before the 2007 season, he was quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying: “You play a kid’s game for a king’s ransom. And if you don’t take it serious enough, eventually one day you’re going to say, ‘Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.'”
2005: Roddy White
Original Pick: Jason Campbell
The Redskins traded up to pick quarterback Jason Campbell in this draft, just giving up on Patrick Ramsey a few years after drafting him. Unfortunately, the Redskins didn’t find the right trading partner in moving up, as Aaron Rodgers went to the Green Bay Packers the pick before Campbell. If the Redskins were serious about getting a QB, they should have moved up to the mid-teens to get the kid out of Berkeley.
Assuming the Redskins stay put, in hindsight they should have passed on Campbell and simply drafted talent. Roddy White went 27th overall to the Atlanta Falcons and for several years, he was their no.1 receiver and one of the NFL’s best. Julio Jones has since surpassed him, which makes people forget how good White was in the mid to late 2000s. We already have Reggie Wayne going to Washington in this list, so can you imagine a tandem of Reggie Wayne and Roddy White in Atlanta?
2006: Brandon Marshall
Original Pick: Traded pick for 25th overall pick in 2005 draft.
It may seem like I’m overloading the Redskins on wide receiver, but I’m a firm believer in drafting the best player available, especially in the first round. Looking back at this draft, there’s no talent that jumps out at me as much as Brandon Marshall.
This was another year where the Redskins didn’t have their first round pick, as they had given it up the year before when they moved up to draft Campbell.
Brandon Marshall, for all his faults, has remained one of the NFL’s most productive receivers year after year, no matter who his quarterback is. Marshall is a six-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2012. He holds the record for most receptions in a game with 21 and is in the 10,000 yard receiving club. He has had a 1,000 yard receiving season with four different teams.
2007: Darrelle Revis
Original Pick: LaRon Landry
There, now we’re finding the perfect marriage of the best player available and filling a team need. LaRon Landry had some good years in Washington but no one would ever confuse him with an elite player. He’s now essentially out of the league, while Darrelle Revis is still a top-5 cornerback in the NFL.
Revis quickly grew into the best corner in the game in his first stint with the New York Jets, but became notorious for continuously holding out for a better contract. After a trade to Tampa Bay, he was the highest paid corner in the game, but was quickly cut after just one season. Many wondered if Revis was done, but Revis proved everyone wrong after signing in New England and leading them to their fourth Super Bowl, anchoring the back end of their defense.
He’s since returned to the Jets, having signed another lucrative contract. The Redskins have no problem paying players, so keeping Revis for all these years could have kept their defense respectable.
2008: Jamaal Charles
Original Pick: Traded down with Atlanta for picks no.34, 48 and 103
The Redskins gave up their first round pick to acquire more picks later on. Whether they were drafting in the first or second round, there was an elite talent still available in Jamaal Charles. Charles has become one of, if not the best running back in the league through his tenure in Kansas City and was an absolute steal at 73rd overall. Who did the Redskins acquire with their additional picks?
Devin Thomas and Fred Davis (they eventually traded the 103rd overall pick as well). Fred Davis had some decent years, while Devin Thomas was a bust at wide receiver. We haven’t yet drafted the ‘Skins a running back on this list and this is a great way to start. The Redskins have constantly had trouble finding a long-term solution in the backfield and drafting Charles would have solved those problems.
2009: Clay Matthews
Original Pick: Brian Orakpo
Brian Orakpo was by no means a bad pick, as he has made the Pro Bowl several times and is a very fine pass rusher. Unfortunately, Orakpo had two straight season ending injuries a few years ago which led the ‘Skins to let him walk in free agency.
Clay Matthews made an immediate impact for the Packers and has had several dominant seasons. He is already a six-time Pro Bowler and is a Super Bowl champion. He’s also made the All-Pro team and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. He made a bigger impact for his team than Orakpo did. Again, this is no slight against Orakpo, but Matthews is simply a better option in this re-draft.
2010: Trent Williams
Original Pick: Trent Williams
While there were plenty of great players in this draft, you do need a blue chip offensive tackle at some point and the Redskins were right to go with Trent Williams at fifth overall back in 2010. Names like Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Joe Haden and Rob Gronkowski are all elite players and could have taken this spot, but Williams is an elite offensive tackle and those are hard to come by.
Williams has now made four consecutive Pro Bowls and was a second-team All-Pro in 2015. If you’re going to tell me that Rob Gronkowski or Earl Thomas are simply better players, I’m not making any argument against that, but someone has to protect the quarterback and it’s the offensive line that makes an offense go. I really don’t think the Redskins got this pick wrong.
2011: Richard Sherman
Original Pick: Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan is a fine player and he made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but he has since had trouble taking strides in his career since then.
Richard Sherman is a player that has since become one of the league’s most charismatic and is arguably the best cornerback in the game. He is a part of the Legion of Boom that won the Seattle Seahawks a Super Bowl and has made the Seahawks an elite franchise. Many teams completely mis-evaluated Sherman, which is why he fell to the mid-rounds.
We’ve already drafted Darrelle Revis to the Redskins and with Sherman being added to the fold, we’ve basically compiled the best CB tandem you could ask for in football. If you think Tony Romo throws untimely interceptions now, just think of the nightmare he would have had to deal with when deciding whether to throw the ball in Sherman’s direction or to Revis Island.
2012: Russell Wilson
Original Pick: Robert Griffin III
It was evident by 2012 that the Redskins needed a quarterback, but when you look back on the trade they made to move up to second overall, it is now looking like one of the worst trades in NFL history. Sitting at the sixth overall pick, the Redskins traded up with the Rams to acquire the 2nd overall pick in 2016. In return, the Rams got the ‘Skins sixth overall pick, their second round pick in 2012, their first rounder in 2013 and their first rounder in 2014.
Robert Griffin III looked like he was worth the high price after a historic rookie season, but his knee injury at the end of that season completely derailed him and it doesn’t look like he’s ever fully recovered from it. Mike Shanahan was fired following the 2013 season and over the past two years, we’ve seen Jay Gruden come in and give up on RG3.
Russell Wilson meanwhile, was very much available at sixth overall and could have even been taken in the second round, as he fell all the way to the Seahawks in the third round. Wilson would have solved Washington’s QB woes and they would have retained all their draft picks.
2013: DeAndre Hopkins
Original Pick: Traded to Rams due to trade up for RG3
Yes, this is the fourth receiver we have re-drafted to the Redskins on this list, but by 2013, Reggie Wayne’s career was dwindling, so this pick is now all about finding Wayne’s replacement and a new toy for Russell Wilson. The 2013 draft wasn’t highly touted by experts going in, as the consensus was there were many solid players, but no game changers.
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the exceptions of the 2013 draft, as he has filled the void in Houston left by Andre Johnson’s departure. He’s a bonafide no.1 receiver and will be Brock Osweiler’s top target in Houston.
As mentioned, the Redskins didn’t hold a first round pick in 2013 as part of the trade for RG3. I don’t know about you but parlaying two first-round picks into Russell Wilson and DeAndre Hopkins sounds a lot better than RG3.
2014: Khalil Mack
Original Pick: Traded to Rams for RG3
Now, this one hurts. This was yet another first round pick that Washington gave up to get RG3 and what made this one all the more painful was the Redskins were downright awful in 2014. They finished second last in the league and didn’t even get to reap the benefits of being a bad team. Instead, the Rams reaped the rewards and held onto the 2nd overall pick that would have belonged to the Redskins.
Had the Redskins held onto that pick, with hindsight, the no-brainer pick is Khalil Mack, who is already looking like the best player of that draft and is already one of the elite young talents in the league.
Mack is now coming off a 2015 season in which he registered 15 sacks and started all 16 games, recording 77 tackles. Mack is spearheading a turnaround for the Oakland Raiders and he could have been Washington’s young stud in the pass rush.
2015: Brandon Scherff
Original Pick: Brandon Scherff
Again, for the same reason we’re not re-drafting their 2016 first-round pick because it’s far too early to tell what the right pick would have been and it’s still too early to re-draft their 2015 pick.
You could perhaps look to Todd Gurley as someone the Redskins may like right now, but there weren’t enough rookies last year to knock Scherff off this list. Scherff plays the right side with Williams anchoring the left side and this was a smart move by Washington. We saw Kirk Cousins have an amazing season with these too tackles protecting him. I never think it’s a bad move to shore up your offensive line.
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