The best and worst NFL Draft classes in Redskins history
By Jonathan Eig
Worst Redskins draft classes
The difficult thing in picking the worst draft classes in Redskins history is evaluating the 1970s, when George Allen essentially traded away Washington’s entire draft to acquire a bunch of old Rams. It worked. The “Future is Now” Redskins went to their first Super Bowl and were a constant playoff contender through much of Allen’s tenure. Then, as you might have predicted, it stopped working. So how do you evaluate nearly an entire decade when the ‘Skins highest pick was often in Round 5 – when finding George Starke (Round 11, 1971) or Frank Grant (Round 13, 1972) qualifies as a great success story? Here’s how I do it.
5: 1976 and 1977 – George Allen
They found Mike Thomas in 1975, and Tony Green and Don Hover in 1978, but the two-year stretch of ‘76-’77 resulted in nobody. I mean, nobody. Look it up. Nobody. The most successful player the Redskins drafted in that span came in the 14th round of the 1976 NFL Draft, and he would go on to have a ten-year professional career which included a championship. Unfortunately, that was Quinn Buckner, who spent his pro career in the NBA, since he was, in fact, a basketball player. The only reason that this late ‘70s stretch isn’t higher is because they were never drafting higher than the fourth round, and they actually had used this draft capital to improve the team earlier in the decade.
4: 2002 – Vinny Cerrato/Joe Mendes
The hallmark of a Vinny Cerrato draft class was one decent player hidden amid a heaping pile of failure. So he could always say that he brought in Fred Smoot or Derrick Dockery or Rocky McIntosh. The fact that almost none of his draft picks ended up being significant contributors to the team (and some – like Carlos Rogers and LaRon Landry, would flourish only after they moved on), is the number one reason the Redskins were so bad as the 21st century moved into its second decade.
Almost every draft Cerrato oversaw was a disaster. I am choosing 2002, when Vinny ran things with cap manager Joe Mendes, over other years, because it was a year in which he actually had draft picks to play with. Having pulled off a trade with New England, who was desperate to move up to select tight end Daniel Graham, Vinny stockpiled four picks in the first three rounds. He did find Ladell Betts, who did have one glorious year for the Skins. That’s it. He swung and missed at a first-round quarterback Patrick Ramsey – always a major blow – then grabbed non-entities (at least in a professional football sense – they may be lovely gentlemen) Rashad Bauman and Cliff Russell in the third. Return on investment: Two catches and two interceptions during their Redskins careers. For two third-rounders.
Later, Cerrato did grab Robert Royal and Rock Cartwright, whose names you might actually remember, even though they did virtually nothing to help the team win actual games. Ten picks, one good season from Betts. Not stellar. But typical Vinny.
3: 1996 – Charlie Casserly
Look, I like Charlie. He was a lifelong Redskin, and I enjoy listening to his analysis of the draft. Just as long as he’s not actually making any picks for a team I care about, because his track record throughout the 1990s isn’t very good.
In 1996, he actually did make one great pick. Without a second or third-round pick, Charlie Casserly found Auburn RB Stephen Davis in the fourth round. I don’t need to tell you how good Stephen Davis was. So how could a draft which acquired him be considered among the worst in franchise history?
Well, for one thing, nobody else in the draft class did anything. Kelvin Kinney played a few seasons because the Redskins had no one better, then left for a remarkable sojourn through two countries and ten cities (I’m serious – look it up). But the reason 1996 ranks so high on the list of futility is that it featured the worst pick in Redskins history. Worse than Heath. Worse than Desmond. Worse than the slew of failed WRs.
Casserly traded Washington’s second and third-round picks that year for the chance to select OT Andre Johnson at the end of the first round. Problem is – Johnson couldn’t play. Not even close. I mean, at least Rod Gardner caught the ball fifty percent of the time. But Johnson was successful zero percent of the time. He was overpowered by NFL linemen, and played three games in his entire NFL career. Sorry Charlie. There’s no ducking this one.
2: 1992 – Charlie Casserly
Except maybe this one was worse. This is the Desmond Howard draft. I remember how lucky we all felt back then. Super Bowl Champs picking the Heisman Trophy winner. But Howard was not strong enough or fast enough to separate from NFL-caliber defensive backs. He did prove to be elusive enough to become one of the finest kick returners in the league. He just never did that for the Redskins. So it was bad. But not bad enough, by itself, to rank this high.
The problem with the ’92 draft is that the Redskins had almost every pick – eleven in all – and came away with almost no one who contributed to the team. Second, third, and fourth rounds? Shane Collins, Paul Siever, and Chris Hakel. How many of those jerseys did you have? The best pick Charlie made that year was his last – Mr. Irrelevant, Matt Elliott, who at least made the team, and in true Redskins fashion, would go on to become a starting center for another team.
1: 2008 – Vinny Cerrato
This is one that my doctor has warned me not to write too much about, because it still pushes my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Five picks in the first four rounds. Ten picks overall. This was the “three receivers in the second round” draft. As if Vinnie were trying to outgun Matt Millen in one glorious disaster.
Devin Thomas was a poor man’s Desmond Howard – basically hung on being a special teamer because he wasn’t a very good WR. Malcolm Kelly was a human pulled hamstring. Fred Davis could kind of play, but had other issues that derailed his career. Third-rounder Chad Rinehart turned into a mediocre interior lineman for another team. T
he two best players Vinny found that year were his final two picks – Rob Jackson, who kept flashing potential as a pass rusher but never really accomplished much, and Chris Horton, who for about three minutes looked like a real steal as a starting-caliber safety. Only after those three minutes, he turned back into a late-round draft pick and the Cinderella story was over.
You know what hurts so much about those three second-rounders? Two picks after Devin Thomas – Jordy Nelson. The pick after Fred Davis – DeSean Jackson. Ten picks after Malcolm Kelly – Martellus Bennett. There were WRs and TEs to be had in 2008. It’s just that Vinnie was… you know what? My doctor told me to stop. So I’m gonna stop.