8 NFL Draft picks the Washington Commanders gave up on too soon

What might have been...
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When Steve McMichael is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, it will undoubtedly fill Chicago Bears fans with a sense of pride. But it may strike long-time New England Patriots supporters a little differently.

They may be hit with a jolt of what might have been. You see, the Patriots drafted McMichael back in 1980 but released him after one year. The Bears were there to scoop him up. That sense of regret is something Washington Commanders fans can certainly relate to.

Washington has drafted and developed some of the league’s greatest players. But they’ve also misjudged the value of some of those draft picks and given up on them too soon. Some went onto stardom with other teams. Some merely became serviceable players at a time when the franchise was in desperate need of that very thing.

Some went via unequal trades. Others were allowed to leave via free agency when the team seemed uninterested in re-signing them. And still others were simply cut outright.

Regardless of how they left, these were all players with whom the Commanders - under whatever name they were going by at the time - should have tried a little harder. They thought highly enough of each to draft them - just not highly enough of any to keep them.

Here are eight such draft picks from the team’s history - stars and bit-part players alike - who Washington gave up on too soon.

NFL Draft picks the Commanders gave up on too soon

Charley Conerly

  • Quarterback | 1945 NFL Draft

After serving in the war, Charlie Conerly was eligible to be drafted in 1945, which is when the now-Washington Commanders chose him in the 13th round. But the quarterback opted to return to the University of Mississippi to finish his education, so he did not enter the league until 1948.

Washington still had the aging Sammy Baugh under center and thought that Harry Gilmer would be his successor. They dealt Conerly to the New York Giants for a fullback and a defensive back, both of whom played in DC for a few undistinguished seasons before leaving.

Meanwhile, Conerly played 14 seasons for the Giants, starting more than 100 games. He made a couple of Pro Bowls, won a league MVP award in 1959, and led them to the NFL championship in 1956.

Washington did find a decent quarterback to replace Baugh during the 1950s in Eddie LeBaron. But they could have had Conerly, whose jersey number 42 was retired by New York.

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