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

What might have been...
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Paul Krause

  • Safety | 1964 NFL Draft

The now-Washington Commanders chose Pro Football Hall of Famers in the first two rounds of the 1964 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, only one of them - Charley Taylor - spent his career with the franchise.

Paul Krause led the NFL in interceptions during his rookie season in Washington. He was a first-team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons. During four years in the nation's capital, he picked off 28 passes. That still ranks him No. 6 on the franchise’s all-time list, despite playing fewer games for the team than anyone else in the top 10.

Krause was a classic deep safety with excellent range and a magical ability to find the ball. But his defensive coaches considered him a weak tackler and head coach Otto Graham listened to them.

He traded Krause to the Minnesota Vikings for virtually nothing - run-of-the-mill linebacker/tight end Marlon McKeever and a draft pick. The move incensed the team’s defensive leader Sam Huff.

Huff knew defense, far better, it turns out, than the coaches making the decisions. Krause played 12 more seasons for the Vikings, making the Pro Bowl in half of them, and intercepting 53 more passes. By the time he retired in 1979, no one in league history had more picks.

Stan Humphries

  • Quarterback | 1988 NFL Draft

Stan Humphries was never supposed to be a star. Washington had veteran Doug Williams and its quarterback-in-waiting in Mark Rypien. Humphries was taken in the sixth round of the 1988 NFL Draft to provide some young depth.

That’s exactly what he did for the club in 1990 when he started five games - winning three - in relief of the injured Rypien. But the starting option was fully healthy the following year, and Humphries merely watched from the sidelines as his team fielded one of the greatest offenses in NFL history en route to their third Super Bowl victory.

With youngster Cary Conklin in the fold by 1992, Washington felt comfortable in trading Humphries to the injury-depleted San Diego Chargers.

Rypien began struggling with injuries that season and it turns out Conklin was not the answer. Neither was veteran Rich Gannon. Or Heath Shuler, who arrived with a lot of fanfare in 1994. Gus Frerotte lent some stability to the position in the latter half of the decade, but the fact is Washington began its quest for a top-flight signal caller that still goes on to this day.

When they had talent at the position - like Brad Johnson and Trent Green - organizational incompetence sabotaged their stays in DC. Humphries was not exactly a world-beater, but here’s what he did for the Chargers: he won more than 60 percent of his 76 starts, led them into the playoffs three times, and to the Super Bowl in 1994. During his years in San Diego, Washington barely won 40% of their contests.