Examining Commanders' unhappy draft hunting ground at No. 2 overall

Will general manager Adam Peters have more luck in 2024?
Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III / Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Commanders hold the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft, which hasn't been a happy hunting ground throughout franchise history.

Unless Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters trades his pick, it will mark the sixth time in franchise history that the team has had the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft. The previous results could have been better. Sometimes it was due to injury. Sometimes, poor player management. Other times, it was simply a bad evaluation. Usually, it was a combination of two or more of those factors.

Having the second overall pick puts a team in a position to get a cornerstone player. In the fourth year of the draft - 1939 - the Chicago Bears got quarterback Sid Luckman at No. 2. Sixty-nine years later, the Detroit Lions took Calvin Johnson. Both went on to Pro Football Hall of Fame careers, as did 11 other players taken in that spot. These include the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Eric Dickerson, and Marshall Faulk.

Then again, No. 2 picks have also constituted some of the draft’s biggest all-time busts. Tony Mandarich and Ryan Leaf headline that worrisome list. They are joined by Rick Mirer, Greg Robinson, and Charles Rogers, who caught 36 balls after being taken second by the Lions in 2003.

The Commanders are expected to take a quarterback. We don’t have to look far back to see the potential highs and lows. Will the new signal-caller be the next C.J. Stroud or Zach Wilson? Washington, for the record, already has a No. 2 overall quarterback on its roster in Marcus Mariota.

Let’s take a quick look at Washington’s troubled history with the No. 2 selection. Whether this sheds any light or offers any insight into what Peters should do in 2024 is debatable, but as George Santayana famously pointed out, if you don’t remember history, you are doomed to repeat it. 

The Spanish-born, Harvard-educated philosopher left the USA when he was 50 years old in 1912 and spent his remaining years in Europe. But Santayana did once opine that three things made America great. Jazz music, kindness, … and football. I wonder how he’d assess the Jayden Daniels/Drake Maye/J.J. McCarthy competition?

Without further ado, here's how Washington has fared at No. 2 overall throughout franchise history.