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

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Robert Griffin III
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Riley Smith - 1936 NFL Draft

Riley Smith was the second player ever drafted in the NFL given that 1936 was the first year of the draft. The now-Washington Commanders were picking second, behind Philadelphia. The Eagles chose Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger.

He never ended up playing in the league. Thus, Smith was the first drafted player to ever appear in an NFL game.

Washington wasn’t even Washington at the time. They were still in Boston. Smith was drafted to play quarterback, but this was in the single wing. It was not the same position it is today. And the former Alabama star, like all players in the league’s early years, didn’t merely play signal-caller. He was also the team's placekicker and played in the defensive backfield.

When Smith joined the team, Boston already had a future Pro Football Hall of Famer in the backfield - Cliff Battles. The following year - their first in Washington - they would select Sammy Baugh. This trio constituted one of the greatest backfields in NFL history. They won their first championship in 1937. The future looked very bright.

It stayed bright primarily because of Baugh. Battles would retire following a contract dispute the following year and Smith had his career cut short by injury in 1938. It was a major loss.

During his brief three years in the league, Smith was a leader, a reliable kicker, and a very good defender. Though Baugh threw the passes from his single-wing halfback position, Smith was entrusted with play-calling. He coached briefly after his playing days were over, then served in the US Navy during World War II, before going on to have a successful business career back in Alabama after the war.