Ranking the 15 biggest NFL Draft steals in Washington Commanders history

The Washington Commanders franchise has secured some monumental draft steals throughout history.
Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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In the late 1950s, the team now known as the Washington Commanders selected 91 over three years in the NFL Draft. That’s back when the process lasted for 30 rounds. In the early 2000s, by which time it had shrunk to seven rounds, there was a three-year period during which they added just 13 players.

As with the number totals, the quality of selections had fluctuated wildly from the draft’s inception in 1936 to last year’s most recent incarnation. When future Pro Football Hall of Famers like Ray Flaherty (the 1930s) or Bobby Beathard (the 1980s) were in charge, Washington tended to find excellent players regardless of the round. When others have held the reins, the results have not been so good.

The failures of the franchise under the previous owner become crystal clear when you begin studying those drafts. Several blue-chippers were indeed chosen during those years, but they pretty much all came in the early rounds. If you begin looking for steals - players drafted in later rounds who far exceeded initial expectations - you confront a depressing reality. There have been virtually none for this franchise in the 21st century.

Of course, this depends in part on how you define a steal. Kamren Curl was an excellent selection in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. But comparing him to the franchise’s greatest steals, he falls pretty far down the list.

There are at least 15 players chosen before the year 2000 who would rank as bigger draft steals than Curl. On the following list of 15 greatest draft steals in franchise history, the safety gets an honorable mention, but no better.

You could make the case that the greatest steals in Commanders draft history were players like Sammy Baugh (Round No. 1, 1937) and Darrell Green (Round No. 1, 1983). Though they were chosen in the first round, both far exceeded what even their biggest supporters believed they could accomplish. But I chose to exclude them, along with other high-round stars like Charley Taylor and Russ Grimm.

Argue about Grimm if you want. As a third-round pick who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he certainly was a steal. But I think there are other even better examples. The highest draft pick I have on my list comes from the fourth round.

Before getting to the greatest steals, here are a couple of supplemental lists for your consideration. None of these players made the cut, but all are worthy of attention.

Honorable mentions

  • Al DeMao – 1942, Round 11
  • Eddie LeBaron - 1950, Round 10
  • Harold McLinton – 1969, Round 6
  • Don Warren - 1978, Round 4
  • Rich Milot - 1978, Round 7
  • Kamren Curl – 2020, Round 7

Third-round bonanza

I’m not counting players taken in the third round as steals. But if I were, Washington has a remarkable record of success, especially in recent years

  • Russ Grimm - 1981
  • Charles Mann - 1983
  • Chris Cooley - 2004
  • Jordan Reed - 2013
  • Morgan Moses - 2014
  • Kendall Fuller - 2016
  • Terry McLaurin – 2019

The supplemental

One of the biggest draft steals Washington ever had came in the second round of the Supplemental Draft in 1984. That was the year the league held a special process to assign rights to players already drafted by rival leagues. Future Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young, Bruce Smith, and Gary Zimmerman were chosen at the top. Washington got one of its all-time great receivers, Gary Clark, in the second round.

With that out of the way, here are the 15 biggest draft steals in Washington Commanders' franchise history ranked in order from petty theft to grand larceny.