Monday, June 02, 2008

Ten Years of Redskins Draft Ups and Downs. Mostly Downs.

Left turn Clyde

With a hat tip to lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader / lurker Wilbert Montgomery, Pro Football Reference ran a piece last week on the best and worst NFL draft performances over the ten year period 1996 to 2005. Some interesting nuggets in here...

On the list of the best 35 picks over that period, Washington had zero, zip, nada. There is one current Redskins player, Clinton Portis, and in this case Clinton's value works against the Redskins because that is what the Denver Broncos parlayed into the Champ Bailey trade. Also on the list is one former player, Jeremiah Trotter which I'd just rather not fucking talk about.

On the list of the worst 35 picks over that period, Washington had one pick, the number eight worst pick, Andre T. Johnson, offensive lineman from Penn State University, 1996 draft, first round 30th pick, cut in camp, never played a down with Washington. The upside here is 1996 falls off next year's list.

Note: the Bryant Westbrook here, number three on the list and former cornerback for the Detroit Lions, is not to be mistaken with Byron Westbrook, Brian Westbrook's brother. Brian by the way was listed as the 15th best draft pick in the last ten years.

Note also: the David Terrell on this list #20, is receiver David Terrell, Chicago Bears 2001 first round pick number eight overall out of Michigan, not safety David Terrell, Redskins 1998 seventh round pick out of UTEP. Redskins David Terrell played five years from 2000 to 2004, too bad he never stood out, he had the size to play but never turned the corner, no pun intended.

Interestingly, Aaron Rodgers, the Packers new starting quarterback, is number 11 on the worst picks list. This must be revealing of a statistical flaw, since Aaron has not had a chance to play and looked good last year in relief of Brett Favre in the Packers' game 12 last season against the Cowboys. Aaron was a first round pick and has not played significantly so that must be penalizing Aaron statistically. We will see him come off this list this year with a full season of starts.

By this system the Redskins are listed as the 24th best drafting team of the 32 NFL teams over the period 1996 to 2005. That would be the 75th percentile, one spot ahead of the third quartile. That's weak.

Then draft pick quality was assessed by first round and then fourth through seventh rounds. These were telling stats for the Redskins.

Washington's first round drafting ability, 1996 through 2005: 20th of 32, 63rd percentile. Redskins first round draft picks included in this period:

DE Kenard Lang
CB Champ Bailey
LB LaVar Arrington
LT Chris Samuels
S Sean Taylor
CB Carlos Rogers (still TBD on this one)
QB Jason Campbell (this one better work out)

But also
OL Andre T. Johnson
WR Rod Gardner
QB Patrick Ramsey

In drafting rounds four through seven, the Redskins were rated 28th out of 32, 88th percentile, just godawful. This date range and these rounds include the following players:

RB Stephen Davis
WR Albert Connell*
LB Shawn Barber
TE Robert Royal
KR Rock Cartwright

But also a whole bunch of mid rounders that did not stick, like Jamel Williams, Patrick Palmer, Todd Husak, Jeff Grau, Gibran Hamdan and Jared Newberry to name a few.

The same piece lists each team's best and worst three draft picks over the period 1996 to 2005. The Redskins best draft picks over that period were as follows:

1. Champ Bailey, 1999
2. Derek Smith, 1997
3. Stephen Davis, 1996

Champ played well here for five years and then was not going to re sign and was traded (op. cit.) to Denver. Derek Smith played well here for four years and then signed with San Francisco as a free agent. Champ is still with Denver and Derek was just released after seven years.

Stephen Davis played seven seasons with the Redskins, racking up 5790 yards on 1383 carries, a 4.18 yards per carry average. Stephen set the Redskins franchise single season rushing record in 1999 (with 1405 yards, breaking Terry Allen's 1996 record of 1353 yards) and again in 2001 (1432 yards). That record was broken in 2005 by Clinton Portis with 1516 yards.

I'd argue for the following in consideration as among the best three, not a statistical assessment: Sean Taylor, Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen, Chris Cooley and Shawn Barber.

The Redskins worst draft picks over this period are as follows:

1. Andre T. Johnson, 1996, 1st round pick OL cut in camp and never played a down with the team
2. Taylor Jacobs, 2003, 2nd round pick WR by Steve Spurrier, just not an NFL caliber player
3. Lloyd Harrison, 2000 3rd round pick CB, played two games with the team, no stat line

Not sure I could add to this list. CB Rashad Bauman and WR Cliff Russell maybe, both third rounders that never contributed much.

What does all this mean? It means the Redskins have been at the back of the pack when it comes to selecting players in the most economical fashion. Wilbert Montgomery has over the years hammered me again and again about the Redskins inability to take the long view, think hard on draft picks and develop them; instead the team has demonstrated up until this current offseason that draft picks are of little value; that the team would rather overpay for name brand free agents that in theory can contribute now rather than have to wait for time to develop, and he's generally been right on this point.

Have the Redskins turned a corner in their ability to draft? It seems like it might be happening, we still need some time to tell.

* Albert Connell was a 6'0" 180 lb receiver who showed great promise in the wake of the Michael Westbrook failure, his best year as a Redskin was 1999 when he had 62 catches for 1132 yards and seven touchdowns. Brad Johnson was the Redskins quarterback that year, also the last time the Redskins went to the playoffs before 2005 under Joe Gibbs. After the 2000 season Albert signed a five year 14 million dollar free agent deal with New Orleans, was caught on surveillance camera rifling $4000 from Deuce McAllister's car and wallet in the Saints locker room, was released by the team and finished out his career in Canada. What a waste.

Road sign from here.