With the NFL draft tonight, I thought the best way to preview a team with few draft picks is to go back and see how the Skins did with the picks they had over the past 3 years. Specifically, I want to examine how the guys we picked with our highest picks performed compared to some of the guys who also piqued the Redskins' interest. I understand that one can go back and cherry-pick the success stories, but I want to make this realistic and thus only consider players that would have been 'reasonable' picks. I also realize that the guy running the show for the past 3 years is now just on the ESPN show, so past record should not be any indication toward predicting the future. The list of 'almost Skins' draftees is generated solely by my memory and based only off of rumors and reports, so there is obviously no telling how close to drafting these players the Skins came and maybe the rumors were just smokescreens. Then again, the idea of Snyderrato pulling off smokescreens is comical.
2007 The options: Laron Landry (S), Jamaal Anderson (DE), and Amobi Okoye (DT)
Drafted: Landry #6 overall (which gives the beefcake the distinction of being the last guy drafted before Adrian Peterson). Anderson and Okoye were selected 8th and 10th overall, respectively.
peaked as a body builder. So did we make the right pick amongst those 3 players? Anderson, in the words of the 2009 Football Outsiders Almanac, "has bust written all over him", and that was before another bad season that saw him move from DE to DT. Anderson's career sack total is 2.5, and the track record for guys with that few sacks in their first 3 seasons suddenly becoming good pass rushers is atrocious. FO also writes on an espn.com Insider article that, "while he's got competition from JaMarcus Russell and Buster Davis, it appears that Anderson may very well become the first player selected in the opening round of the 2007 NFL draft to be released. The Skins definitely made the right move avoiding this disaster.
Okoye is a bit more difficult to evaluate thanks to his age. Although Okoye was not productive by FO's metrics going into last year, with FO saying Okoye, "has yet to show any ability to command a double-team and makes few plays himself." Okoye is still only 22, so there is still time for development, but last season has not changed the perception that he is merely an okay player, and not a difference-maker. As much as I like his upside, Landry at least gave the Skins some good performances in his first and second seasons, leading FO to proclaim he "looks solid going forward." I know last year was an awful one for Landry, but I still think the Skins made the right pick here.
2008 The options: Phillip Merling (DE), Jeff Otah (OT), Devin Thomas (WR), Jordy Nelson (WR), Fred Davis (TE), Malcolm Kelly (WR)
Drafted: Thomas #34, Davis #48, and Kelly #51. The Skins original pick was #21, and Otah went #19, Merling #32, and Nelson #36.
This is a much more difficult group to analyze because the Skins moved down in the draft, and bringing trade options into the analysis opens up a wealth of possibilities and permutations. That said, it actually looks like we did okay, but just okay. Otah was picked before our selection, so would have required us to trade up to get him and was thus virtually improbable to get. That said, he was the starting RT as part of a great Panther line in 2008, and an okay Panther line in 2009; he clearly could have been a great pick for the Skins.
Merling was pretty bad in 2008 by FO's metrics and managed only 2.5 sacks in 2009 despite being a starting DE. Merling has 'bust' written all over him.
Jordy Nelson seemed primed for a breakout year on a strong Packer offense in 2009 after a solid rookie campaign, but managed to have a sophomore slump despite strong metrics. He has been more productive than either Thomas or Kelly over the course of 2 seasons, but last year is what should really count, and Thomas and Kelly were as good by raw stats last year, and better when you consider the awful Redskin offense. Thomas and Kelly had serious issues getting up to speed in their first season, and the metrics didn't love them last year, but they are both comparable to Nelson at this point, although I am willing to bet that FO will pin Nelson as a breakout player for 2010 thanks to strong metrics in limited opportunity. Fred Davis has to be considered the best player of this receiver group, so that is not even worth a discussion. Of the 4 receivers considered plus Merling, the Skins picked the best of the bunch and avoided the worst, with spots 2-4 TBD based on the next couple years. Amongst the options considered, the Skins appear to have made the right moves.
My problem with this draft, however, stems from a couple of guys we didn't consider but were at the same positions. Sam Baker (OT) ended up going #21 to Atlanta, with the Skins original pick. Despite injury problems, Baker was considered to be very good in his rookie season, and was again part of a good Falcon line in 2009. It is very possible the Skins could have swapped Baker for Thomas and Kelly, which is a trade I can only dream about now. The other big miss was DeSean Jackson, who we didn't consider because he is similar to Santana Moss and we wanted a bigger receiver. Jackson is now terrorizing the NFL returning kicks and catching passes, and went #49, so we actually passed on him twice, amazing. How do NFL GMs consistently screw up the idea that drafting the best player available is usually the best way to go? Because of these misses, this draft currently sits in the FAIL column, although if Thomas or Kelly really proves that they are a legit starting WR in this league and Davis continues to develop, that could change.
The options: Brian Orakpo (DE), Michael Oher (OT), Mark Sanchez (QB)
Drafted: Orakpo #13. Sanchez #5 and Oher #23.
The Skins were bit more cryptic about what they wanted to do with this pick other than use it to draft 'the Sanchize'. Everette Brown and Ray Maualuga were also mentioned, but both ended up being 2nd round picks. Rak is clearly a great player and cornerstone of the franchise and makes this decision a smashing success, so I will keep this brief.
Sanchez is being called a success already, but he ranked 38th, 37th, 35th, and 35th in FO's 4 key metrics last year, so was actually pretty awful behind an excellent offensive line. QBs are hard to predict, but the metrics didn't like him out of college, and I'm still not sold he will even be as good as JC. I also hated him all along, so there's that too.
Oher was an anchor on the #4 OL in the NFL by FO's metrics, and by consensus had an excellent rookie season. His speech immediately after being drafted was also my favorite draft moment of all time, when he said 'I don't care where I got picked, I'm ready to get started' (have never been able to find youtube of this). Rak still looks like the better pick after one year, with my only wish being then and now that the Skins somehow traded into the back of the 1st round to snare Oher in addition to Rak.
The big question mark for me is why we didn't consider Brian Cushing if we intended to switch Rak to OLB all along? Cushing went one pick after Rak and was rightfully named the defensive ROY. Now that we are switching to a 3-4, I think Rak could still have a brighter future than Cushing, but the idiocy of not picking Cushing at the time is astounding. Rak playing at DE full time could be something special, or even at 3-4 OLB, but not the 4-3 OLB for which he was drafted. If not for the defensive system change, it is hard to argue that Cushing would not have been the better pick as long as Rak stays at OLB.
Tonight? I hope we stay put and take our #1 OT, who is likely Okung. I trust Shanahan in drafting linemen, as he took Ryan Clady a couple years ago, so will not panic if the pick is Trent Williams or another OT. The ideal situation would be sliding back a couple spots and still taking the first OT, but we might miss our first choice and we need to hit on an OT with this pick.
(Facts and stats courtesy of Football Outsiders, espn.com, and wikipedia. Images courtesy of nbcsportsmedia1.msnbc.com, washingtonpost.com, and espn.com )