What a difference a year makes. All I had a year ago was hope. After twenty years of futility, it felt good to hope again, but no one knew what the season would bring. It feels different this year. There’s still hope, but with the Redskins coming off a 10-6 season and a division title, and 21 of 22 starters returning, the hope feels like it’s being fulfilled already.
Without a first round pick in the draft this year, there wasn’t a single player for the team to set it sights on. Instead they built up depth in places it was needed—the secondary in particular—and took risks, which is something you can do when you keep a division-winninh team together in spite of an $36 million salary-cap penalty split over two seasons.
It reminds me of the last time the Redskins built a team with an eye to the next decade instead of just the next season. A time when they were on the verge of a decade of dominance. That decade began with one of the greatest drafts ever.
This was the Redskins 1981 draft class.
- 1. Mark May, T, Pittsburgh
- 3. Russ Grimm, G, Pittsburgh
- 4. Tom Flick, QB, Washington
- 5. Dexter Manley, DE, Oklahoma State
- 5. Gary Sayre, G, Cameron
- 6. Larry Kubin, LB, Penn State
- 8. Charlie Brown, WR, South Carolina State
- 9. Darryl Grant, G, Rice
- 10. Phil Kessel, QB, Northern Michigan
- 10. Allan Kennedy, T, Washington State
- 11. Jerry Hill, WR, Northern Alabama
- 12. Clint Didier, TE, Portland State
Joe Gibbs and Bobby Beathard laid the foundation that year. Of the twelve picks taken (when the draft still lasted twelve rounds) May, Grimm, Manley, Brown, Grant, and Didier all became starters and household names in the District. And if that wasn’t enough, The Redskins also picked up an offensive tackle (Joe Jacoby, Louisville) as an undrafted free agent. That’s three fifths of the legendary Hogs O-line (May, Grimm, Jacoby), a starting wide receiver to line up opposite 1980 first round pick and future Hall of Famer Art Monk (Brown), the team’s all-time sack leader (Manley), a guard-turned-defensive-tackle who became a fixture on the D-line for a decade (Grant), and a go-to Tight End/H-Back (Didier). All in one draft. Wow!
Now let’s jump ahead. With fewer rounds, and fewer selections, 2012 was a pretty amazing draft in its own right.
- 1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
- 3. Josh LeRibeus, G, SMU
- 4. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
- 4. Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
- 5. Adam Gettis, G, Iowa
- 6. Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic
- 6. Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota
- 7. Richard Crawford, CB, SMU
- 7. Jordan Bernstine, S, Iowa
RGIII was a no-brainer, but no one imagined just how good his rookie season would be. Morris was the steal of the draft, setting the Redskins’ single season rushing record and finishing second overall in rushing in the league. Cousins saved the season when RGII went down. Crawford became the team’s punt returner late in the season, and LeRibeus looked good in two games at the end of the year. Gettis and Compton are likely to be back competing for playing time, and Bernstine will hopefully recover from the injury he sustained in the opening game last year and get into the thick of a safety competition this year. All and all, an excellent effort.
Now let’s look at the 2013 class, selected last weekend.
- 2. David Amerson, CB, NC State
- 3. Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
- 4. Philip Thomas, S, Fresno State
- 5. Chris Thompson, RB, Fl State
- 5. Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Fl State
- 6. Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
- 7. Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers
Like I said, this draft included some risks, but each choice has a tremendous upside. Nothing is guaranteed. Big risks can backfire. But what if this class lives up to its potential. What could the upside look like?
Three-fourths of a young, ball-hawking secondary (Amerson, Thomas, Rambo).
An Aaron Hernandez style threat at tight end, perhaps on the field with Fred Davis in two tight end sets (Reed).
A quick, shifty, receiving threat out of the backfield (Thompson) and another one-cut-and-run back to spell Alfred Morris (Jamison).
Depth at pass rush, or a future starter if, God forbid, Brian Orakpo has more injury issues (Jenkins).
And, an undrafted free agent who could be a possible future starter on the offensive line (Xavier Nixon, T, Florida). Shades of Joe Jacoby, perhaps?
To get to this point, the 2013 draft will have to hit on every selection. There is a lot less room for error with only seven picks. Do I think we’ll get another 1981? Probably not, but the potential is there. And combined with the gems acquired last season, if even half of the picks reach their potential the two drafts combined will have the same result. A foundation built for a perennial Superbowl contender.
After two decades of failed attempts at buying a championship, the Redskins are back to doing things the right way. Building for the future. I can’t wait for training camp!