Historical Redskins Draft Busts

Franchise has issues with skill position flops

With the NFL draft approaching this weekend, and Danny Snyder & Co. seemingly infatuated with gambling another first-round pick on a high-risk skill position, such as quarterback, it's time to recap the top busts in Redskins draft history ... at least those occurring within the last 20 years.

1.) Heath Shuler is one of the most famous flops in sports history, much less the NFL, and thus the clear cut biggest draft bust ever for the Redskins ... good thing he's been able to land on his feet with government service.

Shuler was expected to be "the" savior when taken third overall in the '94 draft. The simple North Carolina boy, who was too clean to partake in caffeine during college, left Tennessee after his junior year with a gleam in his eye and the dream of being a pro. First year Skins coach Norv Turner was also pretty smitten with Shuler, studying hours of tape and siding with the Volunteer over Trent Dilfer.  That would be Super Bowl winner, Trent Dilfer.

Unfortunately, the gleam in Shuler's eye turned into a holdout and an eventual eight-year, $19-plus-million contract. The dream in his heart turned out to be nightmares of interceptions. Part of the problem with Shuler is that he was thrown into the NFL fire way too early, and part of it was his teammates asking themselves, "Who is this jerk?" when the good ol' boy strutted into the locker room, in August, with the most lucrative rookie contract of all time.

Shuler played poorly and eventually lost out to Gus Frerotte aka 'Head-Banger's Ball', who was just lucky enough to earn a '96 Pro Bowl nod and a career that lasted up until this past February. Congressman Shuler was eventually traded, allowing for a new lease on life in New Orleans. Fourteen interceptions and two TDs later, he was out of the league.

You can't really blame management for the Shuler-Fail more than you can cite Shuler himself for not having what it takes. D.C. left Shuler a scarred man. In a city where the expectations in football are a much higher priority than holding politicians accountable, a career on The Hill probably came as a relief for Shuler.

2) Michael Westbrook and the lure of a star receiver was the Skins' goal in the '95 draft. Charlie Casserly and Norv Turner could have sworn they were getting the next Michael Irvin and that there was no way Westbrook would fail like another receiver the Skins took much too highly in the '92 draft, Desmond Howard.

They were right ... sorta. Although disappointing with the Skins, topping out with 40 catches and 727 yards in '94, Howard at least made a career using his skills as a special teams player, being awarded the Super Bowl MVP with the Packers in '96, and a Pro Bowl selection with Detroit in 2000.

Westbrook, on the other hand, had only one season producing numbers expected from a fourth-overall pick (65 catches and 1,191 yards in '99). His time in D.C. was marred by injuries, contentious relations with the media, fans, and teammates alike, and a simple lack of enthusiasm for football.

The precursor to his famous beating of teammate Stephen Davis during practice was when Westbrook said, "You all are a bunch of jealous [f----]. You all are just jealous of everything I have." Sounds like a winner. Fizzling out of D.C. after seven sub-par seasons, totaling just 277 catches and 4,280 yards, Westbrook had a hugely disappointing season in Cincinnati, (eight catches over nine games), before getting into a life of mixed-martial arts.

The Redskins were strongly considering DT Warren Sapp with the fourth pick ... guess an NFL Defensive POY and seven-time Pro-Bowler just wasn't as glamorous as a glitzy skill player.

3) Andre T. Johnson impressed Charlie Casserly enough off one college performance against Simeon Rice to make himself draft-worthy. C-Squared was so infatuated with the Penn State tackle that he traded up with the hated Cowboys (using picks 37 and 67) to select Johnson with the last pick of the '96 first round.

The Skins thought that Johnson, who reluctantly switched from defense to offense while a Nittany Lion, would be that ever-so-valuable blind-side protector of the expensive Heath Shuler. Unfortunately, everyone found out off the bat that he didn't have the mental toughness to play such an important position. In year two, after not seeing the field in his first, Norv Turner switched Johnson to right tackle. Still didn't work.

Johnson was cut by August '97, having never played a game in D.C. He caught on with the Dolphins, didn't play a game. Caught on with the Lions, played three games. By '98, Johnson and his tiny legs were out of the league, never to be heard from again.

4) Patrick Ramsey was the Redskins' attempt, prior to Jason Campbell, to draft the "quarterback of the future" with their first pick. Ramsey was taken out of Tulane at 32, last pick in the first round.

Part of the issue is that the '02 NFL draft was a flop for quarterbacks. David Carr (1st) and Joey Harrington (3rd) were the only other QBs taken in round one. Perhaps the best QB to come out of that draft was David Gerrard, taken 108th overall ... unless you want to write home about Josh McCown or J.T. O'Sullivan.

The other issue with Ramsey is that he was platooned in the run-and-gun system of Steve Spurrier. Little did the Ol' Ball Coach know that he needed an offensive line in the pros; Ramsey was sacked 48 times in 20 games under Coach Visor.

But Ramsey still floundered when Joe Gibbs took over in '04 and hasn't been anything more than a backup since. His career QB rating is 74.9. Perhaps the Skins would have been better off taking Clinton Portis (51st overall in '02) in the first place.

5) Rod Gardner came with all the hype of a 15th overall draft pick, the third receiver taken overall in '01. Gardner had the diversity of a player who entered Clemson as a QB/safety turned WR, but never panned out. He broke out for 1000+ yards and 70+ catches his sophomore season, then leveled off.

Perhaps the sensible move would have been to not take someone from a vaunted "skill" position in favor of guard Steve Hutchinson (17th overall), filling a desperate o-line need. Hutchinson is only working on a six-time All Pro/Pro Bowl career. But if Marty Schottenheimer really wanted a receiver to complement Michael Westbrook, Santana Moss (taken 16th), or the likes of Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, Chris Chambers, Steve Smith or T. J. Houshmandzadeh, all Pro-Bowl WRs, were available instead of Gardner.

In '05, Gardner publicly expressed his displeasure with the sub-par Skins offense. Vinny Cerrato sent Laveranues Coles back to the Jets for Santana Moss and had to settle on trading Gardner to Carolina for a lower pick than he wanted. Gardner caught 15 passes over 26 games in the next two seasons, then was out of the league.

"Honorable" Mention

Taylor Jacobs, another product of the Ol' Ball Coach, who thought the college skills of the 2003 second-rounder (44th overall) would translate ... nope.

Jacobs, the fourth wide receiver taken, was three and out with the Skins, gathering only 30 catches in 38 games. Granted, Charles Rogers, taken second overall by the Lions, was a gargantuan bust -- Danny Snyder actually tried to trade with Detroit to get Rogers, offering up the 13th pick and Fred Smoot. The Lions rejected Snyder and the Skins traded for Laveranues Coles with the 13th instead.

Abdominal trauma, bruised rotator cuff, sprained shoulder, bruised pancreas, knee sprain, foot something, ab strain, aaaaaand groin were just a few of the ailments diagnosed to Jacobs, all of those coming in his first season.

In '06, Jacobs was traded to the 49ers for CB Mike Rumph. Jacobs would haul in 69 more receiving yards after leaving D.C., bringing his career total to 384, before dropping out of the league in '07. Too bad Anquan Boldin was taken 10 spots later. 

Kyle Weidie is a D.C. resident. He writes Truth About It and contributes to Bullets Forever, both Washington Wizards blogs.

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