One of the most polarizing decisions last offseason for Redskins fans was whether or not Washington should grab their ‘franchise quarterback’ early in the draft. After the Donovan McNabb debacle the year before it was fairly evident that McNabb was not long for D.C. and that the Redskins needed to find a long term solution for the position. The counter argument to making the pick last year was that you would be putting the rookie signal caller in a situation where he had little support in terms of weapons and would be forced to play behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Not to mention, the Redskins Defense was ill prepared to run the 3-4 and needed a complete overhaul.
In the end with the Redskins on the clock with the 10th spot in the draft and QB Blaine Gabbert (considered by some to be the top QB in the draft) was still on the board, they chose to move back 6 spots with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and picked up their 2nd rounder in the process. The Redskins used the 16th pick on OLB Ryan Kerrigan and in a series of trades turned that mid-2nd round pick into WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, WR Aldrick Robinson, G Maurice Hurt* (note: The Redskins used one of their own picks in the deal to move up and get Helu, but the other two picks came from the trading back process, the easiest way to look at it is the Redskins began the draft with a 1st, 2nd, two 5th’s, a 6th and three 7th’s, they ended draft weekend with a 1st, a 2nd, a 3rd, a 4th, two 5th’s, tw0 6th’s and 4 7th’s). Let’s check into to see how the players involved are doing.
QB Blaine Gabbert- After the Jaguars shockingly cut David Garrard right before the season, the Jaguars only had Luke McCown standing in Gabbert’s way. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough, as Gabbert replaced McCown in week 2 and has been the starter ever since. The bad news is that the Jags lack much in the way of offensive support for their young signal caller, and he just doesn’t appear to be ready. Gabbert has been pretty awful this season, completing just 45.7% of his passes, and averaging just 5.2 yards per attempt. The scary thing is he might have even been worse in Washington given the slightly weaker line, and not having Maurice Jones Drew to take the pressure off of him.
OLB Ryan Kerrigan- Kerrigan despite missing some time during training camp due to injury, has had a huge impact on the Redskins Defense. He has teamed up with fellow OLB Brian Orakpo to give the Redskins a talented pair of rush linebackers that every opposing quarterback needs to account for. In addition to his pass rushing, Kerrigan has had a huge impact in the running game and showed a smart heads up play when he batted an Eli Manning pass in the air to himself and took it in for the go ahead TD week 1 vs the Giants. Kerrigan has been among the most productive rookies this season and looks to be a steal at the 16th pick.
WR Leonard Hankerson– Hankerson had a rough start to his pro career, as he dropped a number of passes in camp and during the preseason. To make matters worse he was inactive for the first 5 weeks of the season, and ran a poor route that led to an interception on the first pass thrown his way. Since then though he has shown plenty of flashes of what made him a top 80 draft pick. If he continues to develop he could be a very good starting caliber WR, who offers the Redskins a great combination of size and speed.
RB Roy Helu- Helu has emerged as the Redskins top back, after his 150 combined yardage performance last week against the 49ers. He’s been very effective out of the backfield catching the ball, and has many of the Redskins most explosive runs of the season. I wouldn’t say he is a true feature back yet, but he definitely has the potential to be one.
WR Aldrick Robinson- Robinson was an intriguing draft prospect, but he didn’t make the team out of training camp. He’s on the Redskins practice squad and will at least get a shot at earning a job next year.
G Maurice Hurt- Hurt didn’t make the team initially, but was called up when Kory Lichtensteiger was injured. He made his first start this past week, and given the circumstances it wasn’t too bad of a performance. Hurt still has a long way to go to be even a primary backup, but he has shown some flashes and could develop into something in the next few years.
Now I think it is pretty clear that trading back from the 10th spot was a great idea for this team, as Gabbert has floundered, while the Redskins got what appears to be at least three starters, one of whom (Kerrigan) looks to be Pro Bowl caliber. Now comes the what if moment though, as Gabbert wasn’t the only quarterback available in the draft, and Christian Ponder could have been selected with the 10th pick, or the Redskins could have made the deal with the Jaguars and selected Andy Dalton with the Kerrigan pick. Now unlike Gabbert both Ponder and Dalton do look to have incredibly bright futures at QB. Would either one of them been worth it?
Ponder- Now Ponder would have meant that none of the players above would be wearing Burgundy and Gold, meaning you are asking if Ponder is worth Kerrigan, Hankerson and Helu (at the very least). While it would have been tempting to grab a QB, there is no guarantee he would be off to as good of a start behind this offensive line and without some of his weapons.
Dalton- Dalton makes more sense as the Redskins still could have gotten the other players, but you’d still be putting him in a weaker situation than he has in Cincinnati. He would have been considered a real reach at the 16th spot, so maybe it would have worked better if the Skins were able to trade back to the end of the round and pick up another valuable pick (or two). Other than making another trade though, I think Kerrigan might be the better play, because he was able to start from day one (something I wouldn’t wish on any QB for the Redskins behind that line).
Did the Redskins make the right move? Well we won’t know for sure for quite sometime, but they turned 1 player into 5. And while QB is a more important position, I don’t believe any rookie quarterback would have been able to start behind that offensive line, so the Redskins got an instant starter versus a player they’d need to keep on the bench. It might be early to make a final judgement, but I’m happy with the Skins move and think it will make them a better team going forward.