Redskins trade up for second overall pick, but caution is the watchword

This past weekend, the Washington Redskins mortgaged their future on the tides of the NFL Draft, giving up three first-round selections for at chance at one player, Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2012 — The last time the Washington Redskins thought they were drafting their quarterback of the future, they ended up with Jason Campbell. The last time they thought they were acquiring their quarterback of the future, they ended up with a disgruntled Donovan McNabb and a fall-out that led to the Redskins essentially having to pay the Minnesota Vikings to take McNabb off their hands. Now, the Redskins claim that they are about to find yet another quarterback of the future—Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

The announcement that Washington agreed to send their first and second-round selections this year, plus their first-rounders in 2013 and 2014, to the St. Louis Rams for the second overall pick, should have inspired immediate hope. But fans of the Redskins have learned not to hold their breath. After all, this is an organization that has spent the best part of the last 12 seasons finding new and better ways to be mediocre, but never quite bad enough to net a top draft pick.

Ardent supporters of the Redskins will say that this move is fundamentally different than the path that the franchise has taken before. To some extent, they’re right. Campbell was never considered to have a great chance to become anything more than a run-of-the-mill starting quarterback. McNabb was an established veteran who torpedoed himself right out of DC with poor play and public disagreements with Coach Mike Shanahan. Griffin is in an entirely different league, one far and beyond just about anyone who has lined up at quarterback for Washington since its last Super Bowl title, back in 1991.

As with any high-profile draft bargain, there’s no way to determine the value of what the Redskins gave up, because they don’t know what they have yet. That’s not a reference to the possibility that the Indianapolis Colts will draft Griffin with the first pick, which would stick the Redskins with the draft’s other once-in-a-generation talent, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Rather, the more pertinent issue is that the value of the four draft picks the Redskinds gave up will only be determined by how good Griffin (or Luck) turns out to be. Giving up a first-round draft-pick for the next three years is a mortgage on a team’s future. If they draft a superstar, then the low first-round selections that the Rams will receive will give the Redskins the advantage. If Washington’s new quarterback struggles even a little bit, the Rams will sneak off with valuable high selections that the Redskins might have used to address other pressing needs. 

So, in making a determination right now, there’s only one tool available—the past history that the Redskins would love so dearly to forget. With that in mind, let us all refrain from bashing—or even cheering for—the Redskins. After all, the last time that the Washington public simultaneously lauded and tarred-and-feathered a quarterback, it didn’t work out too well.


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Arjuna Subramanian

Arjuna Subramanian is an aspiring baseball writer living in the Washington D.C. area.  He started his writing  with his blog Painting The Black on MLBlogs in May of 2009.  He fell in love with the sabermetric movement during the 2008-2009 offseason, and strives to provide balanced articles from both sides of the statistics/scouting divide.  

When not writing, watching/listening to baseball, over-analyzing his Chicago Cubs, staring in disbelief at the writing of Thomas Boswell, or keeping tabs on the latest Milton Bradley blowup, he can usually be found at the DC Fencers Club, where he is a competitive epee fencer.

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