First round draft choices can sizzle or fry

Fred Jeter | 8/11/2017, 11:51 a.m.
You just never know when it comes to first round draft choices. All are ballyhooed, given the red-carpet treatment and ...

You just never know when it comes to first round draft choices. All are ballyhooed, given the red-carpet treatment and welcomed with high hopes.

But, upon arrival, there are no guarantees for success.

Washington’s 1991 top pick, wide receiver Desmond Howard out of the University of Michigan, came to the Washington NFL team with Heisman Trophy credentials, but his star quickly faded and he became a total disappointment.

That contrasts Darrell Green out of obscure Texas A&I University, now Texas A&M-Kingsville. Few had heard of Green, or even Texas A&I when he was drafted in the top round in 1983. But Green blossomed into one of the greatest defensive backs of all time.

After some eight decades worth of top draft picks, here are some highs and lows, twists and turns, involving the burgundy and gold.

In the beginning: Washington’s original top pick, like it’s most recent —Jonathan Allen — was from the University of Alabama. Riley Smith was selected second overall in 1937. After two NFL seasons, Smith became a coach at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., and then a lieutenant commander in the Navy from 1941 to 1945.

Heisman hype: With the top pick, Washington has nabbed three Heisman Trophy winners — Ernie Davis (1962, from Syracuse), Desmond Howard (1991, University of Michigan) and Robert Griffin III (2011, Baylor University). Davis was the first African-American ever picked No. 1 overall.    

Getting their kicks: Washington spun heads in 1966 by making Princeton University alumnus Charlie Gogolak its first round pick. The native Hungarian became the first place kicking specialist ever taken in round one. He was also among the first soccer-stylists.   

Out of the closet: In 1967, running back Ray McDonald was the top pick out of the University of Idaho. McDonald retired after two forgettable seasons and, during his retirement, came out as being gay. He died of AIDS complications in 1993.   

Short sighted: With the theme “The Future is Now,” former Coach George Allen’s win-now philosophy led to trading wholesale draft picks for veterans. The Washington team had no first round selections 1969 to 1979, nor in 1982 and 1984 to 1990.

Highest honors: Four first round picks have plaques displayed at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They are Sammy Baugh (1937 out of Texas Christian), Green, Art Monk (1980, Syracuse) and Charley Taylor (1964, Arizona State).

Life cut short: Safety Sean Taylor (top pick, 2004) was flying in the fast lane of a possible Hall of Fame career when tragedy struck. After four brilliant seasons, Taylor was shot to death during a burglary at his home Nov. 27, 2007. He was just 24. Five men were convicted of first degree murder and armed burglary.

Quarterback blues: Washington’s first round quarterback picks haven’t fared so well of late. Heath Shuler (1994, out of Tennessee) Patrick Ramsey (2002, Tulane), Jason Campbell (2005, Auburn) and Griffin showed flashes of inspiration, but fell short of expectations.

Size XXXL: The team has struck gold with a pair of huge offensive linemen — 2010 top pick Trent Williams (320 pounds) and 2015 Brandon Scherff (315 pounds), both All-Pros.

Jury is out: Fans are still waiting to make informed opinions on receiver Josh Doctson (2016 No. 1 pick, Texas Christian), who missed most of rookie season with Achilles tendon injuries.

RGIII: Among younger fans, the selection of Griffin in 2012 is probably most debated. To get rights to pluck Griffin second overall, Washington broke the bank, trading its 2012, 2013 and 2014 first round picks to St. Louis, along with its second pick in 2012.

The move was quickly applauded. Griffin responded, winning Rookie of the Year and guiding the Washington NFL team to the playoffs.

However, injuries and mediocre play ensued. Washington slumped to 3-13 in 2013 and 4-12 in 2014 before Griffin, once hailed as the golden boy, was released. 

Goes to show, you never know.