Without Keeping First Round Draft Picks, Washington Redskins Struggle To Win

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09: Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers returns an interception thirty one yards for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter during an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Redskins have only four of their own first round draft picks on their roster. If Mike Shanahan can do a better job of hanging onto his top picks than the previous administrations, he might find more success.

You may have missed it, but Carlos Rogers smiled broadly as he walked off the field victoriously after the San Francisco 49ers' 19-11 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Rogers wasn't just smiling because his team now has a 7-1 record, though. He was also smiling because he got exactly what he wanted this offseason: just to get out of D.C. He was lucky enough to land on a winning team, a team capable of running away with its division and a team able to more fully use his skills. Rogers suddenly seems bound for the Pro Bowl as one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL, and all it took was a one-way ticket out of D.C., just like so many others before him.

I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about why the Redskins are so freakin' bad every single freakin' year. The easy answer is that the team hasn't had a franchise quarterback in decades. That would be true, but it's not the only reason. Another major reason for the Redskins' repeated ineptitude is that they cannot hold on to their draft picks. As soon as a talented young player has the ability to leave, he does.

Of the 12 first round players drafted by the Redskins since 1999, only four are still with the team. That would be the four most recent first rounders drafted: LaRon Landry, Brian Orakpo, Trent Williams, and Ryan Kerrigan.

The list of first round draft picks no longer with the Redskins is much longer. It includes players who never amounted to much in the NFL, like Patrick Ramsey and Rod Gardner. It also includes players who went onto doing bigger things for other teams, like Champ Bailey, and now Rogers.

During the same time frame, the Green Bay Packers have six of their first round draft picks still under contract. The Pittsburgh Steelers have eight.

Do the great players only stay with these organizations because they have winning traditions? Or do the great organizations just do everything they can to keep the best players? I don't know if the chicken came before the egg or not, but I do know that the Redskins don't have great players, and aren't really a great organization either.

But perhaps that's changing. Mike Shanahan can't be blamed for the recurring first round draft pick turnover that occurred before he arrived. After all, Shanahan didn't trade away Bailey. He traded FOR Bailey.

Shanahan is actively working to change the culture at Redskins Park, but it isn't going to change overnight. It isn't going to change in just two seasons either. The Redskins' roster was in disarray when Shanahan took over in 2010. He's had to completely rebuild the offensive line. Only a single member of Jim Zorn's 2009 offensive line (Will Montgomery) is still with the team. Shanahan had to add eight new offensive linemen, and they aren't all NFL starter quality.

Assembling a playoff-worthy roster takes time. And it takes consistency.

Shanahan deserves the opportunity to continue building this team. If he can do a better job of hanging onto his top young players than the previous administrations, he might even find more success.

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