Experts upon experts are rushing to give the Washington Redskins low NFL Draft grades for their selections in the 2011 NFL Draft. Mark Maske of the Washington Post gave them a "C". Nate Davis of USA Today called them "Losers." I think I heard that ESPN even allowed Dick Vitale to grade the draft and he gave the Redskins a "Brick City, Baby."
So how come every Redskins fan I’ve talked to thinks the team did great?
For the Redskins, this draft wasn’t about who they picked. It’s about who they didn’t. They didn’t draft any flashy names, and despite rumors indicating that the team might mortgage the future to trade up to No. 2 to draft a quarterback, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins resisted the urge. They didn’t draft Blaine Gabbert, who has yet to take a snap in a pro-style offense, or Jake Locker, whose accuracy questions and low completion percentage have yielded huge red flags. They didn’t reach on a second round quarterback like Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick.
Instead, the Redskins traded back, added more picks, and used them to improve multiple positions that had gone neglected for far too many years under the Vinny Cerrato regime. They added two potential starters to the defensive front-seven in pass-rushing linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. Then, they picked up some young and hungry skill players in the later rounds, indicating that the running back and wide receiver positions need some fresh blood. So long, Clinton Portis. Peace out, Joey Galloway.
Redskins fans are generally happy with the 2011 Draft because it appeared to be an admittance that the team needs a significant rebuilding effort. They’re more than just a player away, and they know it.
Draft grades are pretty silly anyway. No one knows how these players will do once they get to the NFL. The experts are basically guessing. If someone tells me that my nine-month old daughter won’t be smart enough to go to college, he can expect a punch in the nose. And if some expert tells you that any rookie is going to be a bust before he’s even had the chance to review an NFL playbook, that expert deserves the same treatment.
Take the trade between the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons for example. For the right to select wide receiver Julio Jones sixth overall, the Falcons handed the Browns a heaping pile of assets, including three draft picks this year, two more next year, 10 gallons of sweet tea, Bobby Petrino’s memoirs and Matt Ryan’s sister’s phone number. Right now, the Browns sure look like winners. That’s what the experts say. But will they still be winners if Jones is the next Andre Johnson ? If Jones is Terrell Owens without the attitude, who won then?
We shouldn't be grading individual player moves. Its the overall philosphy that we should be grading. For Shanahan and the Redskins, we give that philosphy an "A."
The Redskins made a decision over the weekend to take a major step towards building a team that can compete for several years ... in a few years. This isn't a "Win Now" team anymore. High-priced free agents should begin looking elsewhere for their big paydays. The 2011 draft class is an indication that the culture at Redskins Park appears to have shifted. The future isn't now.
So we shouldn’t be too concerned with the experts' draft grades. We should be concerned only with results. In this case, its long-term results that we're referring to. And if the Redskins show incremental improvement in 2011, start to trend in the right direction, and then maybe draft a new franchise quarterback next year in what is expected to be a much stronger quarterback class, those long-term results might be pretty darn good.