- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trading down in the NFL draft is a wondrous thing. It’s almost a loaves-and-fishes type deal. You take a first-round pick, turn it into multiple picks – and satisfy several of your team’s hungers.

On paper, it sounds great. And it can be great. But only if you hit on all or most of the lower selections you got for moving down. They don’t have to be as good, individually, as the higher No. 1 you parted with, but they have to contribute more to your cause – their sum total has to be greater. Otherwise, what was the point?

So the pressure is on Mike Shanahan’s personnel department, because the Redskins moved from 10 to 16 Thursday night to try to recoup one of the picks they traded for Jammal Brown (a third) and Donovan McNabb (a fourth). For their trouble, they received a second-rounder from Jacksonville, the 49th overall. That gives them three shots now in the first two rounds – in what’s generally considered one of the deeper drafts in recent years.

A smart move, if you ask me – hypothetically, at least. The proof, of course, will be in picking. But this was something the Redskins had to do. Their old-ish roster can use an infusion of youth. It also can use help in just about every area. The more picks they have, especially high picks, the more problems they can address. The mathematics are inescapable.

When their turn finally came, about an hour late, the Redskins took Ryan Kerrigan, the defensive end/outside linebacker from Purdue. You can certainly understand their reasoning. They need another edge rusher to complement with their most dynamic defensive player, Brian Orakpo. Defenses were able to concentrate too much on Orakpo last season, and his sack total dropped from 11 to 8 1/2. Actually, “concentrate” is too kind a word. Basically, they held him a much as they could get away with (which was plenty). Kerrigan, if he’s the talent Shanahan thinks he is, will make that harder to do.

Let’s face it, signing a free safety like O.J. Atogwe to a big contract might look good, but adding a pass rusher to a unit that ranked 31st in yards allowed last season – and gave up 59 points to the Eagles – will have an even greater impact. Granted, there’ll be a learning curve for Kerrigan as he transitions to a new position, but as Shanny pointed out, he’s an Academic All-American. Maybe he’ll be a quick study.

Beyond that, he’s “just relentless,” in the coach’s estimation. “A lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage and forced fumbles… . Sometimes he does it with second effort, sometimes with power.”

It’s always comforting to see the Redskins conduct themselves with restraint – in free agency, the draft, anytime. After all, there have been so many times in the Snyder Era when they haven’t. Obviously, they could have jumped on one of the quarterbacks that dropped to them – Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert (10th, Jacksonville) and Florida State’s Christian Ponder (12th, Minnesota) – but as Shanahan put it, “We’ve got some holes. We’d like to fill some holes.” So when the Jaguars offered a second-rounder to swap places, Shanny didn’t have ponder it (if you’ll pardon the expression) too long.

“We were happy to pick up an extra pick and to get Ryan on the football team,” he said.

Now the Redskins are sitting with the 41st (their own) and 49th selections, and perhaps one of them will be spent on the QB they’re clearly lacking. Auburn’s Cam Newton (first), Washington’s Jake Locker (a surprise eighth), Gabbert and Ponder are off the board, but TCU’s Andy Dalton, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and other highly regarded prospects are still available.

Besides, isn’t Shanahan supposed to be a quarterback guru? Isn’t that one of the reasons he makes the big bucks? Why shouldn’t he be able to take a second-round-or-lower pick and turn him into a star? I mean, Brett Favre and Drew Brees were taken after the first round. So was Matt Schaub and, uh, Tom Brady.

Let’s not forget, too, that two of the Redskins’ Super Bowl winners were quarterbacked by a former fourth-rounder (Joe Theismann) and a former sixth-rounder (Mark Rypien). There’s no commandment that says: Franchise QBs can only be found in the first round.

So the Redskins took a risk Thursday night. They traded one pick, the 10th, for two picks farther down. But this was a good risk – not the kind they’re infamous for taking. This was a risk that took the long view rather than the short view. Now their personnel people, from general manager Bruce Allen on down, just have to make it work.