As we debate how much of the store the Redskins should give away for the second pick in the draft, a.k.a the Robert Griffin III pick, keep in mind that this is a rare opportunity. Usually when a team has the No. 2 selection – and a highly touted quarterback is available – the team is going to take the quarterback itself. Why? Because when you’re picking second, it’s almost always because you aren’t very good, and that’s often a reflection of your QB (or lack thereof).
In fact, only five times in the last 50 years has a club moved up to one of the top two picks for the purpose of drafting a quarterback. (On two other occasions, which we’ll also discuss, a QB taken first or second was traded because he refused to sign with the team that drafted him.) At any rate, the Redskins are extremely fortunate to have a chance like this. If the Rams hadn’t had the No. 1 selection two years ago – and snatched up Sam Bradford – it’s doubtful they’d be selling the No. 2 pick this year to the highest bidder. Indeed, they’d probably be thanking the heavens there was a second quality quarterback to be had after the Colts took Andrew Luck.
The Redskins are also lucky that, because they’re sitting with the sixth selection, they’re in a position to move up to the second spot. If they were drafting farther down, it would be more problematical. The Rams, after all, may be willing to relocate, but they still want as high a pick as possible.
With so many clubs potentially in the mix – the Redskins, Browns, Dolphins and maybe a few others – the price of the No. 2 selection could reach record levels. Here, for purposes of comparison, are the seven times in the last half century a team has dealt for the first or second pick … and come away with a quarterback:
● 2004 – The Chargers drafted Eli Manning No. 1, but he balked at signing with them. So they shipped him to the Giants for the fourth pick in the draft (QB Philip Rivers), a No. 3 (K Nate Kaeding), plus a No. 1 (LB Shawn Merriman) and No. 5 in ‘05. (The fifth-round choice was traded to the Bucs for OT Roman Oben.) The verdict: Though San Diego got some very good players – Rivers (4), Kaeding (2) and Merriman (3) have been to a combined nine Pro Bowls – Manning has led the Giants to two championships.
● 2001 – Not totally sold on Michael Vick, the presumptive top pick, the Chargers moved down and let the Falcons roll the dice with him. What San Diego got: the fifth pick (RB LaDainian Tomlinson), a No. 3 (CB Tay Cody), a No. 2 in ‘02 (WR Reche Caldwell) and WR-KR Tim Dwight. The verdict: Edge to the Chargers, mostly because Vick wound up in prison. On the playing field, San Diego got to the AFC title game once with Tomlinson, and Atlanta got the NFC title game once with Vick. Oh, by the way, after passing on Michael, the Bolts selected another quarterback in Round 2: Drew Brees.
● 1998 – The Cardinals traded the second pick to the Chargers, who drafted Ryan Leaf. What Arizona got: the third pick (DE Andre Wadsworth), a No. 2 (CB Corey Chavous), a No. 1 in ‘99 (WR David Boston), KR/WR Eric Metcalf and LB Patrick Sapp. That’s right, San Diego gave up all that to move up one spot. The verdict: Leaf was an absolute disaster. Two years later, the Chargers went 1-15 (and were rewarded with the aforementioned Vick pick). So you’d have to say the Cards came out well ahead. Wadsworth was nothing special, but Boston (‘01) and Metcalf (‘98) had Pro Bowl seasons with them, and Chavous became a Pro Bowler (‘03) with the Vikings as a strong safety.
● 1990 – The Falcons sent the No. 1 pick to the Colts, who took Jeff George. What Atlanta got: OT Chris Hinton, WR Andre Rison, a No. 5 (OL Reggie Redding) and a ‘91 No. 1 (WR Mike Pritchard). The verdict: George could throw the ball, but he wore out his welcome in a lot of places (and even passed through Washington for a couple of seasons). Bottom line: He won one playoff game in his career. Hinton, meanwhile, has a shot at the Hall of Fame, and Rison went to four Pro Bowls in five seasons with Atlanta, catching 56 touchdown passes, before his personal demons undid him. As for Pritchard, he was a nice slot receiver for a number of years.
● 1983 – The Baltimore Colts drafted John Elway with the top pick, but traded him to the Broncos when Elway threatened to play baseball rather than sign with them. What the Colts got: the fourth pick (OT Chris Hinton), a No. 1 in ‘84 (OG Ron Solt, the former Maryland Terp) and QB Mark Herrmann. The verdict: We’ve already talked about how good Hinton was, and Solt was a Pro Bowler in ‘87 (blocking for Eric Dickerson), but the deal was still a steal for Denver. It’ll forever be remembered out there as the Rocky Mountain Heist.
● 1975 – The Colts, already set at quarterback with Bert Jones, auctioned off the No. 1 pick to Atlanta, which lusted after Steve Bartkowski. What Baltimore got: the third pick (OG Ken Huff) and OT George Kunz. (The Falcons also received a No. 5 from the Colts and used it to select LB Fulton “Captain Crazy” Kuykendall.) The verdict: Bartkowski brought respectability to the Falcons and quarterbacked them to their first three playoff berths, so it was definitely a win for Atlanta. But the Colts hardly got rooked. Kunz, a seven-time Pro Bowler, helped them capture three straight division titles.
● 1973 – With Archie Manning on the roster, the Saints didn’t need a QB, so the Colts took the No. 2 pick off their hands and spent it on Jones. What New Orleans got: DE Billy Newsome and a No. 4 (LB Jim Merlo). The verdict: It was trades like these that made the Saints, in their early days, one of the laughingstocks of the league. Jones was a terrific talent who revived the Baltimore franchise. He was worth much more than a young pass rusher (who never really panned out) and a nothing-to-get-excited about linebacker.
We’ll have to see how much the Rams can wheedle out of somebody for the RG3 pick. But if the Redskins want to be players in this competition, they’ll have to be prepared to pay a pretty steep price – as history has shown.