- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

The Washington Redskins exited the 2002 NFL Draft proclaiming success despite an apparent lack of impact starters and a seemingly missed opportunity to address current needs.
The club entered the weekend with holes at defensive tackle and guard but exited with only a raw edge rusher and an offensive tackle with some versatility. The Redskins also had an eye toward a starting-quality wide receiver or safety but obtained only unpolished prospects at each spot.
Washington's top two picks were used on quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who might not play this season while learning coach Steve Spurrier's system, and running back Ladell Betts, who at best will back up Stephen Davis this year barring injury.
Two third-round selections were spent on cornerback Rashad Bauman, who probably won't see much time behind Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and Darrell Green, and project wideout Cliff Russell, who seems to have the best opportunity in a group with slim chances for early impact.
But owner Dan Snyder, vice president of football operations Joe Mendes and Spurrier believed they gained value for their picks, trading down several times to net 10 total selections and plucking several players whom they believe have high upsides.
"We're overall extremely pleased with the way the draft fell for us," Mendes said. "It's when you start jumping around for a specific need that you can be disappointed. We plan on being here for a long time and building this thing with a plan and having some structure and discipline for a period of time, not just a day."
Perhaps expectations of impact players were too high after the Redskins' strong run in recent early rounds. In 1999 the club's top picks were Bailey and tackle Jon Jansen; in 2000 they were linebacker LaVar Arrington and tackle Chris Samuels; and in 2001 they were wide receiver Rod Gardner and Smoot.
Each player was an early, if not instant, starter. Bailey, Arrington and Samuels already are Pro Bowl picks. Together the sextet forms one of the league's better young cores. Whether Ramsey and Betts can join that group remains to be seen.
"It's all how you look towards things," Mendes said. "It can be short-term pleasure, long-term pain, or there can be some investment for the future and planning ahead. We feel like we've done a little bit of [drafting for the present and future] in this draft."
Russell, one of the fastest receivers available, and safety Andre Lott seem to have small but tangible opportunities to start. Russell needs lots of work but has the tools to emerge from a deep corps that has little NFL production, while Lott will compete against safeties Sam Shade and David Terrell at a position the Redskins have tried to upgrade this offseason.
Other early picks also might play key, if not starting, roles in 2002. Betts might fill the need for a third-down back, provided his pass-catching skills are as good as reputed, while Bauman should see time against four-receiver sets. Also, sixth-round long snapper Jeff Grau is expected to replace veteran Ethan Albright.
And Ramsey, of course, is the quarterback of the future. Washington also was looking at several top guards as it moved from No. 18 to No. 21 to No. 32, but the club ultimately decided Ramsey offered too much potential.
"We're certainly very happy with the way the first round went: We were able to move down two times and then still end up with a quality player," Mendes said. "We're all very excited to have him, and he fits into our long-term plans extremely well."
Speaking of long-term plans, several players actually seem to have been drafted specifically for 2003. Betts, for example, gives Washington insurance because Davis' salary cap figure rises to $11.4 million in 2003. Bauman can replace Green and perhaps step in for Bailey, whose contract is up after this year. Reggie Coleman, the tackle who can play guard, might be a future replacement for Jansen, whose deal also expires next offseason.
Mendes acknowledged that 2003 is a focus but reiterated that the Redskins acquired as much impact talent as they hoped for in this draft.
"You never take your eye off 2003," Mendes said. "When you go into the draft, you cannot think just for the second. You're going to get yourself into a jam by doing that. And let me emphasize something: After the top three, four, five players, they're all developmental players. Now if a team has a major need, the player will have a better chance to come in and start. But these college kids, frankly I think it's a little unfair to expect them to come in and play right away."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide