- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just because Washington’s only scheduled pick today is the 53rd overall choice — 21st in the second of the three rounds — it doesn’t mean that Redskins coach Joe Gibbs isn’t excited about the NFL Draft.

“I can promise you there are going to be some great players that come out of this draft from the fifth [round] down,” said Gibbs, whose second selection this weekend is No.153 overall in the fifth round. “Those are where the home runs are. Could we be the team that hits a couple of those?”

The New England Patriots hit a big one with quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft — a pick that, in large part, allowed them to win three of the past five Super Bowls.

The Redskins, however, haven’t hit a home run below the fourth round in more than a decade.

From 1981 to 1994, the Redskins chose five players after the 153rd pick who went on to the Pro Bowl: receiver Charlie Brown (1981), guard Mark Schlereth (1989), receiver Keenan McCardell (1991), tight end Frank Wycheck (1993) and quarterback Gus Frerotte (1994). They also picked up starters such as Darryl Grant, Clint Didier, Barry Wilburn, Raleigh McKenzie, Dean Hamel, Kurt Gouveia and Darryl Morrison.

However, the Redskins have selected only two players that late in the past 11 drafts who went on to start: guard Brad Badger (1997) and tight end Robert Royal (2002).

Six of the Redskins’ seven selections come tomorrow, putting the club under pressure to make the most of those late picks.

“We’ve got to be really, really good on the second day,” Gibbs said. “We feel like we’re well-prepared. It would have to be someone who would really ring our bell at receiver. Other than that, we can go in any direction. We’ve got some players [identified] down there we think can really help us.”

But probably not this year, except for that second-rounder.

“You’re looking to get some guys who are going to end up on the practice squad and will be able to develop and help you in the future,” said vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato.

As for No. 53, Cerrato mentioned a number of positions that are deep in the draft but omitted linebacker, which is not only deep but the Redskins’ biggest need in the wake of the release of LaVar Arrington last month.

“When we finished the season, we looked at our needs,” Cerrato said. “Ours were receivers, pass rush, safety. It’s not the type of draft where we can really help ourselves at receiver. That’s why we went for Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El. Picking 53rd, you’re not going to get a pass rusher. We filled our needs in free agency and in trades, so we can take the best player available at 53. That was the goal coming into the draft.”

Gibbs, whose first pick upon his return to Washington in 2004, safety Sean Taylor, has been embroiled in controversy on and off the field, just hopes the Redskins choose the right kind of person.

“It’s not a science,” Gibbs said. “You’re picking a person. … This guy looks great on paper, but then you get him there and say ‘good gosh!’ because it’s what’s inside a person, the character, the heart.”

Notes — The Redskins cut return specialist Antonio Brown and defensive tackle Aki Jones. Brown, who was impressive in a late-season look in 2004, was cut after fumbling a kickoff in the 2005 opener. He was re-signed in November and beat the Arizona Cardinals with a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Jones played in four games last year as a rookie free agent out of Fordham. …

Offensive tackle Jon Jansen, who broke both of his thumbs last September and played most of the season with one or both protected by splints, had more surgery on the right one yesterday and will wear a splint for six weeks. Director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said the splint won’t limit Jansen much in the offseason conditioning work. …

Cerrato said the Redskins will sign 11 undrafted rookies as soon as the draft ends to bulk up their numbers for next weekend’s rookie minicamp. … Washington’s on-field organized team activity sessions begin May 16 and run Tuesday through Thursday for five consecutive weeks leading into the June 16-18 veteran minicamp.

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