When the Washington Redskins drafted Spencer Long in 2014, they got a reliable offensive lineman capable of playing either guard or center. Selected with the 78th overall pick, Long eventually started 31 of 40 games — first at left guard, then at center.
Long will be a free agent this offseason, but his selection shows the kind of value available in the third round of the draft. Over the last five years, the Redskins have taken Fabian Moreau, Kendall Fuller, Matt Jones, Long and Jordan Reed in the third.
It’s worth keeping in mind while evaluating the Redskins’ trade for quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins gave up a third-round pick — again 78th overall — and Fuller for Smith.
Fuller’s inclusion was baffling, but there’s a good chance the Chiefs will find a quality player with the extra third rounder.
In this case, the haul was the price of doing business. The Redskins decided Smith is a franchise quarterback and those don’t come cheap.
Here’s who has been taken at No. 78 in the NFL Draft over the last five years:
Tim Williams OLB (Alabama), Baltimore Ravens, 2017: How it panned out? Too early to tell. Williams spent the year behind Terrell Suggs and second-year linebacker Matt Judon. He had a steep learning curve, appearing in only eight games and played only 125 defensive snaps.
Joe Thuney G (North Carolina State), New England Patriots, 2016: Thuney has been a hit in New England, starting in all 32 of his career games. After being named to the NFL All-Rookie team, Thuney had an impressive sophomore campaign. He can also solve a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes. How does that translate to the field? Rest assured, Bill Belichick used it to his advantage somehow.
P.J. Williams CB (Florida State), New Orleans Saints, 2015: Injuries heavily impacted Williams in his first two years. He missed his entire rookie year with a torn hamstring and then a concussion limited him to two games in 2016. But Williams returned in 2017 and became a contributor. He had two interceptions this season.
Long (Nebraska), Washington Redskins, 2014: As explained above, Long worked out quite well for the Redskins. His 2017 was limited by knee tendonitis and was shutdown in November. If Long leaves, the Redskins will look to replace him with center Chase Roullier. If he returns, Long could fill the void of free agent-to-be Shawn Lauvao.
Marquise Goodwin RB (Texas), Buffalo Bills, 2013: Goodwin took a while to develop. He was largely inconsistent in Buffalo, never topping 500 yards in a season. Goodwin, though, revitalized in his career in 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers, recording a career-high 962 yards for two touchdowns.
Outside the last five years, others drafted with the 78th pick, such as wide receiver Brandon LaFell (2010), guard Louis Vasquez (2009) and wide receiver James Jones (2007), have developed into solid players.
Not every pick in this list turned out to be a stud. Redskins general manager Doug Williams referred to the draft as a “crapshoot” at the Senior Bowl last week. In some ways, he’s right. No player is “bust-proof.”
But teams like to maximize their chances of nailing talent. That’s why the Cleveland Browns have stockpiled draft picks, and the Patriots trade down to collect more assets.
In trading for Smith, the Redskins didn’t just give up a promising corner in Fuller — the draft pick had value, too.