D.C.'s Draft Diamonds
By Ronald Guy
Combing through a decade’s worth of late-round draft picks of any NFL team is like cleaning out that long-neglected storage area in the bowels of one’s abode. The contents reveal items that piqued our interest for a brief moment but lacked the staying power to remain a relevant and recurring part of daily operations. The history of Rounds 5 through 7 of the NFL Draft is filled with preseason or one-week stars that flashed talent but, through injury, off-field transgressions, inconsistency or just poor luck, could never find a way to stick. Instead of proving to be a diamond in the rough, they were quickly relegated to the well-populated land of NFL “might have beens” that never were.
Over the last ten years, the Washington Redskins have flirted with their share of exciting football specimens, but like a heartless high school temptress, many ultimately produced only false hope of a lasting relationship. Once upon a time, safety and seventh-round pick Chris Horton looked like he may fill the void left by Sean Taylor. Marko Mitchell was a preseason version of Art Monk. Nehemiah Broughton was a big bruising back that conjured up nostalgic images of the counter-trey and John Riggins. H.B. Blades, a 2007 sixth-rounder, was a clone of and one-time heir apparent to London Fletcher. And Colt “Pineapple Jesus” Brennan once posed as D.C.’s Tom Brady until he proved to be fool’s gold.
As talent-barren as rounds five through seven tend to be, finding productive players, if not All-Pros, late in the draft is one skill that separates the best NFL teams from the mass of mediocre squads. These finds allow front offices to stockpile talent in a physically unforgiving sport, keep needs to a manageable number of positions and use free agency as a precision exercise as opposed to a panicked pursuit of overpriced talent.
The Redskins have had a scant few recent “hits” late in the draft. Considering the franchise’s success — or lack thereof — during this period, the plethora of late-round misses is unsurprising, but there were a few shrewd (okay, lucky) selections. Here are four unheralded draftees that found a way to stick around and carve out solid NFL careers, and one that may have a career of considerable substance.