While the Redskins are scheduled to sit out Thursday night’s opening round of the NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams have the second overall pick in what is being hailed as a talent-rich draft. The Rams possess that prized selection thanks to the trade in which they received a trio of first-round choices and a second-round pick from the Redskins, who increased the value of the deal’s last remaining draft choice by going 3-13 last year in Griffin’s turbulent second NFL season.
The Rams thus far have transformed their draft-pick haul from the Griffin trade into seven players, including three promising starters on defense and a running back who was productive last season as a rookie. They could turn Thursday’s choice into a standout player or perhaps trade the pick to continue to try to stockpile talent. But it’s clear that while the draft choices that changed hands in the deal at last could be exhausted Thursday, it will be quite some time before a final evaluation of the trade can be made.
“As with any of these trades, if the quarterback turns out to be a franchise quarterback, it’s always hard to equate it on the other side unless you end up with a couple perennial Pro Bowl players,” said Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans. “The jury is still out to a degree on RGIII. And it’s still out to a degree on what the Rams got. You can certainly get a Pro Bowl player second overall. But there are no guarantees there yet that you have any perennial Pro Bowl players there.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said he initially was stunned at how much the Redskins gave up in the deal. Yet he added that, at least for now, he still would like to be on their side of the trade if forced to choose.
“I still think he’s going to be a really good player,” Moon said of Griffin. “He changed the mentality of that team. He changed everything around them. They had a great year and went to the playoffs [in Griffin’s rookie season in 2012]. Last year he had the injury and he wasn’t the same. I think he’s healthy again and he’ll have a good year with the new coaching staff. There was a lot of bad blood last year between him and [former Redskins coach] Mike Shanahan. The Rams have gotten some good players in that trade. But they haven’t progressed as far as the Redskins.”
Many draft observers project the Rams to take a top offensive tackle, either Greg Robinson of Auburn or Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, with the second pick Thursday. If the Rams stay put at second overall, it would be the first time they didn’t trade down to turn one of the first-round choices received in the Griffin deal into more picks.
The Rams traded down in 2012 after sending the second overall selection used on Griffin to the Redskins for the sixth overall choice, a second-round pick that year and first-rounders in 2013 and 2014. They traded down again last year from the 22nd overall pick received from the Redskins. They’ve managed to add key contributors in defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Tailback Zac Stacy, a fifth-round pick last year drafted after a trade utilizing one choice traceable to the Griffin deal and another belonging to the Rams, ran for 973 yards as a rookie.
But the Rams have yet to produce even a .500 season since the trade, going 7-8-1 in 2012 and 7-9 last year. They were 2-14 in the season before the deal.
“Ultimately this comes down to: Can the Rams get to the playoffs? And can the Redskins get to the playoffs more than one time?” Casserly said. “The Redskins got the early lead in the clubhouse because they made it to the playoffs once. But you need time with the Rams because they’re depending on all these young players.”
Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said that if Griffin recaptures his rookie-year magic, it will matter little what the Redskins had to surrender to get him, even if some of the players chosen by the Rams have solid pro careers.
“Regardless of who they’re getting with the picks,” Hasselbeck said, “if Robert has a career where you at least get to the Super Bowl, then I think people will look at it and say, ‘Look, you made a run at it. You had to get a franchise quarterback. There were two of them [Griffin and Andrew Luck, the top overall selection by the Indianapolis Colts] that year. And you couldn’t get up to [number] one.’ If he does his part of it, then it doesn’t really matter. [But] if he’s only okay or not any good, then you look at the other side of it.
“Ultimately there’s going to be a player that the Rams got from the trade that’s going to be a good player,” Hasselbeck said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the Rams got it right.”
Griffin was one of the league’s most dynamic players as he led the Redskins to an NFC East title in his rookie season. His encore performance last season was disappointing as he worked his way back from offseason knee surgery and dealt with intense scrutiny of his relationship with Shanahan.
“There are so many ways you can make an argument that the Rams won — if Robert isn’t any good or if the Rams get some really good players,” Hasselbeck said. “But if Robert has a long career and has some success and gets them to places they haven’t been, you have to call it a success [for the Redskins]. I say that looking at the list of guys the Redskins have had as their starting quarterback since, say, Mark Rypien. I’m on it. It’s not a good list to be on. That has to lower the bar.
“If you don’t make that move, where are you? Is it [drafting current Buffalo Bills quarterback] EJ Manuel a year later? Is it [current New York Jets quarterback] Geno Smith? . . . Robert has proven he can dominate in the NFL. Very few guys can do that. Now it’s all on him.”
Moon said he generally agrees with the notion that no price is too steep to pay for a championship-caliber quarterback. But the terms of the Griffin trade bordered on disproving that, he said.
“If you can get a good one, you’ve got to get him,” Moon said. “But I wouldn’t say [at] any price. I wouldn’t give up any more than that. That was a lot. If he’s a guy that takes them to multiple playoffs and maybe a Super Bowl, it’s worth it. But that was a lot. When I first heard what they were giving up, I was shocked.”