The opening moments of the NFL draft Thursday night lacked suspense, but the Washington Redskins certainly weren’t complaining. On an evening they hope they will remember fondly for years to come, the Redskins made their long-anticipated addition of quarterback Robert Griffin III official by selecting the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor with the draft’s second overall choice.
After years of trying, the Redskins hope they finally have landed a dynamic player at the sport’s most important position who can help rekindle the franchise’s past success. Team officials had targeted Griffin from the moment they completed their blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Rams in March to move up four spots in the first round, paying a heavy price in future draft choices to do so.
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“We tried to keep it secret as long as we could,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said at Redskins Park soon after the pick was made, describing team officials as “elated” with the selection.
“He wants to be the guy,” Shanahan added. “He’s going to do everything he possibly can to be successful. You don’t have to be around him very long to figure that out.”
Griffin wore burgundy and gold striped socks and a light blue suit to the draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York. “I’m real excited,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “A team finally fell in love with me. They want me for who I am, and I can’t wait to go play for them.”
The Redskins announced plans for Griffin’s introductory news conference at 2 p.m. Saturday at FedEx Field, where the team will be hosting a draft party for fans.
The formalities Thursday night were anticlimactic. Soon after the draft began at 8 p.m., the Indianapolis Colts made Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck the top overall selection. The Redskins then turned in Griffin’s name for the second pick to be announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Luck and Griffin became the fifth set of quarterbacks selected first and second in the same year since the NFL and AFL combined their drafts in 1967.
Redskins officials said after they completed the trade with the Rams that they would be happy with either Luck or Griffin. But most people in the league seemed virtually certain the Redskins would end up with Griffin. It’s not necessarily a consolation prize. Some talent evaluators prefer Griffin’s chances of becoming a centerpiece player in the NFL to Luck’s.
But the Colts were locked in on Luck throughout the period leading up to the draft. In March, they released quarterback Peyton Manning, the only four-time most valuable player in league history, after he missed all of last season following a series of neck surgeries. Manning landed with the Denver Broncos as a free agent, and the Colts made plans to begin their rebuilding around Luck. The Colts announced Tuesday they would select him.
That seemed to suit the Redskins just fine. In Griffin, they are getting a quarterback who has demonstrated speed as a runner and accuracy as a passer. He has put star quality on display during the pre-draft buildup. Now he must show he can stand out in the NFL with his play on the field, as well.