By Thomas Boswell
Wednesday, March 31, 2010; D01
As the NFL draft approaches, everything about the Redskins' first-round pick -- and the quarterbacks they may or may not love -- is a complete and gorgeous mess. Thank Sam Bradford.
By April 22, decisions will be made with profound long-term implications for rebuilding the decimated Redskins. The most tempting, but potentially disastrous, option is the most obvious. With the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Redskins may select, or trade up in the hope of acquiring, the team's best quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen.
There's just one problem. Until this week, when Oklahoma's Bradford lit up pro day by connecting on 62 of 63 passes, nobody with a draft board had a solid opinion whether this group of college quarterbacks contained even one future NFL star.
Now, in a blink, Bradford, his shoulder healed after surgery five months ago, has been anointed as the near-lock No. 1 overall pick. Just like John Elway. And Jeff George and Alex Smith. Get out the migraine meds.
Should the Redskins package a mountain of draft picks, perhaps two No. 1s and other picks, for Bradford as the Giants did six years ago to trade up for Eli Manning? New York ended up giving away future star Phillip Rivers and two more future all-pros in that deal with San Diego. But the Giants got a Super Bowl ring.
Should the Redskins stay at No. 4 and follow the advice, touted on national radio this week by deposed General Manager Vinny Cerrato, to draft Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen? Shudder. Talk about the kiss of death. His defense sabotaged his stats in a 6-6 season. His coach got canned. Now he gets sapped by Vinny.
Should the Redskins use both their No. 4 and No. 37 overall picks to add two fine offensive tackles in a draft loaded with linemen? Sounds easy. And it probably would be, especially if Oklahoma State's Russell Okung is still on the board.
Or, in a tactic Joe Gibbs always adored and Mike Shanahan favored in Denver, should the Redskins use that glamorous first-round pick to trade down for multiple valuable draft picks? Consult the sacred Draft Pick Value Chart. A No. 4 overall is worth 1,800 points. How much is that? In theory, you could swap it for the first-, second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks combined of a team that finishes with the 16th-best record.
Remember when Mike Ditka was in New Orleans and traded the Redskins present and future Saints picks in return for the fifth overall? The Skins feasted off that bonanza for years. Or, more realistically, since a Dopey Ditka isn't often available, the Redskins probably could wheel and deal their No. 1 pick into two No. 1s -- hypothetically, the 13th overall pick (1,150 points) and a 25th-overall pick (720 points), too.
What have such picks brought the Redskins in the past? Brian Okapko was a No. 13 and Jason Campbell a No. 25. You'd still have that No. 37 pick for a right tackle, like Jon Jansen, a No. 37.
Seldom have the Redskins faced such a welter of choices, all of them tempting, most of them treacherous. Only once in almost 50 years have they used a pick as high as No. 4 for a passer. Actually, they used a higher slot in 1994. With a No. 3 overall, they took Heath Shuler.
Why not? Shuler seemed the best of his bunch. But 1994 was a lousy lot. Trent Dilfer and Gus Frerotte? Some years, you could grab every quarterback in a whole draft -- and get nothing. But a year later the No. 3 pick was Steve McNair. Drafting a franchise quarterback is part science, part art and a ton of dumb luck.
If the Redskins want quality and quantity, rather than a quarterback gamble, this is the ideal year. Trade down, stock up.
However, for decades the first law of the draft has been simple: If you think you can get The Quarterback, you jump. No, that's not Clausen, who reportedly scored below average for a quarterback on the Wonderlic test. Besides all the other questions about Clausen, why deal with the appearance that Cerrato is still trying to lobby his old team?
The true quandary is Bradford. In his first public display since season-ending shoulder surgery, he threw passes in a no-pads, no-defense drill. Just show us your arm, kid. Throw every NFL route. Can you hum it? Are you accurate? How quick is your release, how compact your motion?
Only one of his 63 passes touched the ground -- because a receiver dropped it. Former Cowboys GM Gil Brandt, a legendary evaluator, called it the best workout he'd seen since Troy Aikman.
If Bradford, who aced the Wonderlic (a 36, better than Tom Brady's 33 and far ahead of Clausen's 23 and Tim Tebow's 22), wasn't No. 1 on every draft board, he is now. Check 'em off: Heisman winner, 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, second-generation Sooner footballer, member of Cherokee Nation, smart, good personality, a bit modest and a fraction of the public references to "God" of Clausen or Tebow. I prefer quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana who made the defense do the praying.
Much as I would love to see how long the nickname Redskins could survive if a Native American descendant were Washington's quarterback, Bradford's cost would be huge. That is, if you could get that No. 1 pick away from the Rams at any price.
The easy choice is to trade down, get at least three choices in the first 37 overall picks and add quality and quantity to a depleted, rebuilding team. And that's probably correct. But, in the last couple of days, Bradford has made that picture murky. Except for questions about durability -- he even showed up to collect his 2008 Heisman with his left hand in a cast -- he looks like the whole package.
Once, Shanahan had the original total package in John Elway. He knows, firsthand, that is how a smart coach becomes a genius. With Elway, Shanahan won two Super Bowls. Without him, he had just one playoff win and ended up out of a job.
With such a vivid memory so close at hand, the temptation will be enormous, no matter what the price, to try to recreate that magic again.