When the Redskins drafted Jim (Yazoo) Smith on the first round in 1968, no team official or fan could have realized that it would be the team's last opening round pick for 12 years.
But while most National Football League franchises relied on the college draft for stockpiling talent during the 1970s, Washington took a different road.
Starting when they traded their 1969 No. 1 pick for UCLA quarterback Gary Beban, the Redskins preferred wheeling and dealing, especially during the George Allen years, to the slow, steady process of developing rookie talent.
Only Philadelphia, among other NFL teams comes close to matching Washington's disdain for the draft in the last 12 years, which have seen the Redskins also go without a second or third pick since 1971. Only recently, when the Eagles once again embraced the draft, have they become playoff contenders.
Still, there wasn't really much reason for Redskin fans to lament Allen's methods. Any team that had selected the likes of Charley Gogolak, Ray McDonald and the ill-fated Smith with its last three first-round choices wasn't making good use of the draft anyway.
Gogolak had been a star placekicker for Princeton. And the Redskins needed a kicker. But after compiling a 6-8 record in 1965, Washington needed a lot more than field goal help.
Yet, Coach Bill McPeak and personnel man Bucko Kilroy startled the league by making Gogolak the first kicker ever chosen in an opening round. And Gogolak rewarded them with a fine rookie season in which he was the league's third highest scorer while setting a handful of team records.
But a muscle pull in his kicking leg, suffered during the opening game of the 1967 season, started a downhill slide. He came back in 1968 to make only nine of 19 field goals, then was released by Vince Lombardi's words, "Our kicking is making us the laughingstock of the league."
Gogolak hung on with the Patriots for another three years, but he never came close to living up to the expectations of McPeak or Kilroy.
It was Otto Graham's turn next at hauling in a No. 1 choice. He felt the Redskins needed a big, strong back in the 1967 draft and McDonald from Idaho was rated highly by the team's scouting combine.
"He just wasn't as good an athlete as we thought," said Mike Allman, now the Redskin's director of personnel but then a fledgling scout. "He had an Achilles" heel problem and he had trouble adjusting when we changed plays at the line of scrimmage."
McDonald played only two seasons with Washington. He gained 47 yards in the second half of his rookie debut, then added 98 the next week against New Orleans. He pulled a groin muscle in the fifth game and hardly played the rest of the year. In 1968, he was on the taxi squad and suited up for a local semipro team before being activated for the Redskin's final game. By 1968, he was gone.
Smith was considered one of the top 15 players in the country prior to the 1968. "He was a fine player and he would have been a star," Allman said. "No question about it. He was a good choice."
But in the last game of his rookie year, Smith, who was drafted as a cornerback but was forced to play safety because of team need, collided with a teammate while making a tackle. His neck was broken and he never played again.
Since then, the Redskins have had only three No. 2 choices (Eugene Epps in 1969, Bill Brundige in 1970, Cotton Speyrer in 1971), and No. 3 (Ed Cross in 1967), and three No. 4s (Paul Laavag in 1970, and Ducan McCall in 1977 and Don Warren in 1979).
This season, Washington has the 18th pick in the opening round, plus No. 2 and No. 4 selections in the first five rounds.
"We are going to have a fine draft," Allman said, "and we are going to get a good first-round pick."
That first choice probably will be either a running back or a defensive lineman. Because they are so far down the list, even Redskin officials aren't sure who will be available when their time comes.
But barring major surprise selections by earlier clubs, one of the following players most likely will be picked by Washington Tuesday.
Running backs: Perry Harrington (5-foot-11, 210), Jackson State; Joe Cribbs (5-9, 190), Auburn; Earl Cooper (6-2, 225), Rice, or James Hadnot (6-2, 240), Texas Tech. Team sources have said the Redskins would pass up a chance to draft Heisman Trophy winner Charles White.
Defensive linemen: Doug Martin (6-3, 255), Washington; Matt Millen (6-1, 260), Penn State; Bill Barnett (6-4, 253), Nebraska, or John Goodman (6-5, 240), Oklahoma.
If an early team does not take such highly regarded defensive linemen as Jim Stuckey (6-4, 250) of Clemson, Rulon Jones (6-6, 250) of Utah State or Curtis Greer (6-4, 255) of Michigan, watch for the Redskins to grab one of them.