Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Mar 2012

ESPN: The Redskins' Big Gamble

The Redskins are taking a big risk by trading up in the draft for the opportunity to take Robert Griffin III. He projects as a great franchise quarterback, but the loss of so many picks will hurt the team's depth in the short- and long-term.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 10 Mar 2012

45 comments, Last at 11 Apr 2013, 11:41am by Anonymous12


by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 12:43am

By our Lewin Forecast System, Robert Griffin III -- the likely pick at the position, barring an evaluation reversal from the Indianapolis Colts -- is one of the best quarterback prospects of the past 15 years.... However, even if Griffin does develop into an elite QB, the price Washington had to pay for the opportunity to draft him makes this deal a risky one for the Redskins.

I don't know about that. If Griffin is an elite NFL QB, the price is definitely worth it. How many draft picks would you give to draft a QB like Peyton, or Rogers, or Brees, or Brady? Those guys make you a contender every year and win Super Bowls. Are the 2012 Skins really worse than the 1997 Colts or 2005 Saints (both teams went 3-13)? And to make the point even stronger, immediately afterward those Colts gave away Marshall Faulk and those Saints blew a top pick on Reggie Bush. Having an elite QB protects you from those bad moves.

Unrelated, I expect the LCF will project RG3 higher than Luck, which is interesting even if very few people would agree with it.

by tuluse :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 1:19am

The Saints were actually probably a lot better than the other teams. They were forcefully evicted from the Superdome by hurricane Katrina, didn't have a real home game all year, and were totally discombobulated.

Also, Peyton Manning wasn't really PEYTON MANNING until probably the 2004 season. He was good, but he was just another good QB until that point.

Also, the Saints were able to get Brees while giving up 0 picks. That's the real steal. For the price the Redskins are paying the Saints added Reggie Bush, Robert Meachem, and Sedrick Ellis. While none of them have been great, all of them added value to the team.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 3:32am

Whether he turns into an elite QB does not affect how risky it is now before they have such knowledge.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 7:23am

Right, which is why it's weird that the way the article is written, it seems to be saying that it's a risky move even if he does turn into an elite QB.

by Stealth Caterpillar (not verified) :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 10:14pm

I don't think you know what 'risky' means...

by dmb :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 3:12am

(Re-posted from the XP thread, since it's also relevant here.)

Only the new CBA makes this deal look bad, rather than horrifying. As a Redskins fan, here are a few other rationalizations that I'm making to try to stay positive:

- I can understand giving up a couple high picks for the possibility of having a likely starting-caliber QB with a high ceiling at a pretty good cap number.

- I guess mortgaging the future for ... the future (?) is a change from mortgaging the future for the present. Not necessarily an improvement, but if this bombs, at least it's a different type of futility.

- There's a decent chance that this won't be the dumbest QB-related move that a team has made in the past 24 hours (Sanchez).

On an semi-related note, what I've seen from Griffin has given me a couple unorthodox opinions. Are these crazy?

- Although I completely understand the hype for Griffin as a passer, does anyone else think his potential to run the ball has been vastly overrated? Don't get me wrong, I think he's got mobility that's VERY useful for a quarterback: he's got good pocket mobility (and presence/awareness, for that matter), and can extend plays by moving out of the pocket (and make those throws on the run). I think he's a great fit for all the rollouts that the Shanahan clan have him run. But when it comes to open field running, I just don't see anything special. He's got very good speed -- for a QB. Not for a ballhandler in general. His acceleration doesn't seem very good, nor does his agility; he can maneuver enough to slip out of arm tackles, but doesn't often make big changes of direction to cut across the field, etc.

To be clear, I think the mobility he has is much more important than the mobility he doesn't. But I think the occasional comparisons to Vick, Cunningham, etc. are absurd. I just don't see the potential to be a game-breaker by running the football. There's a reason he only averaged 4 yards per carry last year.

- The comp for Griffin that I like the most is one I don't think I've seen made yet: Mark Brunell, Jaguars edition. Is this completely off-base, or just somewhat?

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 12:14pm

He was an All American track star at Baylor and one of the fastest players overall at the combine. Game speed vs. track speed and fast vs. short space quickness are legitimate distinctions but I would say Griffin is plenty "mobile" especially compared to most other QBs.

by speedegg :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 3:27pm

There are a few things going for RGIII: he didn't play in a dinky, one-read, short passing spread offense; he's a great fit for the Shanahan zone-blocking, play-action bootleg/QB run offense; he can make all the throws at the pro-level (as opposed to McCoy or Sanchez who have trouble throwing outside the numbers); and he's accurate. He does need to work on his timing and anticipation of throws, but good coaching can address that.

But then, that's the question, is Kyle Shanahan a competent O-Coordinator to build plays around Griffin's strengths and develop him or will it be another exercise in futility like McNabb/Beck/Grossman?

by Jerry :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 3:25am

How many draft picks would you give to draft a QB like Peyton, or Rogers, or Brees, or Brady?

Peyton, of course, went #1, although there were people at the time who preferred Ryan Leaf. Rodgers famously lasted until the 24th pick, Brees until the beginning of the second round (and even then, the Chargers let him go so that, as tuluse notes, the Saints picked him up for nothing), and Brady went in the sixth round.

Maybe that QB you take at the top of the draft turns out to be Peyton Manning. Or maybe he's Tim Couch. Or maybe JaMarcus Russell. The Redskins (and Colts, for that matter) are taking their best shot at getting a franchise quarterback, but there are no guarantees. The best QB in the draft may end up going later.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 7:27am

Of course. But what I'm saying is if you somehow knew with 100% certainty that RG3 will be an elite QB, how many picks would you give up for him? As much as the Skins gave up, or possibly even more?

by Jerry :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 7:53pm

It would depend on what else I knew with 100% certainty. If I knew that another (non-Luck) QB would be almost as good, I'd take him at 6, or even wait until a later round if I knew he'd be there. If you knew Brady was going to be Brady, you'd have been able to take him in the fifth round.

It's entirely possible that the Redskins are right, and this is a good deal. (I hope so for your sake.) They're just investing an awful lot in a move with an awful lot of uncertainty attached. Is it a good move if he turns out to be a Matt Ryan-quality quarterback?

by Puddin Patterson (not verified) :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 8:33am

as Redskins fan, my concern, amongst others, (crappy o-line, 3rd rate WR corp) is the fact that once hes with the team, he'll be coached by Shannahan and his useless git of an OC.

by rageon :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 11:00pm

When he was in Houston, was little Shannahan considered to be as terrible as he now is? I'm not familiar enough with him to say.

by bubqr :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 9:25am

I have to say that as an Eagles fan, I don't like the move - Been following the draft closely only for 8 years or so, and I've never seen a QB prospect that I've liked as much as RGIII. But I do think that to make this work, they HAVE to be very good at drafting in future years (which they've been very good at last year IMO).

The Giants comparison is good, post Eli they have struggled a bit, but a succession of good drafts made them contenders (Eli by himself didn't). This is what the Redskins will have to do. They are playing for a 2015+ championship IMO, but to get there the margin for error will be smaller on the following drafts.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 10:49am

The team playing for the 2015+ championship is the Rams

The Skins won't even sniff drafting a likely impact starter again until 2015
(unless they find someone to take their 2015,2016,2017,2018...) picks and move them back in to the 1st round in 2013-2014

Velvet Sky fan

by QQ (not verified) :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 5:10pm

I think you are completely wrong. You make it sound as if impact starters can't be found after the 1st Round. Now I can't speak to Washington's current Front Office but many SB winners have been built around impact starters from Rounds 2-6 and to assume Washington can't find talent after Round 1 is pretty extreme.

As far as the original question about how many picks you would give up for an Elite QB, I suspect the answer is A LOT. I would bet that odds would say out of the 3 1st Round Picks STL gets:

-1 Will be Pro Bowl Caliber or Better
-1 Will be a Decent Starter
-1 Will be a Bust

Obviously all 3 could be Hall of Famers or all 3 Busts, but even 1st Round picks disappoint quite often.

*As a Hypothetical, how many 1st Round Picks would GB need to receive to trade Rodgers today? I'd put the O/U at 7.5 At 1st the # might seem crazy but considering that GB likely drops from SB contender/favorite to Wild Card contender all for the hope that in the next 1-7 years they will get back to where they are currently it would be quite the gamble.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 9:06pm

He said "likely impact starter" not impact starter in fact. Scouting talent is hard. Indeed, you've listed some possibilities. Higher picks tend to be more likely to be impact starters than later picks, and now the Redskins will have fewer higher picks. They could still of course draft some player later or pick up a UDFA who ends up being an impact starter. Given how many selections and signing they will be making in the coming years, it's very likely they will. But it's also fair to say that at draft time no single player could be a "likely impact starter" for some suitable definition of likely. Those three possibilities you mentioned are also possibilities for Griffin.

by dryheat :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 10:35am

Wait...are you suggesting that Green Bay wouldn't trade Rogers for 7 first round picks? Or are you suggesting that any other team in the NFL would trade 7 first round picks for Rodgers?

In the first case, I would strongly disagree, and in the second, I would guess that you're hitting the rubber cement pretty hard.

If Green Bay could get 4 number 1s for Rodgers, they'd do it now and re-sign Flynn. And nobody in the league, probably not in the history of the league, is worth trading 7.5 first round picks for. Peyton Manning in 2006 wouldn't have fetched 7.5 first round picks.

by Will Allen :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 8:00pm

Just off the top of my head, with the team I'm most familiar with, the Vikings, after the 2nd round, in the last 20 years, they obtained....

1)Hall of Famer John Randle as an undrafted free agent.
2)Six time Pro Bowler, just completed his 14th year, Matt Birk in the 7th round.
3)Four time 1000 yard receiver Jake Reed in the 3rd round.
4)Three time Pro Bowler Jeff Christy, who was cut by the team that originally drafted him in the fourth round, and then signed by the Vikings.
5)A guy who made 134 starts for some of the statistically best NFL offenses, David Dixon, in the 9th round.

.....and I'm sure I'm leaving some guys out. You can pick up terrific players after the 2nd round, and if you are smart with your cap space, you can invest wisely in free agents. Steve Hutchinson was a terrific signing for the Vikings, as was Antione Winfield, and Pat Williams.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 12:10am

Ooh I like this game. Let's look at the Redskins (it's only fair). In the last 20 years, after the second round, they found:

1) 3 time Pro Bowler Frank Wycheck in the 6th (granted his success was elsewhere)
2) 1 time Pro Bowler Gus Frerotte in the 7th
3) 3 time Pro Bowler Stephen Davis in the 4th
4) Derrick Smith who started 167 games in the 3rd
5) 2 time Pro Bowler Chris Cooley in the 3rd
6) 1 time Pro Bowler Antonio Pierce as an UDFA
7) Ryan Clark, undrafted and cut by the Giants, who started 102 of the 108 games he's played in since then (and counting)

There may be others I missed, and I didn't count any recent players, but that's 7 "impact starters" acquired without 1st or 2nd round picks, by a team with a reputation for giving away picks like party favors and not particularly renowned for good scouting. By my math, they are likely to find at least 1 impact starter beyond the first 2 rounds of the draft before 2015. So there.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 1:08am


Also Keenan McCardell (like Wycheck, his success was not in Washington), Gus Frerotte (he may have been a punchline fairly often, but he was a Pro Bowler who started at quarterback for five years), Shawn Barber, and Brian Mitchell.

It doesn't make sense to me to count a guy (Clark) who played elsewhere for two years.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 6:54am

your "math" seems off .
so one every three years?

gee, that's great odds to bank on hitting in a 2 year stretch to help RG3 out before 2015

ignoring that...
you do know that in general, teams average right about 2 eventual starters/11 starter years per draft, let alone actual 'impact' starters per draft?

What rounds do you think most of those come from?

Velvet Sky fan

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 8:41am

Actually it's a 3 year stretch, since the 2012 draft hasn't happened yet. Also, what is an 'impact starter' and how do you distinguish that from a regular starter?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 9:07am

impact starter- someone who makes the team significantly better from day one of being there

and RG3 is the only 'likely' impact starter of their 2012 draft, so ... 2 years, not 3

Velvet Sky fan

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 1:00am


Brad Johnson, Terry Allen, and Ed McDaniel were also Pro Bowlers (FWIW). By AV, Jason Fisk, Roy Barker, Brad Culpepper, Gilbert Brown, Nate Burleson, and Brian Williams were all at least useful (36+).

Dixon, incidentally, was actually drafted by the Patriots, though he never actually played for them.

by erniecohen :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 8:32pm

Saying that somebody "projects" to being a "great franchise QB" is kind of silly. See "Made, Not Born". There's a pretty good chance that injuries alone will prevent him from being a great franchise QB.

by erniecohen :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 8:32pm

Saying that somebody "projects" to being a "great franchise QB" is kind of silly. See "Made, Not Born". There's a pretty good chance that injuries alone will prevent him from being a great franchise QB.

by dryheat :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 10:38am

I would say #12 for the Patriots was neither born to be a "great franchise QB", nor projected to one on draft day.

by mrh :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 12:07pm

I don't have Insider so I can't read the article. But here's a quick take using P-F-R's draft chart

The 1.02 is typically worth 64 career AV (I believe this is using the weighted number).

The picks WAS gave up are the 1.06, 2.06 and 2 future first round picks. I assumed they were 1.16/1.17. Those four picks are worth 51 + 38 + 38 + 27 = 154 career AV. So in the abstract, the Redskins got fleeced. But they would never have made this trade in the abstract.

They have a concrete player in mind, RGIII. If RGIII has Peyton Manning's career to date this trade is about even. PM's weighted career AV is 159 (the best since 1951) vs. the 154 the Skins gave up.

So if RGIII is about as good as Peyton Manning, or the best player since 1951, this is a fair trade, probably a little in the Skins favor, although I wouldn't put too fine a point on it - these are "approximate" numbers.

Of course, the Colts (and a number of others) think the Andrew Luck is more likely to be the next Peyton Manning. Probably the Redskins will be happy if they get Dan Marino's career AV (145) out of the deal.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 1:41pm

You can't just sum like that and have it come out meaningfully. Those players take a spot on the team and so the value of the person being replaced is no longer present. When you consider that I think one great player starts to look better. There's also salary expectations to consider, which probably favors more draft picks rather than one big one. All in all, I think you're probably just about right, but maybe favoring the picks just a bit more than is warranted.

by Eddo :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 1:44pm

There's also the issue of value now vs. value later, especially when you move the discussion from the abstract to the practical.

I'm not sure how you'd model it, but I'm sure it's real. You'll often see it factored into trades like this; a second round pick next year will be spoken of like a first round pick this year.

by dryheat :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 2:13pm

You've gotten that backwards. In general, a first round pick next year is roughly equivalent to a second round pick now. Bird in the hand and all that.

by Eddo :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 5:47pm

Ah, right. Duh.

Thanks for correcting me.

by Hank (not verified) :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 3:06pm

Pretty sure in the 2013, 2014 or 2015 drafts there is going to be a surething, once in a generation QB, the Redskins probably would be in a position to draft.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 8:04pm

A sure-thing "once in a generation" QB? Probably. That the Skins will be in a position to draft? Probably not. They haven't picked higher than 4th since 2000. Those franchise guys go #1 overall (unless there are 2 in 1 year when they go 1-2).

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 10:00pm

I like that you guys allow for two "once in a generation" QBs in a single draft, and probably several over the next few years.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 9:03am

Well that's why I put it in quotes. "Once in a generation" guys come along every other draft, it seems.

by erniecohen :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 12:03pm

The last concensus "once in a generation" tag I remember was applied to Reggie Bush. Ooops.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 03/14/2012 - 12:10am

Nah, Calvin Johnson (and he lived up to it too).

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 1:57pm

I know it was intentional. I just appreciate the subtlety.

by Kal :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 8:33pm

It would have been nice to see some actual analysis here. What the average actual value of 2 #1s and a #2 are, for instance, vs. the likelihood of a top-tier QB prospect panning out.

Though it seems like more and more the top tier ones are working out pretty well. JaMarcus Russell was the last bust, but a lot of people saw that. Cam Newton a lot of folks thought would be a bust but ended up better (and certainly looked better than Russell). Manning, Rivers, Ben, Ryan, Stafford, Newton, Bradford - these all appear to have worked out well.

Last year might be the worst year for it; everyone was desperate for a QB and probably everyone overreached on a lot of 2nd round value. But only Newton was #1.

I'll see if I can do some of the analysis I was thinking about. Maybe from 2000-2005, to give some ability to evaluate.

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