The other day I found myself talking with the contributors at the Extreme Skins draft thread and stumbled upon the fact that Mike and Bruce have not drafted a single underclassman with their 18 selections the past two drafts. That’s right, every one of their draft picks since they’ve come in to power has been a senior. This despite the fact that 2010 saw a record tying 53 early entrants (2008 also had 53) and 2011 established a new record 56 early entrants. In short, the two drafts that Allen and Shanahan have presided over had the largest group of early entrants to choose form in NFL history. By and large, most early entrants get drafted, and if the average draft class is about 255 players, then that means almost one in five players drafted is an underclassman.
Thus it’s peculiar that the front office has managed to make 18 selections without selecting a single one. That speaks to a trend and drafting preference on the part of Allen and Shanahan. Much has been said about their preference for drafting so many former team captains. Well it looks like we can add a new wrinkle to that theory: this front office also prefers drafting seniors.
But not just any seniors mind you. They need to be seniors with a long history of starts, and preferably lots of individual awards and statistical milestones on their resumes. For the positions that accumulate mainstream statistics, an Allen and Shanahan draft pick has ideally finished high on his school’s career lists. For example:
- Terrence Austin produced the first and third ranked seasons for All Purpose yards in UCLA history in 2008 and 2009 with 1,878 and 1,818 respectively.
- Aldrick Robinson finished second in SMU history with 3,314 career receiving yards.
- Leonard Hankerson set Miami single season records for yards and touchdowns in 2010; he finished third in Miami history in receiving touchdowns (22) behind Michael Irvin and Lamar Thomas.
- Niles Paul ranks sixth in Nebraska history in receptions (102) and fifth in receiving yards (1,532).
- Roy Helu finished fourth on Nebraska’s career rushing list with 3,404 yards.
- Evan Royster is Penn State’s career rushing leader with an astonishing 3,932 yards and is distinguished as the only Penn State back to every rush for three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Wow.
These are some highly accomplished football players before they’ve even arrived at training camp. But even the non-skill position draft picks came with a variety of accomplishments:
- Selvish Capers and Eric Cook were three year starters with over 30 starts each.
- Trent Williams started 39 of 50 games played at Oklahoma with plenty of awards and honors to put in his trophy case: two time first team All American from four different sources, two time first team All Big 12 selection, and a Freshman All American second team selection.
- Maurice Hurt only started 6 games in his career at Florida, but managed to play in 29 total as a dirty starter you just couldn’t keep off the field.
- Dennis Morris was a four year letterman that played in every game of his career, he was named an All American and All WAC performer in 2009.
- Ryan Kerrigan finished his career with more awards and achievements than can be listed, but some notable highlights are tying the FBS record for fumbles forced (14), finishing second in Purdue history in sacks (33.5) and fifth in tackles for loss (57), unanimous All American selection his senior year, second team All American his junior year, two time All Big Ten performer, and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
- Jarvis Jenkins was a three year starter at Clemson with 37 career starts in 48 games played. A nifty little tidbit? He’s also Clemson’s career leader in blocked kicks.
- Perry Riley played in 42 games at LSU with 22 starts, won the Chick Fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP and was a finalist for the 2008 Butkus award.
- Brandyn Thompson was a three year starter for Boise State and two time All-WAC performer, winning the 2008 Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Award.
- Markus White was a top, award winning JUCO transfer to Florida State, where he finished his career as a two year starter.
- Dejon Gomes was a JUCO transfer that ended up playing 23 games at Nebraska as a key reserve, earning All Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.
- Chris Neild was a three year starter at West Virginia and was an All Big East selection his senior year.
So basically everyone the Redskins drafted in 2010 and 2011 has some individual awards on their shelves or several years of collegiate starts to look back on. What that means is that the prototypical Allen and Shanahan draft pick has been,
I didn’t even delve into all of the academic awards that some of our draft picks such as Ryan Kerrigan have won. Certainly that seems to be another factor that the front office considers and prefers. So add a fourth consideration,
to the list.
That’s not a bad set of criteria to draft by at all. It’s essentially the same one the Patriots seem to use and I think it’ll end up ensuring that most of these players will stick because they’ll be professional and they each have an established history of translating their talent and athletic ability into real production on the field. It seemingly limits the risk of picking busts.
One of the regular contributors suggested this method of only drafting productive senior prospects could be a temporary strategy adopted to build a solid foundation for their roster as they reshape the team in their image. Having largely completed this process by now, this fellow thought that the front office would start swinging on sketchier but talented prospects from the early entrant pool. There could certainly be something to this line of thought. But I think that Allen and Shanahan have demonstrated a clear preference for the type of players they like to draft with these past 18 picks. I think they’re bound to draft at least one junior player eventually because the odds of never doing so seem extremely remote. But I also wouldn’t bet on them picking an underclassman until they actually do it.
So if you’re trying to figure out who the Redskins will draft in this season’s class, perhaps it’s best to look away from the highly talented juniors who’d be early entrants like Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, and Andrew Luck. Instead look for the senior captains with those big career numbers and All Conference/Academic All Conference awards.