With the 2021 edition of the annual NFL Draft swiftly approaching, let’s take a step back and look through the rearview mirror and determine who were the five best Washington Football Team draft picks over the past 50 years. In the 1970s through the beginning of the 1990s, Washington was a frequent fixture in the NFC playoff picture. Washington had made the playoffs 13 times in that 30-year period, including five NFC championships and three super bowl wins. Washington has not won a Super Bowl since 1991, though. Since the NFL Draft is an essential aspect in team building, it’s always a fun exercise to analyze where Washington has hit on picks in the past and who these players were.
Thought Process Behind My Top-5 List
When breaking down Washington’s last 50 years of NFL draft picks, a few important pieces of criteria came to mind when doing the evaluation. For starters, I evaluated the longevity of these players and I took a deep dive into their individual statics. Furthermore, I analyzed how these players faired in comparison to other top performers of their generation and if they received any league-wide acclimations. Finally, I took a deep dive into how impactful their contributions were to Washington’s overall team success during their career.
Honorable Mention WFT NFL Draft Picks (Listed Chronologically)
Charles Mann (1983 R3 P84)
One of the toughest decisions for me, I decided that Mann’s storied career with Washington was not worthy of a spot on the list. However, his body of work as a member of Washington cannot be overlooked – Mann won two championships with Washington, was a four-time pro bowler, and a two-time second-team all-pro. Mann leads Washington’s franchise with 17 forced fumbles and is second all-time in sacks with 82.
Sean Taylor (2004 R1 P5)
Based on pure talent, Sean Taylor would be at or near the top of this list without any hesitation – Sean Taylor redefined the free safety position in the NFL. Not only was Taylor a force in the run game, but Taylor was also a ball hawk – frequently flying all over the field making plays around the line of scrimmage and deep in the secondary. Taylor only played four seasons before he tragically lost his life to a shooting during a home invasion in November 2007. The franchise is still recovering from the incident and its importance to Washington cannot be overstated. Rest in peace, Sean.
Trent Williams (2010 R1 P4)
When it comes to accolades and importance to the team during his tenure in Washington, Williams surely deserves to have his own spot on this list. Williams became an immediate starter for the Football Team and was a 7-time pro bowler at left tackle. Williams’ time in Washington ended unceremoniously when a cancerous tumor was found on Williams’ head and the Washington medical staff did not take the proper precautions. Williams was traded to San Francisco during the 2020 off-season, and he recently inked a well-deserved 6-year $138 million deal making him the highest-paid left tackle in football.
Chase Young (2020 R1 P2)
While it is way too early to be including Chase Young on a top 5 list after one campaign, it is also incredibly difficult to not envision the 2020 2nd overall pick forcing his way on to lists like these in the near future. Young lead all rookies in sacks (7.5), forced fumbles (4), and tackles for loss (10) while earning a pro bowl nod and becoming the first player in WFT history to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The Top Five WFT NFL Draft Picks of the Past 50 Years
5 | Ryan Kerrigan | OLB | 2011 | 1.16
While honorable mention Charles Mann was part of Washington’s Super Bowl runs and made All-Pro teams, I still give Ryan Kerrigan the nod over him. Drafted 16th overall out of Purdue, Kerrigan quickly became exactly what Washington was looking for out of the hybrid end/outside linebacker. Kerrigan was placed on the all-rookie team in 2011 and became a four-time pro bowler.
Before digging into the stats, it is important to note that Kerrigan did not miss a single contest from 2011-2018. Availability is the best ability, especially in the NFL, and in six of his nine seasons playing in Washington Kerrigan was the team leader in sacks. Over his career, Kerrigan had four seasons registering double-digit sacks and seven with double-digit tackles for a loss. Kerrigan is currently the franchise’s leader in career sacks with 95.5, just 4.5 away from the highly coveted 100 sack mark.
Though Kerrigan began to get phased out of the rotation in 2020, the fans need to realize this has more to do with the current abundance of talent on Washington’s defensive front than Kerrigan’s ability to play quality snaps. I hope Kerrigan returns to Washington in a reserve role in 2021, but I can not fault Ryan for wanting an opportunity at starting snaps for a different organization. Either way, Kerrigan is on his way to being inducted into Washington’s Ring of Fame.
4 | Mark Rypien | QB | 1986 | 6.146
When Mark Rypien was drafted in the 6th round of the 1986 draft, Washington already had an established veteran starter at QB in Doug Williams. Rypien suffered knee and back injuries in his first two years and watched from the sidelines as Washington hoisted the Lombardi trophy in 1987. After a stint as the second string QB, Rypien dethroned the older Williams and became the starter in 1989.
Rypien’s inclusion on this list has to do with one thing only – the fact he was drafted by the organization and won them a Super Bowl in 1991. Rypien led Washington to a 14-2 record while throwing for 3,564 yards and 28 touchdowns and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI. Though he was only Washington’s starter for four short seasons, a championship ring and a Super Bowl MVP award warrants his inclusion on this list in my book.
3 | Art Monk | WR | 1980 | 1.18
Coming in at number three on this list is the best wide receiver in Washington’s history, James Arthur Monk. Drafted 18th overall in 1980, Monk burst onto the scene with 55 catches for 797 yards which landed him a unanimous selection to the 1980 all-rookie team.
Throughout the rest of his Washington career, Monk became the first player to record over 100 catches in the super bowl era and the first player with back-to-back 1200-yard seasons. Monk was a 3-time pro bowler from 1984-1986 and a first-team all-pro in 1894. Monk’s best season in Washington consisted of 106 catches for 1372 yards and seven touchdowns in his all-pro 1984 season.
Not only are Monk’s individual achievements impressive, what cemented his legacy in Washington is the fact he was their best WR on two of the three super bowl teams he was on. In the 1991 postseason, at age 34, Monk compiled 15 receptions for 252 yards and a score. Monk is a member of Washington’s Ring of Fame, a member of the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team, and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
2 | Russ Grimm | IOL | 1981 | 3.69
When looking back to the golden era of Washington football in the 1980s and early 1990s, every fan knows about the “Hogs” persona Washington’s offensive line took. The “hogs” became one of if not the most dominant offensive fronts in NFL history, and this front did not take shape until Grimm was drafted in the third round by Washington from Pitt in 1981.
Over the course of an 11-year playing career with Washington, Grimm started at guard and helped anchor Washington’s offense to three super bowl championships. From 1983-1986, when Grimm was in his prime, he was the most dominant guard in football – Grimm made the pro bowl and was a first-team all-pro in four consecutive seasons. Grimm spent his entire playing career with the Football team and was a member of the 1980s all-decade team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
1 | Darrell Green | CB | 1983 | 1.28
While choosing players for this list took careful deliberation, the number one spot on this list was never in question. Not only is Darrell Green the best cornerback in Washington’s franchise history but he gives all cornerbacks a run for their money as the best to ever play the position. Darrell was drafted out of Texas A&I University in the first round in 1983 and went on to spend his entire 19-year NFL career in Washington.
Green hosts a number of NFL records including the most consecutive seasons with an INT (19), most games by a defensive player (295), and the most seasons with at least one touch. For Washington, Green became a two-time super bowl champion and was a seven-time pro bowler and a four-time first-team all-pro. Green was also the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1996, is a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team, the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
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