Rams cash in big on deal that let 'Skins pick RG III
By Jim Thomas
They say it takes at least three years to fairly evaluate a team’s draft class, or even an individual draft pick.
So what then is the measuring stick for a blockbuster multi-player draft trade? Namely, the Rams trading the No. 2 overall pick to Washington 13 months ago in the so-called “RGIII trade.”
One year after the fact, who got the best of it?
“I think we did for sure,” Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said at the end of the 2012 season. “Just with all the picks that we have. What we’re going to be able to build. What we’ve already started to build here. I think this team is on the fast track.”
And as Rams coach Jeff Fisher sees, not all of the precincts have even reported.
“The trade is not complete yet,” Fisher said. “We still have a couple of years to take advantage of it.”
That’s because the Rams still get a first-round pick from Washington this year — No. 22 overall — as well as the Redskins’ first-round pick in the 2014 draft as part of that trade.
In March 2012, the Rams dealt their No. 2 overall pick to Washington, which used it to select dynamic Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
In exchange, the Rams received Washington’s No. 6 and No. 39 overall picks last year, plus the Redskins’ first-round pick in 2013 and in 2014.
A couple of weeks after the trade, but still a month before the 2012 draft, Fisher called the deal a “perfect storm” because of the confluence of need and value. Several teams needed a quarterback entering that draft, and Griffin brought the value as an elite prospect.
One the draft began, the Rams turned the two 2012 picks acquired from Washington into four players following additional trade-downs with Dallas and Chicago: defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running back Isaiah Pead and offensive guard Rokevious Watkins.
The Rams’ draft haul stemming from the trade could have been even bigger. After trading down from No. 6 to No. 14 with Dallas, league sources recently told the Post-Dispatch that the Rams tried to move out of the No. 14 spot as well to pick up even more draft picks. Hey, when your franchise has lost 65 of its last 80 games, you need bodies. Lots of bodies.
Obviously, the Rams stayed at No. 14 and took Brockers. One year later, they’re not complaining.
Even with a high ankle sprain that cost him the first three games of the 2012 season and lingered for much of the year, Brockers played up to expectations and flashed Pro Bowl potential. Jenkins scored four defensive TDs and, if he avoids off-field trouble, could be a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Pead rarely played as a rookie and Watkins was done for the year after suffering a severe ankle injury on opening day. But both players are potential starters. So for now, that makes the tally two potential Pro Bowlers, two potential starters and two more first-round draft picks for the Rams as the result of the RGIII trade.
Or six players to one.
“After what the Rams got (in the trade), Jeff ought to break his arm patting himself on the back for getting that deal,’’ NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt said. “The term I use: You oughta be put in jail for stealing. The Rams stole. But that’s good.”
No storm brewing this year
No matter what trades transpires in the 2013 draft, no one will get the kind of haul the Rams pulled in a year ago. Why? To use Fisher’s words, there simply isn’t the “perfect storm” of value and need at the top of this year’s draft.
“So your fans will say, ‘Why are we trading that choice and only getting a second-round pick to go along with it?’” Brandt said. “Starting with the media, they’re all gonna compare it to what the Rams got last year.”
But if you’re the Redskins, who cares?
“If I’m Washington, I’m clapping my hands,” Brandt said. “I’m gonna say, ‘You know what? I don’t mind giving up draft picks to get (Griffin).’ ”
The Redskins certainly aren’t looking back. They made the trade and couldn’t be happier.
“I think that’s a very fair way to assess it,” said Joe Theismann, a former Washington quarterback who’s still close to the organization. “I mean, (the Redskins) felt like they made a deal and were getting somebody special, and that’s who they got. Not just for this year. But going forward.
“The Redskins, I believe, made the deal believing that they were not going to be a team that was going to only have three or four wins. They were going to be a 10-, 11-win team. They were going to be drafting late in the first round. And that sort of played out. I think the whole way Mike and Bruce envisioned this actually played out the way they expected it to.”
That would be Washington coach Mike Shanahan and executive vice president-general manager Bruce Allen.
Since making the playoffs as a wild-card team in 2007, the Redskins didn’t have a winning season from 2008 through 2011. The team finished in the cellar of the NFC East all four of those seasons and didn’t have an original first-round pick lower than No. 13.
(Not exactly a Rams-like string of futility — St. Louis went 12-52 from ’08 through ’11 — but still not very good.)
RGIII success Lowers RamS’ pick
With Griffin at QB in 2012, the ’Skins went 10-6 and won their first NFC East title since 1999. As a result, that first-round pick that went to the Rams in 2012 is No. 22 overall, not the expected top-10 pick.
“You can’t just look at what (RGIII) did for Washington on the field,” Theismann said. “The fact that he was rookie of the year tells you how well he played on the field. But the excitement and the enthusiasm of the fans, the general energy that he has brought to the city, and the fact that his jersey I think is the No. 1 selling jersey. All those factors tell you about the type of a person he is.”
And the kind of impact he’s had in just one season.
“I think he’s been able to lift this franchise to a point where even with all the negative things that are perceived happening to it, there’s a very positive attitude at Redskin Park,” Theismann said.
When it comes to RGIII on the field, Fisher doesn’t disagree on his impact. Granted, the Rams beat the Redskins 31-28 in Week 2 on a day when Bradford outplayed his counterpart. One of Washington’s scores came on a defensive touchdown.
“I’m glad we didn’t play the Redskins late,” Fisher said. “... We got him early in the season, he was becoming more and more familiar with the scheme. He did a great job. Obviously, he’s a tremendously talented player.”
One of the only storm clouds, and it’s a big one, is Griffin’s knee injury in that wild-card playoff game against Seattle.
Following surgery, his status for opening day in 2013 is uncertain although early reports have been encouraging. The larger question is whether RGIII — and the rest of the new breed of read-option quarterbacks — can withstand the rigors of getting hit running the football over the long haul.
“It’s hard to say,” Fisher said. “The only thing you can say about it is if the quarterback takes the ball down the line of scrimmage (as is the case on read-option plays), he does not get the protection he gets when he’s in the pocket. He is a runner. So he’s going to get hit. How that relates to the future of this concept, this trend, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”
If Griffin can’t hold up over the long haul, then the RGIII trade no longer looks like the “win-win” deal that it is today.