Monday, May 2, 2011 1:00 p.m. By Rich Tandler
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If, in 2012, Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jenkins and Roy Helu are solid players and most of the prospects who were drafted in the later going make the team and contribute, the Redskins will have had a successful draft this year. In addition to how well the players the Redskins drafted play, the element of opportunity cost also has to come into play -- the players available but not taken. The Redskins learned about that three drafts ago. In 2008, the Redskins drafted wide receiver Devin Thomas and tight end Fred Davis in the second round. In the process of doing, so they twice bypassed Cal wide receiver and returner DeSean Jackson. Thomas was released after two unproductive seasons and Davis has been a part-time contributor. Meanwhile, Jackson, taken by the Eagles immediately after Davis, has become one of the NFLs most potent weapons as a receiver and as a punt returner. The fact that Thomas was a bust and that Davis has been just serviceable, along with the fact that the contributions from the other eight members of the draft class have been very limited, add up to judging the 2008 draft a failure. That the Redskins bypassed Jackson, along with other productive players such as receiver Jordy Nelson, running back Ray Rice and defensive end Calais Campbell, magnifies that failure. The same possibility is set up in every draft. Every selection a team makes has an opportunity cost, and the player bypassed could come back to haunt them. This year, however, the possibility of regretting a selection may be particularly high because the Redskins are still in search of their quarterback of the future. For that matter, they are even unsure of their signal caller for opening day of this year, Mike Shanahans singing the praises of John Beck notwithstanding. When the Redskins went on the clock with the 10th overall selection, Blaine Gabbert, considered by most to be the second-best quarterback prospect in the draft, still was on the board. So was Christian Ponder, an intelligent QB who seems to have the tools to play well in Shanahans offense. But instead of pulling the trigger on one of the two quarterbacks Shanahan decided to trade down to the 16th overall pick. The player he got there, Ryan Kerrigan, fills a huge need for the team in giving the Redskins a pass-rushing threat opposite Brian Orakpo. The players the Redskins took with picks acquired via multiple moves, starting with trading back in the first round, particularly wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and running back Roy Helu, could be key contributors as well. When you need a quarterback, however, that trumps all other needs. The draft will be judged based not only on the performances of Kerrigan and Co., but also on the success of Gabbert and Ponder. If one or both of them turn out to be Pro Bowl-caliber, the Redskins will have reason to regret bypassing a future star at the most important position on the field. To be clear, this is not to say that the Redskins made a mistake in trading back. Shanahan certainly recognizes the importance of the position. He and the rest of the coaches and the scouts spent endless hours evaluating film of all of the prospects. Were not jumping on the bandwagon of downgrading the Redskins draft because they didnt take a quarterback. And if Gabbert andor Ponder are successful in Jacksonville and Minnesota, that doesnt mean they would have been successful in Washington with that system and with this complement of players. Indeed, some say that Jackson may well have struggled as much as Thomas did had he been forced to deal with the Redskins struggles at quarterback and along the offensive line under Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato. Still, Shanahans judgment involving quarterbacks has proven to be faulty at times. One of those times was a little over a year ago, when he traded for Donovan McNabb, who wasnt the answer at the position. If, in a few years, the Redskins still are struggling to find a quarterback and Ponder or Gabbert are leading their teams to playoff wins, Kerrigan, Hankerson and the rest will have to be very good players to make up for the cost of the opportunity lost. Again, the purpose here is not to suggest the Redskins should have taken another course. They made their choices, and they are happy with them, as are most Redskins fans. But if they misjudged in thinking that Gabbert and Ponder were not worth the 10th overall pick, there certainly will be some regret over the choice of the path they ended up taking. Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.