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Was Brandon Scherff really a “safe” pick for the Redskins?

May 7, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT


After the draft, the conventional wisdom was that the Redskins made a very safe pick in tackle Brandon Scherff, perhaps the safest pick in the draft. That’s because, well, nobody is exactly sure. Maybe because we always say that offensive linemen taken at the top of the draft are bust proof.

But a look at the record reveals that linemen taken near the top of the draft are anything but safe picks. The guys at Football Perspective took a look at the performances of O-linemen who were taken early in the drafts from 2009-2014. The record is spotty at best.

—Last year three tackles were taken in the top 11 picks. Greg Robinson (2 overall, Rams) was the one of the worst starting tackles in the game while Jake Matthews (6-Falcons) was THE worst according to Pro Football Focus. Taylor Lewan (11-Titans) started the season on the bench and then was mediocre for six games before an ankle injury ended his season early.

—Do you want to go back a little further to see someone who has had a chance to establish himself? Matt Kalil (4-Vikings) had a good rookie season in 2012 but he has not played well since; he gave up a league-high 12 sacks last year.

—Let’s go back to 2009. Jason Smith (2-Rams) has been out of football since 2012. Eugene Monroe (8-Jaguars) was up and down for Jacksonville before they dealt him to the Ravens for a couple of late draft picks. Taken in between them was Andre Smith (6-Bengals), who was thought to be a risky pick due to weight issues but he has turned out to be a good pick for Cincinnati after a couple of tough years to start out.

—How about guards? In 2013 Chance Warmack (10-Titans) and Jonathan Cooper (7-Cardinals) were top-10 picks. Warmack has started 32 games but has been nondescript while Cooper has battled injuries and has taken just 182 snaps in two seasons.

All of this doesn’t mean that Scherff is destined to fail. There have been some successes near the top of the draft. The Redskins got a good one in 2010 in Trent Williams (4) and the Cowboys started to build one of the best lines in the game in 2011 when they took Tyron Smith (9).

Each draft is different and each player is different. Scherff could turn out to be an All-Pro or at least a solid player. But it’s likely that the same was said about Robinson, Kalil, Jason Smith, and Cooper. I don’t even have to go look that up because it’s said about virtually every lineman that is taken early in the first round.

Like every edge rusher, every quarterback, every wide receiver, every player at every position taken in the draft, Scherff will have to work every day and prove himself. He has been given a good chance, with a team that desperately needs his services and one of the best offensive line coaches in the game in Bill Callahan. Scherff might become a success but, as a look at history reveals, he might not.

  1. troylok - May 7, 2015 at 12:35 PM

    What would be a more accurate evaluation would be to look at the success of other first round picks at other positions versus the success of offensive linemen. Scherff will have the benefit of one of the best offensive line coaches in the league and that will be paired with the fact that he is hard worker with a nasty side. You can analyze it to death, but only time will really tell.

    • bowlregard - May 7, 2015 at 7:49 PM

      Right. Plenty of edge rushers taken high have not done well.

  2. mr.moneylover - May 7, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    There really investing in bringing in O-line help I herd they sign the other Duke Offensive line that mayock was saying was good and is capable of starting week 1 …OL Takoby cofield had major interest from other teams but redskins offered 25,OOO signing bonus witch is heffy to a undrafted player

  3. guinnesscrazy8 - May 7, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Such a list of 1st round busts warrants an equal list of 1st round successes. Also, some of those busts could simply be placed on a GM- perhaps they were the only team that even liked a guy as a 1st round pick. Perhaps some of those guys go in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round and are simply 50/50 guys. My point is that, considering McCloughan’s track record of finding quality football players in the draft, it’s possible that Scherff will have an 80/20 potential success rate as opposed to 50/50.

    • Rich Tandler - May 7, 2015 at 2:32 PM

      If you’ll notice, at the end of the post I discussed Trent Williams and Tyron Smith, two of the success stories. There are more players discussed in the linked Football Perspective article. If you’re not interested in things that are not all bright and sunny, you might not want to click there. There are more busts than booms.

      • gasngo14 - May 7, 2015 at 8:04 PM

        Rich …. ” There are more busts than booms.” ….Rich sorry but this can be said with every position, so not really sure what your point is ? Are you predicting him a BUST or not?

        • gasngo14 - May 7, 2015 at 8:11 PM

          Rich, I like the pick, I think we desperately needed to take the chance on it. What bothers me about it is Kirk Ferentz is proven to be a great oline coach, and sometimes his oline players are at their peak of potential. This is the only negative I can see with this pick.

        • Rich Tandler - May 8, 2015 at 5:26 AM

          I’m not “predicting” anything. Just saying that his success is not a given.

  4. bob - May 7, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    It’s a crap shoot Maybe the 7th round pick, I think name is reiter, will be the all_pro. Who knows.

  5. captblood3000 - May 7, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    The previous Iowa lineman to win the Outland Trophy was Robert Gallery in 2004. The Oakland Raiders selected Gallery 2nd overall. Gallery retired before the 2012 season. Gallery had problems with pass protection. According to his wikipedia article:

    “Although Gallery had generally been considered a bust at the left tackle position for which he was drafted and had limited success at the right tackle position, he performed much better as a left guard.”

    When McCloughan talked about Scherff on Monday, he seemed OK with those outcomes, though (obviously) he would want Scherff to have more than limited success at right tackle. He wants to put the Redskins’ five best linemen on the field. Thus, the Redskins would look Moses at guard. The other possibilities (Scherff at guard, Scherff at tackle, Moses at tackle) were already in play.

    Given the additions of a 1st rounder, 2 3rd rounders (who they largely redshirted in 2014), and 1 4th rounder selected in the last 2 drafts, and the hiring of Bill Callahan, I think we can realistically expect an improved offensive line in 2015. But I don’t yet want Rich’s poker chips to bet on who will play where, other than put $100 on Trent Williams at left tackle.

    • ET - May 7, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      Care to place any bets on Chester or LeRiblet’s chances of making the final roster?

    • bangkokben - May 7, 2015 at 6:48 PM

      ” I think we can realistically expect an improved offensive line in 2015.”

      I largely agree with this statement. However, what defines improvement? And what defines realistic expectations? When you’re referring to Redskin fans unrealistic expectations are the norm. Here’s a list of ‘skins 1st rounders that have made at least one pro-bowl yet most ‘skins fans would say these guys didn’t live up to expectations.

      Griffin (2012)
      Williams (2012, 2013, 2014) none as an alternate
      Orakpo (2009, 2010, 2013) all as a reserve/alternate
      Arrington (2001, 2002, 2003) also All-Pro each season

      • captblood3000 - May 7, 2015 at 8:01 PM

        Improvement: more rushing yards, more first downs, fewer sacks allowed. Fewer plays to scream at the offensive line, more plays to cheer the offensive line.

        Realistic expectations: chances better than 60% that these things happen.

  6. renhoekk2 - May 7, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    He comes from the Iowa program which churns out quality OL pretty much every draft. It’s not like he was a 5th pick OT from Arizona. There is a difference. Iowa has 11 OL in the NFL currently Only Alabama has as many and that stems from the sheer volume of Alabama players in the NFL which is double what Iowa has. Iowa has as many OL as AL with half as many players selected. On top of that Scherff won every collegiate award possible for OL. He’s not just good he’s the best by far. It’s not the same for OL as it is for QB where you have to wonder and worry if their game translates to the NFL. At worst he ends up an All-Pro OG for 10yrs. At worst.

    • bangkokben - May 7, 2015 at 7:22 PM

      YOU can be for the pick and still see the merits of the post. Bottom line Scherff is no scher thing. No player and no position is a sure thing. The reason I like the pick is because who picked it. McC has taken great risk by selecting Scherff. At best we have Jon Jansen 2.0 (2.0 is better than 1.0, you know) or perhaps another Mark May and at the same time Kevin White could become the closest thing to Calvin Johnson and Leonard Williams could become J.J Watt-lite. At worst, Scherff suffers a horrible injury and we’re still looking to improve the line with another first rounder three years from now. These things happen and that won’t matter as long as keep McCloughan in charge.

    • captblood3000 - May 7, 2015 at 8:48 PM

      Hmmm. How many of those Iowa offensive linemen play left tackle? Right tackle? Iowa runs a lot of two tight end sets, they are a run heavy team. On most plays their tackles have blockers on both shoulders. It’s more like playing guard, which is where Robert Gallery wound up, and where Scherff may wind up. And the worst for Scherff is that he busts totally because he can’t pass protect as a guard. I think this is unlikely, but it’s possible.

      BTW, I agree with Ben.

    • The Money and Mortgage Man - May 8, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Nothing is certain, we’ve seen plenty of examples in the NFL be busts and surprises. That being said, as an organization who’s goal in the draft is to try and find the best fit, Outland trophy winners have had success more often than not. The team had a goal for what they wanted to accomplish and our draft certainly reflects that. It will take a few years to know. At the very least, the team did their best to address the problem with protecting RG3 or whoever is behind center. Between the draft and free agency, the team filled needs with a solid, no big-splash names….HTTR

  7. kenlinkins - May 7, 2015 at 4:16 PM

    Rich: You make a great point, that no two drafts are the same and add to that the way the NFL game changes so fast and you have a lot of moving parts. While many of us fans believe we have figured it out by spending some free time reading all be can, even guys with many years of making a living at picking players and building teams miss about 50% of the time. While I believe that Scherff is a safe pick I have to take heed when someone with your back round suggests that might not be the case. Please keep the data coming with your thoughts as IMO it is the best way for us avg. fans to keep learning and gives us more to watch for and a great understanding of the game (and team) we cheer for! (and makes for better debates in the comment section).

  8. wildbill1952 - May 7, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    Even Grimm and May looked a little iffy in their rookie season. If you remember the Skins started out losing every week. The Skins have been losing for so long, overnight success is not expected. I expect Scherff to have some growing pains as he adjusts o the speed of the NFL. But after the first 5 weeks of the season, you can expect an improvement on the OL, centered around Scherff.

  9. thekyle1591 - May 7, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    Scherff isn’t comparable to Robinson, Lewan, Matthews or any of the top offensive prospects of late. For one, he isn’t playing left tackle like the others. Two, he played 4 years with the best line coach in the country and comes out more seasoned than any of them. And lastly, if he should fail at tackle, he can easily move in to guard and be a great player. Guys like Lewan and Matthews don’t have the power to play there. Robinson does and although raw had some excellent games inside.

  10. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - May 7, 2015 at 5:39 PM

    I remember Jason Smith. Everyone wanted him. Nothing is a sure thing.

    P.S. (And O.T.) Looks like the Cowboys got a free 1st round draft pick in La’el Collins (the’the Collins).

  11. hk2000 - May 7, 2015 at 6:48 PM

    Those blogs like PFF, PFP…etc do there evaluations in a relative vacuum- ratings are not weighted to account for coaching, OL make up and other aspects that may very well factor into the performance of a player, and that goes for every position and for every player. I think most sports observers and so called experts, as well as fans put very little value on the coaching which is to me the most important factor even more so than a players talent.

  12. realitycheck37110 - May 7, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    I guess the writer forgot about the 3 pro bowl linemen the cowboys drafted.

  13. bowlregard - May 7, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    Reading about the different OL draftees, it seems like a lot of them are said to be good run blockers but suspect in pass protection.

  14. hammad7 - May 7, 2015 at 8:07 PM

    First of all. Greg Robinson really started to improve last year at the end. In addition, Eugene Monroe was actually very good. Its not his fault injuries have limited his career. Its definitely wiser to take olinmen in the first round. How many late round olinemen are actually playing at a respectable level. Look at the 49ers oline. Joe Staley was 1st rounder. So was Anthony Davis. Ironically, theyre both McCloughan picks. Im definitely trusting McCloughan with the Scherff pick. The guy knows how to evaluate talent.

  15. Ben - May 8, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    He is gonna be good!

  16. gasngo14 - May 8, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    ” There are more busts than booms.” Rich Tandler

    ” I’m not “predicting” anything. Just saying that his success is not a given.” Rich Tandler

    WOW Rich please don’t go out on a limb and give us your real opinion on a Redskin topic! What a joke you have become!

    • Rich Tandler - May 8, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      Some posts contain my opinion.

      Others are to present some facts and let readers make up their own minds.

      The purpose here was to point out that, despite the fact that it is said so often that people just assume it’s true, there is no guarantee that a top-10 offensive lineman will succeed. Scherff is not necessarily a “safe” pick.

      • gasngo14 - May 8, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        Rich you can run around in circles all day long but to your point, when and where is there a safe pick in any draft?

  17. gasngo14 - May 8, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    Rich we sold the farm for a QB and now with our first, first round pick in as many years we pick a player with how many rewards and accomplishments in collegiate play to protect our investment. For some reason you want to bad mouth the pick from day one, I just don’t understand your reasoning?

    • Rich Tandler - May 8, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      I don’t know how I can make this any clearer. I don’t dislike the pick. I think Scherff can be a pretty good player. I fully understand why they drafted him. Sure, there were alternatives and I have noted them. That’s my job.

      But I keep hearing that he’s a “safe” pick because he is an offensive lineman. History shows that’s not true. That’s what I wrote.

      • gasngo14 - May 8, 2015 at 11:40 AM

        Well from what i have seen you tweet / blog, it seems as if you do not agree with the pick and that’s fine just be open about it that’s all . I have not seen anything positive from you on this pick i guess is what I am saying.

        • Dusty22 - May 8, 2015 at 9:50 PM

          I think it is an interesting article. From what I have heard the Redskins went safe with the pick. Rich has shown that recent history indicates otherwise. As commented earlier, it would be interesting to see the success rate of other positions.

  18. tideskin - May 8, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    I think, barring injury, Scherff starts from game one, not necessarily because he’s so good, but because he is almost certainly better than anyone else the Redskins have now.

  19. obxskins - May 9, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    Greetings Rich! 1st, I really enjoy all the insight and info you bring to us, Thanks! I have felt , from the time we picked Scherff you have not been down with the pick. I completely respect your opinion and right to feel this way. I do wish though the side of the story, half full instead of half empty was talked about too! We as Skins fans probably do need to not expect All pro play out the gate but not expect bust either. I guess I know the influence you have on your readers, like leading sheep sometimes, I suppose. Just the tone has been over the top cold feet on this pick, You have the right my man to feel anyway you like and 90% I am with ya but since I am not this time I wanted to express it, even though that probably doesn.t matter to you. Rich, this is with total respect and not bashing you, its great to have difference when we can discuss things in a mature way, #HTTR!

  20. Skulb - May 9, 2015 at 7:28 PM

    Have you compared this to other positions for rookie performance? Either way Scherff is an individual and not a statistical breakdown. I`m sure we could use those to prove that sports pundits are wrong 62,857% of the time too if we wanted to:)

    • Skulb - May 9, 2015 at 7:31 PM

      Oh and isn`t Trent Williams a good example of the opposite? Archives

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