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The Power Of The Draft

We've been going back and forth about the merits of draft vs. free agency a lot lately, and, I have a feeling we will be for quite some time. Seems some teams make the assumption that free agency will bring instantaneous positive change, since the players are established in the NFL, have been pros, etc. But it seems like the first year is generally an adjustment for them - sometimes a major adjustment (think Ron Burgundy coming to grips with women in the newsroom) - for many FA.

The draft is seen as a more gradual means of improvement, but in this sport, consecutive inspired days of player selection in late April can have immediate results, too. I got to looking at the Cowboys 2005 draft the other night. Now, I still think their D has a ways to go, but it is young and fast, and seems to be peaking while Washington's is older and slumping. Without doubt, the fortunes of Dallas's defense began to change at the 2005 annual player selection meeting (at least I think its the official name).

DeMarcus Ware, who can be downright dominant at times and seems to really get up for games with Washington, was taken 11th overall and end Marcus Spears, another force in their 3-4 system, was grabbed with the 20th pick. Kevin Burnett, a valuable back-up and situational player at the linebacker position, came in the second round. End Chris Canty, playing just down the road at UVA, is another key starter for the Cowboys, and he was taken in the fourth round, 132nd overall. Jay Ratliff, a defensive tackle with three sacks as a back-up (more than any Redskin player), was Dallas's final pick in the draft, 224th overall (seventh round).

If somehow has landed a free agent class of players that young and talented in recent years on one defense, please pass it along. Nothing leaps to mind.

In between the Cowboys also found tailback Marion Barber - who is inconsistent but serviceable along with Julius Jones - in the fourth round, and tackle Rob Petitti was a starter last year before being cut late in 2006 training camp. Only one player taken in that draft failed to do anything for the team - safety Justin Berlault - but hey, 7 for 8 is pretty amazing.

Compare that to the Redskins' draft picks the last 7 years or so, especially those players taken after the first round, and you begin to see why the team is always chasing free agents.

Compare that to Washington's 2005 draft alone, and you may taste the bile rising up through your throat.

Carlos Rogers 9th overall and Jason "The Future But Never The Present" Campbell 25th overall. No second or third pick and Manny White, who was never on the active roster, in the fourth round and perpetual practice squad LB Robert McCune in the fifth. Sixth round pick Jared Newberry never made it through one training camp, and 7th round pick Nemo Broughton has been largely a practice squad guy, active for a spell on special teams last season with seemingly no future here given the logjam in the backfield.

Not a pretty picture, my friends.

By Jason La Canfora  |  November 2, 2006; 12:30 PM ET
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