Redskins let others deal, take Westbrook at No. 1

April 23, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins were wallflowers at the NFL draft trading party yesterday.

While teams were dealing left and right around them, the Redskins passed up a chance to trade for running back Ki-Jana Center and drafted wide receiver Michael Westbrook of Colorado and center Cory Raymer of Wisconsin on the first two rounds.

The Cincinnati Bengals, who were one slot behind the Redskins on the first round, gave up their second-round pick to move up and get Carter.

The Redskins weren't willing to give up their first-round pick, the fourth overall.

So, are they better off with Westbrook and Raymer than Carter?

"For the answer to that one, let's come back in a couple of years. We wanted to keep our second-round draft choice to use it in another area," general manager Charley Casserly said.

Westbrook likely will step in as a starter to team with veteran Henry Ellard as the main targets for second-year quarterback Heath Shuler.

Raymer will be a backup behind John Gesek this season, but the Redskins project him as a long-term starter.

The Redskins appear to have more pressing needs in the defensive line, at running back and tight end, but Casserly and coach Norv Turner said they had Raymer as the highest-rated player on the board in the second round.

"We had to do what you believe is right at the time," Turner said. "If you try to force things, if you try to create something that isn't there or you don't believe in, just because you have a need there, that's where, in all my experiences, the worst picks have been made."

Turner said a team has to avoid getting caught up in the "emotion of the moment" and saying, "Gosh, we need this" and picking by position instead of taking the best player available.

Turner said he also had no second thoughts about having Westbrook and Raymer instead of Carter, rated the best player in the draft.

"I feel very good about our first two picks," he said. "I have a great feeling for Ki-Jana Carter, [but] we understand where we are as a football team, and I'm not sure [one player] is going to turn you around like that."

With their third-round pick, Washington took safety Darryl Pounds of Nicholls State, a player the Redskins said they plan to switch to cornerback. The team will make its final four selections today.

Westbrook was expected to be the fourth pick in the draft by the Redskins. Raymer said he was surprised the Redskins selected him.

"The last couple of days have been a little nuts for me. I didn't try to figure it out," Raymer said. "I had no clue. I didn't have the slightest inclination. I'm glad I got a chance."

Raymer said he'll need time to develop.

"I know how to play college football, but I don't know how to play pro football yet. I hope they'll be able to teach me there," he said.

At Wisconsin, Raymer moved into the starting lineup in the final four games at center in 1991 after being switched from defensive tackle. He then started for the Badgers the past three years and became an All-America.

Westbrook said he already has a rapport with Turner.

"I met Norv Turner [at a workout] and things just clicked between us and he gave me a really good idea that he liked me a lot and I liked him," Westbrook said. "And I'm looking forward to receiving some passes from Heath Shuler."

At 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, Westbrook is already being compared to a faster version of Art Monk or Michael Irvin, but said he doesn't want to make any comparisons.

"I'm never going to compare myself [to players] like Art Monk or the Michael Irvins or the Jerry Rices until I can accomplish half the things that they have accomplished," Westbrook said. "I'm not an NFL player yet -- actually I am now, huh? I'm just looking forward to trying to better myself and to get to that type of status. But as far as comparing myself to someone such as Art Monk or Jerry Rice, I won't do it right now."

Casserly said: "The qualities that we liked about Westbrook are No. 1, his size with a combination of speed and physical strength and toughness and the fact that, when given the opportunity, he had great production in college."

Westbrook caught 76 passes as a sophomore, but tailed off to 33 and 36 the next two years when Colorado switched to a run-oriented offense.

"I had to learn a lot about myself and learn that I'm more of a team player than I thought I was," he said.

With four players still to be selected in this draft, eight of the 10 players the Redskins have drafted since Turner became coach a year ago have been offensive players, but Turner said that's not because he's offensive-minded.

"I like to think I'm the head coach and anything that helps us be successful, we add to our football team," Turner said.

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