Clemson's Gardner an easy first-round selection for 'Skins
Updated: Saturday April 21, 2001 5:09 PM
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- When he saw Rod Gardner still on the board, Marty Schottenheimer didn't think so much about trading anymore.
In his first draft as coach and director of football operations with the Washington Redskins on Saturday, Schottenheimer kept the No. 15 overall pick and used it to address a major need by selecting the big receiver from Clemson.
"When we realized Rod was the guy, we were no longer looking to move down," Schottenheimer said.
Over the last two months, the Redskins lost receivers Albert Connell and James Thrash to free agency and cut Irving Fryar in a salary cap move. Kevin Lockett was signed, but he's more of a third-down player, and Michael Westbrook is coming off a knee injury.
Gardner has size -- 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds -- and showed in college the ability to make the tough catch when draped by a defender. That should fit well into Schottenheimer's short-game, West Coast offense anchored by quarterback Jeff George.
"We wanted a wide receiver," Schottenheimer said. "This wide receiver gives us an opportunity to do the things we want to do. When Jeff had his best year up in Minnesota, he threw the ball to big, strong receivers.
"You don't get nearly as wide open in this league as you might in college, and [Gardner] showed an ability to make plays in contested situations. That to me was the key thing."
Schottenheimer also had the option of picking Miami receiver Santana Moss, but the coach said Moss' size (5-10, 175) was a determining factor in preferring Gardner.
The choice is further evidence that Schottenheimer has been granted true control of football operations by owner Dan Snyder. Snyder was big fan of Moss, according to former Redskins personnel director Vinny Cerrato.
"Dan and I discussed before the draft a number of scenarios," Schottenheimer said. "We talked about what Gardner gives us. He said, 'Do what you think is best.'"
Scouts said Gardner's downsides are his speed and an occasional lack of concentration that causes him to drop the easy ones.
"There's some discussion about his speed, but in all the video I looked at he kept running by people," Schottenheimer said. "He does not have great 40 time on the track, but if you watch him run in the games, he runs pretty fast."
Gardner said he was working daily with a trainer to improve his 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash. He agreed that he has deceptive speed, not necessarily raw speed.
"You don't really know how fast I'm running," Gardner said. "But when I get on top of you and I run past you, then that's a good thing."
Gardner was a two-year starter at Clemson, where he had a school-record 166 career receptions for 2,498 yards and 13 touchdowns. Last year, he caught 58 passes for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns.
Because the Redskins entered the draft with only four picks in the seven rounds -- and because they have little money to spend on a first-round pick under the salary cap -- Schottenheimer was actively pursuing a trade to give up the No. 15 pick in exchange for more lower-round selections.
Schottenheimer called four teams once the draft was underway. Two called him back, but neither offered the kind of package he was looking for -- something with a first-round pick next year or a second-rounder this year -- that would have made him pass on Gardner.
"If you want to get a quality wide receiver, you need to do it in Round One," Schottenheimer said.
The Redskins also have needs at guard, cornerback and defensive tackle. Michigan guard Steve Hutchinson was available at No. 15, but Schottenheimer felt he could get a quality guard in a later round. Cornerback was addressed, to some extent, on Friday night when the team signed free agent Donovan Greer, a nickel back for three years in Buffalo.