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Big target

Clemson's Gardner an easy first-round selection for 'Skins

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Posted: Saturday April 21, 2001 4:46 PM
Updated: Saturday April 21, 2001 5:09 PM

  Rod Gardner Rod Gardner was a big-play threat at Clemson. M. David Leeds /Allsport

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.

Redskins' First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos.  College 
2001  Rod Gardner  WR  Clemson 
2000  LaVar Arrington  LB  Penn State 
   Chris Samuels  OT  Alabama 
1999  Champ Bailey  CB  Georgia 
1998  NO PICK       
1997  Kenard Lang  DE  Miami-Fla 
1996  Andre Johnson  OT  Penn State 
1995  Michael Westbrook  WR  Colorado 
1994  Heath Shuler  QB  Tennessee 
1993  Tom Carter  DB  Notre Dame 
1992  Desmond Howard  WR  Michigan  
1991  Bobby Wilson  DT  Michigan State  
1990  NO PICK       
1989  NO PICK       
1988  NO PICK       
1987  NO PICK       
1986  NO PICK       
1985  NO PICK       
1984  NO PICK       
1983  Darrell Green  DB  Texas A&I 
1982  NO PICK       
1981  NO PICK       
   Mark May  OT  Pittsburgh  
1980  Art Montk  WR  Syracuse 
1979  NO PICK       
1978  NO PICK       
1977  NO PICK       
1976  NO PICK       
1975  NO PICK       
1974  NO PICK        
1973  NO PICK       
1972  NO PICK       
1971  NO PICK       
1970  NO PICK       
1969  NO PICK       
1968  Jim Smith  DB  Oregon 
1967  Ray McDonald  FB  Idaho 
1966  Charlie Gogolak  Princeton 
1965  NO PICK       
1964  Charley Taylor  RB  Arizona State 
1963  Pat Richer  TE  Wisconsin 
1962  Ernie Davis  RB  Syracuse 
1961  Norm Snead  QB  Wake Forest  
   Joe Rutgens  Illinois 
1960  Richie Lucas  QB  Penn State 
1959  Don Allard  QB  Boston College 
1958  NO PICK       
1957  Don Bosseler  FB  Miami 
1956  Ed Vereb  RB  Maryland 
1955  Ralph Guglielmi  QB  Notre Dame 
1954  Steve Melinge  TE  Kentucky 
1953  Jack Scarbath  QB  Maryland 
1952  Larry Isbell  QB  Baylor 
1951  Leon Heath  FB  Oklahoma 
1950  George Thomas  HB  Oklahoma 
1949  Rob Goode  FB  Texas A&M 
1948  Harry Gilmer  Alabama 
1947  Cal Rossi  UCLA 
1946  Cal Rossi  UCLA 
1945  Jim Hardy  Southern California 
1944  Mike Micka  Colgate 
1943  Jack Jenkins  Missouri 
1942  Ordan Sanders  Texas 
1941  Forest Evashevski  Michigan 
1940  Ed Boell  NYU 
1939  I.B. Hale  Texas Christian 
1938  Andy Farkas  Detroit 
1937  Sammy Baugh  QB  Texas Christian 
1936  Riley Smith  QB  Alabama 

"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.

Related information
Redskins need perfection with only four picks
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