Redskins use three straight picks on former Nebraska players

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins raided the Cornhuskers, taking Nebraska players with three straight picks.

They made five trades over three days and ended up selecting 12 players, their biggest haul since the 1980s.

Is there anything coach Mike Shanahan didn't do during the NFL draft?

Yep. He didn't add a quarterback. Instead, he heaped tons of praise on John Beck.

Even though Donovan McNabb is expected to play elsewhere next season, the Redskins didn't address the game's top position during the draft's seven rounds Thursday through Saturday. The 2011 opening day starter remains very much an open question. The contenders include Beck, Rex Grossman and whoever Washington signs during free agency -- once the league's labor situation is finally resolved.

Yet Shanahan's post-draft news conference was practically a coronation of Beck, who hasn't played in a regular season game in four years.

"When John Beck did come out, I had him as the top-ranked quarterback coming out that year," Shanahan said. "I didn't think it was close, so I've got a lot of confidence in John Beck."

Beck was a second-round pick by Miami in 2007, when JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were taken in the first round. He played in five games as a rookie with the Dolphins and has been a spectator ever since. The Redskins signed him during last year's training camp, and he was a backup for all 16 games.

Shanahan, though, said Beck is "everything you look for in a quarterback," from work ethic to foot speed.

"He has not disappointed me since he's been here," Shanahan said.

The quarterback questions aside, the Redskins essentially did what they had to do during the draft. Three consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC East left the team in need for a mass infusion of youth on both sides of the ball. Shanahan made trade after trade to add more picks, a major change of pace for a franchise that has routinely swapped them away over the last decade. They chose a player in every round for the first time since 1995.

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"I thought we addressed a lot of needs," Shanahan said. "Every football team needs depth."

The Redskins began Saturday by cornering the Cornhusker market, taking Roy Helu Jr. in the fourth round and Nebraska teammates safety DeJon Gomes and receiver Niles Paul in the fifth.

"I guess Coach likes us," Paul said. "We breed some tough football players."

Shanahan said it was coincidence that the Redskins took three players in a row from the same school for the first time since 1975. Sure enough, that trio 36 years ago also came from Nebraska.

This year's Cornhusker crop should have a chance to make an impact on a team that went 6-10 last year. Shanahan has a good record when it comes to finding useful running backs in the later rounds, and Helu could be the next one after rushing for 1,245 yards last year.

Shanahan found Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary in the fourth round or lower when he was coaching the Denver Broncos, and each had at least one 1,100-yard season.

"History is proof for itself," Helu said, "all the running backs and the offensive lineman that have worked under him and the success that they've had."

The Redskins are looking for a successor to Clinton Portis with the Redskins, and Helu will get a chance to compete with Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams for the job.

"He brings something that we haven't had -- speed," Shanahan said. "Now we've got some more competition at that position."

A dizzying series of trades Friday night left the Redskins with 10 selections entering Rounds 4-7. They kept right on dealing Saturday, making a five-pick swap with the Houston Texans to move into position to take Helu.

In the next round, Washington selected Gomes, who appears best suited to be a nickel back and as a contributor on special teams.

Then came Paul, the second of three receivers taken in the draft by the Redskins, who could be losing Santana Moss to free agency. Paul should be an instant contributor on special teams, especially as a return man on punts and kickoffs. His 4,122 all-purpose yards rank fifth in Nebraska history.

The Nebraska surge ended in Round 6 when the Redskins took running back Evan Royster of Penn State and receiver Aldrick Robinson of SMU in back-to-back picks.

The Redskins had a quartet of picks in the seventh round and used them on cornerback Brandyn Thompson of Boise State, offensive lineman Maurice Hurt of Florida, linebacker Markus White of Florida State and nose tackle Chris Neild of West Virginia.

White, who played defensive end in college, has battled seizures in the past and takes medicine to keep them under control.

Shanahan said White's last seizure was in 2008.

"Our doctors felt very good about it," Shanahan said, "or else we wouldn't have gone in that direction."

The Redskins opened their draft Thursday by selecting linebacker Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue in the first round. On Friday they took defensive end Jarvis Jenkins of Clemson in the second and receiver Leonard Hankerson of Miami in the third.

But who's going to be throwing the ball? Grossman started the final three games last year but is a free agent. That makes Beck the leader in the clubhouse.

"You're not going to address everything through the draft," Shanahan said. "I can't share our whole game plan with you now, but we do have a plan."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press