By: Joe Pohoryles
With the NFL draft in the rearview, this would normally be the time when the NBA and NHL lotteries would commence, and the mock draft speculation would really heat up. While there has been mock drafting, the dates for the upcoming drafts are in limbo, and with MLB making their own alterations to the 2020 Draft, every league’s incoming draft class has been impacted.
Instead of projecting potential draft targets for the Wizards, Capitals or Nationals, today I will be looking back on each team’s worst draft pick over the past decade (including the Redskins as well).
It is too early to make a definitive call on players drafted less than three years ago, so I’m discounting anyone drafted in 2017 or later. The rest have had plenty of time to make an impact, but just have not managed to work out.
Capitals: Lucas Johansen (28th overall pick in 2016)
The 22-year-old defenseman from British Columbia is still young enough to revitalize his career, but it may not be in Washington. Johansen was drafted with the potential to be a top four defenseman on the NHL level, but injuries have slowed him down dramatically.
After playing 74 games with the Hershey Bears in 2017-18, Johansen appeared in just 45 games the following season, and in just nine games in 2019-20 due to a combination of long-term injuries that caused him to drop in the depth chart.
The team drafted defensemen Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary with its first- and second-round picks of the 2018 draft, respectively, and both have already jumped past Johansen in the Hershey depth chart, with Fehervary already having six NHL games under his belt.
With Radko Gudas and Brenden Dillon hitting free agency this offseason, there could be multiple NHL spots up for grabs next season, and while Johansen should have been a prime candidate at this point, there is practically a zero percent chance he earns a full-time NHL role in Washington next season.
Johansen’s entry-level deal will also expire this summer, and there is a strong possibility that he will sign elsewhere for a change of scenery and a better chance to crack into another team’s rotation. It’s a shame that he hasn’t worked out in DC, but he still has hope elsewhere.
Top players selected shortly after: RW Alexander Debrincat (39th), D Samuel Girard (47th)
Nationals: Alex Meyer (23rd overall pick in 2011)
The Nats had three first-round picks in 2011: their normal slot based on their performance during the season (sixth overall) plus two more compensatory picks (23rd and 34th) earned from the Chicago White Sox after Adam Dunn signed in Chicago as a free agent from Washington.
In a loaded 2011 draft class, the Nats made the right move with their sixth overall pick, taking Anthony Rendon. The team saw future All-Stars Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez and George Springer (among others) go off the board before picking again at 23, where they selected Meyer.
Meyer, a then-21-year-old pitcher from Greensburg, Indiana had just finished his junior year at the University of Kentucky. Meyer led the Wildcats in his final season with a 2.94 ERA, seven wins, 101.0 innings pitched and an SEC-leading 110 strikeouts. His .222 opponent batting average was lowest on the team.
Meyer was considered a top 100 prospect entering the 2012 season, where he pitched for the Hagerstown Suns, and earned a spot at the All-Stars Futures Game. He finished the year in Hagerstown with a 7-4 record in 18 starts, a 3.10 ERA and 107 strikeouts. He also started seven games for the Potomac Nationals that season, posting a 2.31 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 39.0 IP.
After a great start to his minor league career, that would be it for Meyer with the Nationals organization; he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Denard Span. After a solid 2013 season in Double-A, Meyer entered the 2014 season on the Triple-A roster as an ascending prospect, but never quite found his footing, and his numbers got worse.
He managed to make his MLB debut with Minnesota in June of 2015, but was sent back down after two appearances. Meyer was traded to the Los Angeles Angels organization in 2016 and spent most of his time in Triple-A. He made 13 major league starts for the Angels in 2017, going 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA and 75 strikeouts.
A torn labrum in September 2017 sidelined Meyer for the entire 2018 season, and he was designated for assignment in November of 2018. Meyer eventually re-signed with the Angels on a minor league deal, but after multiple surgeries and a tough rehabilitation process decided to retire in June of 2019.
Even if he had panned out, the Nats would not have reaped the benefits, but the combination of injuries and slow development led to an underwhelming finish for the former first-rounder. Ironically for the Nationals, Joe Ross was selected by the San Diego Padres two picks after Meyer, and Ross is now a back-of-the-rotation starter in DC.
Brian Goodwin, meanwhile, was the team’s selection at 34, and after a few seasons with the Nats as a reserve outfielder/pinch hitter, Goodwin played 136 games in 2019 with the Angels.
Top players selected shortly after: SS Joe Panik (29th), OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (40th), RHP Michael Fulmer (44th), SS Trevor Story (45th)
Redskins: Josh Doctson (22nd overall in 2016)
Doctson was brought in from TCU as an heir apparent poised to lead the receiving corps since Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson were expected to leave following the 2016 season. Doctson put up 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns on 79 receptions in his final season at TCU, and was expected to bring a jolt to the offense.
Instead, Doctson suffered an Achilles injury that would leave him with just two games played as a rookie. He came back for all 16 games in 2017, where he was expected to take the lead, but he instead finished fifth on the team in receiving yards with 502 on 35 receptions, behind the likes of Jamison Crowder, 33-year-old tight end Vernon Davis, Ryan Grant and third-down running back Chris Thompson. At the same time, Doctson’s six receiving touchdowns led the team.
In 2018, Doctson managed to improve his numbers slightly from the previous season, with 532 yards and 44 receptions, which placed him second on the team in receiving behind Jordan Reed. He was expected to be a main receiving threat at this point in his career, and with just two touchdowns and not even 600 receiving yards in his third season, it was becoming clear that he wasn’t the answer.
The team declined his fifth-year option prior to the 2019 season, and after briefly shopping him on the trade block, released him a few months later. Doctson signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, where played just seven offensive snaps and was waived in late November.
He signed with the New York Jets in late February, where he will have to fight Breshad Perriman, former Redskins teammate Crowder and 2020 second-rounder Denzel Mims for targets.
Some may argue that Robert Griffin III was the worst pick of the decade, as the quarterback position is more valuable and the team traded multiple picks to get him, but the 2012 second overall pick’s rookie season alone tops all three of Doctson’s seasons in my book.
While the team lost in the Wild Card round, Griffin III still led the team to its first division title since 1999, and he earned Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection in the process. While the wide receiver position naturally has less of an impact, Doctson never helped the team achieve any success even with capable quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith throwing him passes for the majority of his career.
Top players selected shortly after: DT Kenny Clark (27th), OLB Jaylon Smith (34th), TE Hunter Henry (35th), DT Chris Jones (37th), CB Xavien Howard (38th), RB Derrick Henry (45th), WR Michael Thomas (47th)
Wizards: Jan Vesely (6th overall pick in 2011)
The Czech forward was the team’s next major draft pick after the team selected John Wall first overall in 2010, but the big man was not as NBA-ready as Wall was. Vesely started 20 games in his first season, and played in 57 games overall, averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in close to 19 minutes per game.
While not expected to burst onto the scene as a rookie, his underwhelming output regressed in his second season, where he appeared in 51 and saw his playing time decrease to around 12 minutes per game. His averages sank to 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, and he shot an abysmal 30.8 percent from the free throw line.
Vesely was traded to the Denver Nuggets in his third season, and spent the last 21 games of his NBA career in Denver with similar numbers.
After signing with Turkish club Fenerbahce in 2014, Vesely has since developed into a EuroLeague star. He was All-EuroLeague First Team for the first time in 2016, and he won the EuroLeague Championship in 2017. He made First Team again in 2018 and 2019, and was voted EuroLeague MVP in 2019. (Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic won the award the year prior in 2018). Vesely shot 65.1 percent from the field in 2018-19, and averaged 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Vesely may have found success overseas, but looking at the players the Wizards missed out on in 2011, it makes the whiff on Vesely hurt more. The team would eventually trade for a former 2011 first-round pick, as Markieff Morris joined the Wizards in 2016 from Phoenix, the team that drafted him 13th overall.
The Wizards have a shaky history with their first-round picks, but Vesely is certainly the worst in recent memory.
Top players selected shortly after: G Kemba Walker (9th), G Klay Thompson (11th), F Kawhi Leonard (15th), C Nikola Vucevic (16th), F Tobias Harris (19th)