When the Redskins drafted offensive guard Derrick Dockery with the 17th pick of the third round in 2003, the Redskins knew two things -- they were getting good value with the pick, and they were getting a lot of unpolished raw talent. What the organization didn't know, was that Dockery would have to show his ability so early in his tenure.
When theHogs.net started rating prospects for the 2003 draft, we were enamored with the sheer physicality of Dockery. Despite his draft stock falling slightly on most boards before the draft, we still had him rated as the best guard in the draft after only Eric Steinbach. It's still early on to tell, but it looks like we were right.
When Dave Fiore went down early in the season, suddenly the huge rookie from Texas was asked to start. It wasn't pretty for the first few weeks. With the offensive line already struggling, Dockery looked lost a lot of the time and was missing a lot of blocks and logging too many false start penalties. People in Washington were less than cordial and patient with the big man, but he worked through his troubles. With every week that passed, announcers said the name Dockery less and less -- and when you're an offensive guard in the NFL -- that's a good thing. Derrick worked hard on his technique and by mid season was playing some pretty good ball despite still making some rookie mistakes. Suddenly, the pressure had eased slightly and people stopped watching him.
There was no longer any need to.
What can only be described as an incredible improvement, Dockery simply turned himself into a bona fide starter. While it is not a foregone conclusion as to whether or not he is the automatic starter at left guard next year, he certainly did enough to guarantee that Fiore won't be resting on any coat tails when he returns from his knee injury. In fact, Dockery's play was so good, that it is doubtful that Fiore can even compete for the job given the relative age difference and salary cap difference. With Pro Bowler Randy Thomas on the right side and Dockery on the left... 2004 will be the first offseason in a very long time that the Redskins are not looking for a guard.
There aren't many statistics that you can point to when trying to prove the effectiveness of an offensive guard. The most important statistic that we CAN look at is his 13 starts. He also managed to get in all 16 games in his inaugural campaign. That's just great value and a great performance from a mid-third round selection.
Dave Fiore might want to practice snapping the ball -- it might be the only chance he has of starting in 2004.