The NFL draft begins today, and things have changed a lot for the Washington Commanders since early February, when everyone who knew anything about pro football knew that the team’s #1 need was at quarterback.
Well, a trade with the Colts that became official in mid-March means that the team has Carson Wentz under contract for the next three years, with last year’s ultimate ‘next man up’ Taylor Heinicke in the final year of his contract as Wentz’s backup.
In a recent interview, head coach Ron Rivera talked about helping his new quarterback in two ways — by protecting him (with offensive linemen) and by giving him weapons (receivers, tight ends and running backs).
Rivera said that whatever help they can’t find in the draft, they will find in free agency post-draft.
Well, the fans seem to (kinda) be on board with the plan.
Unlike the coach and GM, mock drafts have been focusing on two positions for the Commanders of late. One of those is, indeed, wide receiver, with USC’s Drake London, and two Ohio State receivers, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson being the guys who get mentioned most often. The other position showing up on mock drafts, however, is not offensive line, but defensive back, with the most frequently mentioned player being the European born Notre Dame linebacker, Kyle Hamilton, who many project as a replacement for Landon Collins as a hybrid safety/linebacker. In general, mock drafts that have given Washington a receiver in Round 1 have followed up with a DB in Round 2, and those that have given the team Hamilton or another DB in Round 1 have usually followed up with a receiver in Round 2.
It appears that the fans have been reading those mock drafts. In a survey this week, the majority of fans identified wide receiver as the top priority in the draft (36%), with defensive secondary a close second (31%).
Washington’s GM, Martin Mayhew recently said that he doesn’t believe that the team will actually make the 6 draft picks it currently holds — indicating that he plans to seek trade opportunities. With only 6 picks in hand, and with a deep draft that is not top-heavy, the conventional wisdom is that the Commanders will try to trade back to accumulate more picks. With two compensatory picks expected to be awarded in 2023, I guess he could also consider trading next year’s actual 3rd round selection for an additional mid-round pick this weekend.
The team will have to finish filling the roster with both undrafted college free agents and veteran free agents after the draft ends on Saturday. If the fans have their say, Ron Rivera will be looking for veteran offensive line help early next week, because he’ll have at least one shiny new receiver, and probably some help for the defensive secondary already squirreled away as a result of the draft.
With a number of roster needs, limited picks, and a clear intention to trade during the draft, it’s hard to say what to expect the Commanders brass to do on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but whatever it is, it will have a huge impact on the shape of the roster in 2022 and for years to come.
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