What did the Commanders do in the first round of the draft?
If you hadn’t heard, the Washington Commanders traded down with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, adding a late 3rd round pick (a Saints comp pick, in fact) and the 15th pick in the 4th round for dropping back 5 spots in the draft, from Pick #11 to Pick #16 overall.
The 5 players drafted in those spots were:
- #11 - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
- #12 - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
- #13 - Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
- #14 - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
- #15 - Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Three of those players (Olave, Williams, Hamilton) were frequently mocked to Washington at #11 in the weeks before the draft, and fans seemed to have their hearts set on one of them ending up on the roster.
The actual player drafted, Jahan Dotson, was a disappointment to many fans largely because he isn’t Olave, Williams or Hamilton, (or Treylon Burks, drafted at #18 by the Titans), and because a number of fans felt like he was a reach for need (or a panic move) by a front office and coaching staff that went into the draft eyeing the receiver position. Ron Rivera told everyone in a press conference in Las Vegas this week that the team would be trying to add offensive weapons and bolster the offensive line, and GM Martin Mayhew all but promised that the Commanders would trade back if they found any opportunity to do so. If there were any question about the team’s commitment to not miss out on Dotson at 16, it was eliminated by Mayhew at the post-draft press conference on Thursday night.
Mayhew says Washington could have traded back ito the 20s or even the 30s but didnt want to go back that far and possibly lose Dotson— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) April 29, 2022
So, the team could have traded back for more picks, or they could have selected Burks, whom many fans and analysts had rated ahead of Dotson, but the team clearly had identified him as the player they wanted (at least at pick #16) and they pulled the trigger, adding speed and sure hands to the receiver group.
It's one catch, but this is a hell of a catch from new Commanders WR Jahan Dotson pic.twitter.com/9r9wHXzesG— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) April 29, 2022
It could be that the decision-makers miscalculated, expecting that one of the trio of Hamilton, Olave or Williams would be there at 16, but I suspect that they looked at those three players, plus Dotson, Burks, and perhaps someone like offensive lineman Zion Johnson from Boston College, and believed that the opportunity to take the highest rated of those 6 guys at Pick #16 while adding two additional draft picks (#98 and #120) was worth whatever potential talent dropoff there might be in trading back 5 spots.
Consider what Ron Rivera — who’s not likely to win many poker games in Las Vegas — had to say on Thursday night:
We wanna make sure there are weapons around Carson; we wanna make sure we can protect him. So, as we go through this draft, we’re keeping that in mind. I mean, that was part of our discussions when we looked up at the board and we look at how many guys we had in both those categories [that is, weapons and protection], and felt really good about those guys in those categories.
That’s why we felt good about [trading back] - because we felt that if one guy wasn’t there, another guy was potentially gonna be there. When we got to the point when we felt that these were the values of these guys, then we went ahead and made the decision that we’re where we need to be; now we can pick.
Mayhew added that they chose not to trade back even further than Pick #16 despite having multiple opportunities to do so:
We felt like, having a good number of players that we felt comfortable with and not going past that group was important. We felt good about that group, and felt like at 16 we were gonna get one of the guys that was really important to us.
Jahan was certainly one of those players.
This continues a pattern for the team, which, with one trade, went from having only three selections in the top 187 picks, to having FIVE selections in the top 120 picks.
While the front office might not be done trading yet, I’d be surprised if they trade up inside the first 4 rounds, so I’ll make this comment now: for the second year in a row, and the 4th time in 6 years, Washington will have 5 picks in the first 4 rounds of the draft:
- 2017 - 5 picks in the first 4 rounds
- 2018 - 4 picks in the first 4 rounds
- 2019 - 5 picks in the first 4 rounds
- 2020 - 4 picks in the first 4 rounds
- 2021 - 5 picks in the first 4 rounds
- 2022 - 5 picks in the first 4 rounds
The team clearly values getting more bites at the apple early in the draft, and continue a decade-long-plus pattern of having more than the average number of draft picks over the full 7 rounds (average of 9 per year since 2011, 9 per year since 2014, 9.4 per year since 2017).
While I might have preferred Olave or Williams to Dotson if it were apples-to-apples, I feel pretty good about getting three players in this draft in return for the #11 pick instead of just one, and there seems no doubt that Dotson is perceived as a first-rounder in this 2022 draft where receivers were flying off the board. He was typically rated (pre-draft) among the 6 best receivers in the draft, and he was the 5th one actually selected.
As an aside, the pick used to select Dotson has an interesting history, belonging originally to the Indianapolis Colts, who sent it to Philadelphia as part of the compensation for Carson Wentz. The Eagles traded it to New Orleans in a complex pre-draft deal that saw the Saints give up three 2022 picks, their 2023 first round pick and 2024 second round pick in return for two 1st round picks and a 6th round pick from the Eagles in this year’s draft. The Saints put it into a package of 3 picks that they used to move up to #11 for Ohio State receiver, Chris Olave. Washington’s front office, of course, was keen to trade down, in part to recover a third round draft pick to replace the one the Commanders sent to Indy in their own trade to acquire Carson Wentz.
Pick-3 contest update
Let me take a moment for another quick aside to provide the post-Thursday update on the Pick-3 draft prediction contest.
The first-round trade-down took three of the mock-draft favorites off the board for the Commanders, wrecking the Pick-3 predictions for most contest entrants. Only 3 contest entrants scored in the first round (WeCoSkinsFan, ArtMonk81, and ThaDers), each of whom received 5 points for projecting Jahan Dotson in the second round.
For everyone who got blanked on Thursday night: don’t worry, there are plenty more chances to score, and the point value for correct predictions in the correct rounds just continues to climb.
Depth Chart Update
I have a lot to learn about Jahan Dotson. The first thing I’m gonna have to learn to do is not to flinch every time I hear his name; I still have PTSD from Josh Doctson, and I’m afraid the names are a little too similar for my total comfort.
Daniel Jeremiah on Jahan Dotson, who he had ranked 25th on his top 50 prospects pic.twitter.com/suxwJOXIIa— Jordan Asri (@wshingtontoday) April 29, 2022
In my quick research in the hours since his selection, I learned that he generally showed up between about 19th and 43rd on pre-draft “big boards”; that he is 5’ 10.5”, 178 pounds; and he ran a 4.43 40 at the Combine. He fits into the mold of receivers that Washington has targeted in recent seasons:
Dotson has exceptional speed and plays bigger than his size. At his best he can be a DeSean Jackson type— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) April 29, 2022
The team seems to be prioritizing speed, versatility, interchangeability and route-running at the top of the depth chart. Dotson is the smallest of the receivers, but, based on the profiles I’ve read, he can line up wide or in the slot, meaning that he and Curtis Samuel will likely each see time at both spots.
For anyone wondering - I hadn't watched Dotson before. Through 2 and a bit games so far. Initial thoughts: Some overlap in skillset with Olave. Hands/catch radius for small guy does stand out. Feels a little more like a slot, suspect he & Samuel will switch a lot between Z & Slot— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) April 29, 2022
Mark Tyler, a Penn State alumnus who would be very familiar with Washington’s newest receiver, insists that his NFL comp is Tyler Lockett.
I was not as high on Jahan Dotson as many, but his comp is Tyler Lockett— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) April 29, 2022
The measurable are VERY similar
For kicks, I checked out some of Lockett’s details. Sure enough, he measures close to 5’10” and 182 pounds, with a 4.4 40-time.
You can see that Lockett’s usage with respect to lining up in the slot or out wide has varied from season to season, but he’s not far from a 50/50 split. I imagine that Dotson will get moved around the formation quite a lot, too.
These numbers look like a pretty good career for the 3rd round selection, Lockett. I’m not sure, however, if Washington fans will feel like Dotson earned his 1st round selection if he catches around 50 balls for around 600 yards per season over the 4 years of his rookie contract. He should, in any event, give Scott Turner and Carson Wentz what fans have been saying the offense needs — another inside-outside threat to open up the opportunities for Terry McLaurin.
The updated Depth Chart
I struggled a bit with where to put Dotson on the depth chart — whether to put him at the z-receiver or in the slot. In the end, I thought it was easier to list him as the starter ahead of Dax Milne in the slot and list Curtis Samuel as the starting z-receiver ahead of Dyami Brown, so that’s the arrangement I’m starting with today. We’ll see how that develops as we go through future iterations.
Weve heard a lot about versatility but Rivera zeroed in on Dotson's interior route running as a great advantage. That means playing the slot.— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) April 29, 2022
It seems worth noting that Dotson has punt return abilities as well — he returned 14 punts with a 7.4 yard average as a senior. Because of one returned to the house as a junior, his career numbers are more impressive with 25 returns at a 13.5 y/return average. I don’t expect him to be the preferred option there, but he does have experience as a return man in the Big 10, so it’s something to keep in mind.
You’ll see that I’ve listed Dotson’s cap hit at just over $3m for 2022; this number was taken from Over the Cap.
Dotson’s addition brings the roster to 68 players (not counting Landon Collins).
There’s a long way to go with the draft, with 6 more rounds, and at least 7 more picks. With those 7 draft picks, the team will likely have 75 players by the end of the draft.
There’s also a long way to go with the roster-building beyond Sunday and ahead of training camp; I expect two or three veteran free agent additions in the next week or two, and probably a dozen or so undrafted college free agents to be added between Sunday and Tuesday. I’m hoping to get an article published about possible vet free agents that the team should consider post-draft, and, of course, we’ll publish profiles of all the players added in the couple of months between the now and mid-July.
This part should be fun. I’m enjoying it; I hope you are too.