There is a long tradition of people giving draft picks a grade less than 24 hours after they’ve been made. Some of them are spot on after the players have shown who they are after a few years in the league, and some of them look pretty bad. A lot of graders get stuck on their personal rankings, and will tank a player’s selection because of that. How a player fits with a team, and their needs plays a big part here as well.
Washington's grades were a rollercoaster throughout the draft. Some people liked the trade down in the first, but the Jahan Dotson pick didn't thrill them. Players that were "missed" because they traded down also factored in.
Day 2 was generally planned because of where the players were picked, and other needs that could have been addressed by higher-rated players. Martin Mayhew tried to shut this criticism down yesterday by saying people on the outside don't know the team's needs like they do. That still didn't help and Day 2 was seen as very underwhelming.
Day 3 was a totally different narrative with Washington trading down again while also getting great value on QB Sam Howell at the top of the 5th round. They added 5 total players on Saturday, and helped their overall grades with that haul.
The lowest grade Washington received was a B- and they got one D- for their 2022 draft class.
What grade does Washington's 2022 draft get?
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Their first draft as the rechristened Commanders didn’t start out well given that panicky trade for QB Carson Wentz cost them their third-rounder and probably a future second. But they recovered, recouping some capital before spending that first selection on Penn State WR Jahan Dotson, who should be quite a help to Wentz and maybe the special teams, too. Washington also got its annual complement of Alabama studs (DT Phidarian Mathis, RB Brian Robinson). But fifth-round QB Sam Howell could be the story here. He was taken late enough that he shouldn’t pose an immediate threat to Wentz, yet Howell might also provide Day 3 Kirk Cousins-level returns down the road if circumstances force him into the lineup.
Washington Post (B)
Trading down and then taking WR Jahan Dotson in the first round was fine. He’ll provide a useful receiving complement to Terry McLaurin for new QB Carson Wentz. The Commanders went to an old standby of theirs — drafting Alabama players — for their second-round choice of DT Phidarian Mathis and their third-round pick of RB Brian Robinson Jr. Getting QB Sam Howell to begin the fifth round represented good value and provides a prospective fallback plan if Wentz is not the long-term solution.
People are calling Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson an overdraft at 16 overall after Washington traded down with the Saints, but if you look at the receivers left on the board, Dotson was the best guy at that point. It does sting a bit that the Saints took Chris Olave, and the Lions took Jameson Williams at 12 with their leaping trade with the Vikings. But Dotson is a professional receiver who can come in and help right away. After that, it was Alabama all the way, as Washington selected run-stopping tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round, and power running back Brian Robinson in the third. There may have been better players left at each of those positions, but they fit what Ron Rivera wants.
As for the quarterback situation… well, that got a lot more interesting with the selection of Sam Howell, who I think is the second-best quarterback in this class. Go back and watch Howell’s 2020 tape, when he had running backs and receivers, and tell me that Carson Wentz’s ears aren’t burning.
Day 1 grade: B
Day 2 grade: C+
Day 3 grade: A
Analysis: The Commanders were able to recoup the third-rounder lost in the Carson Wentz deal (via a Day 1 draft trade with the Saints) while finding a quick and sure-handed receiver in Dotson to help Wentz succeed and complement Terry McLaurin. Mathis will be a solid rotational player, and Robinson has the speed-power combination to be a good NFL back.
Addressing the safety spot was a must on Day 3 for Washington, and Butler was the best choice. Howell will prove to be an excellent pick in the fifth round whether or not he steps in for Wentz as a rookie. I love Paul as a guard, moving inside at the pro level just like Brandon Scherff. Turner’s receiving skills will be used right away, as the team does not have enough options at tight end.
Draft Kings Nation (B)
Finding a wide receiver to complement Terry McLaurin was a big need for the Commanders heading. Dotson is a speedy guy who’s a crisp route runner, but there are concerns about his size at just 178 pounds. It wasn’t a bad pick, but feels like a bit of a reach.
Defensive line wasn’t a big need for Washington, but the Mathis pick is a good one, giving that group some insurance from injury. Robinson joins a crowded backfield. However, he brings one thing the rest of the running backs don’t have, a tenacious downhill running style they’ll appreciate on first and second downs.
Of all of their day three picks, the one that people are going to be talking about is Howell. He’s a little short, but he throws a nice deep ball and has the mobility to keep plays alive. It’s hard to think of a fifth-round pick as a potential franchise quarterback, but Howell at least brings enough to the table to get a look.
Mel Kiper Jr. (B-)
It seemed for a while that Washington was targeting a wide receiver in Round 1. The offense got little production from any target other than Terry McLaurin last season, and new quarterback Carson Wentz will need some improved targets. So credit the Commanders for moving down five spots in Round 1, adding third- and fourth-round picks from the Saints and still getting my fifth-ranked wideout. It’s clear they preferred Jahan Dotson (16) over Chris Olave, whom the Saints took at 11, and that recouped draft capital helps offset the cost for trading for Wentz.
Dotson is a smooth and explosive target who should get both slot and outside snaps in Washington. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner loves to use 11 personnel, so Dotson’s positional flex will help confuse defenses. The Commanders also stopped the free fall of quarterback Sam Howell (144). I never bought that Howell was a potential first-rounder, but the deep-ball accuracy and touch makes him an interesting backup behind Wentz. Is Wentz going to be OK with this pick?
Phidarian Mathis (47) joins a defensive line already loaded with former Crimson Tide players. He won’t get many sacks, but he can eat up blockers. When I look at the Commanders’ depth chart, though, I’m struggling to find how he gets enough snaps to warrant a second-round pick. Chris Paul (230) is a seventh-round value; he has the size and agility that could turn into upside. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. (98) went about 50 picks higher than I would have taken him.
Dotson is a nice selection, but what else does Washington have here? It needs to have a plan for Howell, unless it just plans to sit him on the bench for a couple of years.
Draft Wire (B-)
Trading back in the first round was a great move, but taking Dotson over Treylon Burks was the opposite. DL Phidarian Mathis went a round too early, and didn’t address any of Washington’s biggest needs in the second round. RB Brian Robinson Jr. is a well-rounded runner who can impact the game on all three downs, making him a solid value at the end of the third.
Landing Howell in the fifth round could obviously be the pick everyone remembers from this group, as he immediately becomes the best quarterback on the roster. It wouldn’t be surprising if he beats out Carson Wentz in training camp. They took the wrong receiver in the first round, waited too long to address the offensive line, but none of that will matter if they hit on Howell.
NBC Sports (B-)
The Commanders had traded their third-round pick in the Carson Wentz trade and they found a way to recoup it while getting him a much-needed weapon. Even with acquiring picks 98 and 120 (later moved to Carolina), selecting Dotson felt like a reach. On day two, adding Mathis and Robinson gives the Commanders high-floor players that can contribute right away. The intriguing one is Howell. Once projected to be a top-10 selection, Howell goes off at the first pick of the fifth round. He goes to a situation that won’t put pressure on him to be the guy right away, as Wentz is in front of him and he needs a lot of growth.
CBS Sports (B-)
The Commanders had a sound albeit unspectacular draft. Jahan Dotson will be a fun complement to Terry McLaurin, he was just picked a bit too early. Phidarian Mathis is a high floor defensive lineman, and Sam Howell in Round 5 was tremendous value. Chris Paul is the other standout Day 3 pick.
Yahoo Sports (B-)
Favorite pick: Howell
Expectations need to be measured properly with this pick. Just as the Titans didn’t go into the weekend thinking they were going to draft Malik Willis in Round 3, the Commanders most likely did not have grand designs to catch a falling Howell on Day 3. It just sort of fell that way, to the point where there was no risk at all. Fifth-round picks are, callous as it is to say, fodder. On the record, GMs will disagree with this, but check back on cutdown day, and as much as half of this year’s Round 5 picks could be looking for work. But perhaps Howell fell into a strangely perfect spot: with an eminently replaceable starting QB (Carson Wentz) and a former folk hero (Taylor Heinecke) whose 15 minutes might be up. Howell and Ron Rivera share a stoic calm, and offensive coordinator Scott Turner might just be the man to coax the most out of the under-appreciated Howell.
Least-favorite pick: Mathis
What is it with all the Bama guys? Kidding. That doesn’t bother us a bit. But in the case of Mathis, we never quite could fall in love with him. He’s a rock-solid performer who showed a little more flash last season than he ever had before. But we barely noticed him at the Senior Bowl, and there’s not much beyond his length and play temperament that grade out as top traits for us. A solid player no doubt, but we see him more as a rotational guy with limited box-score imprint.
Overall: You know, there are some solid players in this group. Dotson is the sure-handed, natural-separation target a scattershot QB like Wentz can really use, an he feels like a nice sidekick to Terry McLaurin, even if 16 felt a shade high. The two Bama picks certainly add toughness to the room. Howell adds a wildcard quality to the class, and Rivera seemed particularly fascinated by Turner, who always kept us interested as a prospect. There’s just not a pick in here that immediately works us into a frenzy. Drafts such as these can be foundational elements, but there’s no obvious future Pro Bowl player.
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: A-
The Athletic (C+)
They moved down five spots in the first and picked up a third and a fourth, although it’s fair to wonder whether that offer was really appealing enough to stop them from just taking Jameson Williams, Chris Olave or Kyle Hamilton. Washington went into the draft with six picks and came out of it with eight players.
They didn’t do anything that exciting, but their decisions were mostly fine. Dotson might have felt like a little bit of a reach, but wide receivers were flying off the board, and I like him as a prospect.
Pro Football Focus (C+)
Day 1: Washington selected Jahan Dotson as the fifth wide receiver taken in the first round, representing one of the biggest reaches on Day 1. Dotson was No. 56 on PFF’s Big Board but he did have his fans. He has some of the best hands in the draft, dropping just 5.2% of catchable targets in his college career. The success of this pick will be determined by how successful he can be on the outside and not just the slot at the next level.
Day 2: Few people like anything as much as Washington seems to like Alabama defensive linemen, and they added another one in the second round with Phidarian Mathis. It was their second straight major reach according to PFF’s Big Board, selecting Mathis around 50 spots higher than his ranking. As you would expect coming from Alabama, Mathis is long, strong and violent in his play but he isn’t tremendously explosive which calls his ceiling into question. He does have a high floor considering his NFL-ready technique but just don’t expect game-wrecking ability, as evidenced by his solid 78.5 PFF grade in 2021.
Brian Robinson was the 146th-ranked player on PFF’s draft board but still offers a skill set Washington doesn’t have a whole lot of in their backfield: physicality. He can be an immediate impact player as a short-yardage back behind starter Antonio Gibson.
Day 3: Sam Howell’s slide finally ends at Pick 144. He may have taken a step back as a passer in 2021, but he proved to be a legitimate threat as a runner, breaking an absurd 63 tackles and running for 1,072 yards. The 34th-ranked player on PFF’s big board, Howell will push Carson Wentz in the nation’s capital and will likely get starting reps.
Football Outsiders (C+)
Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C+
Carson Wentz contains within him a multitudes of paradoxes. One of them is that any team which acquires Wentz desperately needs a reliable backup, if only because Wentz forever bounces from one minor injury to the next, but any perceived threat to his starting job causes Wentz to curl into the fetal position.
In that respect, pairing Wentz with a rookie challenger with a knack for sacks and YOLO bombs who was only successful when surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast is quite a choice. Maybe putting Wentz in a room with Sam Howell will be like placing a mirror in a parrot’s cage to keep it from dying of loneliness.
The Commanders’ draft class is full of players I was not very high on: Jahan Dotson was a second-rounder in my book, Phidarian Mathis a B-tier defensive tackle by Alabama standards (Washington already drafted most of the S-tier and A-tier in past years), Brian Robinson a garden-variety thumper, Howell a better prospect in theory than on film, Cole Turner a pumped-up wide receiver with lots of end zone targets. Maybe the franchise will prove me wrong, but they have had 20 years to do so in the past and have never quite pulled it off.
Bleacher Report (C+)
There isn’t a lot to get excited about with the Washington Commanders’ draft class. There isn’t a lot to get angry about, either.
Jahan Dotson makes sense from a need standpoint. The Commanders need pass-catchers alongside Terry McLaurin to give new quarterback Carson Wentz a chance at success, and Dotson should find a role as a No. 2 receiver. There’s just little chance that he winds up as the best wideout in the class.
Phidarian Mathis is a similar prospect as an interior defensive lineman. He will provide critical depth and likely become a starter down the road with Daron Payne entering the final year of his contract.
The biggest qualm with Washington’s draft is not using either the second- or third-round pick on a cornerback. The Commanders don’t have much depth at that position, but depth is invaluable there.
Instead, they opted for a power runner in Brian Robinson Jr., whose role they could have filled through the constantly revolving door of free-agent running backs.
Pro Football Network (C)
Let’s start with the bright spots. Because after that, it goes downhill pretty quickly for the Washington Commanders. Getting Sam Howell in the fifth round is Grade A work. Yes, there are holes in his game, but there were also holes in his offensive line. After Kenny Pickett, Howell might be the most likely rookie to make the starting job his own. When he does, Jahan Dotson could be his go-to guy.
That doesn’t stop the Penn State pass catcher from being a ginormous reach at 16. If there’s any consolation for Commanders fans, Dotson has extensive experience catching wayward passes from an average QB (that doesn’t relate to Howell). The 1-2 punch of Dotson and Phidarian Mathis set a tone that the Commanders’ class never really recovered from. Boy, does Washington love Alabama defensive tackles.
Sporting News (C-)
One word sums up the Commanders’ draft under Martin Mayhew, Ron Rivera and Scott Turner: “weird”. First instead of staying put for ideal wideout Chris Olave, they traded down and reached a little for Dotson’s big-play speed. They like Alabama players, but Mathis is a pure depth guy and Robinson was an unnecessary luxury power back pick behind Antonio Gibson. The rest of the late haul was meh, including a forced reach for the falling and limited Howell as a pseudo contingency for Carson Wentz.
Walter Football (C-)
Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Redskins traded for Carson Wentz, so they’ll need to give him some receiving help; otherwise, he may struggle to catch on in Washington. The Redskin defense needs to shore up their woeful secondary as well.
2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I often like it when teams trade down and accumulate draft capital, but I’m not a fan of the Redskins’ decision to do so in the 2022 NFL Draft. They moved down five spots, but in doing so, they missed out on some of the top prospects in this class. Chris Olave, Jameson Williams and Kyle Hamilton all would have been terrific picks for Washington at No. 11. Wentz would have especially liked throwing to Olave and Williams. Instead, he’ll have to settle for Jahan Dotson. I like Dotson, but there’s a huge disparity between him and the other two wideouts.
The Dotson pick scored a “C,” as did the next three picks. Washington’s two second-day choices provided little value and no need, as Phidarian Mathis and Brian Robinson were questionable picks. The Redskins should have focused on positions they needed to address, such as cornerback, safety and linebacker. Instead, they drafted two players who won’t start for them anytime soon.
The Sam Howell selection in Round 5 saved the Redskins a bit. Howell won’t start this year either, but he may push Wentz down the road if the journeyman quarterback continues to make YOLO passes downfield. Howell was a steal in the fifth frame, and he provides a bit of optimism in what was a bleak draft class otherwise.
SB Nation (D+)
I’m really not a fan of the picks Washington made this weekend. Picking up Howell in the fifth round was really nice value, and he could be an average starter in the NFL. Outside of that, I hated how much the Commanders reached in this draft. I know they traded back and got some more picks, but Dotson was big reach at No. 16 considering the myriad needs this team had — and there was no further mitigation by taking more receivers in case Dotson isn’t everything they hope he’ll be.
Sports Illustrated (D)
While the Commanders needed a wide receiver, it’s hard to understand their philosophy in the 2022 draft. Unless Dotson was by far the No. 1 pass catcher on the board, trading back and missing the thick of the wide receiver run and only netting a third- and fourth-round pick for compensation doesn’t seem like enough. You could look at their draft and ask: Would you rather have Dotson and two extra mid-round picks or Jameson Williams? Dotson hasn’t had an issue escaping coverage in the Big Ten, but does that change in the pros? Mathis should have been more in the conversation with the Georgia defensive tackles and certainly improves a talented Washington front, but did the Commanders follow their board too tightly? There are certainly some positions of need that didn’t get addressed.
New York Post (D)
Credit for trading down for No. 11 to No. 16 before reaching for Dotson. Washington stayed put with its other two picks, and both Alabama stars felt like reaches, including the one-year starter Robinson.
NBC Sports (D-)
I didn’t understand why the Commanders traded out of 1.11, bypassing the chance to take Chris Olave or Jameson Williams, to take Dotson at 1.16. You picked up two extra picks... and did what with them? The only pick of the entire bunch that I saw as a value was Howell… and I was one of the industry’s lowest on him.