As many of you can imagine, I came away from this draft a bit disappointed. I was hoping for immediate impact starters with our top 100 picks, and right now, I do not see that.
Aside from that, I am still scratching my head at what I perceive are some pretty big reaches within the top 100.
I have mentioned many times that because of our lack of free agent signings, this draft would have to fill needs with value picks. My analysis below outlines if the Commanders indeed did that.
Filling our needs:
Washington came into the draft with many needs. They did an ok job addressing some of those needs, but also, in my opinion, missed badly on some picks and where they were taken.
Below are Washington’s team needs, how/if they were filled, and my grades for those players at positions of need.
WR 1a/WR2 - Jahan Dotson: Grade - B
- I like Dotson a lot as a player, however I was hoping we got a bigger bodied wide receiver to complement the players we had on this roster. Dotson has the best set of hands of any pass catcher in this draft, and he has legit speed to take the top off a defense from the slot or outside the numbers. It’s very likely we’ll be talking about him being the best of this talented class five years from now.
S - Percy Butler: Grade - B+
- I thought Butler was outstanding value in round four. He is a true center field free safety with outstanding speed. His tackling is pretty good, but he tends to take some questionable lines to the ball carrier, and that will need to be cleaned up. He offers some potential as a Buffalo Nickel and had great special teams ability.
LB - None Added: Grade - Incomplete
- It’s more apparent than ever that this staff wants/trusts Cole Holcomb as the MIKE. He’s gotten so much stronger since he entered the league, and the staff is trying to keep his weight down so he doesn’t sacrifice any athleticism. He sits between 234-238, and that’s where they’d like him to stay. This was obviously a need the fans viewed as high, yet the staff felt was low. That being said, I have written many times times why I felt Cole should be our MIKE, and I was given some information over the weekend that that indeed is the plan moving forward.
TE - Cole Turner Round 5: Grade - C
- Turner is a former wide-receiver-turned-tight-end who is long and athletic but is still learning to play the position. I love his potential as a MOVE TE and redzone threat, but that is really all he’s likely to be because he lacks physicality as a blocker. This need received a C from me because we passed up on better talent earlier in the draft where we reached at other positions.
G - Chris Paul Round 7: Grade - C
- Even though we lost both starting guards in free agency, the addition of Andrew Norwell and already having Wes Schweitzer on the roster made this a secondary need. Washington selected Paul in the seventh round, and although that likely puts him as a bottom of the roster, developmental role, he does offer some value and upside.
Backup QB - Sam Howell Round 5: Grade - A+
- From a value-meets-talent standpoint, this was the best pick of the draft for Washington, and is probably one of the better selections of all 32 teams. Coming into 2021, Howell was a favorite to be the first quarterback taken and a top 10 draft pick, however a poor offensive line and limited weapons at receiver caused some struggles. He was pressured second-most of any quarterback in the country last year, and his accuracy struggled because of it. That being said, he made up for the lack of playmakers with grit and determination, using his legs to rush for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns. It’s only a matter of time before he moves ahead of Taylor Heinicke on the depth chart.
Outside of filling some top needs with quality players, Washington also reached (and reached FAR), with some of their top 100 picks.
DT: Phidarian Mathis Round 2: Grade - D
- Say what you want, but this was a massive reach at a position that was a secondary need at best. I understand that Jack Del Rio likes to use a four-man rotation up front, but taking a player who very likely could have been there in the third round, at number 47 overall, was a bad miss by this staff who continues to put high value on non-premium defensive players early in the draft. What makes this move worse, is that it was done because the staff decided to let two quality backup defensive tackles leave this offseason, thus creating another hole that didn’t need to exist.
RB: Brian Robinson Jr. Round 3: Grade - C
- As much as I like Brian Robinson, I thought we again reached and took him a round early. Now maybe he was the apple of their eye, and they were afraid he’d be gone when we got on the clock in round four, but to me, there were other prospects in the fourth who would have fit nicely and represented better value if Robinson was indeed gone by then. I view this as a panic move by the staff.
Instead of trying to blow rainbows and unicorns at you, I’m going to try and keep it real...
This offseason, outside of the addition of quarterback Carson Wentz, has been a large disappointment to me. As many of you have seen, I have been very vocal with my displeasure with this plan (or lack thereof). I was really hoping we’d have an outstanding draft to quell some of these concerns I had, but I still have this very empty feeling about this lackluster offseason. Now, I will say this - there have been many years where I was punch-drunk off the Kool-Aid, only to come away at season’s end extremely disappointed; so maybe a reverse approach will work.
First, let me start by saying that the trade-back in round one was very good. I came into this draft hoping this would happen, and it played out almost perfectly for Washington. I just question some of the picks...
One of my biggest desires coming into the draft was to surround Carson Wentz with weapons and drastically improve an offense that has ranked fourth worst in the NFL in points scored over the past three seasons. Adding another receiver was paramount, and getting one, while trading back and adding an extra third and fourth round pick was massive! I have really warmed up to the Dotson pick, and think he’ll be a great complement to Terry.
I had really hoped for a true MOVE TE who can be a mismatch on the outside, and operate as a jumbo wide receiver. We nabbed a guy with “potential” in Cole Turner, but I thought we passed up on some VERY good talent - starting with Trey McBride who was there for the taking when we selected Mathis in round two.
I understand if the staff didn’t value tight end as much as some in this fan base, but to also pass on a talent like Jaquan Brisker in round two was mind-numbing. Not only would he have filled that S/LB hybrid role we lost when we cut Landon Collins, but he was a outstanding character guy with excellent special teams value to boot.
I was fully on board with taking a running back in this draft, and I thought the fourth round, especially after the first round trade with the Saints that netted us an ADDITIONAL fourth, was the spot to do it. Brian Robinson was high on my list in round four, so I questioned taking him in what I felt was a full round early. If he wasn’t available, I liked guys like Isaiah Spiller, Zamir White, and Hassan Haskins, who were all there when we selected. It really hurt to watch safety Nick Cross go two picks before we selected Robinson in round three.
Now that I see the plan at inside linebacker, I’m not about to criticize the move not to take one within the top 100, however at the time, I was really questioning the staff’s neglect there. I was still hoping for depth later in the draft, but it looks to me that Ron and Jack fully intend to go into the season with Holcomb at MIKE and Davis at WILL, with Hudson and Mayo backing them up in this new 4-2-5/5-2-4 base.
The selecting of Mathis and the search for a Buffalo Nickel (Darrick Forrest and Percy Butler), tell me the staff will be in two linebacker sets almost all the time - be it with the defensive front in a BEAR, or the back half in nickel. I think we could even see some looks with Kam Curl down in the box as our money-backer with McCain and Butler as the deep tandem.
As I said above, I absolutely LOVE the Sam Howell pick at number 144 in the fifth round. In my humble opinion, this was one of the best value picks of the entire draft. I think Howell comes in and very quickly entrenches himself at QB2, and if Wentz were to falter, he’d be the guy the staff looks to for the future. This was a SLAM DUNK!
I still would like to see us address some of the depth at corner. I’m not confident rookie seventh rounder Christian Holmes makes this roster, and I don’t know if we can go into the season with Corn Elder and Danny Johnson as numbers four and five respectively. I look for the staff to add a few more guys when cuts happen - either after the draft or after preseason.
The undrafted free agents:
I still have to do some homework on many of these guys, but two that stand out immediately are Cole Kelley - the massive quarterback from Louisiana (who has a little bit of Josh Allen in him) and Notre Dame linebacker Drew White who ran a 4.67 40 and had 22 reps at 225 pounds at his Pro Day.
Hopefully some of these guys can make the team and become contributors in the future.