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Casting Judgement on the Commanders’ 2022 Draft: Day 3

Did Ron and the Martys turn things around in the later rounds?

2022 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7 Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

We were warned by Panthers’ fans when he first arrived that Ron Rivera tends to get off to slow starts. The early rounds of the 2022 draft were true to form. Riverboat Ron kicked off the draft with a surprise trade back to the 16th pick, where he reached for one of the two remaining wide receivers with first round grades.

He followed that up with his second reach in as many rounds by selecting Phidarian Mathis 47th overall. Mathis should make a great replacement for departed rotational lineman Tim Settle, with some potential to eventually start. However, it probably would have been possible to find Mathis or a similar player, like DT Perrion Winfrey, in the third round. Mathis himself was surprised at being picked so early. To select Mathis where they did, the Commanders passed on a few players who might be expected to have greater impact, including safety/Buffalo Nickel Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Chad Muma.

The reaching finally came to an end in the third round, when power back Brian Robinson was selected about where he was expected to go. Robinson will make a great addition to the running back room, but you still might wonder whether linebackers Leo Chenal or Channing Tindall might have been better choices.

Was the Robinson pick a sign that Rivera was done reaching for need and was starting to look for better value for his draft capital? Let’s see how he did at finding value in the later rounds on Day 3 of the draft.

My approach to grading draft picks is a little different from the usual snap draft grades, and is explained in the Day 1 & Grades article. Briefly, I graded picks based on their potential to improve the team, whether by filling needs, adding new capabilities or building for the future, and on the value for draft capital relative to prospects’ expected draft positions and other available players.


2022 Commanders’ Draft Grades – Day 3

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Georgia State Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Round 4 – Pick 113: Percy Butler, S, Louisiana

Overall Grade: C-, slightly below expectations

BOOM OR BUST PROSPECT: My pick for the Commanders’ 2022 draft pick most likely to either well exceed or fall well short of his draft status

Potential to Improve the Team: C+

Butler profiles as one of the best special teams player in the draft. There is also an outside possibility that he could meet the longstanding need at free safety or fill the vacancy at Buffalo Nickel. The current Commanders’ depth chart shows 5’9” nickel CB/S Bobby McCain starting at FS, followed by career backup Jeremy Reaves. If Butler develops into a solid contributor at either defensive position, this pick ticks up to a B-.

Probability of Success: Good

Estimating the probability of this one succeeding has me a little stumped. The Pro Football Reference database doesn’t allow me to search on special team snaps or tackles as a gunner. I’d have to guess there is a good chance that a primary special teams players selected this high in the draft will get a fair share of playing time as a rookie.

Probability of Starting in 2022: 0.13

A lot of fans have already penciled Butler in as the starting FS or Buffalo Nickel, based on Chris Simms’ review and Rivera’s comments. I hate to rain on that parade, but only 3/43 safeties drafted in the fourth round from 2012 to 2021 started eight or more games as rookies. The estimated chance that Butler takes the starting FS role this season is around 13%.

Value for Draft Capital: D

Reach/Steal: Reach by 46.2%

Consensus rank: 210

While this pick has been getting generally good reviews on Hogs Haven, the draft experts’ consensus ranking painted an entirely different picture, placing Butler in the mid to late 6th round. By that measure, this was almost as much of a reach as Dotson in the first round and more of a reach than Mathis in the second.

Consistent with this pick being a major reach, the Commanders left a lot of more highly ranked players on the board including TE Isaiah Likely (rank 97), LB Brandon Smith (rank 109), CB Jalyn Armour-Davis (rank 110), TE Charlie Kolar (rank 117) and CB Joshua Williams (rank 125).

Boom or Bust Caveat: The Commanders’ obviously saw something in Butler that the media pundits missed. Rivera has indicated that he expects Butler to contribute at Buffalo Nickel this year. If that goes to plan, this grade could convert to a B.

Grading Summary

There is a lot to like about Butler as a special teams ace and safety depth. However, the idea that a fourth-round draft pick will step in and take over the starting FS or Buffalo Nickel roles is a little hopeful. The reason this grade is so low is that he appears to have taken more than a round too early and the Commanders jumped over a lot of more highly ranked players to select him. That said, this grade has a high chance of looking very different one or two years from now.


NFL: Washington Commanders Rookie Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5 – Pick 144: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Overall Grade: B+, well above expectations

Potential to Improve the Team: B

This pick gives the Commanders a developmental QB with potential to eventually start. If Howell only makes it as far as backup QB, he still upgrades an important position. The Commanders’ current starter, Carson Wentz, has questions to answer regarding his history with his last two teams, and also has a significant injury history. The team has only committed to him through the 2022 season, so there is a need to have a plan B in place in case the experiment doesn’t pay off.

The selection of Wentz creates a particular problem for future-proofing the position because he reacted so badly when the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts to back him up in the second round of the 2020 draft. Selecting Howell as a backup/developmental prospect was a brave move by Rivera’s team. It was also clever as well as lucky to select the developmental QB late in the draft, to avoid any misunderstandings regarding the pecking order.

Probability of Success: 0.222

To get this right, the Commanders had to draft a player who will become a competent backup, at a minimum. Out of nine QBs selected in the 5th round from 2012 to 2021, only two have stuck around the league as serviceable long-term backups: Brett Hundley and AJ McCarron. A few others have stuck around but aren’t very good (Kevin Hogan, Nathan Peterman, Mike White). Howell therefore has an estimated 22% chance of sticking as a backup.

Probability of Ever Becoming a Starter: Slightly Greater Than 0

No QB selected in the 5th round has become a starter in the last decade. That should reassure Carson.

Value for Draft Capital: A

Reach/Steal: Steal by 157.1%

Consensus rank: 56

According to the draft experts, Howell was a massive steal in the fifth round. By selecting him 88 picks after his consensus rank, the Commanders achieved a 157% gain in value over expectation. That looks great on paper. What I think it really illustrates is how there can sometimes be massive differences between how media experts and NFL teams rate certain players. The draft experts had Howell going in the second round, yet no NFL team felt that he was too good a value to pass up with a fourth-round pick.

Value Gained Through Trades

Washington acquired the 144th pick used to select Howell in a trade with Carolina. The Panthers traded fifth-round picks 144 and 149 to the Commanders in exchange for fourth-round pick 120 and sixth-round pick 189. This trade resulted in a net loss of four points of draft capital according to the Rich Hill Trade Value Chart, equivalent to the value of the 204th pick in the sixth round. The 120th pick used in this trade was acquired in the first-round trade with the Saints detailed above.

It is also worth noting that the Commanders’ original fifth-round pick was traded away in the complex trade for long snapper Camaron Cheeseman in the 2021 draft.

Overall, the fifth-round trade activity resulted in a minor loss of draft capital which was not big enough to dent the halo of the Howell pick.

Grading Summary

The Commanders pulled off one of the top steals of the 2022 draft by stopping Howell’s slide more than two rounds after his projected draft position. Of course, that might look a lot different if we had access to NFL team draft boards. Nevertheless, this pick gives Washington a developmental QB prospect with potential to become a capable backup or more, with no pressure to start in 2022 and minimal risk of causing friction with the starter.


NFL: Scouting Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5 – Pick 149: Cole Turner, TE, Nevada

Overall Grade: C, meets expectations

Potential to Improve the Team: C

This pick potentially addresses the need for a TE2/TE3 to replace the departed Ricky Seals-Jones. Turner is an athletic, receiving tight end and his addition diversifies the skillset of the backup TE ranks. Like most receiving TE’s coming out of college, he needs to add functional strength and develop blocking skills. If he can develop into an eventual starter, allowing the team to seamlessly transition from Logan Thomas, this grade improves to a B or better.

Probability of Success: 0.500

To hit on this pick the Commanders need to find a TE who will stick with the team as a TE2/TE3. To estimate their chance of success, I calculated the proportion of TEs drafted in the fifth round who were still playing in games five years later. Backup TEs are pretty easy to find on Day 3 of the draft, as 12/24 TEs drafted in the fifth round from 2008 to 2017 logged game time as fifth-year players.

Probability of Starting in 2024: 0.318

Tight ends often take a few years to come up to speed in the NFL. Out of 22 tight ends drafted in the fifth round from 2010 to 2019, seven started at least eight games in their third season. Tight ends are very good value this late in the draft.

Value for Draft Capital: C

Reach/Steal: Reach by 17.2%

Consensus rank: 180

According to the experts, this pick was a slight reach. However, given the large error margin in prospect rankings this late in the draft, a reach by less than 20% shouldn’t bother anyone too much.

A few of the available players that the experts thought were better than Turner at this pick were CB Tariq Woolen (rank 64), CB Zyon McCollum (rank 108), OT Braxton Jones (rank 134).


NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Round 7 – Pick 230: Chris Paul, OG, Tulsa

Overall Grade: B, above expectations

Potential to Improve the Team: C+

This pick helps to restock the talent pipeline at offensive line, something every team needs to do every draft. Linemen make up half the roster on offense and take heavy wear and tear. Paul is a big, athletic prospect who played both guard positions and right tackle at Tulsa. With a bit of strength conditioning and work on his run-blocking technique, he could challenge Saahdiq Charles and potentially upgrade the backup guard position.

Probability of Success: 0.364

If a seventh-round draft pick at most positions can stick on a roster and get any game time, the selection was a great success. Out of 55 offensive linemen drafted in the seventh round from 2012 to 2021, 20 appeared in games in their fourth years in the league.

Probability of Starting: 0.169

The availability of starting-quality offensive linemen remains higher throughout that draft than any other position group, leaving a decent number of late-round gems on the board in the seventh round. From 2012 to 2021, 10/59 OL selected in the seventh round started eight or more games in the fourth seasons. Two of them should be familiar: Austin Reiter and Charles Leno Jr. Having a 17% chance of finding an eventual starter while you are looking for depth makes this a pretty good value this late in the draft.

Value for Draft Capital: B+

Reach/Steal: Steal by 31.4%

Consensus rank: 175

The Commanders selected Paul 55 picks after his consensus draft position. The only player down at this end of the draft order that they might have considered drafting instead of Paul is G Thayer Munford (rank 150). They got great value with this pick.


NCAA Football: Missouri State at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Round 7 – Pick 240: Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State

Overall Grade: C (?)

Potential to Improve the Team: C

Holmes is a big (6’, 205 lbs), athletic cornerback with a 9.1 RAS. He seems to have value on special teams and as CB depth. There is not a lot written about him.

Probability of Success: 29%

If Holmes sticks on the roster as a contributor, then the Commanders will have done well with this pick. 23/79 players listed as cornerbacks or defensive backs drafted from 2009 to 2018 played in at least 8 games in their fourth NFL seasons.

Probability of Starting: 0.114

If he dedicates himself to his craft, there is a chance that Holmes could develop into a starter, raising the value grade of this pick to an A. Amongst the 79 seventh-round CB/DBs drafted from 2009 to 2018, nine started at least eight games in their fourth seasons.

Value for Draft Capital: C (?)

Reach/Steal: unranked

Consensus rank: unranked

My method for estimating value for draft capital breaks down with this pick, since Holmes was not ranked on the Consensus Big Board. It’s hard to say if he meets expectations or not, when you have no expectations. There weren’t many obviously better players available at pick #240.


Later Rounds Summary

Days 3 Overall Grade: B-, somewhat above expectations

The Commanders opened Day 3 with a return to their reaching ways, selecting special teams ace and backup safety Percy Butler one or two rounds ahead of his expected draft position.

They made up for it and more with their next pick, selecting QB Sam Howell to open the fifth round in one of the steals of the draft. This pick is sneaky good, since it provides the team with a developmental QB prospect, with potential to eventually start, without raising alarm bells with the temperamental starting QB.

They pulled off another heist in the seventh round with the selection of OL Chris Paul at pick #230, more than a round after he was expected to go. Paul is a big, long, athletic prospect with experience at guard and tackle, who probably projects to guard in the NFL. He is a great value in the seventh round.

The team also found good value selections of TE Cole Turner in the fifth round. Turner is a receiving tight end who bolsters the TE depth chart. If he can develop his blocking skills, he might eventually provide another receiving option for Wentz, Howell or whoever else is playing QB in a few years’ time.

The Commanders closed the draft with little known CB prospect Christian Holmes, who will try to stick to the end of the roster on special teams, while working his way onto the defensive depth chart.

Aside from the reach in round four, the Commanders appear to have found good to great value with their late-round picks. It is possible that, aside from Jahan Dotson, the starters in this draft could all come from rounds four through seven.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to James Dorsett for his usual expert editorial assistance.


Poll

Which was the Commanders’ best Day 3 pick?

  • 8%
    S Percy Butler
    (66 votes)
  • 67%
    QB Sam Howell
    (512 votes)
  • 16%
    TE Cole Turner
    (122 votes)
  • 7%
    G Chris Paul
    (54 votes)
  • 0%
    CB Christian Holmes
    (7 votes)
761 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which player will have the biggest impact in 2022?

  • 58%
    WR Jahan Dotson
    (399 votes)
  • 3%
    DL Phidarian Mathis (Really?)
    (25 votes)
  • 27%
    RB Brian Robinson
    (187 votes)
  • 3%
    S Percy Butler
    (27 votes)
  • 1%
    QB Sam Howell
    (11 votes)
  • 3%
    TE Cole Turner
    (23 votes)
  • 0%
    G Chris Paul
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    CB Christian Holmes
    (6 votes)
682 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which player’s draft grade will be the most different in 2024?

  • 18%
    WR Jahan Dotson
    (112 votes)
  • 13%
    DL Phidarian Mathis
    (80 votes)
  • 13%
    RB Brian Robinson
    (81 votes)
  • 18%
    S Percy Butler
    (115 votes)
  • 14%
    QB Sam Howell
    (88 votes)
  • 14%
    TE Cole Turner
    (90 votes)
  • 6%
    G Chris Paul
    (39 votes)
  • 0%
    CB Christian Holmes
    (6 votes)
611 votes total Vote Now