clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Did They Do? 2022 Washington Commanders rookies

Evaluating Commanders’ rookie seasons against expectations

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

Prior to the season I published a set of benchmarks, which were intended to set realistic expectations for each of the members of the Commanders’ rookie class. Now that the 2022 season is in the books, it is time to see which ones met expectations and whether any exceeded or failed to meet expectations.

The approach that I took, for each Commanders’ rookie, was to calculate the average performance of rookies at the same position who were drafted around the same pick number or at the same rank order in their draft classes. The full details are explained in the linked article.

Just to be absolutely clear, this was not an attempt to predict how each rookie would do, based on his individual circumstances on the team. Rather, the intention was to set realistic expectations to counter the tendency among some sectors to overhype our rookies heading into the season.

Now that the season is over, an alternative approach to evaluate the rookies’ performances is available. In addition to evaluating the rookies against the historical benchmarks I set in the preseason, I will also compare them to the other players selected at the same position within their draft classes.

Now, let’s see how they did.

Jahan Dotson, WR, round 1, pick #16

Historical comparison cohorts:

  • Wide Receivers Picked 10th to 22nd Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 5th Wide Receiver Selected, 2012 to 2021

Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0.512

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

13 Games Played, 9 Starts, 46 Receptions, 627 Yards, 4 TD, 57% Catch Rate

2022 Stats:

12 Games Played, 10 Starts, 35 Receptions, 523 Yards, 7 TD, 57.4% Catch Rate

Dotson did clinch a starting position in training camp, putting him ahead of 48% of rookie wide receivers in the comparison cohorts. Despite missing five games to injury, he was about right on expectations in terms of games played and starts. On that point, the historical average performance benchmarks were not adjusted for games lost to injury. It is therefore appropriate to compare them to Dotson’s performance without adjusting for the five games he missed, because players in the comparison cohorts are also likely to have lost time to injury.

Dotson’s catch rate was more or less exactly as expected. He fell short of expected receptions and receiving yards by 24% and 17%, respectively, while exceeding scoring expectations by a whopping 75%.

What really stands out about Dotson’s rookie performance is that 20% of his receptions led to touchdowns. That places him first in scoring percentage among all NFL wide receivers with 20 or more receptions in 2022. The player in second place was fellow rookie, Christian Watson at 17%.

To sum up, despite missing five games to injury, Dotson played and started about as many games as would be expected of wide receiver with similar draft status. He was moderately below expectations in receptions and receiving yards, and well exceeded scoring expectations.

2022 Wide Receiver Draft Class:

Now that we’ve seen how Dotson compares to wide receivers with similar draft status in previous years, let’s see how he compares to the other receivers in his draft class. This time I will adjust the productivity stats for injury time by using per game figures.

Rank in draft class:

12 Games Played – rank 16th

10 Starts – rank 6th

2.9 Receptions/game – rank 9th

43.6 Yards/game – tied 5th with Christian Watson

8.6 Yards/target – rank 6th

0.58 TD/game – 1st (7 total TD is tied 1st with Christian Watson)

57.4% Catch rate – rank 15th

9.8% Drop rate – rank 7th

Dotson played fewer games than 15 of his classmates, due to his injury. When he was available, he got plenty of starts.

As far as performance goes, Dotson was a few places behind his draft order (fifth) in number of receptions per game, but he was right on the money in yards per game and just one place behind it in yards per target.

Once again, Dotson really stands out from his peers in scoring productivity, whether it is expressed in TDs per game or per reception. Where Dotson was not great was catch rate. Some of that might have to do with receiving from two QBs who were prone to throwing uncatchable passes (Carson Wentz 20% bad throws – rank 4th among QBs starting 6 or more games; Taylor Heinicke 18.1% bad throws – tied 10th) for most of the season. However, he also had a drop rate close to 10%, which was the 7th highest in the rookie WR class.

In summary, Dotson lagged the non-injury corrected historical benchmarks in receptions and yardage, but exceeded them in scoring. Compared to his 2022 classmates, he was around expectation in yardage productivity and exceeded expectations in scoring productivity. The one area of concern is his drop rate.


Phidarian Mathis, DT, round 2, pick #47

Comparison cohorts:

  • Defensive Tackles Picked 31st to 63rd Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 3rd Defensive Tackle Selected, 2012 to 2021

Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0.512

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

14 Games Played, 5 Starts, 27 Combined Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 4 QB Hits, 1 Sack, 0 Forced Fumbles, 1 Pass Defended

Phidarian suffered a meniscus tear after logging just 3 defensive snaps in Week 1 and spent the rest of the 2022 season on injured reserve.

Final Verdict: INCOMPLETE

Green Bay Packers v Washington Commanders Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Brian Robinson, RB, round 3, pick #98

Comparison cohorts:

  • Running Backs Picked 82nd to 114th Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 6th Running Back Selected, 2012 to 2021

Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0.104

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

12 Games Played, 3 Starts, 95 Rushes, 402 Yards, 2 TDs, 19 Receptions, 154 Rec. Yards, 1 TD

2022 Stats:

12 Games Played, 9 Starts, 205 Rushes, 797 Yards, 2 TDs, 9 Receptions, 60 Rec. Yards, 1 TD

Robinson beat the odds for late third round running backs by clinching the starting job in preseason, with an assist from Antonio Gibson fumbling the ball.

Like Dotson, Robinson missed five games due to injury, but in his case it was a non-football injury and being shut down in Week 18. Unlike Dotson, Robinson crushed the historical benchmarks. He exceeded expectations for rushing attempts by 216%, and total rushing yards by 198%. He was exactly on expectation in rushing and receiving touchdowns. The only area where he was below expectation was receiving production. That is understandable on a team with as many receiving weapons as the Commanders.

2022 Running Back Draft Class:

Rank in draft class:

12 Games Played – rank 13th

9 Starts – rank 4th

17.1 Rushing attempts/game – rank 1st

3.9 Yards/attempt – rank 7th among RBs with 30 or more attempts

0.167 Rushing TD/game – rank 7th

0.75 Receptions/game – rank 10th

5.0 Receiving yards/game – rank 10th

0.083 Receiving TD/game – rank 5th

Compared to the historical benchmarks, Robinson well exceeded expectations in rushing categories and fell below expectations in receiving. Within his draft class, however, he got more starts and rushing opportunities than would be expected based on his draft position, but fell slightly below expectations in all productivity metrics except receiving TD per game. It was a strong running back class. I suppose the answer comes down to which comparison cohort you weight more. Then again, Robinson is a unique case, because none of the running backs in any of the comparison cohorts was shot the week before the season started.


Percy Butler, S, round 4, pick #113

Comparison cohorts:

  • Safeties Picked 97th to 129th Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 10th Safety Selected, 2012 to 2021

Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0.16

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

11 Games Played, 4 Starts, 0 Interceptions, 3 Passes Defended, 0 Forced Fumbles, 0 Sacks, 30 Combined Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss

2022 Stats:

15 Games Played, 0 Starts, 0 Interceptions, 1 Passes Defended, 0 Forced Fumbles, 0 Sacks, 11 Combined Tackles, 0 Tackle for Loss

Butler got most of his snaps on special teams until the season finale against Dallas when he played 87% of the defensive snaps. His relative underutilization on defense may have been a result of being stuck behind two quality starters on the depth chart. Nevertheless, his rookie performance fell short of the historical benchmarks.

2022 Safety Draft Class:

15 Games Played – rank 6th (6-way tie)

0 Games Started – rank 12th (8-way tie)

0 Interceptions – rank 6th (15-way tie)

1 Pass defended – rank 7th (tie)

0 Forced fumbles – rank 5th (15-way tie)

0 Sacks – rank 6th (14-way tie)

11 Combined tackles – rank 11th (14-way tie)

9 Solo tackles – rank 11th

0 Tackles for loss – rank 8th (12-way tie)

Butler did not get a lot of playing time in 2022 and was therefore unable to run up impressive stats. He had 0 games started, interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks and tackles for loss, and joined a large cohort of less productive rookie safeties at the bottom of the rankings (italicized items).

He did record 11 total tackles and 9 solo tackles, both of which were pretty close to expectations for his draft status in this class. His single pass defended was better than 13 of his 19 classmates.

It was bad luck getting stuck behind three entrenched starters. Nevertheless, Butler’s rookie performance fell short of historical benchmarks and was somewhat short of expectations based on draft position within the safety class.


Sam Howell, QB, round 5, pick #144

Comparison cohorts:

  • Quarterbacks Picked 128th to 160th Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 6th Quarterback Selected, 2012 to 2021

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

2 Games Played, 1 Start, 28% Completion Rate, 267 Passing Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1 Interception, 10.4 QBR

2022 Stats:

1 Game Played, 1 Start, 57.9% Completion Rate, 169 Passing Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 1 Interception, 46.5 QBR

I made an exception in Howell’s case and excluded Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson from the two comparison cohorts because they are outliers and skew the stats. In his one start, Howell was much better than the average QB picked in the late 4th to early 5th round except Prescott and all the QBs picked 6th in their class except Wilson. He put up fewer passing yards, but had a much better completion rate and QBR.

2022 QB Draft Class (9 drafted):

1 Game Played & 1 Game Started – rank 7th

19 Passing attempts – rank 7th

57.9 Completion % – rank 5th

169 Passing yards/game – rank 4th

5.3 Interception % – rank 7th

2 Total TD/game - rank 1st

7 Rushing yards/attempt – rank 1st (2nd place Malik Willis 4.6 Y/A, 26 attempts)

Total QBR – rank 4th

Two of the nine QBs drafted in 2022 did not see the field. Matt Corral missed the season on IR and Chris Oladokun was released by the Steelers, who drafted him 241st, and spent the season on the Chiefs’ practice squad. Of the seven rookie QBs that got playing time, Howell got the fewest opportunities to show his stuff.

Nevertheless, in his one start and game played he performed above his position in the QB draft class (6th selected) in all categories except interceptions. While he has only played one game, to this point in his career, Howell is the premiere rushing threat of his QB class. He also helped deliver a humiliating defeat of the Dallas Cowboys, which is something all rookie QBs in Washington should aspire to.


Green Bay Packers v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Cole Turner, TE, round 5, pick #149

Comparison cohorts:

  • Tight Ends Picked 133rd to 165th Overall, 2012 to 2021
  • 11th Tight End Selected, 2012 to 2021

Estimated Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

8 Games Played, 2 Starts, 7 Receptions, 73 Yards, 1 TD

2022 Stats:

10 Games Played, 2 Starts, 2 Receptions (on 9 targets), 23 Yards, 0 TD

Turner got more playing time and as many starts as the average of the historical cohorts, yet still managed to fall short of very modest expectations. That was largely due to his abysmal 22.2% catch rate.

2022 TE Draft Class (19 drafted):

10 Games Played – rank 12th (3-way tie)

2 Starts – rank 9th (4-way tie)

2 Receptions – 15th

23 Yards – 15th

0 TD – rank 13th (5-way tie)

22.2 Catch % - rank 16th

Turner’s rookie production ranked below his position in the TE draft class in every production category.


Chris Paul, OL, round 7, pick #230

Comparison cohort:

  • G/OL Selected in the 7th Round, 2012 to 2021

Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0.04

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

3 Games Played, 1 Start

2022 Stats:

1 Game Played, 1 Start

Based on what we saw in his one start in the final game against Dallas, it is fair to wonder whether Paul was held back by Ron Rivera’s well known preference for starting veterans over younger players, regardless of talent, and his loyalty to his former players. Even so, it is unusual for players drafted in the 7th round to get playing time as rookies, regardless of position. There is not really a lot to go on here. He didn’t get a lot less playing time than the average OL drafted in the 7th round, nor did he get a lot more.


Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Christian Holmes, CB, round 7, pick #240

Comparison cohort:

  • Cornerbacks Selected in the 7th Round, 2012 to 2021

Estimated Probability of Becoming a Primary Starter: 0

Historical Performance Benchmarks:

6 Games Played, 1 Start, 0 Interceptions, 2 Passes Defended, 11 Combined Tackles

2022 Stats:

17 Games Played, 2 Starts, 0 Interceptions, 0 Passes Defended, 12 Combined Tackles

Holmes played a high proportion of special teams snaps in every game, except the two games he started against Atlanta and the first Giants game. Aside from those two games, he only played 6 snaps on defense in the first Philadelphia game and 6 more in the season finale.

2022 CB and DB Draft Class (47 drafted):

The Pro Football Reference database does not provide clean separation of CBs and safeties, particularly for players drafted as a late as Holmes. Therefore, I have ranked him among players listed as either CB or DB, while excluding players listed as safeties. Holmes was the 42nd player selected within this cohort.

8 Targets in coverage – rank 38th

87.5% Completion rate in coverage – rank 42nd (tie with Daxton Hill)

158.3 Opposing passer rating in coverage – rank 45th (3-way tie), this puts him last among rookie CB/DBs with at least one target

When evaluating Holmes’ rookie season, it is important to remember that he was picked 240th out of 262 drafted players. Also, his primary value to the team was on special teams, which is hard to evaluate, since special teams stats are in limited supply. He did recover a fumbled punt in season finale against Dallas. That has to count for something.


Poll Results from Original Article

The two Commanders rookies who performed significantly above expectations for their draft positions were Brian Robinson and Sam Howell. Jahan Dotson had a good rookie season, but that is expected of a player selected 16th overall. I have rated his rookie season as marginally above expectations. He was not close to wide receiver Chris Olave, who was selected at the Commanders’ original pick, and it is arguable that the player selected immediately after him, guard Zion Johnson, would have made a bigger impact on the Commanders season. Have at me in the comments if you disagree.

The only drafted rookie who fell well short of expectations was tight end Cole Turner. Percy Butler was just a little bit short.

Now, let’s see how the actual results compared to the poll results at the end of the original article.

Poll Question: Which player is most likely to exceed expectations based on historical comparisons?

Jahan Dotson 11%

Phidarian Mathis 3%

Brian Robinson 64%

Percy Butler 1%

Sam Howell 4%

Cole Turner 16%

Christian Holmes 0%

Chris Paul 1%

Congratulations Hogs Haven readers. Most of you saw that coming.

Acknowledgement: Edited by James Dorsett


Which member of the 2022 draft class will have the biggest 2023 season?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    QB Sam Howell
    (564 votes)
  • 18%
    WR Jahan Dotson
    (196 votes)
  • 21%
    Brian Robinson
    (232 votes)
  • 1%
    OL Chris Paul
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    DT Phidarian Mathis
    (25 votes)
  • 0%
    S Percy Butler
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    CB Christian Holmes
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    TE Cole Turner
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    DT John Ridgeway
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    CB Tariq Castro-Fields
    (1 vote)
1058 votes total Vote Now