What to do with the Commanders first round pick
It’s becoming clear that — barring one or more near-miraculous upsets in the final 5 games — the Commanders are going to have a very strong pick in the first round of the draft.
Here’s the order of the draft based on current (Week 13) standings (per tankathon.com):
With seven 4-win teams, some movement is possible, but Washington may have the toughest remaining schedule of those teams, meaning that the Commanders seem to be among the least likely teams add more wins and lose draft position. It seems almost certain that Washington will end up picking between #4 and #10 overall in the first round.
Since the team currently has the #5 pick, we used that draft spot for our Reacts survey question this week, which was: If Washington picks 5th overall in April’s draft, which position would you target?
The results were unsurprising.
Hogs Haven readers overwhelmingly answered that they want the team to pick an offensive lineman (and you can read that as Left Tackle). There are clearly dreams of re-creating the first 9 years of the Trent Williams experience, but seeing it through to a fairy tale ending this time.
some tight end votes
A small minority of respondents voted to spend the #5 pick on the tight end position. Those fans almost certainly have their eyes on Brock Bowers out of Georgia. Bowers has been the best tight end in college football over the past two seasons. He might not get picked as early as Kyle Pitts did, but many think he’s a better prospect because of what he can do as a blocker in addition to his receiving ability.
Of course, there is a long history of opposition to drafting a tight end in the first round among certain very vocal segments of our Hogs Haven community. That doesn’t stop others from seeing Bowers as a special talent that would add significantly to Washington’s arsenal of offensive talent.
some quarterback votes
Another small minority voted for quarterback. If Washington is picking #5 overall, it’s a bit harder to know what these fans are thinking. The top two signal callers in the draft class are expected to be Caleb Williams and Drake Maye (Williams has said that he will wait until the last minute to decide if he is declaring for the 2024 draft). Both will be gone by the time Washington would be on the clock at #5 overall.
After that, the likely candidates seem to comprise players like Bo Nix (Oregon), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Michael Penix (Washington), and, maybe, Shedeur Sanders (Colorado). The argument for any of these guys to be drafted 5th overall to replace Sam Howell is one that I haven’t seen made often.
Many football people jumped on me when I rated Penix as QB1 over Williams and Maye - and perhaps, understandably so.— Ken Johannesen (@BurgundyBurner) December 2, 2023
Only one of these three QBs is going to CFP 4. I still stand by my rating.
In recent days, I became so appalled at the 9.5 point favorite status that was given…
no significant numbers voting for wide receiver
I had expected to see some votes for wide receiver in this poll; likely there were a few, but not enough to register. While a number of fans believe that Marvin Harrison Jr. offers transformative skills to the offense, it seems all but certain as we sit here at the beginning of December, that his will be among the first three names called on the first day of the draft, and so he will not be there at #5.
Which tackle are the fans expecting to see picked by the Commanders?
There seems to be wide consensus on the top two offensive tackles in the 2024 draft: Olu Fashanu from Penn State and Joe Alt from Notre Dame.
21 years old, 6’6”, 319 pounds
Olu Fashanu is one of the smoothest movers we’ve seen in pass protection since Tyron Smith and Joe Thomas. His tenacity in the run game could be better, but he’s a dream offensive tackle prospect for what he can do as a pass-blocker.
From Windy City Gridiron:
Fashanu is a fourth-year player and still has one more year of eligibility. He almost entered the Draft a year ago, but because education and earning his degree are very important to both Olu and his family, he decided to go back to Penn State for one more season. The ironic thing is that had he entered last year’s Draft, he was certain to be a Top-10 selection in that Draft. Yes, he is that good!
Olu red-shirted his freshman year and did not see any action during the 2020 season. In his sophomore season, he played in nine games as a backup and special teams player. Last year, he played in and started eight games at left tackle. He missed four games because of an undisclosed injury. In the eight games he played, he dominated and showed he was one of the better tackles in the country.
This season, nothing has changed as he has started all of Penn State’s...games, and like a year ago, he has dominated. Fashanu has ideal tackle size at about [6’6” and 318 pounds] with very long arms and excellent overall athleticism. When we watch the tape, his movement skills are so good that he makes things look easy. He has good speed and short-area quickness. His change of direction is excellent, and his ability to bend (a needed trait for the Oline) is almost rare. He is what we call a natural knee-bender.
In the run game, Olu has excellent snap reaction and gets into his blocks very quickly. The trait that I love is his hips on contact. That shows how explosive he is; he jolts his opponent and is able to get movement on a consistent basis. When blocking at the second level, he again makes things look easy as he can get out into space, adjust on the move, and hit a moving target. When Fashanu makes contact, he consistently runs his feet and always looks to finish his blocks. Finishing a block for Olu is putting his opponent on his back.
In pass protection, he is a very similar player in that he can set very quickly and is able to stop speed rushers with ease. His lateral movement is excellent as he stays under control and shows quick feet and recovery skills to mirror pass rushers consistently. Because of his natural knee bend and his large lower body, he has excellent ability to anchor. He seldom, if ever, gives ground to a bull rusher.
There are many keys to good offensive line play, but one of the most important is hand use. OLinemen need to have strong, quick hands and be able to punch and position their hands in the correct places on a consistent basis. That is another area that Olu does very well. Like with his run block contact, Fashnu’s punch can jolt his opponent. His hands are very quick, and he consistently keeps his hands inside to avoid getting called for holding.
Overall, Fashanu has few negatives. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played, and that is with a physical, aggressive nature. His competitiveness is second to none, as he goes hard on every snap. I see Olu Fashanu as a sure Top 5 pick in the 2024 Draft. The only other offensive lineman who may challenge to be the number one guy is Notre Dame’s Joe Alt.
20 years old, 6’8”, 322 pounds
At 6-foot-8, Alt brings elite size to offensive tackle. He’s been even better this year at using that size and length to his advantage, yet he maintains technique with leverage to mitigate any natural weaknesses.
From Windy City Gridiron:
Notre Dame recruited Alt to play tight end, but once they got him on campus, they saw the growth potential that he had, and he didn’t stay at tight end for long. In the first four games of the 2021 season (Alt’s freshman year), Joe was a backup TE, but when Notre Dame went to a heavy package, Alt would change his number and play as a third tackle. Because of injuries to the offensive line that season, Alt ended up starting eight games at left tackle for the Irish, and he’s been a fixture there ever since.
Joe Alt has all the traits we look for in a quality offensive tackle. He’s tall and big [6’8” and 322 pounds], has very long arms, and runs really well for a man his size. His overall athleticism is excellent in that he can change direction quickly and has very good upper and lower body flexibility.
In the run game, Alt dominates as he comes off the ball very quickly to get into his block. He has great natural snap in his hips on contact, and he’ll consistently drive his opponent off the line of scrimmage. When having to go out into space, he’s the same player. He runs well, can adjust on the move, and break down to hit a moving target.
In pass protection, he is much the same, and that is dominant. He can set quickly and uses a very strong punch to jolt opponents and gain an advantage. His lateral agility is excellent, so he has no trouble playing versus wide speed rushers. He also has the quick feet needed to mirror an opponent through multiple moves. Joe’s hand use is excellent for both the run and pass game. He concentrates on keeping his hands inside and seldom gets called for holding.
In short, there Is not much Joe Alt can’t do. He will be a starting left tackle the day he gets drafted. How high does he go? There will be some teams that prefer Fashanu while others prefer Alt. They are both going high, and I highly doubt either one gets out of the Top 10. In my opinion, Fashanu may have a bit more upside, but Alt is as steady as you’ll find and will be a quality starting tackle in the league.
There’s a certain amount of confidence that is implied in talking about the upcoming draft — confidence in a Washington front office and coaching staff that is as yet unidentified.
It seems all but certain that Ron Rivera will be joining Jack Del Rio on the golf course in early January. There has been less reporting and speculation about the rest of the organization, but earlier this week, Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post talked about ‘sweeping changes’ to both the business and football sides of the franchise.
In short, the confidence that fans need right now is the confidence that Josh Harris and the rest of the ownership group will get it right.
No one has publicly pressed Josh Harris on details of the plan going forward, but in early- and mid-January 2024, we’re likely to learn a great deal about what the new owners have been doing since July 2023.
For the moment, I think fans are prepared to take it on faith that Harris & Co. have a plan to lead the team back to success.
This week, at Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers conference in D.C., Harris preached patience to anyone who was listening.
You probably take a step back before you take a step forward. That’s not always the case, but I think generally that’s what the statistics would show. So I think it’s important to be patient.
Washington fans can be forgiven if they feel like their patience is largely used up. We’ve been waiting for roughly two decades to be delivered from the incompetence and dysfunction that had its genesis prior to the start of the current millennium.
The 2023 season alone has been a severe test, with the team seemingly underperforming its talent level, particularly on defense. With Washington losing 8 of its last 10 games, and getting embarrassed several times this season (Bills, Bears, Giants, Cowboys) fans were screaming for blood. They got a metaphorical blood sacrifice last week when it was announced that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer had been sacked the day after the Thanksgiving day disaster in Dallas.
That announcement seems to have had the desired effect on the fan base.
For the second time this season, fan confidence, as expressed through our Reacts survey here on Hogs Haven, spiked upward despite the team losing — in this instance, a spectacular 4th quarter meltdown that saw the Commanders outscored 25-0 by the homestanding Cowboys.
The driver for that 26% confidence spike seems to be the relief that somebody did something. While sacking the DC and DBs coach in Week 13 isn’t likely to save the season for the 4-8 Commanders, it’s signal to the fan base that the owners aren’t ignoring what’s going on. In conjunction with Josh Harris’s comments on Thursday, the message is clear; things are happening. They may not be happening as fast as Washington fans want them to happen, but the owners have their eyes on the long-term prize.
Here’s more Josh Harris:
“It’s a long journey…there’s no shortcuts to the top. There’s shortcuts to the middle.
You want to be 8-8? I can get you there quickly — 8-8-1.
You want to be great? There are no shortcuts.”
It sounds like re-building the team in the image of the Joe Gibbs decade of excellence may take more than one offseason. Still, with an estimated $90m in cap space and 6 draft picks in the first 110 or so, the incoming leadership group will have a huge head start on The Process.
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