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Early December - Dream Mock Draft

Let's look at my dream draft. In this scenario I am assuming that the new General Manager will want to build a team around Sam Howell - at least for one more year to evaluating and see if he is the franchise quarterback we all hope he is.

Last year's draft was ripe with Cornerbacks and defensive linemen. This year, not so much. This is a good year for offensive tackles and linebackers. Nice that the draft lines up with the Commanders' team needs, right?

Assumption 1: Sam Howell will go into 2024 season as QB1

Assumption 2: The team will look to free agency for secondary help (Jaylon Johnson, L'Jarius Sneed, Kenny Moore, etc); and perhaps spend big on an Edge rusher (Brian Burns, Danielle Hunter?); and maybe pick up a veteran Center.

With those assumptions, here is my mock draft.

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Round 1, pick #5 Drafted: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, LT Penn State - This was a dream scenario. Chicago took Marvin Harrison Jr. #1. The next two teams (AZ, NE) took quarterbacks. For some reason, Chicago picked Joe Alt at #4, leaving the best left tackle prospect in the last 10 years to fall to Washington. Like I said, dream scenario. (I would have been ecstatic with Joe Alt)

Just missed: No one. THIS IS THE PICK, IF WE'RE LUCKY!

Passed on: Brock Bowers, TE Georgia - Believe the hype; Bowers is the best tight end to come out of college in the last 10 years. No disrespect to Kyle Pitts, but I believe Bowers will be a better pro. He put up insane numbers during his career at Georgia (170 receptions, 2485 yards, 26 TDs). Despite that, O-Line is a bigger need than TE, and I had Fashanu graded slightly higher on my draft board than Bowers (draft BPA, right?). Besides, without a decent offensive line it doesn't matter how many "generational" play makers you have running routes, your quarterback can't get them the football if he's under a pile of defensive players.

Round 2, Pick #36 Drafted: Troy Fautanu, LG/LT Washington -Despite playing mostly left tackle in college, Fauntanu projects as a day-1 starting left guard in my mind. His length, although adequate, is not ideal (6'3", 34 3/4-inch arm length); but he has good strength, excellent quickness and a competitive nature. He would make a good left tackle, but move him to left guard and he would excel.

Just Missed: A bunch of excellent right tackle prospects: Taliese Fuaga, JC Latham, Kingsley Suamataia, Amarius Mims. All were taken in the mid-late first round. I thought at least one (perhaps Fuaga or Mims) would fall to the early second, but no dice.

Passed on: Quarterbacks Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. - I think Sam Howell is the answer. Will he be a top 5 NFL QB? I don't think so. But with the right team around him, Sam Howell can lead this team to the playoffs (and a Super Bowl?). This would have been a harder decision if Jayden Daniels or J.J. McCarthy were still on the board, but they both went in the 1st round.

Round 2, Pick #38 Drafted: Xavier Legette, WR South Carolina - I had Legette ranked as the 5th best in this DEEP wide receiver draft. (after Marvin Harrison, Malik Nabers, Keon Coleman and Rome Odunze). Legette has tight end size (6'3", 227 lbs) but runs and moves like a smaller receiver. He will open some eyes at the combine where I expect him to run somewhere in the high 4.3 or low 4.4's in the 40-yard dash. He reminds me of a bigger, faster A.J.Brown - and we all saw what Brown did to the Commanders in two games this year. Legette can run by corners on deep routes, bully his way in the middle of the field, or take short slant routes and turn them into game breaking plays with his YAC ability. In watching games, I was struck by his speed - time and again I saw Letette run past defenders that seemingly had the angle on him. I was also impressed by his skill in contested catch situations; especially over the middle. He just rips the ball out of the air despite any efforts by the defender(s).

Just Missed: Same as Pick #36.

Passed on: J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE Ohio State - This was a tough call. Surprising that Tuimoloau lasted to the end of the 2nd round. While Washington does need at least one Edge rusher (I think they have something in KJ Henry already), and I like Tuimoloau, I had Legette higher on my draft board. I had him as the fourth highest Edge on my board behind Latu, Verse and Dallas Turner. I doubt Tuimoloau gets out of the first round in the real draft.

Round 3, Pick #70 Drafted: Tyler Guyton, RT Oklahoma - A pure right tackle that I think most draft boards are sleeping on. Guyton is a physical and athletic beast. At 6-foot-7, 315 lbs, he has tremendous length, good foot speed, nice qick feet, and a nasty demeanor. He should wow at the combine in the athletic drills. One downside is that he doesn't have a ton of experience, with 974 snaps over the last two seasons. But in that time he has only allowed one sack. He has the talent to compete for starting right tackle as a rookie, if he can clean up his technique. Guyton has tremendous upside ( Pro Bowl-caliber upside?)

Just Missed: Ja'Tavion Sanders, TE Texas - Hated passing on the second best TE in this draft. Sanders is an excellent pass catching TE, but not a good blocker. He runs great routes, and is particularly good in the intermediate range. I was disappointed he was not targeted more in the red-zone, and was I was a bit surprised that he seemed to regress a bit from his very good 2022 season. High floor, low ceiling upside.

Passed on: Graham Barton, LT Duke - I had Guyton rated higher.

Patrick Paul, LT Houston - Already drafted the best LT.

Round 3, Pick #96 Drafted: Edgerrin Cooper, LB Texas A&M - Everyone knows the Commanders need linebacker help. Edgerrin Cooper has excellent size (6'3" 230 lbs) and speed. He puts that speed to good use in pass coverage. The guy is a play maker; he has 84 tackles (17 for loss), 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery this year. Cooper is quick to diagnose, fast to the ball, and a heavy hitter when he gets there. In the games I watched (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn) he seemed almost unblockable when blitzing.

Just Missed: T.J. Tampa, CB Iowa State - I stayed away from cornerback in the draft because I believe there are better options in free agency (Jaylon Johnson, L'Jarius Sneed, Jeff Okudah, Kenny Moore, etc.).

Passed on: Johnny Wilson, WR Florida State - Huge receiver (6'6", 237 lbs) that runs faster than you think. He surprises cornerbacks with his long stride, and before you know it, he's running past them. Ran a 40-yard dash of 4.5 seconds in High School. Probably runs in mid 4.4's now. Made Bruce Feldman's 2023 'Freaks List' at number 28. Excellent blocker in the run game. Plus, he returns kick offs. Had I not already drafted Legette, I would have drafted Wilson.

Round 4, Pick #101 Drafted: Cade Stover, TE Ohio State - Sure handed (zero drops in 2023), big target that can move the chains. He had 41 catches (on 51 targets = 80% catch rate) for 576 yards (14.0 yard average) and 5 TDs. Stover is a quarterbacks safety valve, with 74% of his receptions resulting in either a first down or a touchdown. Stover is particularly good at settling into the open spaces in zone coverage, and on crossing routes. Not a particularly dynamic runner after the catch, but runs with power and is difficult to bring down. Stover is a willing blocker, but still needs to improve in this area.

Just Missed: Jalen McMillan, WR Washington - I like McMillan because he has excellent hands, runs precise routes, can play both as slot and as an outside receiver and is an excellent Punt Returner. He won't be a WR1, but could be a good WR3 or WR4 with dynamic special teams talent as a punt returner and gunner.

Passed on: Zach Frazier, C West Virginia - Bully in the middle. Former four time state wrestling champion. If he latches onto you with his hands, the rep is DONE!

Also Passed on: Audric Estime, RB Notre Dame - Big body (5'11", listed at 227, but looks bigger - 235? 240?) but sneaky quick and faster than you think. At Notre Dame, ran mostly between the tackles - but showed some elusiveness at the second level. Hits the hole hard. Runs north-south. Must have been a hurdler in highschool because I saw multiple times he hurdled over would-be tacklers (using perfect hurdler form). Very strong; forget trying to arm tackle this guy. The first tackler rarely takes him down.

Round 5, Pick #132 Drafted: Payton Wilson, LB NC State - He has had some injuries, but if his medicals check out, drafting Wilson on day 3 could be a steal. At 6'4", 230 lbs he made Bruce Feldman's 2023 Freak's List (clocked in the 40 at 4.49; ran a 4.21 in the pro agility shuttle; bench-pressed 390; vertical of 35 1/2 inches and broad-jump of 9'8 1/2"). So, yeah... a freak athlete. But don't be fooled, he is not just another winner of the underwear olympics. Wilson puts those athletic gifts to very good use on the field. He is guy I like because of his tremendous productivity and his ability to make game changing plays. This year he has 138 tackles (17.5 for loss), 6 sacks, 3 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 6 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. Did I mention that he was tremendously productive? When he triggers, he shows a speed burst that looks unnatural. After watching his film, I graded him as one of the best coverage linebackers I see in this draft; and an excellent "spy" against running quarterbacks. Easily covered college tight ends in one-on-one coverage. (Boy oh boy, wouldn't it be nice to have a linebacker that could actually cover someone?)

Just Missed: Jamari Thrash, WR Louisville - Amazing speed receiver. Limited route tree, but a definite deep threat. I probably would have taken Wilson anyway, even if Thrash was available.

Passed on: Smael Mondon, LB Georgia

Round 6, Pick #166 Drafted: Jack Sawyer, EDGE Ohio State - At 6'4", 265 lbs Sawyer is not the most limber Edge. His game is more about power. His powerful build, low center of gravity, strong upper body and heavy hands serve to set a strong edge. He doesn't have that explosive first step, or the ability to drop his shoulder and bend the edge to the QB; but woe to the offensive tackle that lets Sawyer get into his body.

Just Missed: Ashton Gillotte, EDGE Louisville - Really bummed that I missed out on Gillotte. He is one of my favorite potential day 3 picks. Tremendously productive with 43 tackles (14.5 for loss), 11 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. At 6'3", 270 lbs, he's not the fastest or quickest rusher, but he's really, really strong. He has all the advanced pass rush moves and counters and he has a relentless motor. I just loved watching this guy play.

Just Missed: Matt Goncalves, OT Pittsburgh - Goncalves is a 6’6″, 330-pound road grader with true LT/RT experience. He could be a good guard, but with his length, experience at both tackle spots and quick feet, I envision Goncalves as a swing tackle.

Round 7, Pick #197 Drafted: Ainias Smith, Weapon Texas A&M - At 5'9", 197 lbs Ainias Sith is a bowling ball of an offensive weapon, and a dynamic special teams player. He had 2 punt returns for a touchdowns (one this year), and nearly had a kick off touchdown in his freshman season. Not sprinter fast (4.5 in high school), but more of a sudden, quick twitch type athlete. He's got a low center of gravity and breaks a lot of tackles. He's a versatile offensive player (he played RB, WR, Safety, and Corner in high school): Smith can line up as a receiver outside or in the slot, as a running back, or as a wildcat QB. Smith has over 1,200 all-purpose yards this season (Receptions, Rushes, Punt Returns, Kick off Returns). And he's an excellent blocker in pass protection. I could see him contributig on day 1 as a special teams standout.

So what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.