The Commanders’ date with Miami last Sunday could not have been a more perfect setup for tanking. The Dolphins passing offense, featuring Tyreek Hill and Tua Tagovailoa, came to FedEx to take on a Commanders’ defense which led the league in giving up explosive passing plays.
Whatever coach Ron Rivera may have meant about “doing things differently” on defense, after firing long-time defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the result was pretty similar to what we have seen all season long, with the Commanders surrendering 229 yards on 7 completions, including a touchdown receptions of 60 and 78 yards to Tyreek Hill in single man coverage.
I think it is fair to say that Rivera’s last chance to turn things around didn’t turn out quite as he hoped. While that might not bode so well for the future of the coach-centric experiment, there is a silver lining to the cloud of defeat which has been developing over the nation’s capital for the past four weeks.
Eyes on the Prize
As the death spiral of the Rivera Commanders picks up speed, new possibilities for higher draft positions seem to open every week. When I first started the 2023 Tank Tracker in Week 11, it seemed as though the earliest that the Commanders could plausibly expect to pick was fifth overall.
As the bottom falls out of the Commanders’ season, and other teams step forward to lend a hand, the Commanders have already vaulted past fifth and are currently projected to pick fourth overall, if the season ended today.
The Commanders’ rise up the draft board does not need to stop there. Thanks to upset wins by the Chicago Bears in Week 12 and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, it is no longer out of the question for the Commanders to move as high as the third overall pick.
What would picking third overall in the 2024 draft mean for the Commander’s next GM, looking to rebuild the decimated roster left by Snyder’s men? The 2024 draft features elite QB prospects Caleb Williams and Drake Maye who are expected to go with the first two picks. Assuming the draft unfolds as expected, that would put the Commanders on the board with “generational talent” WR Marvin Harrison Jr still available, as well as elite prospects TE Brock Bowers, OT Olu Fashanu, OT Joe Alt, Edge Laiatu Latu and at least three more QBs who could easily go in the top 5 picks.
The Commanders’ next GM would find himself in position place an elite talent in a position of need (OT, Edge), provide Sam Howell with an elite weapon (Harrison Jr), take a shot at a top shelf QB prospect if he decides Howell is not the guy, or trade back in the first round with a team desperate to get their hands on any of the above.
In previous editions of the Tank Tracker, a few commenters have questioned the value of trading back from a top-5 pick. The wisdom of making such a move was first brought to the fore by Nobel Prize winning economist Richard Thaler and Wharton Professor Cade Massey in their analysis of NFL draft decision making entitled The Loser’s Curse. Their analysis of past draft trades found that top draft picks “are significantly overvalued in a manner that is inconsistent with rational expectations…”
This means that teams are typically willing to give up more draft capital to trade up into the top-5 than they get in return. A review of the first trade in the top-5 picks of recent drafts bears that out:
- 2023, Carolina Panthers acquired Chicago’s 1st overall pick to select QB Bryce Young, in exchange for 2023 picks 9 and 61, 2024 first round pick (currently projected 1st overall), 2025 2nd round pick, and WR D.J. Moore. Bryce Young currently ranks 28th in the NFL with a QBR of 31.2 (10 starts, 216/350, 1,877 yds, 9 TD, 8 INT, 40 sacks/312 yds).
- 2021, San Francisco acquires Miami’s 3rd overall pick to select QB Trey Lance, in exchange for 2023 pick 12, 2022 first- (29th) and third-round (102) picks, and a 2023 first (29th). Trey Lance was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in September for a 2024 fourth round pick.
- 2018, New York Jets acquire Colts’ 3rd overall pick to select QB Sam Darnold in exchange for 2018 picks 6, 37, 49, and their 2019 second round pick (34). Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers ahead of the 2021 draft for a 2021 sixth round pick and second and fourth round picks in 2022.
Most fans remain fixated on the possibility of adding elite talent to offensive line. Thanks to the trades for Montez Sweat and Chase Young, the Commanders’ current draft war chest provides ample ammunition to pick an elite OT prospect with the 3rd (or up to 7th) overall pick, with two more picks in the top 50 to address other positions of need, such as iOL, EDGE or CB.
The top OT prospects the Commanders might consider selecting 3rd overall, or in a trade back staying in the top 16, include:
Olumuyiwa “Olu” Fashanu, Penn State, 6’6”, 319 lbs
Fashanu has prototypical size for the position and is described in scouting reports as a smooth technician with elite movement skills. In two years starting at Penn State and 1,349 total blocking snaps, Fashanu has allowed just 17 QB pressures and 0 sacks. That equates to 1 pressure every 79 offensive snaps, which is less than 1 per game.
Joe Alt, Notre Dame, 6’8”, 322 lbs
Alt is a huge LT prospect with elite length and play strength, who looks like a man beating up boys in tape against elite NCAA edge rushers. In three years starting for the Fighting Irish (2,212 offensive snaps), he has allowed just 24 QB pressures and 4 sacks.
J.C Latham, Alabama, 6’6”, 335 lbs
Latham is another huge OT prospect with elite level play strength, who only allowed 23 pressures and 1 sack in two years starting for the Crimson Tide. Some scouts suggest his footspeed and movement skills might be better suited to the right side in the NFL. Fortunately, the Commanders are in desperate need of a new right tackle.
Amarius Mims, Georgia, 6’7”, 340 lbs
Georgia’s left tackle has the size, movement skills and power that pro scouts covet. In 803 blocking snaps over 3 years he only allowed 7 pressures and no snaps. He has missed time with injuries in 2023.
Kingsley Suamataia, BYU, 6’6”, 325 lbs
Suamataia made #3 on Bruce Feldman’s Freak List when he hit 21.5 mph as a freshman at 318 pounds. BYU Offensive Coordinator Aaron Roderick has called Suamataia “The most athletic and violent OL he has ever coached.” Team sources say he has the athleticism to play TE, which would be too awesome for words. In two years starting at right and left tackle for BYU he allowed just 2 sacks.
Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma, 6’7”, 327 lbs
Guyton replaced Anton Harrison as the starter at LT for the Sooners and has quickly gained pro scouts’ attention with his rare combination of speed, length and athleticism. He has only allowed 16 pressures and 2 sacks in two years as a starter.
2024 Draft Position Watch
Following the expected loss to Miami, the Commanders have moved ahead of Chicago into 4th place in the draft order for the time being, according to Tankathon’s projection. That is a bit of an illusion, though. If Chicago loses another game, they will retake the 4th spot due to their weaker strength of schedule. Washington will need the Bears to win another game to pull ahead of them.
The Week 14 bye is good news for Washington’s draft stock because they can’t win a game and move themselves backward. That is not to say their draft position can’t change during the bye, since it is heavily dependent on wins and losses by teams near them in the draft order. Let’s have a look at the main opportunities and threats to their draft position.
Opportunity to Move Up
One of the biggest developments in Week 13 was the 2-10 Cardinals upsetting the 7-4 Steelers. The Cardinals’ unexpected win dropped them to third in the draft order and within 1 win of the Commanders in 4th. If the Cardinals win one of their remaining four games, they could fall behind the Commanders due to their stronger strength of schedule. Their best chance is the Week 16 game with the Bears.
As mentioned above, the Commanders other best chance to move upward in the draft order is for the 4-8 Bears to win another game. Unless the Week 16 matchup between the Bears and Cardinals ends in a tie, the Commanders will move ahead of one of the two teams as long as they don’t win any more games themselves. The Bears’ next best chance to win a game is against the Falcons.
For the rest of the season, Commanders’ fans should cheer for the Cardinals and Bears to win, except in Week 16 when the only bad outcome is a tie.
While it is still mathematically for the 1-11 Panthers and the 2-10 Patriots to factor into the Commanders’ draft position, the chance of either team breaking their 5-game losing streaks and winning two or three more games is essentially negligible.
Threats from Behind
The Commanders can also lose ground, even when they aren’t playing, if some of the teams behind them lose their Week 14 games. In addition to Chicago, the Jets (4-8) and Giants (4-8) will also move ahead of Washington if they lose their next games, by virtue of having weaker projected strength of schedules. The Commanders need the Bears to upset the Lions (9-3) to keep them at bay, which is not likely to happen. Unlikely wins by the Jets and Giants would also help to keep them from losing any more ground. But barring any upsets, the Commanders should be expected to drop back three spots to seventh place.
Coaching Hot Seat
Ron Rivera, Head Coach/Head of Football Operations/Defensive Coordinator
It has been 1,100 days since Ron Rivera was last fired from a head coaching job. It is 32 days until Black Monday when coaches are traditionally fired following disappointing seasons.
Following the Commanders 45-10 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving, Ron Rivera released defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and took over responsibility for the defense, pledging to do things differently. The following week’s result at home against Miami was essentially the same, with the Commanders giving up 7 passing plays over 15 yards for a total of 229 yards, including touchdown strikes of 60 and 78 yards to Tyreek Hill in single coverage.
Will the new owners have the patience to stick with Rivera to the end of the season? If they haven’t fired him yet, he’s probably safe until then. But it might be something they discuss week to week from here out, depending on developments on the field and in the locker room.
Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator
Bieniemy would seem to be safe until the end of the season, if for no other reason than that there is obvious replacement in the clubhouse. He probably adds another layer of security for Riviera until Week 18, since there is no reason to believe he would be an improvement as interim head coach. Also, new owners probably don’t want to interfere with his focus on Sam Howell’s development. Unless, of course, they have already reached the conclusion that he is doing more harm than good.
Will he make it past Black Monday? Smart money says no.
Week 14 Rooting Guide
As a service to Commanders’ fans, here is a handy guide to help you cheer for game outcomes which will help to improve the Commanders’ draft position.
Thursday Night Football
Patriots (2-10) vs Steelers (7-5)
I bet the programmers wish they could reschedule this prime time thriller. A Patriots upset, would move them to within 1 win of the Commanders, but in reality the outcome of this game is unlikely to matter. Do your job, Pats! (No, I’m not mocking Rivera, that’s their actual slogan)
Buccaneers (5-7) vs Falcons (6-6)
Thanks to the Bucs’ Week 13 win over the Panthers, neither team is an immediate threat to Washington. However, a Buccaneers win keeps them behind the Commanders if Rivera foolishly picks up another win. Hoist the Jolly Roger!
Rams (6-6) vs Ravens (9-3)
Washington would need to three of four remaining games for the Rams to affect their draft position. The Ravens are even less relevant than that. Doesn’t matter
Lions (9-3) vs Bears (4-8)
If the Bears lose this game, which they are likely to do, they will move ahead of Washington in the draft order. Chicago is likely to be one of Washington’s biggest rivals for draft position for the remainder of the season. Cheer for da Bears to pull off the upset on Sunday and close the season on a hot streak. Da Bears!
Colts (7-5) vs Bengals (6-6)
With Joe Burrow out for the season, the 5-6 Bengals were shaping up to be a potential competitor for the Commanders heading into Week 13. But a surprise 32/37, 354 yd, 1 TD/0 INT performance from journeyman backup QB Jake Browning to lead an upset of the Jaguars on Monday night effectively neutralizes that threat. The Bengals and the Colts can only affect Washington’s draft position if we win three. Doesn’t matter
Jaguars (8-4) vs Browns (7-5)
The Jaguars are mathematically out of the equation. The Browns only become an issue if Washington wins out. Doesn’t matter
Panthers (1-11) vs Saints (5-7)
It is more or less inconceivable for the Commanders to get ahead of the Panthers’ first round pick, which is held by the Bears. New Orleans, on the other hand, will pick ahead of Washington if they end the season with the same number of wins. If the Saints beat the Panthers, as expected, Washington gets a little buffer in the unlikely event that they win another game. Go marching in, Saints!
Jets (4-8) vs Texans (7-5)
The Jets will move ahead of Washington in the draft order if they lose this game, and are likely to remain one of Washington’s main rivals for the rest of the season. The Texans are three wins behind Washington in the draft sweepstakes, making them essentially irrelevant. J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!
Vikings (6-6) vs Raiders (5-7)
The Raiders will pick ahead of the Commanders if the two teams have the same number of wins. A win on Sunday helps to neutralize that threat. The Vikings only become a problem if the Commanders win two. Just win, baby!
Seahawks (6-6) vs 49ers (9-3)
The Seahawks only affect Washington’s draft position if we win two, while the 49ers are completely irrelevant. Go ‘hawks!
Bills (6-6) vs Chiefs (8-4)
Does anyone actually think the Commanders will be jostling for draft position with either of these teams? Doesn’t matter
Broncos (6-6) vs Chargers (5-7)
The Chargers become an issue for Washington if we win a game. The Broncos, not so much. Bolt up!
Eagles (10-2) vs Cowboys (9-3)
Sadly, neither team can affect Washington’s draft position. Feel free to root against whichever team you hate more. Doesn’t matter
Monday Night Football
Titans (4-8) vs Dolphins (9-3)
The Titans only threaten Washington’s draft position if we win a game. But the Dolphins are off the radar entirely. Titan up!
Packers (6-6) vs Giants (4-8)
The Packers’ upset of the Chiefs minimizes any immediate threat from them. The Giants, on the other hand, will move ahead of Washington if they win, as expected, on Monday night. I hate to say it, but the responsible thing is to cheer for a Giants’ win in prime time. Have it your way for once, Giants. Just once.
Week 14 Commanders’ Draft Position Projection
The Commanders are currently sitting in fourth place in the draft order, but they are riding on a bubble of four 4-8 teams who have played one fewer game. Three of those teams (Bears, Jets, Giants) have weaker strength of schedule than the Commanders and are underdogs in their Week 14 matchups. I am expecting all three of them to lose and jump ahead of the Commanders in the draft order, dropping Washington to seventh place.
The Commanders have an opportunity to move ahead of the Cardinals if they win another game. But both teams are on byes in Week 14, so any jostling for position between the two will have to wait until next week.
Where will the Commanders pick in the 2024 draft?
This poll is closed
1st or 2nd via a trade up for one of the top 2 QBs
3rd to 4th
5th to 7th
8th to 10th
Out of the top 10
I don’t care about draft position, I only want to see them win because losing is for losers