The 2022-23 season is officially over, and the post-Super Bowl wave of mock drafts has arrived. Todd McShay has dropped his latest mock draft, and is following the popular trend of mocking a corner back to the Washington Commanders. His pick for Ron Rivera’s likely last year in charge of the team is Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon who is a top 2 DB in many pre-draft rankings. McShay describes Witherspoon as a cover corner, and notes Washington’s lack of interceptions last season, 9 which ranked 28th in the NFL. Cornerback is by far the most popular position to mock to Washington this year, and that has not changed this week. The biggest question is which one will be there, and will Washington find better value at a bigger position of need like the offensive line.
Washington currently has 6 picks in the 2023 NFL draft, but they are expected to receive comp picks for departed free agents Brandon Scherff (3rd round) and Tim Settle (6th round) per Over the Cap. The Commanders hold the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Washington Commanders Projected 2023 Draft Picks
1st Round: #16
2nd Round: #47
3rd Round: (traded to Colts for QB Carson Wentz)
#97 (Projected compensatory pick)
4th Round: #117
6th Round: #192
#216 (Projected compensatory pick)
7th Round: #235
There are 38 mock drafts in this week’s roundup featuring 14 different players, and they address several positions for Washington. If they don’t find an offensive linemen they like at #16, cornerback will have a lot of value, and will reinforce a group that has Kendall Fuller on the last year of his contract, and Benjamin St-Juste who has had injury issues in both of his NFL seasons.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
A terrific cover corner, Witherspoon allowed just 3.3 yards per attempt thrown his direction this season, second best in the nation, and he picked off three passes. Washington’s pass defense improved a bit in 2022, but it still needs a dominant playmaker on the outside opposite Kendall Fuller. And Witherspoon’s ball skills would help create some takeaways after the Commanders finished 28th with nine interceptions.
Devon Witherspoon had a great season for the Illini, and while there will be questions about his slight frame, you wouldn’t know it watching him play.
HC Ron Rivera is a defense-focused team builder, and the defensive front seven is strong, but after CB Kendall Fuller the secondary is thin.
Witherspoon is a 2022 All-American and four-year contributor who plays bigger than his size (180 pounds).
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez’s balance and change-of-direction speed make him a much-needed addition to a corner group that ranked 27th in interception percentage in 2022.
I’ll be honest, after transferring to Oregon this season, it took me a while to figure out whether I thought Gonzalez was a great draft prospect because of his ability or if it was due to the rest of Oregon’s secondary being terrible. I’m leaning toward Gonzalez being good. Like Witherspoon, he’s not the strongest, but he’s long, athletic and has tremendous instincts for the ball.
The Carson Wentz experiment was an abject failure for the Commanders, but given that each of the top four prospects are off the board, they won’t reach for a quarterback here. Instead, they’ll address their secondary, which was middling in 2022 and also happens to be their most mocked position (all five of their most mocked players at this pick are cornerbacks) by drafting Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, who was another big riser in Grinding the Mocks data.
NFL Spin Zone (Gurzi)
Perhaps the Washington Commanders will be one of the teams looking to make a move for a quarterback during the draft. They nearly made it into the playoffs even with Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke unable to do enough to lock the job down.
They did secure a Week 18 win with Sam Howell but the jury will still be out on him. Whatever they do, they know they’re not that far away.
With that in mind, they bolster their defense more with the addition of Christian Gonzalez from Oregon. A potential shutdown corner, Gonzalez will be put to the test in a division that includes A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and CeeDee Lamb.
Washington needs more depth in the secondary, and Gonzalez is a fine option. He recorded four interceptions and 50 tackles during the season for the Ducks.
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Smith is an ultra-aggressive, ball-hawking outside cornerback who’ll be a welcomed addition to the Commanders secondary.
Cam Smith was much improved from last year to this year. He has shown great awareness to play both zone and man coverage.
Pro Football Network(Broback)
There’s a lot of nice pieces on the Commanders’ defense, but the secondary could use another player to contribute. Thanks to a great defensive line, there won’t be a ton of pressure on that player to be a lockdown guy right away.
Cam Smith can be that lockdown player for the Commanders. He has good ball skills and great size, and would be an instant impact player. He also elevates the secondary that has some good talent, but not enough to shut down opposing passing attacks.
Pro Football Network(Miller)
Benjamin St-Juste hasn’t been a complete wash so far during his young career, but he doesn’t possess the elite traits associated with becoming one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Cam Smith has the length and athleticism to pair incredibly well with Kendall Fuller on the outside, allowing St-Juste to play more in the slot in Jack Del Rio’s zone-heavy defense.
The Washington Commanders seem to be at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to how they should draft this year. On one hand, their offseason story has been that Sam Howell is going to likely be their starting QB this next year. But on the other hand, they could just as easily move up and select one of the top four options to supplant Howell’s quick stay at the top of the depth chart.
In this situation, the Commanders decide to instead upgrade their perimeter defense, continuing a mini-run of DBs with South Carolina’s Cam Smith, a strong CB who is an easy top-five prospect at his position this year.
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Draft Network(Weissman)
Washington is in need of a star corner and this is quite the draft for cover corners. Joey Porter Jr. has rare size and length for the position and offers tremendous ball skills.
Round 2: Andrew Vorhees OG, USC
Washington has a big need inside their offensive line and Andrew Vorhees has starting-level ability and can play early.
The Commanders need to get a force in their secondary after the William Jackson and Kendall Fuller moves didn’t pan out. Porter is flashy because of his size, physicality and speed in coverage. He can dominate with more consistency in the NFL.
College Football News(Fiutak)
Florida QB Anthony Richardson will be right there for the taking, but Sam Howell is going to be good. At least, he’ll be good enough get a long look. There are other needs, but corner appears to be the most glaring.
Pro Football Network(Fragoza)
Anthony Richardson falling to the Commanders may seem unrealistic, but so was saying the military would deploy jets to shoot down a … balloon? Washington finally has a QB that no DC wants to face.
The Commanders front seven played reasonably well, even without Chase Young for nearly the entire season. Toss in a 6-foot-2, 200-pound rangy cornerback and Washington could revert back to being a top-five defense, like they were in 2020 when they made the playoffs.
Sorry to Nate and PFT that the Commanders weren’t moving up two spots to land Levis here. If I were Washington, I’d have called the Raiders with a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick next year for Derek Carr yesterday. To enter the offseason program with Sam Howell as your QB1 seems asinine. Similar to McDaniels in Las Vegas, I don’t think Ron Rivera wants to stake his job on an unproven Howell or a rook. Insert veteran QB for the Commanders and draft an excellent outside corner in Porter who can make up for the disappointment of William Jackson III.
Washington’s defensive line is loaded. And it’s because the front office has fluttered that area of the field with 1st-rounders. But that has had a negative impact on the secondary, which has been by far the weakest part of the defense over the last two seasons. Washington injects their pass defense with the fiery Joey Porter Jr., son of former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. The Penn State cornerback was a pass-breakup machine in 2022, posting college football’s second-highest forced incompletion rate (41%).
Jack Del Rio uses a lot of zone coverage, and after hitting on Jahan Dotson last season, maybe Washington would return to the same well for a secondary upgrade.
The Huddle Report(Johannes)
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
NFL Draft Blitz(Vogel)
I thought this pick made a ton of sense for the Commanders. Still, Kelee Ringo is listed as a defensive back here because he played mostly cornerback at the University of Georgia but looks to me more as a safety. Washington’s defensive scheme uses a bunch of positionless roles to float around and play versatile football – Ringo fits that and can settle in at both cornerback and safety.
Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Bleeding Green Nation(Natan)
This would be a steal at this point. Brian Branch is a versatile defensive playmaker that fits on any team.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Washington can pick the best player available and feel good about it, but linebacker is a definite need. Trenton Simpson is another Clemson linebacker with elite speed, and the Tigers used him similarly to Isaiah Simmons (short of lining him up as a deep safety). Simpson was the best tackler, blitzer and slot defender Clemson had, and his range will help him solve problems as he focuses on a more specific role at the next level.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Pro Football Focus(Renner)
With Daron Payne hitting free agency, the Commanders may very well choose to reload at the position to keep their defensive line a strength. Bresee never quite lived up to the lofty expectations attached to being a No. 1 overall recruit (2020), but that was due in large part to a torn ACL in 2021 that he came back from and still earned an 82.0 pass-rushing grade this past fall.
All signs are pointing to Da’Ron Payne hitting free agency and leaving the Commanders. With that, they’ll look to replace him with a former five star recruit and former number one ranked high school recruit. Bresee isn’t the most productive interior defensive lineman but he also had a torn ACL in 2021. Listed at 300 pounds, Bresee moves incredibly well for a player of his size. He can plug the A-gap but has the versatility to align in a 4i-technique or even a 5-technique. He seems best suited to play as a 3-technique at the next level but look for him to be more productive in the NFL. Especially when paired with Chase Young and Jonathan Allen.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Peter Skoronski, G, Northwestern
Skoronski’s lack of length could be an issue for NFL teams in the top half of the first round. Washington had great success converting another Big Ten tackle to guard when they moved former Iowa Hawkeye Brandon Scherff inside. Could be déjà vu all over again, with Skoronski’s mobility and power making him an excellent pro lineman no matter where he lines up.
Round 2: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Round 3: Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn
The 2023 offseason for the Washington Commanders is easily the strangest offseason as any team has entered since I have been a part of Drafttek. They have a supposed lame-duck head coach, no offensive coordinator, a second-year, fifth-round pick as the incumbent starter at OB, and an owner in the process of selling the franchise (thank goodness) who lacks the liquidity to spend large amounts of cash. Is that bad? It’s certainly not good.
Major decisions, including the offensive coordinator search, the potential re-signing of DaRon Payne, and also possibly adding one of the big-name veteran QBs are all on hold if Dan Snyder can’t afford to put the needed cash into escrow upon signing. From what I understand, the front office and Ron Rivera are in a holding pattern until more clarity emerges from the ownership information. Snyder has put his last US home up for sale and is reportedly living overseas. Communication with him has been limited at best.
So, even if this team wants to re-sign Payne or chase Derek Carr, it doesn’t sound like those are viable options. Considering this, the Draft is going to be even more important, as it may be the first opportunity for this franchise to pick a direction and move forward, whether it’s with Ron Rivera & Co. or a whole new group.
lf I had to guess, this offseason might look something like this: franchise and trade Payne, hire Ken Zampese as the OC (no new $), sign Andy Dalton (Zampese connection), minimal spending in free-agency, picking a TE in the first two rounds in April with a draft otherwise heavy on offensive line and defensive backs. Actually, that’s not a guess. I am certain of all of those things. Book it!
Round 2: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
NFL Draft Bible
“Large human in terms of outright mass. Mainly a guard but has moved out to tackle and handled the duties well in limited snaps. Arms and strength to finish plays. Plays long with heavy hands at the point of attack.”
Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Assuming you believe Ron Rivera that Sam Howell will be Washington’s starting quarterback, the Commanders won’t consider moving up during the draft for one. Instead, the last first-round graded offensive tackle falls into their lap. Charles Leno Jr. could be a cap casualty, while Samuel Cosmi could get moved inside to guard. Broderick Jones will start as a rookie for Washington, whether at left or right tackle.
Broderick Jones is the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. A key part of two national titles, he is an excellent blocker who is tough in the trenches. He will give Washington a much-needed boost at the position.
Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Commanders don’t know who will be throwing the ball next year. But whether it’s Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz, Sam Howell or someone else, they’ll need to protect them and Wright has some intriguing tools to pass on at #16.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The 33rd Team
The Washington Commanders land Mayer (scouting report), who should help them have success in both the run and the passing game.
Round 2: Clark Phillips, CB, Utah
What position should the Washington Commanders select in the 1st round?
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