The 2022-23 season has been a strange one for Washington, and not just because it’s their first one using the Commanders name. They started out 2-4, but then their big QB acquisition, Carson Wentz, broke his finger and was placed on IR. Taylor Heinicke took over as the starter for the third season in a row, and led the team to a chance at the playoffs. That all fell apart in December, then we got the return of Carson Wentz and the debut of Sam Howell in January.
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
Matt Miller, now with ESPN, has released his latest mock draft and has Washington shooting their shot for the 4th QB off the board by going with Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Considered by many to be the high ceiling, low floor signal caller who could go in the first round, Richardson has been placed here a few times during the early pre-draft roundups. This pick breaks down when you look at the Washington Commanders ownership and coaching situation. Ron Rivera is likely in his lame-duck season with new ownership expected to take over this year. He is still looking for a new offensive coordinator, but is reportedly telling them that Sam Howell is QB1 for now. Richardson is not a Day 1 starter, and doesn’t seem like a player you take in this unique situation.
Lance Zierlein has been NFL.com’s draft guy for years, and he released his first mock draft of the season this morning. He also has Washington going offense in the 1st round, but has them taking care of an offensive line that regressed this season. Washington met with Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence at the Senior Bowl, and told him about their plans to emphasize the run game this year, while also calling him a run game mauler. His value at #16 doesn’t match current rankings, but that might not matter in Washington this year.
There are 33 mock drafts in this week’s roundup featuring 13 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.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The quarterback situation in Washington is less than ideal with Taylor Heinicke hitting free agency and Carson Wentz no longer a viable starting option. The Commanders did draft Sam Howell in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, but rarely do Day 3 quarterbacks become franchise passers. With Richardson on the board, this is the pick that makes the most sense.
He is not a finished product after starting just 13 games in college, but his highs are incredibly high and he has the highest ceiling of this quarterback class — if he can put everything together. Richardson, who is 6-4 and 232 pounds, has the strongest arm of the class, too, and he pairs that with game-changing running ability. The downside? Nine interceptions to just 17 touchdown passes in 2022 and a QBR of 71.2 show that Richardson’s accuracy needs work before he’s a complete passer. He completed just 54.7% of his throws over his career.
Round 2: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami-FL
The most impressive cornerback at the Senior Bowl has a shot at Round 1 on the back of expectations that he will perform well at the combine. Stevenson’s speed is easy to see, but his length and physicality in coverage stood out in Mobile, too. The Commanders’ need for an outside cornerback with speed to stay in phase matches what Stevenson brings to the table.
The Commanders have to find an upgrade at the quarterback position this offseason. However, in this scenario, Washington gets shut out of the veteran quarterback market and takes a chance on Anthony Richardson (scouting report). The talented passer from Florida is raw, but has all of the raw tools teams will covet.
Round 2: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
Trade: Jaguars receive No. 16 pick(selected CB Devon Witherspoon), 2024 fourth-rounder, Commanders receive No. 24 pick, No. 88 pick, No. 121 pick, 2024 second-rounder
Trading back to 24th overall, the Commanders were able to acquire more draft capital. As a bonus, they also get the best center in the 2023 NFL Draft.
John Michael Schmitz has always been that guy, but his Senior Bowl performance made it clear. His mix of athleticism, strength, smarts, flexibility, and physicality is unmatched.
Round 2: Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
There’s still a need for greater synergy from Matthew Bergeron. However, his foot speed at his size is enticing, and he has the strength to bury defenders who give up leverage.
Round 3: Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Eli Ricks is polarizing, but he has the length, tenacity, and ball skills worth banking on here.
Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
Tanner McKee is rough around the edges, but his arm strength is worth the investment.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Washington’s in a tough spot if quarterback is a team need. If they want to wait until next year, offensive line should be the top priority. Peter Skoronski helps fill multiple needs on the line.
The tackle position needs some help, but so does the inside. Skoronski isn’t the most naturally gifted player in the class, but he’s a fighter. If you need someone who’s a proven winner without the natural tools, he’s your guy. He’ll get a chance at tackle with the opportunity to move inside if that doesn’t work.
O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
Washington needs help at guard, and Torrence is coming off of a strong week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He’s big and powerful, and has the ability to start early in his pro career.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Trade up to #13 with Jets for mid-round pick
The Jets’ biggest need is offensive tackle, but with both Skoronski and Johnson already off the board, they take a mid-round pick from Washington to move down a few spots and get better value. The Commanders know the Panthers might be targeting a top corner at No. 14, so they jump ahead to grab this Colorado transfer with and elite combination of size, length, and ball skills.
Round 2: Anton Harrison, DT, Oklahoma
Washington adds a big-bodied cornerback to a defense that was improved this season. Christian Gonzalez has the size to play man coverage but has also been exposed to some zone.
Reports out of Mobile, Alabama, are that general manager Martin Mayhew has been looking a lot at the offensive linemen during Senior Bowl practices. However, with some of the top prospects at that position already gone and only two cornerbacks off the board, the Commanders boost their defense with Christian Gonzalez, whose playmaking ability at Oregon will give Washington another ball hawk in the secondary.
Devon Witherspoon is the top cover corner in the class. Meanwhile, Christian Gonzalez is the top size/speed build at the position. He put his elite traits to great use on the outside and took his game to new heights with Oregon.
If Washington can figure out their QB position, there’s enough talent on the roster to make a playoff run. Adding Gonzalez to the defense could end up a steal at 16th overall.
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.
A three-year starter, Gonzalez has a strong profile with his size (6-1, 201 pounds), age (turns 21 in June) and pedigree (four stars). Widely overlooked before the season, he broke out in 2022 with a four-interception campaign and now is a strong candidate for Round 1 after seeing his draft stock skyrocket.
There’s a chance the Washington Commanders enter 2023 with Sam Howell at the helm. He played well in his lone start and helped them knock off the Dallas Cowboys. If it turns out that was a fluke, they’ll be in rebuild mode — again. If it does work, they’ll be a team to watch for since they were still competitive even with the carousel they had going on last year.
With this pick, they make sure they stay that way as they add one of the better cover corners in this class. Christian Gonzalez was solid while playing for Colorado but then transferred to Oregon, which was a great move.
He had the best season of his career and all but guaranteed he will be a day-one pick.
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.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Washington needs more cornerback and safety help. Here is a starting corner who could provide a quick upgrade.
Witherspoon recorded 40 tackles, three interceptions and 14 passes defended in 2022. The 5-foot-11, 183-pounder impressed preseason evaluators thanks to having serious speed to go along with adequate size. Advance scouts noted his cover ability, saying he is fast and athletic to run the route to prevent separation. However, team sources don’t like the lack of ball skills and ball production.
Witherspoon had zero interceptions in 2021 after recording two in 2020 and zero in 2019. He also recorded 52 tackles and nine passes defended in 2021. He notched 33 tackles in each of the prior two seasons and two passes broken up over that time. Witherspoon’s ball skills looked improved in 2022, and he could be a riser for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Round 2: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Washington could use more starting quarterback options.
Team sources feel Hooker is a good worker with nice size, athleticism and intelligence. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder has a quality arm alongside the ability to hurt defenses on the ground. At 24, Hooker is older, but that won’t bother teams significantly thanks to his great intangibles.
In 2022, Hooker completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,135 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Hooker played well against Florida and LSU, leading Tennessee to some big wins. He was phenomenal versus Alabama, leading the Volunteers to a legendary upset win. Late in the season, Hooker suffered a torn ACL that could delay him in the early going of his rookie season. Hooker broke out in 2021, flashing some ability while completing 68 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and three interceptions. The Virginia Tech transfer also ran for 620 yards and five touchdowns.
Witherspoon had a great season for the Illini and while there will be questions about his slight frame, you wouldn’t know it to watch him play.
The Commanders have to be thrilled to get a talent like Devon Witherspoon at No. 16 as the third cornerback off the board in this NFL mock draft. Witherspoon is instinctual and physical, giving the Commanders a physical edge on the perimeter.
The Commanders’ most pressing need on the roster is at cornerback. Devon Witherspoon brings the toughness and demeanor necessary to be a shutdown corner in the NFL.
Round 2: John Michael Schmitz, OL, Minnesota
Another massive need for Washington is the offensive line. With John Michael Schmitz, the Commanders get a versatile piece who can play either guard position or center at a high level. The Minnesota product is one of the most polished players in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Witherspoon’s 2022 film jumps off the tape as a ballhawk and physical presence that looks like a future star. Witherspoon loves football and is ultra competitive. His mentality combined with his natural ability is what separates his game. He possesses great speed and length and would not be surprised if he goes sooner.
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Washington could go any number of directions here. But corner is a need, and Porter might be a big upgrade over Benjamin St-Juste in a division with big-play receivers such as A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb.
The Commanders have a fair amount of needs all over their team, so they can take whatever player is ranked highest on their board. Porter would give the Commanders a cornerback who has real deal man coverage potential with a ton of athleticism to pair with it.
The Washington Commanders need another young building block in the corner room and that’s exactly what Joey Porter Jr. provides. Offering top-end length, ball skills, and athleticism, Porter Jr. profiles as a No. 1 corner in the NFL.
Round 2: Blake Freeland OT, BYU
The Commanders need to find some young building blocks for their offensive line and Blake Freeland brings an appealing blend of size and athleticism to develop at tackle.
The fourth corner off the board in eight picks, Joey Porter Jr. can bring the physicality on the perimeter the Commanders need. He can afford to be more efficient in transition, but his recognition skills and closing speed is impressive. He’ll also stick his nose in the run game.
Brian Branch, CB, Alabama
The Commanders could go in any number of directions in this spot but opt for a highly versatile playmaker in Branch. The former Crimson Tide star can line up all over the defense and is a factor in coverage and against the run. He’s an explosive blitzer too.
The Redskins can’t cover anyone, thanks to William Jackson being a complete bust as a free agent signing. They desperately need someone new to stay with A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb.
Brian Branch has nice size and cover ability.
Round 2: Cam Mitchell, CB, Northwestern
The Redskins have endured major problems at cornerback for so long. I could see them double up at cornerback.
Cam Mitchell is an instinctive, physical cornerback with good size.
As the lone NFC East team to not make the playoffs, the Commanders have a number of needs to figure out in the draft. Branch can play all over the back end and provides plenty of leadership for a team undergoing a bit of a transition.
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Washington already has a high-level defense, but they have an opportunity to take it to the next level by pairing someone with Kendall Fuller. Benjamin St-Juste had some phenomenal moments last year but was up and down. Having Kelee Ringo, an outside corner with rare speed, in that cornerback room isn’t a bad thing and should allow them to match up against any receiving corps with a number of skill sets.
With all the talk about needing a quarterback, don’t dismiss just how promising and talented Sam Howell is. The defense needs more playmakers, too, and there are a slew of great corners on the board.
“On film, it looks like Ringo was built in a lab. He has a great frame, fantastic length and impressive speed. It didn’t matter the receiver’s speed he went up against in man coverage, Ringo was always in the wideouts hip pocket.”
Round 2: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The Commanders have to get better play out of the outside cornerback position. Smith is a big, physical, dynamic athlete at the position.
The top of this cornerback class is so good – and Cam Smith is no exception. He logged over 1,300 defensive snaps for the Gamecocks over four seasons. Over his last two seasons, Smith allowed a catch percentage of just 47.1% in coverage. The Commanders were ninth in dropback EPA allowed but still need some cornerback depth to keep that train rolling into the 2023 season.
Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Cole Holcomb is coming off an injury-shortened season going into free agency and the Commanders should look for more all-around impact under former NFL linebackers Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio. They should then welcome Sewell’s reliable tackling and playmaking vs. the run plus high upside in coverage.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The Washington Commanders are a real wild card this offseason. They have said that Sam Howell will have the chance to start for them this year, but they could still be in the QB market at some point. If they do stick with Howell, then the defense comes into the frame in the middle of the first round.
While they could go for a CB here, Trenton Simpson is enticing, especially given the team’s likely turnover at LB this offseason. Simpson is a very versatile player who can contribute in a number of different roles. He could easily be an every-down player and the first IDP player selected in rookie drafts wherever he lands.
What position do you want Washington to draft in the 1st round?
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