The NFL Combine is over and now it’s time to see some movement in the mock drafts. Players showed out, and will be moved up based on their numbers from the Underwear Olympics. Others didn’t do so well in testing, and will have people evaluating their tape. Several players were injured, including USC OG Andrew Voorhees who tore his ACL(but still did 38 reps on the bench after the injury!). The mock drafts will reset again next week with the start of free agency, and the annual movement of veteran players to new teams.
There has been a shift in who the mock drafters are projecting for the Washington Commanders. Cornerback and offensive line are the obvious big needs/projections for the team. ESPN’s Todd McShay, the Athletic’s Dane Brugler, and six others are giving Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon to Jack Del Rio’s defense. He was a player that suffered an injury at the Combine(hamstring), and didn’t do any on-field workouts/testing. He is considered one of the top CBs in a draft that is loaded with top-end talent.
One player that opened some eyes at the Combine was Tennessee OT Darnell Wright, and he’s a popular pick for the Washington Commanders. Georgia OT Broderick Jones also gets some serious consideration at #16(or #20 after a bad trade down). Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. and Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence both get a nod in this post-Combine roundup. Quarterbacks are missing this week, and the annual tradition of QBs moving up the board as we get closer to draft day has hit the next level.
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 24 mock drafts in this week’s roundup featuring 9 different players, and they address several positions for Washington. The list is getting even more narrowed down, and people are laser-focused on CB and OL for Washington, just like they were on WRs last year as the draft got closer. The only other position featured for Washington this weekend was a tight end which sounds worse every week.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon is rising fast, and I’d expect the Commanders would be among the teams with an eye to Illinois’ pro day on Friday. He allowed 3.2 yards per target last season, second-best in the nation, and picked off three passes. I love his physicality, and Washington really needs someone who can make plays on the outside. Opponent QBs had a 70.0 QBR on throws outside the numbers last season, 23rd in the NFL, and the Commanders didn’t reach double-digit interceptions (nine). Pair Witherspoon with Kendall Fuller, and you have an improvement.
Although he doesn’t have ideal size (5-11 1/2, 181 pounds), Witherspoon plays much bigger than he looks and has the tape of an immediate NFL starter. Between the need on Washington’s roster and Witherspoon’s talent and play personality, the Illinois product wouldn’t be a hard sell to head coach Ron Rivera.
Devon 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.
Witherspoon is my CB1 in this class, and I don’t think the fact that he missed the combine workouts with a hamstring injury will affect his stock at all — this is just one version of how the group might go. Nonetheless, Witherspoon has absolutely stellar tape, and he allowed 22 catches last season on 62 targets for 206 yards, 71 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, three interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 25.3, the Commanders (or any other NFL team) would be fortunate to have him.
Round 2: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
Round 3: DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
Witherspoon, continuing the agility and size combination theme for corners at the Combine, positioned himself to be a top-half pick with Cam Smith and Kelee Ringo slipping on boards in relation. The Commanders need to lock into the best corner available after their disaster on the back end with William Jackson Jr., Kendall Fuller and others last season.
When looking at the Washington Commanders’ roster, two glaring liabilities can be found.
Obviously, quarterback remains in question. Yes, the team continues to say publicly that Sam Howell is QB1 going into the year. But he’s a former fifth-round pick who shouldn’t be handed anything. In this particular setup, the Commanders aren’t in a position to draft a signal-caller.
Instead, the franchise turns its attention to its secondary. Outside of Kendall Fuller, who’s a free agent after the 2023 campaign, the Commanders don’t have an above-average cornerback on the roster. Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon instantly changes that perception.
“Witherspoon is an instinctive corner who possesses a high football IQ and anticipation in coverage,” Giddings wrote. “He’s also a versatile defender with the ability to play in both man- and zone-heavy schemes.
“Though the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year didn’t work out at the combine due to a hamstring injury, he previously showed great movement skills on tape and will look to confirm his speed at his pro day. Witherspoon is yet another incoming cornerback who will look to compete for early playing time.”
Giddings’ final point is important. Witherspoon has the skill set and competitiveness to immediately match up with an opposing offense’s top wide receiver.
The rumored Eagles darling lands in the NFC East, setting up plenty of “should of taken!1!” regret for Eagles fans if Witherspoon turns into the player I think he can. He’s a physical, downhill cornerback who loves to make a big hit and has a combination of springiness and body control that makes him impressive on the outside. Witherspoon nabbed three interceptions in his senior year and will likely be a Day 1 starter.
Round 2: John Michael Schmitz, OL, Minnesota
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Last season, the Commanders picked wide receiver Jahan Dotson in the first round, and this year they look to fix the corner position with Joey Porter, Jr.
Round 2: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
Round 3: Nick Hampton, ILB, Appalachian State
Maybe he’d hoped to run faster than 4.46, but that will hardly prevent him from becoming – believe it or not – the inaugural first-round defensive back in Nittany Lions history. The son of the former Steelers linebacking star of the same name, Porter Jr. is a big (6-3, 193) corner who could plug in nicely for a team that could use quality depth beyond what Kendall Fuller provides.
Washington has needs along the offensive line and in the secondary. The Commanders fill one of those voids with Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
If the Commanders don’t trade up for a quarterback, they might opt to stay put and find a bookend to cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Washington is very thin at cornerback, with Kendall Fuller being the only one of note. Even then, Fuller could become a cap casualty, leaving the Commanders in an even worse spot at the position. There are plenty of corners available to pick from, but Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez seems like the best of the bunch. Gonzalez put on a show at the Combine, and his game tape is great as well.
Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Branch, the top safety in this draft, can either line up deep or as a slot corner. The Commanders could use some help at both spots, so this could be a strong move to bolster their defensive backfield.
Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
A strong pass-protector that has had nothing but buzz over the last month, Darnell Wright is a name you need to start talking about in the first-round conversation. Wright has the power and mass to make an impact from day one and has experience playing on both sides of the line. He met with Washington at the NFL Combine and would be a great fit for the Commanders.
The Commanders don’t know who will be throwing the ball next year. But whether it’s Sam Howell or someone else, they’ll need to protect them and Wright has some intriguing tools to pass on at #16.
Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Trade! The Seahawks call the Commanders and offer them the No. 20 overall pick and the No. 132 overall pick they received from Carolina in exchange for the No. 16 pick. Washington agrees, slides back a few slots, and Pete Carroll adds to his defensive line.
There are major questions at quarterback for Washington, but the offensive line could be just as pressing. Jones is slightly undersized at 6-foot-4, but could still be a plug-and-play tackle.
Paris Johnson, Jr., OT, Ohio State
Washington has multiple needs along the offensive line, but this pick would allow the Commanders to move Sam Cosmi to guard and plug Johnson into an early starting role.
O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
The Commanders actually have a solid roster across the board, but quarterback and offensive line are the biggest question marks. With Washington seemingly ready to move forward with Sam Howell, and Richardson coming off the board right before this pick, they opt to upgrade the line with the powerful, NFL-ready guard O’Cyrus Torrence.
Round 2: Cam Smith, CB - South Carolina
Round 3: DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
Round 4: Ronnie Hickman, S, Ohio State
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Round 2: Cody Mauch, OG, North Dakota State
Round 3: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
What position should the Washington Commanders select in the 1st round?
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