NFL free agency has wound all the way down, and the Washington Commanders have not signed any new players in almost four weeks. Their salary cap space is low, and the team hasn’t looked to free up any money with cuts, extensions, or restructures. The team, and most of the league, are laser focused on the draft that kicks off in Kansas City, MO on April 27th.
This week’s roundup is led off with a new mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. He goes with the popular position(CB), and gives the Washington Commanders a player who has been mocked to them for months. Todd McShay mocked Joey Porter, Jr. to the Commanders last week, and Kiper follows suit this week. McShay called him a shutdown corner, while Kiper said he has “all the tools to be a spectacular cover man”.
Kiper’s 2nd round pick addresses the team’s other big need that a lot of people think could be addressed on Day 1. The offensive line was a mess last year thanks to a disastrous Carson Wentz trade, and the cuts/bargain basement signings that followed. Washington still has Charles Leno, Jr. under contract through next season, and they signed former Chiefs RT Andrew Wylie to a 3-year deal. Neither player should prevent them from drafting a young tackle that can be a cheap replacement at either spot.
This week’s roundup is shorter than the past few, and it might provide a more realistic look at Washington’s options if they can’t trade down, and make their pick at #16. The top 3 offensive linemen are expected to be gone along with at least one or two of the top cornerbacks. Do you take the #4/5 OL, the #2-4 CB, or a versatile DB? There are obviously other options that have been laid out over the last few weeks, but Ron Rivera’s poker face has always been transparent.
Washington Commanders 2023 Draft Picks
1st Round: #16
2nd Round: #47
3rd Round: #97 (compensatory pick)
4th Round: #118
5th Round: #150
6th Round: #193
#215 (compensatory pick)
7th Round: #233
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Commanders say they’re not in the market for Lamar Jackson, and I don’t see them making a trade up for one of the top quarterbacks in this draft. That means they need to find an instant starter with this selection. While I thought about offensive line — Washington ranked 28th in yards per carry (4.0) last season — signing right tackle Andrew Wylie filled the biggest hole. On the other side of the ball, finding a corner should be the priority. At 6-foot-2 with long arms, Porter would make a lot of sense. He has all the tools to be a spectacular cover man.
Round 2: Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
I mentioned earlier Washington’s need along the offensive line, and this could be a selection to find a starter for 2024 and beyond. The 6-foot-8 Freeland could be the swing tackle as a rookie. He started 40 games for the Cougars, playing left tackle, right tackle and right guard. His height gets him into trouble at times — he can struggle with speedy rushers — but he has quick feet.
With Will Levis slipping, this could be a prime spot for a trade down or even just snagging the Kentucky QB. I think Ron Rivera believes in Sam Howell and would love to add a talented, young piece to his secondary. Porter has the pedigree and played at a high level — it just fits Washington kind of easily.
Joey Porter Jr. is the third cornerback to be taken and he goes one pick before the team that employed his father selects. Pittsburgh may owe Washington a basket of mini-muffins at Christmas for allowing them to address the offensive line without the fan backlash of not selecting Porter; Dan Snyder can include the basket as part of the team sale.
I’m hardly the first to mock Porter Jr. to Washington, but I love this potential marriage. A physical, man-coverage player whose best playing days are ahead of him. To keep up with the weapons teams like Dallas and Philly have, Washington needs a stout secondary.
One thing that’s nice about covering the Commanders is how much the coaches and GMs tell you about their plan. As a fan I hated it, but these guys basically tell you exactly what they’re going to do, and it comes down to the offensive line and cornerback.
While I do think the team would consider a QB if one started to drop, I don’t think the Howell love is smoke. I would also love the team to look at TE, but Rivera has reiterated he’s happy with his group.
Here, Washington grabs the uber-talented Joey Porter Jr. The addition of the former Steeler EDGE’s son would point to more man coverage being used by Jack Del Rio, something he and Benjamin St. Juste could excel at on the outside, bumping Kendall Fuller back into his natural home as a nickel corner. If this team can grab a LB in the second or third round, the defense would be nearly complete.
Round 2: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Well, maybe the Howell love truly is smoke! The Commanders are bringing in Hendon Hooker as one of their top-30 visits, but I viewed that more as a way to possibly entice a team to trade up with them in the first round.
If Hooker falls out of the round (which I do expect him to) I don’t think Rivera would mind adding competition with Howell here. Having two bites at the apple is clearly better than one when it comes to the most important position in sports, and if either was to pan out, this pick would be just fine with a desperate fanbase.
Round 3: Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
Ron Rivera has reiterated his plan for the Commanders-ball control and good defense. After adding Joey Porter Jr. as an outside starter in the first round, adding a capable nickel defender in round 3 will add even more youth to a solid CB group. Kendall Fuller is getting long in the tooth and the addition of the former Horned Frog would give Washington future cap relief as well as insurance for injuries at defensive back.
Round 4: Emil Ekiyor, Jr., G, Alabama
Round 5: Jalen Redmond, DL, Oklahoma
Round 6: Asim Richards, OT, North Carolina
Round 6: Rashad Torrence II, S, Florida
Round 7: Brenton Cox, Jr., EDGE, Florida
A press corner with unique 34” arms, Porter Jr. is a disruptor at the line of scrimmage. In a division with A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb, talent at corner is a necessity, not a luxury.
Washington could also be a team to monitor for a free falling quarterback, but it feels like they are going to give Sam Howell a fair shot with Jacoby Brissett as insurance.
The Commanders lack playmaking defenders on the outside and need a true CB1 with receiving weapons like A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, and now Brandin Cooks to contend with in the NFC East. Joey Porter Jr. would bring an enticing blend of length, athleticism, and ball skills to Washington that would allow him to develop into a top outside cornerback in the NFL.
The Commanders need help in the secondary and offensive and defensive lines. I would like to mock Joey Porter Jr. to the Steelers, but I think the Commanders will grab him first if they don’t trade out of the spot. He’s not quite up there with Gonzalez and Witherspoon, but he’s close enough and has room to get better.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland (Draft profile)
Maryland teammate and fellow CB Jakorian Bennett got much of the buzz in the fall, but Banks put together the type of season that will land him in the first-round conversation. He’s a fluid athlete who is also a big, physical corner and can match up with NFL wide receivers.
Deonte Banks has developed a cult following since his performance at the combine. He ran a 4.35 40 with a 42-inch vertical and 136-inch broad jump. He’s a tremendous athlete and uses it to recover from potential mistakes.
The Washington Commanders have more than enough talent in their front seven to dominate defensively, but the secondary needs a lot of work. Deonte Banks is one of the most athletic players in the 2023 NFL Draft and those physical tools allow him to shadow No. 1 receivers. Add him to the Commanders’ secondary and this will be a top-10 defense in 2023.
Round 2: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
Round 3: Andrew Vorhees, G, USC
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Another year, another season with the team formerly known as the Washington Football Team finishing in the middle of the pack in the NFL. With Eric Bienemy revamping the offense, the Commanders can focus on strengthening their middling secondary with Devon Witherspoon, one of the most fun-to-watch players in this entire class.
Witherspoon, continuing the agility and size combination theme for corners in this class, 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 for them after their disaster on the back end with William Jackson Jr., Kendall Fuller and others.
Round 2: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
The Commanders need to consider an athletic receiving threat at tight end to help young starting QB Sam Howell and Musgrave also offers big-play ability with his speed and quickness.
Round 3: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
Round 4: Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State
Round 5: Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh
Round 6: Cam Jones, LB, Indiana
Round 6: Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota
Round 7: Daniel Scott, S, California
It’s one thing to have swagger. It’s another thing entirely to be legitimately offended when a QB targets you. Devon Witherspoon plays with that kind of pride and physicality, but he also backs it up on every rep. He’d be a tone-setter for Washington on Day 1, with the versatility to play either in the slot or on the boundary.
Round 2: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
As of this writing, the future of Commanders edge rusher Chase Young is uncertain. EDGE is a premier position, so it’s not one they should shrug off. At 6’3″, 255 pounds, Felix Anudike-Uzomah would give them an amped-up rusher with wicked hands and motor.
Round 3: Jaelyn Duncan, OL, Maryland
Jaelyn Duncan needs to clean up his technique, but he has the potential to eventually take the reins at left tackle, or shift inside to guard with his athleticism and play strength.
Round 4: SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pittsburgh
Round 5: Tank Dell, WR, Houston
Round 6: Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
Round 6: Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern
Round 7: Julian Hill, TE, Campbell
Brian Branch, S, Alabama
The Washington Commanders have a solid defense and a suspect offense, so it only makes sense for them to add another piece to their defense in safety Brian Branch. With solid coverage skills and a nose for the football, Branch would be a great back-end addition to the Washington secondary.
Round 2: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
TRADE: Seattle trades No. 52 and No. 123 (4th round) to Washington
Washington trades No. 47
Round 3: Zach Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
I know, this might seem like a reach to some, but hear me out. You signed Cameron Dantzler with the hope that he can return to the promising form he showed early on in Minnesota. Even if that ends up being the case, I’m going to continue hammering home a theme in this mock: You can’t have enough capable cover men. Branch is the kind of guy who can play slot corner, like he did at Alabama, and provide an instant impact. I know your fans will hate me for this, but it’s a good move.
Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Washington would be tempted by a cornerback at this spot, but I felt tackle represented better value. Anton Harrison allowed just nine pressures in 2022 at Oklahoma. The Commanders could start him at right tackle right now with a plan for him to potentially succeed Charles Leno Jr. on the left side after a year or two.
O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida (Draft Profile)
Torrence’s power in the running game and short-area quickness make him a top-20 prospect.
Round 2: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
Round 3: Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
Round 4: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
The most dominant offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl by all accounts was O’Cyrus Torrence. He’ll be a Day One starter for the Commanders.
Which position should Washington take in the 1st round?
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