The mock drafts have pretty consistently zeroed in on either cornerback or offensive tackle for the Commanders at #16 overall in the upcoming draft. The first round will take place on Thursday, 27 April, and the feeling among the ‘professional’ mock drafters seems to be that the Washington decision-makers should end up drafting a defensive back.
Look at some of the comments from the national names in the most recent mock drafts:
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. (ESPN, Mel Kiper)
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 Draft Network)
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. (Sportsnaut)
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. (Pro Football Network)
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. (NFL.com)
Fans have a different focus
Hogs Haven members don’t necessarily disagree that the secondary needs help, but after watching the offensive line play in 2022 look like roster-building malpractice, collectively, those who voted in the latest Reacts poll expressed that Offensive Tackle should be the priority.
Nearly twice as many people voted for Offensive Tackle (52%) as the highest draft priority than for boundary corner (27%).
Let’s look at some of the comments that voters offered in the survey article:
It’s probably no surprise that Washington fans on a site whose name was inspired by Joe Bugel’s Hogs would prioritize the trenches over the defensive secondary, but, as can be seen in the selected comments above, even those who feel strongly that the offensive line should be the top priority recognize the need to be adaptable if the right player isn’t there when Washington goes on the clock with the 16th overall pick.
All in all, the mock draft industry and those who prioritize ‘need’ in the draft are tightly focused on two positions — OT and DB — for the first two picks by the Commanders in the 2023 draft.
What about a quarterback?
There’s been surprisingly little discussion about the quarterback position given the attention it has received in just about every offseason since (at least) the drafting of RG3. I attribute that to Ron’s early offseason declarations about Sam Howell; the fans’ desire to see if Howell is the guy who was drafted in the 5th round in ‘22 or the top draft prospect in the nation in ‘21; the near-zero balance in Washington’s available cap space account; and the signing of Jacoby Brissett a few weeks ago.
It seems clear to just about everyone except Kay Adams that Ron Rivera is serious about going to training camp with Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett filling the roles of QB1 and QB2, though not necessarily in the order named.
But Washington has had at least 3 different starting quarterbacks in each of the last 5 seasons, and 6 of the past 9 seasons. The only period of stability since the disastrous 2013 season came in 2015-2017 when Kirk Cousins started every game.
Based on recent history, then, the Commanders front office and coaching staff should be expecting their QB3 to line up behind center for at least one game in the 2023 season. Right now, that would be Jake Fromm, and it seems unlikely that Ron Rivera and the Martii will add another veteran free agent to replace him.
With the 30-year-old Brissett and the 25-year-old Fromm each under contract for just the ‘23 season, it seems as if the franchise should be looking for depth in 2023 with some upside potential and stability beyond this season. The right drafted rookie could fit the bill.
A majority of Hogs Haven readers said in the Reacts survey that they think the Commanders should draft a quarterback. The only thing that surprised me here is that 45% appear to be comfortable with Jake Fromm as QB3 and Howell as the only QB under contract for 2024.
Assuming the front office integrates this poll result into the draft plan at the end of the month, who should they be targeting?
The Athletic’s Ben Standig discussed that question earlier this week and he put forward three draftable late round quarterbacks that he thought the Commanders front office should seriously consider.
Stetson Bennett, Georgia: Being older than the average college player helped — Bennett turns 26 in October — but that’s a feature more than a bug for a Day 3 candidate entering the pros. The two-time national champion QB has enough of Taylor Heinicke’s grit and leadership qualities — with a bigger arm — to imagine Washington eyeing him as a future backup.
Tanner McKee, Stanford: This old-school pocket passer doesn’t mesh with Rivera’s desire for mobile quarterbacks, but McKee offers size (6-foot-6), accuracy (63.2 completion percentage) and familiarity. His college offensive coordinator, Tavita Pritchard, is Washington’s new QB coach.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA: Ranked a tick behind McKee (9) and Bennett (11) by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, Thompson-Robinson (12) is a playmaker with 48 career college starts. Brugler sees a future backup who has “an NFL-quality arm with the toughness and ability to create.”
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated published an article saying that Stetson Bennett, the first quarterback on Ben Standig’s list, may not get much interest from NFL general managers, primarily due to the quarterback’s arrest earlier this year on a public intoxication charge in Dallas.
Washington is probably not in a position to consider drafting a quarterback before the 3rd round, and, if the team opts to draft one at all, it is most likely to be with a Day 3 pick. The universe of draftable quarterbacks outside of the first two rounds is fairly small, and likely comprises just a handful of players:
- Tanner McGee, Stanford
- Jaren Hall, BYU
- Stetson Bennett, Georgia
- Clayton Tune, Houston
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
- Jake Haener, Fresno State
- Max Duggan, TCU
- Malik Cunningham, Louisville
- Aiden O’Connell, Purdue
Also, Todd Centeio of JMU and Tyson Bagent of Shepard are a couple of signal callers from the broad catchment area of Commanders football fandom who might hear their names called in the final round or who might join a training camp as a college free agent.
If the Commanders are going to draft a rookie to develop behind Howell and Brissett, it seems probable that the QB the team selects will come from this small pool of less than a dozen players — a pool that last year included our own Sam Howell, along with players like Brock Purdy, selected with the final pick in the ‘22 draft by the SF 49ers.
Given Washington’s recent experience with Taylor Heinicke, who was undrafted out of Old Dominion in 2015, no young quarterback in this group should be dismissed as an unrealistic NFL player. It’s always possible to catch lightning in a bottle.
That said, from now until the start of training camp in late July, Sam Howell sits atop the depth chart, and we can probably look forward to some lively reporting about who the starter should be as the preseason progresses.
In the meantime, it will be exciting to see what the Commanders’ front office does with the team’s 8 draft picks starting on Friday night, less than two weeks from now.
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