The 2023 NFL draft kicks off on Thursday, 27 April
Washington holds the 16th pick in the first round, but the team has 8 total picks in the 7-round draft.
- Round 1 - pick 16
- Round 2 - pick 47
- Round 3 - pick 97
- Round 4 - pick 118
- Round 5 - pick 150
- Round 6 - pick 189 & 215
- Round 7 - picks 233
The Commanders currently have 75 players under contract, and will be bringing 90 players to training camp in late July, so, after the draft, the team will still probably have room to add about 8 more players — most of them likely to be undrafted college free agents.
As is true nearly every offseason, expect the coaches to create a bit of roster churn at the tail end of the roster throughout May, June, July and August.
Let’s take a look at the current depth chart and discuss what it means, in general terms, for the decision-makers as they look to flesh out the roster in the next ten days or so.
Current Depth Chart
The numbers that appear beside some players’ names are 2023 cap hits per Over the Cap.
Please note that assigned positions and color coding are my own personal opinions. They do not necessarily represent the thinking of Washington’s coaches or front office, nor are they necessarily consistent with fan consensus. This chart represents my interpretation, and may not reflect the thoughts of other writers on Hogs Haven. Finally, when it comes to backup players, I don’t put much effort into making sure that they are on the right or left or behind the specific player that they backup. I mostly just try to fit everyone on the chart efficiently.
The Commanders currently have 75 players under contract: 37 on offense, 35 on defense, and 3 specialists.
The team looks to be in good shape at the safety position — perhaps the best since the death of Sean Taylor. Kamren Curl, Darrick Forrest and Percy Butler all played well in 2022, and all are still playing on their rookie contracts. Jeremy Reaves was named All-Pro as a special teams player in 2022; he recently signed his Restricted Free Agent tender, making him the highest paid safety on the team at $2.6m. I imagine the team will be looking to add a Day 3 safety unless they opt to invest a higher draft pick in a DB who is primarily a slot defender/nickel back, but who can also back up the safety position if needed. Over the past couple of seasons, whether due to design or necessity, Washington’s defense has utilized a lot of 3-safety alignments, so having a 5-man unit seems reasonable.
The position group has a lot of depth, but not a lot of top-end talent, and 3rd-year player Benjamin St-Juste has struggled with injury so far in his short NFL career. A lot of people agree that the team should be looking to build up this unit’s talent level by drafting a cornerback early. If the team invests in a boundary corner, he could potentially displace St-Juste as the starter, or Jack Del Rio could choose to utilize Kendall Fuller as the primary slot defender. Alternatively, the team could draft a DB who is primarily a slot defender, relying on Fuller and St-Juste as the starting boundary corners again this season.
Basically, the situation in 2023 looks a lot like it did in 2022 at the linebacker position, with Cody Barton replacing Cole Holcomb. Fans seem to be clamoring for more skill and greater depth at the position group, but Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio seem content with what they’ve got. If the team continues to run 3-safety alignments, it reduces the number of linebackers on the field, so this could be seen as a scheme-based decision, but injuries to Jamin Davis and Cole Holcomb last year exposed the lack of depth at the 2nd level and hurt the team in the latter half of the season in 2022. It seems like a no-brainer that the team would try to draft a linebacker to upgrade from David Mayo on the depth chart, but then, it seemed so last year at this time and nothing was done in the draft or free agency. We’ll have to wait and see if the decision-makers act any differently this year.
This is the one position group that I think the Commanders can safely ignore during the draft. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and John Ridgeway all return healthy, while last year’s 2nd round pick, Phil Mathis will be returning from a knee injury suffered in the 2022 season opener. David Bada, who came to the NFL from Germany via the International Player Pathway program has spent 3 years on the team’s practice squad and seems ready to fill a role on the regular roster as the #5 guy who can fill in for Mathis to open the season if necessary. Abdullah Anderson was signed as a veteran free agent in March, and Benning Potoa’e, who spent almost the entire ‘22 season on the practice squad, played well against the Cowboys when he was activated for the Week 18 season finale.
Benning Potoa'e and David Mayo are absolutely dominating the Cowboys. That can't bode well for next week.— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) January 9, 2023
Washington is pretty stacked at the DE position, with a pair of first-round picks — Montez Sweat and Chase Young — as the starters, and three very solid backups in James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and Efe Obada. The big issue here is that none of these 5 players is under contract beyond this season. One of the strengths of the roster could turn into a black hole in 2024. It might be a good move for the front office to invest a mid-round pick or two in youth at the position. The drafted player(s) could spend a year developing without any pressure to start, and provide some positional stability in 2024.
The depth chart here is comprised of Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett and Jake Fromm. There is no question of drafting or signing a player to compete for the starting spot, but the front office could decide to spend a mid- or late-round pick for a rookie who could compete with Jake Fromm for the QB3 spot.
In a poll published last week on Hogs Haven, 55% of those surveyed thought the Commanders should draft a quarterback next week.
The only change to the Commanders receiving group from 2022 is that Cam Sims left and Marcus Kemp was signed. The real need seems to be for a punt return specialist, though the team still has Dax Milne and Alex Erickson (both experienced, if unspectacular, return men) on the roster. With higher priority needs at other position groups, I’d expect the Commanders to add only late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents to the receiver room in coming week or two.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the talent level of the Commanders tight end group is much the same. Statistically, Washington’s tight ends did not impress in 2022. There were reasons for that — injury to a number of players at the position and a change in the ball distribution from the quarterbacks. Washington currently has the same 5 tight ends on the roster that it finished the ‘22 season with. It could be argued that Logan Thomas will be healthy again, and could return to his 2020 form; that 2nd-year player Cole Turner will be ready to contribute; that Armani Rodgers will be healthy and able to consistently play at the high level we saw in flashes last season; that Curtis Hodges will be ready for a breakout season, and that the Eric Bieniemy offense will create a lot more opportunity for the players at the position. It can also be argued that there are too many ifs and maybes with the current group and that the team needs a pass catching TE that can be counted on. Personally, I think the chances are good that one of the four (Thomas, Turner, Rodgers or Hodges) is able to step up, but if the right tight end is available in the middle rounds, it could be a good idea to add another guy to this room in the draft.
The changes in the offensive line in 2022 were disastrous. With All-Pro RG Brandon Scherff leaving in free agency, Ereck Flowers being cut by the team, and a plethora of injuries — especially to the interior offensive line positions — the Commanders offense was unable to take advantage of its stable of skill players.
So far this offseason, the moves made with veteran free agency along the offensive line have felt like a holding tactic, with the team seeming to maintain the talent level (which was not high in 2022) while getting a bit younger. A pair of 30-year-old right guards, Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer, are gone. Meanwhile, the team added two free agent linemen in March free agency: 28-year-old center Nick Gates and 29-year-old Andrew Wylie.
The team has some young players like 2nd-year player Chris Paul, who looked pretty good against the Cowboys in Week 18, and Sam Cosmi, who is expected to slide over to RG this season, either or both of whom could both step up in 2023,
The Commanders are widely expected to spend a 1st or 2nd round pick on an offensive tackle. If they do, one opportunity for fielding the best 5 players would be to move the newly-acquired Andrew Wylie to LG, a position he played before sliding to tackle for the Chiefs over the past couple of seasons. Last year’s starting LG, Andrew Norwell, is expected to be off the roster by training camp, or the start of the season at the very latest due to his inconsistent play in 2022 and the potential $2.2m in cap savings that he represents. It wouldn’t be shocking for the Commanders to invest two or even three draft picks in the offensive line next week. All the positions are covered at the moment, but, like cornerback, improving the overall ability and depth of the unit seems like a primary goal of this year’s Commanders draft.
There is a vocal contingent of fans and media commenters who would like to see Texas running back Bijan Robinson drafted by the Commanders at #16. In last week’s poll, however, only 6% of those surveyed agreed with this. There seems to be general agreement that the team will run it back with 2nd-year back Brian Robinson and 4th-year back Antonio Gibson. While the Commanders running backs were not highly efficient in ‘22, with Gibson averaging 3.7 ypc and Robinson 3.9 ypc, they were relatively productive; Washington was ranked 12th in rushing yards per game, at 126.1, with the team having the 4th-most rushes per game in the NFL last year.
But a lot of this can probably be pinned on the inconsistent play from the offensive line. Breece Hall, running back for the NY Jets, led all rushers (min 80 carries) in rushing yards before contact on a per-carry basis, at 5.8. Gibson and Robinson both averaged 2.2 yards before contact per attempt. Better blocking would likely have meant a more efficient running attack.
With the release of JD McKissic and Gibson playing in his contract year, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Commanders to use a mid-round pick on another running back — likely one with good pass-catching skills, but the biggest differences in run game efficiency this season is likely to be attributable to whatever improvements the team manages with the offensive line unit.
Team MVP, Punter Tress Way, continues to be one of the most consistent players on the team, which may be no surprise since he is also the longest-tenured player on the Commanders roster, having initially signed with the Redskins after being claimed off of waivers at the start of the 2014 season.
While Way is the most senior of the players in Burgundy & Gold, the long snapping position is also in a very stable situation, with 3rd-year player Cameron Cheeseman, a 6th round pick in the 2021 draft, at the front end of what is likely to be a 12-year career with the franchise.
The potentially unstable position on special teams is the place kicker spot, currently held down by Joey Slye. His statistical accuracy, for both his career (32 games; 82.9% FG accuracy) and for his time in a Washington uniform (23 games; 88.1% FG accuracy) has been satisfactory, but he had a rough patch in the latter portion of the ‘22 season, missing 3 extra point attempts and 3 field goal attempts in his final 6 games last year. This late-season inconsistency has a number of people thinking that the Commanders need to bring another kicker to camp to compete with Slye. While I think most people would prefer to see the team bring in an undrafted college free agent, not everyone would be averse to using a 7th-round pick to secure the rights to a solid rookie kicker.