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What grades did Washington get for picking Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes at No. 16?

Was this the right move?

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

There is a long tradition of people giving draft picks a grade less than 24 hours after they’ve been made. Some of them are spot on after the players have shown who they are after a few years in the league, and some of them look pretty bad. A lot of graders get stuck on their personal rankings, and will tank a player’s selection because of that. How a player fits with a team, and their needs plays a big part here as well.

Washington held the #16 pick in the 2023 NFL draft and did not trade down like they did last year. They had several options at CB, including Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, but they went with Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes. He is a ballhawk which Washington’s secondary has been missing, but concerns about his weight are brought up often.

How did Washington do on Day 1? What do they need to address on Day 2?

CBS Sports(A)

I love this kid. He has good length, but he is lean at 170 pounds. Even so, he will throw his body around. But you draft him because he’s an elite cover player who fills an immediate need. He is going to upgrade an already good defense. (Pete Prisco)

DraftKings Nation(A-)

Forbes wasn’t pegged to go this early in the draft due to his slender build and trouble against the run, but that’s not a huge knock in a league that covets corners like Forbes. His instincts are outstanding and a little growing up and time in the weight room could get him in line to be one of the top corners in the league. But, they shouldn’t have passed on Christian Gonzalez.

The 33rd Team(A-)

Emmanuel Forbes (scouting report) went in the range that we had him ranked on our board, but it is a bit of a surprise he was taken before Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez. Forbes is an outlier-cornerback prospect at just 166 pounds, but he’s an outlier in ball production as well. He had 13 career interceptions and an FBS record six returned for touchdowns. While his weight is a concern, it did not show up on tape. He has good length and elite recovery speed. He is instinctive and combative in coverage, the type of player who will get under the skin of opposing receivers.

The ultra-lean Forbes (6-foot-1, 166 pounds) was a prolific ballhawk in college, collecting 14 interceptions over his career. Washington definitely needed a corner, and Forbes sticks to his man, but a potential strength disadvantage against NFL receivers will be something to monitor. If the ball continues to find him at the next level, though, he could wind up a solid selection.

The Athletic(B)

The Commanders’ defense needed a quality corner, and there were plenty available. Instead of opting for at least two higher-rated all-around corners, Washington chose the ultimate playmaker.

There’s no better pure cover corner in the draft than Forbes, who recorded 14 interceptions and defended 35 passes in three seasons at Mississippi State. Forbes returned six picks for touchdowns to set an FBS record and averaged 27.9 yards per interception return. His quickness, ball skills and speed (4.35 in the 40) are astounding.

But — there’s always a but — Forbes weighed just 166 pounds at the combine. He has long arms (32 ¼ inches) and a great wingspan (79) but looks more like a long-distance runner rather than an NFL player. Still, his size didn’t prevent him from tackling or attacking much larger players. Some teams avoided Forbes because of his weight, but his cover skills are special. Nah, they’re elite.

Touchdown Wire(B)

I’m a bit shocked that Forbes went before Christian Gonzalez, but the production and traits are undeniable. Forbes will need a few protein bars when he hits the Commanders’ facility, and there’s no arguing against 14 career interceptions, and an FBS-record six pick-sixes.

Fox Sports(B)

Forbes is a dynamic player, but his slim frame will give teams pause. Though he weighed in four pounds heavier at his pro day, Forbes’ 166 pounds at the Combine is the same size Eagles’ wideout DeVonta Smith was measured at prior to him being selected in the first round two years ago. That is notable not only because Smith has since gone on to excel in the NFL, but also because he was the lightest non-kicker selected in the NFL’s opening frame since 1942.

Seeing the Commanders go for cornerback help with their first-round pick isn’t that surprising. It’s more who they went for that’s the surprise.

That’s not meant as a dig at Forbes, who is a legitimate first-round talent. He had a mind-boggling 35 pass breakups and 14 interceptions in just three seasons at Mississippi State. Forbes will need to bulk up after getting to 170 pounds at his pro day.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, who was considered as possibly the best cornerback coming into the draft, was on the board when the Commanders took Forbes. It’s surprising that Forbes went before Gonzalez.

Hogs Haven(B)

The Ringer(B-)

Forbes is one of the headliners of this year’s group of draft outliers, an impossibly skinny defender who checked in at the combine at 6-foot-1, 166 pounds. What the former Bulldogs star lacks in size, though, he makes up in coverage instincts. Forbes set the NCAA record for pick-sixes (with six) and tallied 14 total picks in his college career. He fills a big need for Washington, but I worry about Forbes’s slight frame, and his risk-taking style also leads to a lot of coverage busts.

SB Nation(B-)

Emmanuel Forbes is an interesting case. The ball production and instincts are there, he’s an incredibly skilled prospect. However, he’s 166 pounds soaking wet and probably only works in an off coverage defensive scheme. I get the pick here for Washington, they needed an outside cornerback. But with Christian Gonzalez still on the board, this feels weird. This is a scheme fit, though. So I understand, kinda?

For the Win(B-)

Forbes is a high-upside ballhawk with 14 interceptions in three seasons at Mississippi State. No one in FBS history has ever returned more interceptions for touchdowns. But he also weighs roughly 165 pounds, and he was ranked well below a suddenly sliding Christian Gonzalez on most draft boards (and Maryland’s Deonte Banks as well).

This pick fortifies a position of need with an electric player, but it’s fair to question whether Forbes was the best option here. Additionally, Washington could have turned to pass rushing help from Myles Murphy or the do-everything interior wizardry of Calijah Kancey. Forbes would have been an A grade at pick 25 or later. At No. 16, he’s merely pretty good. — CD


The Washington Commanders needed a cornerback and they found one. Emmanuel Forbes offers top-notch speed (4.35-second 40-yard dash) and height (6-foot-1), but he’s wildly undersized at 166 pounds. The thin frame is a significant concern with bigger and more physical receivers in the NFL, but Forbes’ length, athleticism and instincts are excellent. Playmaking cornerbacks are at their best when paired with a great pass rush and that’s exactly the situation Forbes steps into with Washington.

Yahoo Sports(C+)

Forbes has a chance to be a sticky man cover corner in the league, but he weighs only 166 pounds, which is concerning. That’s small for an NFL player, no matter how you cut it. Talented player, just worry about the size.

Sports Illustrated(C)

With Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr. still on the board, the Commanders went with Forbes, who drew concerns from draft experts because he weighs 166 pounds. But Forbes has outstanding instincts and is a savvy playmaker with 14 total interceptions in college. Washington needed help in the secondary, but perhaps it chose the wrong cornerback. —*G.M.*

Sporting News(C)

The Commanders went for cornerback as expected with the first pick, but they reached a bit for the undersized Forbes, a versatile and smart cover man who does not have the size and big-play flair of other corners available, including Christian Gonzalez, Deonte Banks, Joey Porter Jr., Cam Smith and Kelee Ringo. It is a curious pick for a non-shutdown type.

The Game Haus(C)

Forbes has great ball skills, but is very undersized for the position.

Pro Football Focus(Average)

The 26th-ranked player on PFF’s big board, Forbes displayed an elite ability to play the ball in college. He produced an 87.2 PFF grade in 2022 and finished his three-year career at Mississippi State with 14 interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Yahoo Sports(C+)

Forbes has a chance to be a sticky man cover corner in the league, but he weighs only 166 pounds, which is concerning. That’s small for an NFL player, no matter how you cut it. Talented player, just worry about the size.

Pro Football Network(D)

Emmanuel Forbes is a fantastic football player. He’s an incredibly smooth and explosive athlete. Additionally, it’s nice to see the NFL take shots on talented players even if they don’t fit traditional size requirements.

But Forbes’ 166-pound frame isn’t only an issue on paper. Although he isn’t afraid to push a pile or drop his shoulder to make a tackle, he’s simply not powerful enough often enough. He will struggle at times against more physical pass catchers, and he will also struggle as a tackler in the run game.

But what makes this pick even more peculiar is seeing Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr., and Deonte Banks all still on the board.

Bleacher Report(F)

Strengths: Excellent in man coverage, quick trigger to make plays on ball and in the run game, elite top-end speed, uses length well

Weaknesses: Very thin, can be bodied by bigger receivers, tendency to go low to offset weight when tackling

Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes might have been among this year’s top-ranked cornerbacks if not for one detail: He weighed only 166 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine.”A lot of teams just try to knock me for my weight,” the 6’1” Forbes told reporters. “I feel like if they’re not going to pick me for my weight, they’re just making a mistake.”

The consensus All-American did weigh 170 pounds at the Bulldogs’ pro day, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger’s Stefan Krajisnik.

Forbes started all three years in the SEC and was the conference’s highest-graded cornerback last year, according to Pro Football Focus. His six interceptions in man coverage during the 2022 campaign doubled the next-best cornerback, per PFF.

Let’s count the ways the Washington Commanders made a mistake by drafting Forbes with the 16th overall pick.

For all of Forbes’ talent, he’s still a 170-pound (or less) defensive back, and how he’ll hold up at the professional level is in question, especially since he does play with reckless abandon.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and a plethora of higher-rated cornerbacks were still on the board.

Bleacher Report’s Scouting Department graded Forbes as the 103rd overall prospect.

The Commanders had a legitimate first-round quarterback in Kentucky’s Will Levis fall into their laps and passed.

Ron Rivera’s squad did need an upgrade at cornerback. Forbes has a good skill set. But too many other questions come into play for this pick to make any sense, especially with Gonzalez coming off the board one selection later.

ESPN(No grade)

Why they picked him: The Commanders needed a playmaker. Forbes tied for third in the nation with five interceptions and led the country by returning three for touchdowns. Forbes intercepted passes off tipped balls and bad throws. The Commanders liked how well he read the quarterback and his route recognition, allowing him to be effective in their zone match system. The Commanders like their current corners Benjamin St-Juste and Kendall Fuller, but they’re not ballhawks. Getting Forbes, behind a line that can pressure the passer, should lead to more big plays.

Biggest question: How will he hold up? Forbes is a thinner corner, having played last season at 166 pounds. He has bulked up to 180 this offseason. It was not an issue in the SEC, where Forbes played 35 games in three seasons. But it also will be a factor against the run. Washington will require its corners to play the run and, while Forbes is willing, it could take a toll. — John Keim