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Commanders Reacts Survey: How is everyone feeling about the decision to draft CB Emmanuel Forbes in the first round?

Poll question!!

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama
Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) breaks up a pass intended for Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in regular email surveys.

With the 16th pick in the draft...

Washington selected Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes with the 16th overall pick in the draft on Thursday evening.

The ballhawk

The first word you hear when Forbes’ name is mentioned is “ballhawk”. He had 6 pick-sixes in his 3-year college career, and he collected 14 career interceptions. Read what Ron Rivera had to say about him.

[Forbes is] a difference maker. He is a game changer. I think people throw around the term ‘ballhawk’ pretty loosely. This guy really is that — 14 career picks. He had six last year.

He’s got six touchdowns, six picks-sixes in his career.

[He] does a really good job playing the ball. He’s a former receiver [with] great ball skills. The guy is an impact player.

He’s one of my favorite guys in this draft. From studying all these guys, he really was a guy that it was really fun to watch ‘cuz the guy gets the ball.

[Moreover], he did it in the SEC which is just...a notch below the NFL. He played against some big time receivers, big time quarterbacks. So this is a guy that fits the bill for us and we think he’s gonna come in and help us and help elevate our defense.

He has a really good feel for routes and route combinations. He has great awareness in coverage. He can see where everybody is and then he can track the ball really well down the field, and that’s a difficult thing to do. When you’re running with your back to the ball, you gotta turn around and locate it. He does a great job of doing that, which probably comes from him being on the offensive side of the ball when he was younger.

[Forbes] has a really good feel as a corner, and he has got really good length for press coverage as well.

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Forbes spoke about the skills and experience that give him that ‘ballhawking’ ability, saying, “It just came from always having the ability. It came from high school being a receiver, so I had a knack for the ball, honestly, and it just translated over to the DB position.”

The early responses to the selection on Twitter were generally positive

Analysts expected Forbes to get 1st round attention from the NFL

The selection of Forbes was no surprise to NFL analyst Tom Peliserro, who listed Forbes as one of the 6 players he thought could be a surprise first-round selection. Here’s what Pelissero wrote earlier this week:

A first-team All-SEC selection and second-team AP All-American as a true junior in 2022, Forbes has first-round ability. The question is his size. In Indy, the Mississippi State product checked in at 6-0 3/4 and 166 pounds, the lightest cornerback at this year’s event and lightest player standing at least 6 feet tall at any position to attend the combine since at least 2003. But Forbes ran fast (4.35 40-yard dash), has excellent length (79-inch wingspan), started 34 college games in three years and put up big-time ball production (14 career interceptions, including an NCAA-record six pick-sixes) for the Bulldogs. One NFL executive predicted Forbes could go as high as the middle of Round 1.

166 pounds?!

Ron Rivera talked about Forbes’ length as a corner, and about concerns over the young corner’s light weight.

We talk about his size, but we haven’t talked about his length. He’s tall and he’s long. He gets his hands on guys in press. He disrupts routes, so he’s the total package. He really is. He can do everything that a corner should be able to do.

He’s a young man who — we gotta understand — he’s still growing. Again, he played in the SEC and did what he did.

Is there a concern? No, I don’t have a concern just from watching his tape and watching who he played against.”

GM Martin Mayhew echoed the head coaches confidence about Forbes’ ability to play at a high level against NFL competition.

When you watch his tape you don’t know that he’s that light. He doesn’t look like that on tape. He doesn’t play like that. He’s been durable. He hasn’t missed a game because of an injury in three years. Three year starter. So, he’s been durable in the SEC and he’s played a lot of football. So, that’s something that we don’t really concern ourselves with.

Emmanuel Forbes agrees with Washington’s decision-makers that his small frame is not an issue. He had this to say to the media on Thursday night:

Weight is going to come over time. I’m not going to stress about it, they didn’t have a problem with it, that’s why they drafted me, so I’m just going to enjoy it and just keep on being myself and trying to gain weight but be comfortable. it never affected my game, so it really didn’t play a factor.

In this interview with Andrew Siciliano about two weeks ago, Forbes said that he had been bulking up since the Combine and that he was well over 170 pounds:

Who the Commanders passed on and (maybe) why

Interestingly, the team took Forbes ahead of some other more high-profile corners like Christian Gonzalez (drafted by the Patrots with the next pick, #17), Baltimore native Deonte Banks (picked by the Giants at #24) and Joey Porter Jr., who remained undrafted at the end of the first round.

There are probably a few reasons for that. One is the desire from the coaches for the defense to get more takeaways, so drafting a ballhawk makes sense. But two other factors may have been scheme fit and character.

Scheme fit

Here’s what head coach Ron Rivera had to say about the mesh between what Forbes was asked to do in college and what he’ll be asked to do as part of Washington’s defense:

A lot of stuff that they do [at Mississippi State] very similar to us because they played man, they played zone. A good portion of his takeaways came from zone as well, so he’s more than capable.

They [also] play a lot of the techniques and styles we do. It’s just a matter of understanding the terminology more than anything else, so we think it should translate. We feel pretty good about the translation. I know the defensive staff feels very good about his ability.


Ron Rivera can’t talk about a player without praising his character, and Emmanuel Forbes is no exception. Following the end of the first round, the head coach and GM praised Forbes as a person just as much as he praised him as a football player.

Martin Mayhew:

[During his top-30 visit] he was exceptional. [It was a] great visit. I sat down and talked to him; he came to my office and we visited for about 30 minutes and [I found him to be a] really confident young man [who] carried himself very well. I think he’s gonna fit in great with our locker room and the rest of our players.

Ron Rivera:

He’s had some charisma, he did. He came in and he kind of lights it up when he is around people. As Martin said there’s a lot of things about him to like. I think he’s got the chip on his shoulder about his weight. It doesn’t seem to affect how he plays obviously. So he’s just confident about that. And that was really good to see.

Forbes seemed to wrap it all up with a concise summary of what it will be like joining the Commanders defense:

They play real hard, real fast, real physical, honestly. And that’s something that I’m really good at doing. Coming from Mississippi State, you have to play fast, hard, and physical. I should just fit in right away.

The Survey Question

Now that you’re fairly well versed on who Emmanuel Forbes is, and why Rivera and Mayhew decided to draft him, we’d like to know your opinion about the 16th overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Comments & Results

Please answer the survey question below, but also feel free to expand on your answer in the comments below. The results will hopefully be posted very quickly — maybe even before the second round starts on Friday evening. Your comments will be very useful as I rely on them when posting the results of the survey.