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76% of Commanders fans give the thumbs up to Washington’s first round draft pick, CB Emmanuel Forbes

Survey results!!

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“A takeaway machine”

After the first round was complete, Ron Rivera was unambiguous about why the Commanders made Emmanuel Forbes their 1st round pick in 2023:

The takeaways, first and foremost; that’s one of the things that really stood out for us. If we lacked anything as a defense last year — and we didn’t lack a lot — it was the takeaways. That was the one thing we needed to step up on, and, again, this is a young man that is a takeaway machine.

Indeed, Emmanuel Forbes proved himself to be just that playing at the highest level of college football.

Forbes holds a number of school, SEC conference, and FBS records, including the one for defensive touchdowns. “Turnover machine”, indeed.


He also managed to play 35 games in 3 seasons at Mississippi State. The significance of that number is that Forbes, despite his light frame, avoided injury, but not because he avoided contact. The ballhawking corner’s highlights show off his 14 career interceptions with 6 returned for touchdowns, but if you keep the video playing long enough, you’ll see that Forbes is a good tackler and active as part of the run defense. In fact, he compiled 7 tackles for loss at Mississippi State — as a boundary corner!

A run on offensive tackles

The Commanders had obvious needs prior to the start of the draft on Thursday night, with the two most obvious being the offensive line and cornerback. When the top 4 offensive tackles came off the board in the first 14 picks, it was clear to everyone that the Commanders would select a defensive back.

The surprise pick

The guy that most fans expected them to select, however, was Christian Gonzalez, whom many had targeted in mock drafts. Generally speaking, Gonzalez was rated higher that Forbes by most analysts, media members and fans, but not, obviously, by the Commanders brass, who prioritized Forbes’ disruptive playmaking, length, and speed, and who were unconcerned about his surprisingly low weight (he tipped the scales at 166 pounds at the Combine).

166 pounds??

It is his frame that raises doubts about a player who would otherwise have been considered at top-10 prospect in the draft. As evidence, one needs only to read through the summary of ‘instant’ draft grades published overnight, where each one reads much like the next.

The Athletic:

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:

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.

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.

Poll results

Based on the comments posted on the blog, Hogs Haven members shared most of these concerns; many were puzzled or angry that the team passed on Gonzales in favor of the slightly built cornerback from Mississippi State.

In the “grade the pick” post that went up immediately after the pick was made, Hogs Haven readers voted this way:

A - 24%

B - 41%

C - 19%

D/F - 16%

As so often seems to happen, however, with a little time (in this case, just about 3 hours later), as fans have time to digest why the team made the pick and come to grips with the fact that the real draft was not identical to everyone’s favorite mock draft, those same readers appeared to upgrade their perception of the selection.

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The A & B picks increased from 65% in the instant reaction poll to 76% in the Reacts survey, while the D & F grades fell by half, from 16% to 8%.

What’s next for Forbes?

I think Commanders fans will go through much the same process they did last year when expectations were that Ron Rivera, if he drafted a receiver, would target Chris Olave or Drake London. Instead, the team used the 16th overall pick to draft a speedy but undersized receiver out of Penn State that many fans had never heard of or paid attention to.

Eventually, the fan base largely fell in love with Dotson. He was impressive when he spoke to the media, he seemed to fit right in at training camp, and he set records when he caught 3 touchdown passes in his first two games, and a fourth in Week 4. By the time he caught 3 more TD passes across the 3 December games, he was already a fan favorite. It was a significant journey for fans to go from “Oh no!” on draft night to “Oh yeah!” when Dotson started catching touchdowns.

I think Forbes has a similar challenge and opportunity ahead of him. He has already spoken to the media at team headquarters in Ashburn, and he comes across as a genuine and likeable young man.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait about 4 months to see him on the field wearing #13 in an NFL regular season game, but hopefully, when we do, it won’t be long before the cries of “Oh no!” quickly change to “Oh hell yeah!” as the ballhawking corner does what he was brought here to do.

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