The Commanders’ draft got off to an interesting start, with Ron and the Martys opting to select Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes with the 16th pick, instead of Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter, Brian Branch and Deonte Banks, who were more highly rated on media analysts’ boards.
My reaction when the pick was announced might have fallen a little short of being fully supportive:
After some reflection, it occurred to me that I have no expertise whatsoever and an actual NFL scouting department clearly had him rated higher than all the players the media analysts liked better. Also Forbes led the SEC in interceptions in 2022, and is the NCAA career leader in pick sixes since 1976. I am sure he will be a great addition to the Commanders’ secondary.
Rivera’s crew gained momentum on Day 2, picking a player I have been pounding the table for, Fighting Illini defensive back Quan Martin, only a round higher than I had expected. Then they brought it home with Arkansas Razorbacks center, Ricky Stromberg, who brings an imposing physical presence and more than a bit of a nasty streak to the Commanders’ interior offensive line. Finally, Stromberg was picked right around where he had been projected to go.
Can the Commanders pick up where they left off on Day 3 and finish strong? The later rounds of the draft are where NFL GMS really earn their money. The players with easily scoutable traits and obvious early starting potential have all been picked over. Now we are down to a few players who have unexpectedly slid, followed by players who are mostly backups, role players and special teamers.
The challenge for the Commanders’ front office is distinguishing those players from the large number of draft eligible prospects who aren’t going to make it in the NFL, whose relative numbers increase as the day progresses. If you know what to look for, or get lucky, there are still plenty of hidden gems with starting potential to be found.
Will Ron Rivera’s team be able to unearth the next Cole Holcomb, Kam Curl or Darrick Forrest? I don’t know, but the following is my guess of the best available players they might look to on the third day of the draft to upgrade the middle and lower parts of the depth chart. I have taken guidance from the NFL.com player rankings, as well as my colleague, the DraftBot, with adjustments for scheme fit and likely draft priorities, taking into account prior selections.
Projecting players to rounds gets extremely difficult after Day 2, so I have just split this into Early Day 3 (Rounds 4 and 5) and Late Day 3 (Rounds 6 and 7). Take that with a grain of salt, because it is nearly impossible to predict when a player will go after the fourth round.
Best Available Players – Early Day 3
Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern – freakishly athletic undersized pass rusher who can line up inside or on the edge. Was generally projected to go in Round 2.
Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford – pocket passer with an NFL arm and accuracy, consensus projection to late third round.
Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati – Productive slot receiver with experience returning kicks
Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State - huge OT who is a force as a run blocker, and manhandles pass rushers
JL Skinner, S, Boise State – big safety, potential S/LB hybrid and buffalo nickel
Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh – popular target for the Commanders in mock drafts
Joey Fisher, OT, Shepherd – will his NFL traits translate from small school to the next level?
Andrew Vorhees, G, USC – was rated on early Day 2 before tearing an ACL at the combine
Chandler Zavala, G, NC State – powerful run blocker with eventual starting potential
Isaiah McGuire, DE, Missouri – developmental prospect with upside as a power rusher
Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma – third down back option, creative runner with limited long speed
Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford – 6’3”, 235 lb WR with 4.5 speed who comps to Jordan Reed
Mike Morris, DE, Michigan – developmental edge rusher with upside, poor Combine tester
Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU – the Commanders are deep at DT, but his interior pass rushing potential may be hard to pass up
KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson – highly athletic developmental edge rusher
Nick Saldiveri, G, Old Dominion – small school sleeper with starting potential
Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh – OT prospect with NFL traits to develop
Hunter Luepke, FB, NDSU – versatile offensive weapon who can line up at TE, H-back, fullback or tailback and as an extra blocker in the backfield
Zach Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion – freakishly athletic developmental TE prospect
Puka Nacua, WR, BYU – tall athletic WR with great ball skills
Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama – smaller LB with good coverage skills but athletic limitations, projects to WILL
Braeden Daniels, G, Utah – athletic lineman, needs to bulk up, Top 30 visit with Commanders
Blake Freeland, OT, BYU – massive OT with great athleticism for his size, needs to add strength
Emil Ekiyor, G, Alabama – three year starter with solid fundamentals, suits zone blocking schemes
Jarrett Patterson, G/C, Notre Dame – tough, reliable lunch pail player
Rejzohn Wright, CB, Oregon State – scheme versatile boundary corner, it’s not a need but he might be too good to pass up at this point in the draft
Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina – another big boundary corner, because you can never have too many
Nick Herbig, LB, Wisconsin – small but productive edge rusher, may need to switch to off-ball linebacker in the NFL
Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati – receiving TE with great jump ball ability, projects to F tight end or H-back
Colby Wooden, DE, Auburn – another developmental DE who can line up inside or on the edge
Davis Allen, TE, Clemson – unspectacular athlete with spectacular ball skills
Chase Brown, RB, Illinois – early down between the tackles rusher, Top 30 visit with Commanders
Late Day 3 Big Board
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA – athletic dual threat QB who showed continual growth as a passer in Chip Kelly’s system
Andre Iosivas, WR, Princeton – super athletic, big receiver
Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green – 300 lb DT with the athleticism to rush from the edge or interior
Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska – speedy developmental wideout prospect, big play threat on kick and punt returns
McClendon Curtis, Tennessee-Chattanooga – big, powerful small school sleeper prospect
Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland – enticing athletic traits but needs to put it all together
Darrell Luter Jr, CB, South Alabama – small school sleeper CB prospect with great size/speed combination for the NFL, might be better in press man than zone
Atonio Mafi, G, UCLA – huge, powerful guard, athletic limitations may not suit Commanders’ blocking scheme, but they were interested enough for a Top 30 visit
Jose Ramirez, EDGE, Eastern Michigan – highly productive edge rusher, needs to get better against the run
Nick Broeker, G, Mississippi – good run blocker with above average play strength and below average athleticism
Derius Davis, WR, TCU – tiny slot receiver, one of the best two-way return specialists in college football
Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah – developmental prospect who projects as coverage LB in the NFL, core special teamer, sleeper prospect
Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn – developmental coverage LB prospect with plus athletic traits
Matt Landers, WR, Arkansas – 6’4” developmental WR prospect with elite athletic traits
Ivan Pace, LB, Cincinnati – undersized, overachieving LB with great instincts, excels in pass coverage
Dee Winters, LB, TCU – small, fast LB who projects to a pursuit WILL role in the NFL
Jon Gaines II, G, UCLA – project with high football IQ and elite athletic traits to develop as a move blocker
Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia – excellent receiver, projects as a third down back
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State – big WR with good speed and tools to develop
Starling Thomas, CB, UAB – slot corner project with elite speed and short area quickness
Keaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina – undersized, explosive big play threat as third down back and kick returner
Clayton Tune, QB, Houston – backup QB option
Bryce Ford-Wheaton – big athletic WR, jump ball specialist
Christian Braswell, CB, Rutgers – slot CB, fit for zone coverage schemes
Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU – big boundary CB who fits zone schemes
Aubrey Miller, LB, Jackson State – projects as a WILL linebacker
Kazmeir Allen, WR, UCLA – small speedy receiver, big play threat on kick returns
Habakuk Boldonado, EDGE, Pittsburgh –developmental DE with NFL size and traits
Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F Austin State – small slot receiver who dominated the FCS on offense and punt returns
Jake Hener, QB, Fresno State – backup QB option, like Taylor Heinicke with better decision making
Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida – solid backup MLB, good in zone coverage, limited athleticism
Sidy Sow, G, Eastern Michigan – huge developmental project with elite athleticism for his size
Quinton Barrow, OT, Grand Valley – small school sleeper prospect with NFL size, length
Brayden Willis, TE, Oklahoma – team leader, projects as H-back in the NFL
Isaiah Bolden, CB, Jackson State – long outside corner prospect, excels on kick and punt returns
Jack “Jackhammer” Colletto, FB/LB/QB – fullback with added value as a wildcat QB and in special teams coverage units