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2023 NFL Draft Grades: Mel Kiper Jr gives the Washington Commanders their highest score

Draft grades!

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NFL: NFL Draft Howard Smith-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's grades were all over the place throughout the draft, starting with their selection of Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes over Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez. Most people like the player, but had him rated later in the first, while Gonzalez was Top 10 on some boards. That didn’t match Washington’s board, they had him as the second-best CB in the draft.

Day 2 was mixed again because of where the players were picked, and other needs that could have been addressed by higher-rated players. Washington shocked a lot of people by double-dipping into the secondary to draft Illinois DB Jartavius “Quan” Martin with the 47th overall pick. Quan was considered a 3rd rounder by many people, and fit the pattern of Washington drafting players higher than their consensus rankings. The Commanders finally addressed the offensive line in the 3rd round with Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg, who has a shot at being the starter this season.

Day 3 is usually where Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew raise their overall draft grades, and this year seems to fit that pattern again. They started the day by drafting Utah G/T Braeden Daniels, then they immediately started working the phones to move back up to take Clemson EDGE KJ Henry. Washington released J.D. McKissic, but didn’t draft his replacement. Instead they went for some Brian Robinson insurance with Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr in the 6th round. Washington didn’t help their overall grade with their last pick, but did find a Shaka Toney depth replacement with Louisville’s Andre Jones.

The highest grade Washington received was a B- and they got two Ds for their 2023 draft class.

Washington Commanders 2023 Draft Picks

1st Round: #16 - Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

2nd Round: #47 - Jartavius Martin, DB, Illinois

3rd Round: #97 (compensatory pick) - Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas

4th Round: #118 - Braeden Daniels, G/T, Utah

5th Round #137 - KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson

6th Round: #193 - Chris Rodriguez Jr, RB, Kentucky

7th Round: #233 - Andre Jones, EDGE, Louisiana


What grade does Washington’s 2023 draft get?

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7086 votes total Vote Now

Hogs Haven

E$PN+(Kiper) (B)

So the Commanders really are going to go into the season with Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett as their quarterbacks, huh? They passed on Will Levis and Hendon Hooker. I would have done differently, but at least I liked who they added in Round 1. I’ve been calling cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (16) this draft’s “Splendid Splinter” because of his frame. He’s a very thin 6-foot-1, 166 pounds. All he does is make plays, though. He had six pick-sixes and 14 total interceptions in his college career. He should play early and often in Washington.

The Commanders went back to the secondary in Round 2, picking my fourth-ranked safety Jartavius Martin (47), who played a lot as a nickel. They ranked 26th in takeaways last season (18), so they went all-in on needs. They also added two interior linemen with their next two picks. I thought they reached a round for Ricky Stromberg (97), but the four-year starter is sound technically. Braeden Daniels (118) is light on his feet but undersized; he’s my seventh-ranked guard.

The quarterback question likely will linger into 2024, and I’m not sure Washington hit all of its needs outside of the secondary with this class. (B)

Day 1 grade: B

Day 2 grade: B

Day 3 grade: A-

Analysis: If the ball finds Forbes in the NFL like it did in college, his lean frame won’t be a concern. They eschewed other needs to bolster the secondary again with nickel back/safety Martin and then grabbed the solid Stromberg a bit earlier than I expected him to go, as centers were quickly coming off the board.

Daniels will excel if he plays guard in the NFL. Henry’s combination of strength and agility on the edge made him a good find in the fifth round, and Jones has potential on the outside. The Commanders chose not to select a tight end but Rodriguez does meet their need for a thumper in the backfield.

Pro Football Focus (B)

Day 1: The 26th-ranked player on PFF’s big board, Forbes was elite when it came to playing 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.

Day 2: Martin comes off the board 47th overall to Washington after slotting in at 94th on the PFF big board. He can fill a versatile role in the secondary for the Commanders, who clearly placed an emphasis on improving that group in this draft. He’s played everywhere from outside corner to slot corner to safety in his five-year career at Illinois.

Stromberg could wind up as a starter anywhere on the interior in the NFL, but this is one of the biggest reaches of the day. He ranks 228th on the PFF big board. He did grade well in college, though, producing an 83.4 PFF run-blocking grade and a 77.1 PFF pass-blocking grade.

Day 3: Daniels started at left guard in 2019, right tackle in 2021 and left tackle in 2022. He’ll likely fit in best on the interior in the NFL, but he offers athleticism and versatile depth for a Washington offensive line that finished last season as the 24th-ranked unit in PFF pass-blocking grade.

After news came out right before the draft that the Commanders are not planning on exercising the fifth-year option for 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, they trade up to add K.J Henry off the edge. This doesn’t necessarily mean a move is imminent — we’re now in the fifth round, after all — but is notable nonetheless. Henry earned an 84.0 pass-rush grade with a 15.9% pass-rush win rate in 2022 but is a bit older and didn’t test very well.

The Commanders add another bigger, power back to their backfield who can contribute as an early down grinder in the run game. Rodriguez took a step back from a production standpoint in 2022 behind a worse offensive line, but he still earned an elite 90.7 PFF rushing grade behind 3.8 yards after contact per run and 64 missed tackles forced.

The Commanders add another bigger power back who can contribute as an early-down grinder in the run game. Rodriguez took a step back from a production standpoint in 2022 behind a worse offensive line, but he still earned an elite 90.7 rushing grade, averaging 3.8 yards after contact per attempt and forcing 64 missed tackles.

Jones is a long edge rusher (6-foot-5 with 34-inch arms) who has delivered 70.0-plus PFF pass-rush grades and at least 30 pressures in each of the past two seasons at Louisiana. He’s experienced with nearly 2,500 defensive snaps across six college seasons.

Touchdown Wire (B)

Washington is already getting poleaxed for taking Emmanuel Forbes with Christian Gonzalez still on the board, but if your preference is for a rangier, aggressive cornerback with insane production (14 interceptions and an FBS-record six pick-sixes in his collegiate career), Forbes hits the mark, especially if he’s able to add to his 166-pound frame. There should be fewer arguments about the addition of Illinois’ Jartavius Martin; he’s a corner-to-safety convert who can succeed all over your secondary. Ricky Stromberg and Braeden Daniels add to a line in need, and if there’s a sleeper here, it might be Andre Jones Jr., who racked up 20 sacks and 109 total pressures over for seasons as a starter for the Ragin’ Cajuns. And watch out for KJ Henry, who had five sacks and 53 total pressures last season for Clemson.

The Commanders have made their statement at quarterback — they are clearly all-in on Sam Howell, and I don’t disagree with that assessment.

Walter Football

Goals Entering the 2023 NFL Draft: The Redskins seem set on giving Slingin’ Sammy Howell a chance to quarterback the team next year. They’ll need to give him better protection, but the greater priority is finally addressing the secondary and linebacking corps, which have been huge areas of need for many years.

2023 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Redskins have dealt with major problems in their secondary for quite some time, so they wanted to resolve those issues because they didn’t stand a chance against the Eagles and their dual dynamic receivers. Washington consequently spent its first two picks on defensive backs. Emmanuel Forbes is a ballhawking cornerback, while Quan Martin is a versatile player capable of starting at safety or nickel corner. Both were solid selections.

Some energy was spent on upgrading the offensive line after that, as the next two selections were used on blockers. Ricky Stromberg was a reach in the third round, but the Redskins got back on track with Braeden Daniels in the fourth. Daniels will likely have to move to guard in the NFL, so he can fill a need in the interior of the offensive line.

Washington had a solid draft overall, as all but two of its picks scored in the B+ to B- range. There were no grades above B+, but the Redskins did well outside of the Stromberg pick, filling needs with quality prospects.

NFL Spin Zone (B)

The Washington Commanders brought us all a bit of shocking news leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft that they were not going to pick up the fifth-year option on former second-overall pick Chase Young. Of course, there are reasons for that, and they are understandable, but based on who Chase Young was coming out in that 2020 NFL Draft, it’s hard to believe.

With that in mind, the Commanders still have one of the best and most talented defensive fronts in the entire NFL. They can get pressure on the QB, but they know they need players who can take advantage of all that pressure. That’s why they brought in the guy with arguably the best ball skills in this class in Emmanuel Forbes out of Mississippi State.

Having Forbes in the fold is awesome for the Commanders, but I love how they supported that pick by taking the versatile Jartavius Martin out of Illinois with their very next pick. Martin plays all over the defensive backfield as a safety, slot, or outside corner if need be. I think he will be a major factor as a rookie and a fan favorite rather quickly.

The Commanders then took to upgrading the offensive line with Ricky Stromburg and Braden Daniels, two picks I really liked for them to fortify their depth on the interior and giving some starting potential with both guys.

KJ Henry on Day 3 was a solid value for the Commanders as well.

Overall, the Commanders passed on a chance to take Will Levis or Hendon Hooker, which is fine. They did a lot early on to upgrade the secondary and I think those are going to be immediate difference makers as they try to keep pace in the wildly competitive NFC East.

Washington Post (B-)

The Commanders certainly looked to address their needs at cornerback and along the offensive line, using their first four choices on CBs Emmanuel Forbes Jr. and Jartavius Martin and then C Ricky Stromberg and G Braeden Daniels. Taking Forbes over fellow CB Christian Gonzalez at No. 16 was debatable. The Commanders passed up early opportunities to address their QB situation. Things had better work out with Sam Howell.

Pro Football Network (B-)

The Commanders didn’t necessarily hit any home runs with their draft, but they consistently hit balls into the gap to pick up two bags at a time. Pairing Jartavius Martin with Emmanuel Forbes was a solid double-up in the secondary, and they did everything they could on Day 3 to add depth on the edge.

Fox Sports(B-)

The Commanders took some chances, starting with a 166-pound CB in Round 1 (Emmanuel Forbes). If he holds up, they definitely boosted their secondary with him and second-round S Quan Martin. They also got some developmental help on the offensive line with C Ricky Stromberg (third) and G Braeden Daniels (fourth). Every pick felt just a little bit over-drafted, though. And not adding a tight end seems like an oversight.

Associated Press(C+)

Took Emmanuel Forbes (16) early in an excellent CB draft class. Further bolstered secondary with S Jartavius Martin in second round. Day 3 RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. has upside.

Draft Kings Nation (C+)

The Commanders still have a huge question mark at the quarterback position, despite the confidence the team may exude about second-year signal-caller Sam Howell. Forbes’ ball skills are good, but his play style fits as a nickel corner and at 166 pounds there are serious question marks around his ability to last long-term. Stromberg is another OL whose positional limitation makes him a curious pick for Washington.

Sports Illustrated (C)

The Commanders prioritized the secondary, but they made a few head-scratching moves, starting with Forbes, whose 166-pound frame might give him fits at the next level. Forbes has length and he displayed a knack for making plays in college, but his lack of strength might not allow him to play as free in the NFL. Martin struggled with tackling and had subpar instincts on the field at Illinois. Washington gets a passing grade for addressing needs in the secondary, but perhaps it bet on the wrong players.

USA Today(C)

Kind of a quiet draft as owner Dan Snyder quietly heads for a $6 billion door. Ball-hawking CB Emmanuel Forbes (Round 1) and slot CB Jartavius Martin are probably immediate starters for a pass defense that ranked fourth last year. Of note, per reports, the team opted not to pick up the fifth-year option of 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, so fifth-rounder KJ Henry might need to be ready next year.

NBC Sports (C)

Emmanuel Forbes has freakish speed and put great play on film at Mississippi State, but taking him before Christian Gonzalez was more than surprising. Forbes is also 30 pounds lighter than Gonzalez, possibly pigeonholing him into a slot role at the next level. Forbes aside, I did like the addition of KJ Henry. A former five-star recruit, Henry turned things up a notch in his final season with a strong pass-rush grade from PFF on the back of 53 pressures. He’s a project, but not a bad bet in the fifth round.

The Ringer(C)

The Commanders are in a weird spot right now, in transition from one owner to the next and without a clear-cut starter at quarterback. So it’s probably no surprise that the team’s draft felt a little bit rudderless, too: In the first round, Washington took a playmaking corner in Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes, who brings takeaway-creating instincts but an outlier lack of bulk (he’s just 166 pounds). I’m a fan of second-rounder Jartavius “Quan” Martin, who has the versatility to play both the safety and nickelback spots. And third-round center Ricky Stromberg could develop into a future starter. But overall, this is a pretty underwhelming haul for a team stuck in organizational limbo.

The Score (C)

Washington had major needs in the secondary and on the interior offensive line heading into the draft. While the value of the selections made could certainly be critiqued, the focus was clear. Forbes is an instinctive player who, despite some concerns about his size, brings some much-needed playmaking ability to the secondary. Martin should join him as a starter before long, and both Stromberg and Daniels will have an opportunity to see the field early in their rookie seasons. Overall, the Commanders took care of the spots that needed to be addressed. There’s a lot to like.

New York Post (C)

A 166-pound cornerback is a durability risk, even if Forbes is a rare ball hawk with six career pick-sixes. Especially when drafted over consensus highly regarded CB Christian Gonzalez. One Big Ten coach said Martin could be “the steal of the draft.” Stromberg is a potential starter.

Establish the Run (C-)

I expected Forbes to sneak into the back end of round one but not to go as early as Ron Rivera’s team took him; at 166 pounds, Forbes is going to have a really hard time when matched on NFL receivers with any kind of size. Martin shined at the Star position in Illinois’ defense, made a ton of plays as a 36-game starter, then tested out of this world at the Combine. He could be a starter at slot corner or free safety. The Commanders (regrettably) sent their original third-round pick to the Colts in the Carson Wentz deal but used their compensatory third on Razorbacks tough guy Stromberg. In Stromberg and Daniels, Washington got two potential interior line starters in the middle rounds of this draft. Rivera’s club was smitten enough with Henry to trade up for him, even after Henry never exceeded four sacks in an individual season as a five-year college player, then tested poorly before the draft. They’re really going to go forward with Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell at quarterback in Rivera’s probable do-or-die season.

Sporting News (D)

The Commanders did OK filling their defensive needs, but notably absent was linebacker, tight end and developmental quarterback. They also reached for Forbes and Martin early and didn’t good value in either Stromberg or Daniels. They remain the by-far worst team in the otherwise loaded NFC East.

Fantasy Pros (D)

Emmanuel Forbes was my 7th-ranked cornerback, and the Commanders took him with Christian Gonzalez still on the board. The 166-pound DB was severely over-drafted by Washington. Woof. And to follow up Round 1 with another defensive back in Round 2 is just not what anybody would like to see. Jartavius Martin is a clear slot cornerback with sure-tackling ability but taking him inside the top 50 was another big reach by Washington.

The Commanders ended Day 2 with center Ricky Stromberg. But again, not necessarily a dire need with multiple interior offensive linemen added during the free agency period.

My favorite pick Washington made was at the start of Round 4, with tackle Braeden Daniels. Daniels is an uber-athletic tackle from Utah, that tested off the charts at the NFL Combine. He hit the 81st percentile or higher in all drills. His size at 294 pounds suggests he might be better off blocking inside, but his movement ability will make him a great depth piece. Per Sports Info Solutions, no tackle generated a higher positive run percentage when run behind than Daniels (60%).

Edge rusher K.J. Henry played alongside the freaky Myles Murphy but made a name for himself along Clemson’s defensive line ranking 5th in QB hits and 14th in hurries in 2022. It’s expected that the 24-year-old was productive with so much more experience, but numbers suggest he can get to the QB. He won’t be scaring offensive coordinators anytime soon, but he has the tools and pedigree to provide solid pass-rush depth.

The Commanders addressed their needs during the draft, but I couldn’t disagree more with the players they came away with. As a result, they earn my lowest draft grade among all 32 teams.