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Washington Commanders 2023 Mock Draft: The Offensive Line is Bolstered Early

The big bodies on the offensive line will have more company

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft arrives in a little over three weeks and teams are finalizing their meetings with college prospects, including the Washington Commanders. The front office in Ashburn is likely putting the finishing touches on their draft board and the focus is likely to be the offensive line, cornerbacks, and overall depth, especially at the linebacker/safety hybrid position.

Hello, I’m the new kid in town and you have probably seen me on social media or elsewhere. The offseason is my specialty and college prospects will be a primary focus. Mock drafts are a given, including today. This particular mock will feature no trades, but it is understood that the Commanders are always looking for more draft picks and additional depth.

Offensive linemen are expected to receive plenty of attention in the first three rounds of the draft and Washington has multiple needs at tackle, guard, and center. Free agent additions at guard and tackle have addressed some concerns, but more is needed and the draft provides more opportunities.

The cornerbacks are expected to be reinforced with another prospect, probably with a higher pick on day one or day two. A linebacker/strong safety for depth purposes is certainly a focus as well.

Round One, Pick #16

Darnell Wright, Tennessee

Offensive Tackle – 6’5”, 330 lbs

Darnell Wright has been steadily rising up draft boards for several months now and the Commanders have held meetings with him (formal and informal) at least five times. He is a right tackle and could start immediately. His presence would allow new offensive lineman Andrew Wylie to move to right guard and third-year linemen Sam Cosmi to shift over to left guard.

Via Wright’s profile:

A consensus five-star recruit, Darnell Wright delivered a highly productive career at Tennessee. He became a starter as a freshman at right tackle in 2019 and started every game there in 2020 before moving to left tackle in 2021 and then finishing his career back at right tackle in 2022. His experience against top competition, ability to play both sides, and growth in every season is a notable part of his evaluation.

Tape/games to watch:

Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Alabama

Round Two, Pick #47

Steve Avila, TCU

Offensive Guard/Center – 6’4”, 332 lbs

At the Senior Bowl, Steve Avila and the Commanders connected many times with various informal meetings and the adoration for one another was very mutual. Avila is a versatile lineman, a trait that the Commanders value in many of their players. Also, Avila could possibly be drafted to play the center position. As a leader for the national runner-up Horned Frogs, Avila was never shy about engaging defensive linemen or linebackers.

Via Avila’s draft profile:

As a run blocker, Avila has an aggressive temperament and immediately seeks defensive linemen to engage with. Once engaged, Avila does a good job of using his mass to lean on defensive linemen and making it difficult for them to shed him. Avila’s natural strength is evident in how he is able to displace defensive linemen off the ball and create running lanes for the ball carrier.

In pass protection, Avila shows best when dealing with power rushers. When Avila is facing a power rusher, he does a good job of anchoring and stopping defenders from penetrating into the backfield and getting pressure on the quarterback. Avila’s strength combined with his mass allows him to win most physical matchups that require strength.

Tape/games to watch:

Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State

Round Three, Pick #97 (Compensatory)

Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (FL)

Cornerback – 6’0”, 198 lbs

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Defensive back Tyrique Stevenson of Miami‐Fl participates in a drill during the NFL Combine during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Tyrique Stevenson is a very physical cornerback and he is expected to play within the perimeter his first year or two in the league. After learning the nuances of the pro game, he is likely to be placed on the boundary where his talents can be used extensively in press man or various zone schemes.

Via Stevenson’s profile:

Big cornerback with the size and play strength to help match up with bigger receivers in the league. Stevenson is patient but physical in press-man and has good recovery speed when he falls behind. He struggles as a pattern matcher in off-man and had issues with busts in zone, so he might be scheme-dependent. Stevenson is talented when attacking the catch point and has the ball skills to make plays on 50/50 throws. He needs to become more consistent in run support but has the physical attributes to become a starter in a press-man scheme.

Tape/games to watch:

Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia

Round Four, Pick #118

Trey Palmer, Nebraska

Wide Receiver – 6’0”, 192 lbs

Did you really think that this mock draft would forget about new associate head coach and offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy? The Commanders lost wide receiver Cam Sims in free agency, but here is a solid play-making wide receiver for the new coach. Trey Palmer has plenty of upside and would be a good fit for the Burgundy and Gold. Oh, and he is a solid kick/punt returner with 4.3 speed.

Via Palmer’s draft profile:

Few wide receivers this season have done more with their opportunity than Palmer. Palmer exploded onto the scene with a highly-productive season, serving as the big-play catalyst for the Cornhuskers offense. He’s got good initial quickness and effective vertical speed in the passing game, offering smooth acceleration to steadily reach his top speed. He’s not the biggest nor the strongest and he’s not the MOST explosive, but he’s a plus athlete to play in any alignment for Nebraska. His ball-tracking skills are among his best traits and he wins routinely deep over the middle of the field in these instances. He makes good adjustments to the football. Playing him in off coverage is asking for trouble, as he sets up his breaks well and he is effective to expose when teams try to match him with safeties in these deep portions of the field.

Tape/games to watch:

Purdue, Iowa, Indiana

Round Five, Pick #150

Marte Mapu, Sacramento State

Linebacker/Strong Safety – 6’3”, 210 lbs

How about a backup to Kamren Curl and a depth option at linebacker? Marte Mapu easily fills that need.

Via Mapu’s draft profile:

Long, rangy, and physical are all the key adjectives to describe Mapu’s game. Serving a plethora of roles for the Sacramento State Hornets, Mapu’s physical traits were used to their fullest extent, lining up primarily as a nickel safety but also consistently making appearances as a stack backer, force player, and even as a single high safety. His athleticism quickly jumps out on film, pairing elite closing speed with innate lower-body fluidity that allows him to be extremely effective in both the pass and run game.

Tape/games to watch:

Northern Iowa, Colorado State, Montana

Round Six, Pick #192

Eric Gray, Oklahoma

Running Back – 5’9”, 206 lbs

The Commanders have met with Eric Gray on multiple occasions. Here is another chess piece for Coach Bieniemy.

Via Gray’s draft profile:

Decisive, creative runner with the size and skill set for three-down consideration on the pro level. Gray won’t be a home run hitter in the open field, but his short-area burst and oily hips open access to the entire field, with cuts coming suddenly and at unpredictable angles. He’s a less powerful finisher than his size might indicate and needs to keep from spilling runs wide unnecessarily. He is a reliable threat out of the backfield with soft hands and a willingness to block. Gray has the potential to find work quickly as a three-down backup with future starter potential.

Tape/games to watch:

Kansas, West Virginia, Nebraska

Round Six, Pick #215 (Compensatory)

Tyson Bagent, Shepherd

Quarterback – 6’3”, 213 lbs

The Commanders are very likely to draft a developmental quarterback.

Via Bagent’s draft profile:

Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent projects as a developmental quarterback at the pro level. He’s been superbly productive for the Rams program across his collegiate career, posting monster numbers and giving opposing defenses fits with his ability to get outside the pocket and attack all levels of the field. Bagent is going to be a project for an NFL franchise, but he should be a fun one with his natural ability as a passer.

Tape/games to watch:

None are available, but here is a video to watch and enjoy.

Round Seven, Pick #233

Aubrey Miller Jr., Jackson State

Linebacker – 6’2”, 225 lbs

Drafting a special teams standout is always a good option in the late rounds. Aubrey Miller Jr. can also provide superb depth at a position of need.

Via Miller’s draft profile:

Miller brings a lot to the table as a prospect. A fluid and smooth athlete who plays behind his pads, Miller has no issue punishing opposing ball carriers when he has the chance. In the box, he’s able to make dynamic tackles and always works to find an angle to get involved in stopping the run. He plays low and downhill as a blitzer and poses lots of issues for offenses as a sideline-to-sideline runner.

Despite being used a lot in pressures, I felt that Miller was serviceable as a coverage linebacker, primarily in the hook zone area of the field, but also has the speed to stick with backs on wheels and delayed routes.

Tape/games to watch:

Campbell, Grambling, Southern University

I look forward to giving everyone more information on draft prospects in the next few weeks. See you as we go along.