With the 2023 NFL Draft approaching in a few weeks, much has been made about teams’ possible draft targets. Mock drafts run wild, and the “talking heads” prognosticate which player will land with which team, and why. Many of the talking heads and draft services combine team needs with value picks at the position, however there are still many fans who subscribe to this notion of best available player regardless of need.
The idea of drafting pure BPA in round one has been a notion that’s been dispelled many times in Washington. Besides the 2020 NFL Draft where Ron Rivera took Chase Young, who many considered to be the best overall player in that draft (EDGE was however a need for the team), Washington has recently combined need with value at their respective position in the first two rounds of the draft; and moreso what player best fits with what the team wants to do schematically.
The 2023 NFL Draft will certainly put this to the test for the Commanders with a pick right smack in the middle of round one and still many holes to fill.
With no true consensus best overall player in this draft, many teams will be looking to pair draft value with team needs. It’s widely rumored that the Panthers (who traded with the Bears to acquire the number one overall pick), are deciding between three of the top four quarterbacks available. The Texans and Colts, both who need quarterbacks as well, will likely picks up the scraps after the Panthers select their signal caller - bypassing talent like Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, Alabama EDGE Will Anderson, Texas running back Bijan Robinson and Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson, for their chance to land a future franchise QB.
In a league where having a franchise quarterback trumps all, teams will go to extremes to secure what they believe will be “that guy” under center. However, there are teams who are not in the quarterback market for various reasons, who will have to decide which player will best fit their football team.
The Commanders are said to be one of those teams, although they also have question marks surrounding quarterback. With a pick in the middle of round one and still many holes to fill, Washington will be forced to pair value with need when they are on the clock.
Or will they...
Ron Rivera recently spoke about the team’s draft philosophy and the input new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will have come draft day.
Many feel that offensive line is the team's biggest current need - and for very good reason, however Ron spoke about what the Commanders did to shore up the line before the draft, thus opening the door for the team to take the best available player regardless of position.
Some agree with this philosophy while others think all teams factor in need when constructing their draft board. What many fans don’t take into account is the positional strengths and weaknesses of the draft in that given year.
Doing the homework I do this time each year, and reading up on the draft from the “talking heads” perspective, this draft clearly has its strengths and weaknesses.
CB - There is no Sauce Gardner in this draft, but the class is both talented at the top and deep. Many have said high-level prospects can be found well into round three before the talent falls off a bit.
TE - This is one of the best tight end drafts I can remember in years. Not only is there some top-end talent, but the depth is amazing.
EDGE - There are certainly a few high-end prospects, as well as solid depth that could last into rounds three-four.
Running Back - Like most recent drafts, there is a top dog, however the depth in the mid-to-later rounds is very solid.
Wide Receiver - This is an overall weak wide receiver draft; especially if you compare it to the 2022 class.
Defensive Tackle - This may be one of the weakest positions in the draft class when it comes to top talent and depth.
When factoring in some of the strengths and weaknesses of the class, there are a few things that should stand out for teams:
- If you are a team in need of an offensive tackle, the first round and early picks of round two, are your best shot at a plug-and-play type prospect. After that, the talent significantly drops off into the more developmental prospects.
- There are some very good corners that should be gone by the early part of the second half of round one, however if you want to wait until later on, starters can be found, both boundary and slot, into round three.
- If you want an impact tight end, there are plenty available in this draft. Quality starters may be found into round four with some hidden gems also possible.
- EDGE offers great value in the early rounds. Teams may be able to wait... but not too long.
- With such great depth at the position, RB is a spot you can wait on until after round two ends.
- Interior O-line has a sweet-spot between rounds two-four.
- If you need an impact defensive tackle, better take him early or be willing to trade up to secure your prospect.
- If you are looking for “that guy” at wide receiver, better off waiting until 2024.
So how does this all come into play for Washington?
First off, THERE SHOULD BE ON REASON TO TAKE A RB AT PICK 16 IF A CERTAIN PROSPECT WERE TO SLIP (yes, this is BOLDED for a reason). Washington already has two very capable guys in the backfield - one who is a weapon in every sense of the word that Eric Bieniemy should be able to use creatively in his new offense.
Now, on to our team needs:
The way this draft is setting up (ie. three QBs potentially in the top 4 picks), there will be some top talent pushed down the board. What that talent is, is still to be determined, and being reactionary and able to pivot quicky will be paramount for this staff.
Looking back at the strengths and weaknesses of this draft, cornerback may be a position we could wait on until rounds two or three - meaning there is no reason to reach for a lesser prospect at the position if the top three guys (Gonzalez, Witherspoon and Porter) are off the board by pick 16. Offensive tackle is a spot where if one of the top three (Johnson, Jones or Skoronski) were to be there at 16, it may behoove the team to sprint to the podium with card in hand - as these three are viewed as plug-and-play guys at a great position of need for Washington.
Given the depth this class has at tight end, it would be a position I feel the Commanders can wait on until rounds two-four. Linebacker would be the same, as I don’t see a prospect at 16 worth pulling the trigger on. However, both of these spots, and interior offensive line, could come into play if the staff was able to execute a trade-back into, say, the early 20’s.
As for sitting at 16 and taking the best available player regardless of position...
There is a good chance that the BPA at 16 ends up being an EDGE (Bryan Bresse), wide receiver (Jordan Addison or Jaxon Smith-Njigba), running back (Bijan Robinson), or safety (Brian Branch) - all positions which are not current needs on this team. One could argue they could become future needs, but does drafting for the future in this win-now league help out team?
Get the best player that fits the scheme at a position of need, and if a trade-back scenario presents itself (just as it did in 2022), the staff needs to do their due diligence instead of just simply taking Bijan Robinson at pick 16.
Tell me YOUR draft philosophy for the Commanders at pick 16
This poll is closed
BPA - No Matter What
Value vs. Need
Trade-back regardless to accumulate more top 100 picks (assuming we can find a partner)