clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How realistic is it to ‘remake the offensive line’ through the draft in one year?

Washington Commanders Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Washington’s offensive line play left a lot to be desired last year. Surely, some of that was on Sam Howell, and much of it was on the lack of scheming a creative offense by Eric Bieniemy, but at the end of the day, the line simply wasn’t good enough. That much, I think we can all agree upon.

And, while I tend to be a bit higher on the existing players on the roster, and - I think - more realistic about the opportunity to wholesale replace them than the average fan is, it’s clear we need some upgrades this offseason.

For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to largely gloss over potential free agents, because the good to decent ones will be in very high demand (or will be tagged), but I will list several of the top ones below with their 2023 PFF grade, for a bit of context:

Left Tackle: (Top 10 average pay: ~$18M/yr)

Duane Brown - 47.9

Trent Brown - 80.2

Tyron Smith - 83.8

Andrus Peat - 60.2

For comparison - Charles Leno Jr. - 72.5

Right Tackle: (Top 10 average pay: ~$17M/yr)

Mekhi Becton - 53.2

Jonah Williams - 58.5

Jermaine Eluemunor - 68.5

For comparison - Andrew Wylie - 69.2

Left Guard: (Top 10 average pay: ~$12M/yr)

Dalton Risner - 57.1

Justin Pugh - 41.6

Ezra Cleveland - 59.5

For comparison - Saahdiq Charles - 55.5

Center: (Top 10 average pay: ~$12M/yr)

Andre James - 74.6

Aaron Brewer - 71.6

Lucas Patrick - 50.5

For comparison - Nick Gates - 66.1

Looking at the Draft

The meat of this exercise, however, is intended to look at how realistic it really is to draft a year-one starter or two on the offensive line. It’s no secret that Ron Rivera and the Martii were miserable drafters, particularly as it came to Day 1 and 2 picks. They made a habit of overdrafting players and then trying to shoehorn them into inappropriate roles. It was nearly a worst-case scenario.

For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to assume pretty close to a best case scenario. That is, assume that for rounds one, two, and three, Washington had selected the best offensive lineman (as determined by his rookie performance) still on the board, and actually taken in the round of their pick, at their original pick.

A brief reminder that Washington had picks 16, 47, and 97 in the 2023 draft.

Pick 16

Actual pick: Emmanuel Forbes (CB)

Best OL still on the board, taken in the first round: Anton Harrison (OT), pick 27.

Verdict: Harrison started all 17 games for the Jaguars at right tackle (PFF, 53). Indications are he improved over the course of the season and was probably the best of Jacksonville’s draft class. He wasn’t great, but he was solid. Had Washington drafted Harrison over Forbes, they likely would have had a fairly average starting RT, and could have slid Wylie inside off the bat.

Pick 47

Actual pick: Quan Martin (S)

Best OL still on the board, taken in the second round: O’Cyrus Torrence (G), pick 59.

Verdict: Like Harrison, Torrence started all 17 games, this time in Buffalo. He played right guard for the Bills and was named All-rookie for his 2023 performance. Torrence would have played LG for Washington, but he surely would have been an improvement over the turnstiles that were rolled out at the position this year.

Pick 97

Actual pick: Ricky Stromberg (C)

Best OL still on the board, taken in the third round: Washington finally took an offensive lineman in Stromberg, though the center only played in 4 games. No OL were taken after him in the third round. If we go to the 4th round, which is stretching the exercise a bit, we land on guard Anthony Bradford, taken at 108 by the Seahawks.

Verdict: Bradford only started 10 games at guard for the Seahawks, so while he may be a reliable piece of Seattle’s line, he wasn’t off the bat last season. Not a surprise at all for a 4th round pick. Recall that Washington’s 4th round OL, Braeden Daniels, taken six picks later, didn’t play in a single game in 2023.

Conclusion

I was a tad surprised at the outcome, to be honest. Granted, this exercise did assume a best case scenario, but the reality is, in the lead up to the draft many fans and observers - including those on Hogs Haven - were high on both Harrison and Torrence, but particularly Torrence. Predictions were that higher-rated tackles would move quickly in the first round - and they did - but that Harrison would likely be available late - which he was.

Torrence was predicted as a second round pick, which is exactly where he went.

That said, just because hitting on two starters was possible, it doesn’t mean it was probable. There were other OL taken in the second round - including the ever popular John Michael Schmitz pre-draft - who were not quite ready for prime time.

This year, Washington is in an interesting position. If they wanted to draft an offensive lineman at #2 or trade back a few spots, they could probably assure themselves pretty close to a “can’t miss” tackle prospect.

Then they could double-dip at #36 and probably have a shot at one of the best interior offensive linemen in the draft, someone like Jackson Powers-Johnson. If they go QB at #2, the reality is that they’re probably only going to get a single shot at either a right tackle prospect or high end interior lineman.

That likely leaves Washington’s starting offensive line looking something like this:

Left Tackle - Leno - I still can’t envision circumstances where it makes sense to move on from a league average left tackle this offseason.

Left Guard - Wylie or a highly-drafted rookie - The free agent class just isn’t very strong.

Center - Stromberg or a free agent - There are some interesting options here.

Right Guard - Cosmi

Right Tackle - Highly-drafted rookie - This is a very deep OL class, and I would be aiming to use #36 on a right tackle who has the capacity to eventually backfill Leno on the left side, at the end of his contract.

I’m sure that alignment leaves some fans with a case of the cold sweats, but I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Poll

Do you think it’s realistic for Washington to land two starting offensive linemen in the 2024 draft?

  • 71%
    Yes
    (1655 votes)
  • 28%
    No.
    (664 votes)
2319 votes total Vote Now