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Commanders’ Draft: Will They Rise or Bust With Jayden Daniels?

The NFL Draft has been quarterback-heavy at the top a few times over the years, and there have been a few different scenarios for the team drafting second. Teams want a signal-caller to help them become top NFL picks for the Super Bowl. That was the position the Washington Commanders were in this season, waiting for the Chicago Bears to choose from several talented signal callers before they could make their selection.

In taking LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels at No. 2, Washington ensured that its 2024 draft would always be judged by that pick, though with three second-round picks and two third-round selections, the Commanders added much more than their future leader under center.

Commanders' Draft: Will They Rise or Bust With Jayden Daniels?
Jayden Daniels #5 of the Washington Commanders -Scott Taetsch/Getty Images/AFP

The general consensus around experts is that Washington had a fantastic draft, starting with Daniels and ending with nine total draft picks that all could contribute to a team that needs help. However, post-draft grades can be misleading, so it remains to be seen if this draft class can live up to the hype.

For a franchise that has been to the postseason just four times since 2005, with the last appearance being in 2020, any boost is helpful, especially in a division with the favored Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

NFL odds for the 2024 season have the Commanders as +750 to win the NFC East, the third-best odds in the division. Philadelphia is +120, while Dallas is listed at +125. Only the New York Giants at +1100 have longer odds than Washington.

The odds for Washington to return to the postseason aren’t much better. The Commanders are -325 to miss the playoffs and +250 to qualify for the postseason. If you think Washington will win more than 6½ games, you can get -130 odds, while the under is listed at even odds.

 

Commanders Steal: Is Jayden Daniels the Next Big Betting Star?

The addition of Jayden Daniels gives the Commanders a dynamic signal-caller who can make plays with his arm and his legs. The Heisman Trophy winner in 2023 had 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns passing while also rushing for 1,134 yards and 10 scores.

Some draft experts rated Daniels higher than USC’s Caleb Williams, who the Bears took at No. 1. The NFL Draft has a history of quarterbacks going 1-2, with some mixed results.

While there are some Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf combos like in 1998, there have also been Tim Couch-Donovan McNabb in 1999 occurrences, where the second selection has a much more successful NFL career. Or there’s the case of 2005, when Aaron Rodgers dropped down the first round after the 49ers decided to take Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick, with Rodgers the surefire Hall of Famer from that quarterback group.

Still, for now, Daniels is a star quarterback who will help new coach Dan Quinn establish a new identity for the Commanders. And his dynamic playmaking could lead to a few more wins for the franchise.

 

Commanders Fortify Defense: Boosting Betting Odds?

The Washington defensive front wasn’t a “need” area heading into the draft, but when Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton was still available in the second round, the Commanders took him. The 6-2, 304-pounder was projected in the first round by some draft experts, so the team may have gotten some value with the pick.

Later in the second round, Washington went back to the Big Ten for Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil, who tied for second in the FBS with six interceptions in 2023, returning two for touchdowns.

A pair of fifth-round selections were also dedicated to the defensive side of the ball, with Temple linebacker Jordan Magee and Washington safety Dominique Hampton being taken. Magee is solid when playing close to the line, as shown by his 14 tackles for loss in 2023. Hampton was the leading tackler for the Huskies in 2023 when they made it to the College Football Playoff title game.

 

Beyond Daniels: Betting Value in Washington’s Draft Class

Tight end Ben Sinnott from Kansas State was the team’s third second-round selection in the draft, while Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey was taken in the third round.

Sinnott brings some versatility to the tight end position, lining up in the backfield as well as on the line and out wide while with the Wildcats. With Logan Thomas retiring and Zach Ertz getting up there at 33 years old, Sinnott could see some playing time in his rookie campaign.

McCaffrey has some NFL bloodlines, with brother Christian a star running back for the 49ers, and father Ed a former NFL receiver with three Super Bowl titles. A former quarterback in college at Nebraska, McCaffrey made the transition to receiver at Rice and could find some time in the slot position.

“He took a road less traveled where he started off as a quarterback and really taught himself how to be one of the best receivers in the country in the last two years,” Commanders general manager Adam Peters said of McCaffrey. “And so, he’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got great movement skills, and I think he’s only going to ascend.”

McCaffrey is 6-2 and 195 pounds, and he had 129 catches for 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons with the Owls.

Daniels is the star of this draft class, but the Commanders added a number of players who could contribute in 2024. The team’s NFL playoff odds may not be the best, but there is building going on in Washington that these players are going to help with.

 

 

Questions Of The Day

When was the last time the Commanders made the NFL playoffs?


Washington was last in the NFL postseason in 2020, when they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round.

 

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