NFL Washington Commanders: Draft Overview
The Washington Commanders’ decision to pass on Chris Olave or Jameson Williams to trade down in the first round on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft could be monitored for years to come. The Commanders still landed a talented receiver in Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.
If Dotson puts up similar numbers as Olave and Williams, the move to pick up a couple of extra selections by dropping five spots will receive rave reviews. If things go the other way, there will be plenty of criticism coming Washington’s way especially since many NFL predictions had Dotson going much lower than pick No. 16.
The Commanders made the playoffs in 2020 and had their moments in 2021 so they aren’t far away from being a playoff team. If Dotson helps Terry McLaurin in the passing game, all will be right in the Commanders world.
It is hard to criticize a team for going the best player available route. However, it is only natural to wonder how will the offensive line and linebackers look as those positions weren’t addressed until late in the draft or not at all.
Washington did sign three cornerbacks, two receivers, two tight ends, and two linebackers as undrafted rookie free agents.
According to the NFL betting lines, Washington (+450) has the third-best odds to win the NFC East title.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how the Commanders drafted.
Pick 16 Jahan Dotson | WR, Penn State Nittany Lions
With two receivers off the board by the time Washington was on the clock, the Commanders were in an ideal situation to get McLaurin some help. Believing that dropping five spots was worth picking up extra third and fourth-round selections, Washington made a deal with New Orleans. Ohio State’s Olave went to the Saints with the 11th pick while Detroit traded up to select Williams out of Alabama.
When it was time for Washington to make its selection, Dotson was the pick. A big-play receiver earlier in his collegiate career when he averaged 18.1 yards per catch in 2019 and 17 yards per reception during the 2020 campaign, Dotson was much busier with 91 receptions last season but he only averaged 13 yards per catch. Some of those could be attributed to inconsistent quarterback play.
Not as tall as the other receivers picked ahead of him, the 5-foot-11, 178-pound Dotson did run the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and post a vertical leap of 36 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine. Some consider him to have some of the best hands among the receivers taken high in the draft.
Since Olave and Williams were available with pick No. 11, if one of them becomes a much more productive player in the NFL than Dotson, the decision to trade down will be second-guessed. The Las Vegas odds have seven receivers ahead of Dotson in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race.
Pick 47 Phidarian Mathis | DT, Alabama Crimson Tide
Washington agreed to swap second-round picks with Indianapolis as part of the trade for quarterback Carson Wentz so the Commanders selected 47th instead of 42nd. No defensive linemen went from picks 42-46 so that move to drop back to No. 47 wasn’t costly.
After having 5½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks in his first three seasons, the 312-pound Mathis had career-highs with 12 tackles for loss and nine sacks during the 2021 season. Mathis had one sack in the SEC championship game and another against Cincinnati in the College Football Playoffs.
Washington used four of its first-round selections from 2017-2020 on defensive linemen so this wasn’t the biggest near for the Commanders. Mathis should help what was already one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL.
Pick 98 Brian Robinson | RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Washington selected five players out of Alabama in the previous five drafts and went back to double up on Crimson Tide players. Robinson played behind Najee Harris, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, and Bo Scarborough in his first four seasons at Alabama. His patience was rewarded as Robinson was the feature back during the 2021 campaign.
Harris and Derrick Henry are the only Alabama running backs with more yards in a season over the last 10 seasons than the 1,343 yards Robinson had in 2021. Robinson also caught 35 passes and scored 16 offensive touchdowns to help the Crimson Tide win the SEC title and reach the national championship game.
Getting Robinson late in the third round was a good value. However, Washington once again took a player at a position where they seemed to be in good shape with Antonio Gibson leading the list of returning running backs. Still, the Commanders aren’t in the position to pass on filling specific needs on their roster.
This pick was acquired when Washington traded down five spots in the first round. The Commanders’ third-round selection went to Indianapolis in the Wentz trade.
Pick 113 Percy Butler | S, Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Butler will help a secondary that suddenly has A.J. Brown in its division after a trade on the first day of the draft.
Butler had 13 pass breakups and three interceptions in his four seasons at Louisiana. Despite missing a game, Butler finished second on the 2021 Ragin’ Cajuns in solo tackles so he is not afraid to get physical.
Some draft analysts had Butler going at least a round lower than this but he should have the opportunity to prove them wrong.
Pick 144 Sam Howell | QB, North Carolina Tar Heels
This could become Washington’s best pick in the draft. Howell was expected to go on the second day but lasted to the first pick of the fifth round.
Washington traded down once again going from 120th to 144th so it could jump from 189 to 149. Even while doing that, Washington picked up a player that could challenge for the starting quarterback spot as early as this season depending on how Wentz fares.
The 6-foot-1 Howell was not the tallest quarterback available in the draft but he threw for more than 10,000 yards and had 92 touchdown passes in his three years as the starting QB for the Tar Heels.
It’s not ideal that his career-best marks of 3,641 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes at North Carolina came as a freshman but he has all the tools to be Washington’s starting quarterback at some point. Those who bet online might be interested to know that Howell is fifth among quarterbacks in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds.
Pick 149 Cole Turner | TE, Nevada Wolf Pack
With 19 touchdown catches over his final two collegiate seasons, Turner gives Washington a solid receiving option behind Logan Thomas.
Turner had almost identical numbers in the 3-cone drill and broad jump as Thomas coming out of college, Thomas, a former college quarterback, was 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds coming out of Virginia Tech. Turner, who started off as a receiver for Nevada, measured 6-6 and 246 pounds at the combine.
Turner is not as fast as Thomas but other than that, he looks like a similar prospect at the same stage. Washington would love to see Turner produce as Thomas has at the NFL level.
Pick 230 Chris Paul | OL, Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Washington probably could have addressed the offensive line position a little earlier in the draft but getting Paul with the first of its two selections in the seventh round is a smart move.
Chris Paul started games at four different offensive line positions during his time at Tulsa. His final season was cut short by injury but he proved he was healthy by running the 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
— Chris Paul (@BigChrisPaul) May 7, 2022
Joining a franchise that has had more than a few off-the-field issues, Paul will be a welcome addition as he was highly decorated for his work in the community during his time at Tulsa.
Pick 240 Christian Holmes | CB, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Christian Holmes was rather busy in his five seasons, breaking up 31 passes. Holmes started off at Missouri before spending his final two collegiate seasons at Oklahoma State.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Holmes has pretty good size and ran the 40 in 4.54 seconds so he could help in zone coverage if he makes the final roster. Washington does need help at the cornerback position so perhaps Holmes will provide some of that.
Grading the draft
This draft can’t be looked at without factoring in the picks that Washington dealt to get Wentz. Considering that Wentz has been traded away by two organizations, it is a transaction that could prove costly especially if Howell beats out Wentz at some point this season.
Washington did get help at receiver in the first round. However, some of its other picks didn’t address specific needs so the draft wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Let’s check the Super Bowl odds.