Washington Commanders 2023 NFL Draft: Team Needs and Top Targets

    What are the most pressing draft needs for the Washington Commanders, and which positional gaps can they fill in the 2023 NFL Draft?

    With the Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft only a few short hours away, the Washington Commanders made progress addressing team needs but still have holes to fill on their roster. In order to get out of the NFC East basement, Washington must capitalize on addressing their team needs. Whether or not one draft is enough to do it remains a larger question.

    Washington Commanders Team Needs Following Round 1

    • EDGE
    • QB
    • DT

    The primary areas of concern for Washington sit on defense. With CB checked off the list, EDGE becomes the primary team need the Commanders will look to address on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen were a force last year, no question about it. On the edge, Montez Sweat and Chase Young should be one of the more dominant duos.

    However, we barely got to see Young last year with the Commanders playing it safe with him and his rehab from a torn ACL and patellar tendon. More than needing a pure outright starter, Washington needs a high upside, rotational depth piece that could either be fresh legs in specific formations, or an outright starter on their own, if needed.

    MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

    Based on the rhetoric coming out of Washington, I think it’s rather apparent that quarterback will not be on the needs list, as the team feels comfortable rolling with Sam Howell. Wide receiver is set with Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel. Running back looks good as well with Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson.

    Washington would be wise to look at the offensive line and tight end position. Signing free agents Andrew Wylie and Nick Gates certainly helped revamp the positional group, but the Commanders lack any real Pro Bowl talent up front. There’s merit in drafting any of the three positions, but interior spots are likely the most uncertain right now.

    Finally, tight end, as mentioned, is an area of need but not a critical one. Logan Thomas took a while to get back up to speed following his 2021 knee surgery, but the Commanders do have a few promising rookies in Armani Rogers and Cole Turner though the pair combined for just seven receptions. In what is arguably the best TE class in the last decade, there’s no better time than now if Washington wants to address this need during the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Results for Commanders 2023 Draft Picks

    Round 1, Pick 16: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Florida State

    Cornerback was the primary need for the Commanders coming into the draft. However, they wasted no time addressing this by selecting CB Emmanuel Forbes from Mississippi State. Forbes is a thinner corner, having played at 166 pounds last season and weighing 170 at his pro day. He’ll be a key contributor in the secondary along with Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, and Christian Holmes.

    Forbes tied for second in the nation with six interceptions and led the country by returning three for touchdowns. However, it deserves to be pointed out that four of Forbes’ interceptions came on tips and overthrows where he was actually beaten on the play but made the opportunistic INT.

    This is not to discredit him; just adding context to the stats. Assuming the DL will generate pressure that forces errant throws, Forbes won’t take long to hang some crooked numbers in the turnover column.

    Predictions for Remaining Commanders 2023 Draft Picks

    Although Washington certainly could attempt to move up and down the draft board as needed, that’s not something I’m going to take into consideration, and just go strictly with their current draft picks.

    Sitting in the middle of the draft is a good place; the Commanders have found success somewhere. Using the PFN Mock Draft Simulator, here’s how I would fill those needs for Washington.

    Round 2, Pick 47 | Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE, Northwestern

    After addressing corner, we come right back with edge rusher and lock in one of the better physical specimens of this class. Adetomiwa Adebawore is a silly athlete, testing with a 97th-percentile 40-yard dash (4.49) and a 125″ broad jump, culminating in a 9.7 RAS at 6’1″ and 282 pounds.

    MORE: Washington Commanders Schedule 2023

    What makes Adebawore special and coveted is his versatility. I’d argue he is the most versatile DE in this draft, having played everything from 7-tech to nose for Northwestern. While shorter, he has solid length with 34″ arms and can wreak havoc in the backfield, even if he is not the bendiest off the edge.

    The concern is Adebawore is a bit of a tweener as he moved around a lot in college, so Washington will need to find a home for him and instill the correct fundamentals for the position.

    Round 3, Pick 97 | Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland

    Jaelyn Duncan is a rapid and light-footed player off the snap. The 6’5″, 306-pounder measured in with a very impressive 9.01 RAS and has a sturdy frame with a low center of gravity.

    Duncan has starter characteristics and an explosive ability to compete with the premier athletes on the defensive line. I doubt Howell will be complaining about adding more protection to an offensive line that allowed the 10th-most sacks in 2022.

    Round 4, Pick 118 | Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas

    I’m returning to the well here with this one and attacking the interior of the offensive line, this time with Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg.

    At 6′ 3″ and 306 pounds, Strongberg demonstrated not only solid power in his lower half but also displays impressive football intelligence. He showed the ability to communicate with the entire OL and routinely kept his head on a swivel while looking for work. One of the more athletic centers in this class with a 9.57 RAS, Stromberg has experience at both guard spots as well, which will only add to his value in the draft.

    Round 5, Pick 150 | Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

    Tyjae Spears is one of my absolute favorite players in this class. Despite being 5’9″, he’s a rocked-up 201 pounds. Spears has high-end explosiveness that shined while at Tulane and capped off a sensational career by demolishing the USC defense in the Cotton Bowl before being arguably the standout player at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.

    Washington clearly is not in love with Gibson despite his profile, and he’s entering the final year of his contract. Spears would be the perfect change of pace complement to Robinson.

    Round 6, Pick 193 | Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan

    Washington, meet your version of Dawson Knox. Luke Schoonmaker is one of the more underrated TEs in this class. While he doesn’t have the positional versatility or athleticism of a Luke Musgrave or Darnell Washington, he gets off the ball and into his routes with adequate quickness, and has fluid feet to get in and out of his brakes.

    Schoonmaker showed awareness while at Michigan, knowing how to sink into the soft spots. Once he adjusts and learns how to attack the ball more at the point of the catch, he’ll bring quite a bit of talent to the depth chart. He might need a year to get ready, but Schoonmaker can at least help out in the run-blocking schemes until the position’s nuances catch on.

    Round 6, Pick 215 | Gervarrius Owens, S, Houston

    At this point in the draft, we’re not betting the farm on prospects panning out. We’re just taking shots on the upside at positions of need and guys with athletic profiles. When in doubt, draft an athlete.

    MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Picks by Team

    At 6’0″ and 193 pounds, Houston safety Gervarrius Owens ticks the measurement boxes. He’s willing to help out in run support, flashes agility and twitch when changing directions, and has enough hip fluidity to play centerfield and adjust when needed. With a 9.21 RAS, the athleticism is there for Owens to make an impact in the secondary.

    Round 7, Pick 233 | Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State

    If there is a player in the 2023 NFL Draft who can pull off a Brock Purdy-type performance, my money is on Fresno State’s Jake Haener. Sure, it’s No. 233 and not quite Mr. Irrelevant, but it’s close enough.

    Haener is fearless in the pocket, and his traits are far higher than where his draft capital will likely suggest. He’s not the biggest guy at 5’11” and 207 pounds, but given that there is no guarantee Howell will work and Taylor Heinicke is no longer around, Washington needs to at least have some plan in place.

    Can Haener be Purdy 2.0? We’ll have to see if the opportunity arises.

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