The NFL Draft is over, and by all accounts the Washington Commanders are thrilled with their performance. While every team expresses similar confidence, Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew clearly think this roster is ready to compete.
That would certainly explain why the head coach and general manager reached on prospects they feel can help the team win right away. It’s a risky strategy, but one that could pay off in spades if Washington makes the playoffs in 2022.
Of course, prioritizing secondary roster holes instead of drafting the best player available or obtaining the best value possible with certain picks isn’t a blueprint that resonates with draft analysts and even some fans.
As a result, the Commanders’ draft grades fluctuated. Pro Football Focus and NFL Spin Zone gave them a C+ letter grade, The Draft Network handed them a C, while ESPN gave them a B- and NFL Network felt they deserved a B.
Like any team, though, Washington’s selections were nitpicked by analysts and Mayhew made it obvious in Saturday’s post-draft presser that he heard (and read) the criticism, and the second-year GM fired back.
Commanders GM Martin Mayhew fired back at the critics.
“You know, people are making projections about where they expect players to go,” Mayhew told reporters. “They’re not in these buildings, they’re not around these teams. We understand our needs and what we need as a football team much better than people on the outside looking in.”
“Everybody has their own system and everybody sets up their program the way they want to set it up. We have different needs and we look at our teams differently than some other people would do.”
That’s a perfect response from Mayhew. The undisputed worst part of the draft process is the lack of level-headed analysis. Either a pick is a steal you couldn’t script or a reach of epic proportions. There’s no in between.
Take the Phidarian Mathis pick at No. 47 overall in the second, for example. After the Alabama product revealed his agent told him he wouldn’t get drafted until the third or fourth round, Commanders Twitter turned into a bloodbath.
Even first-rounder Jahan Dotson was considered a reach given most draft analysts pegged him as a late-first or early-second round prospect. Additionally, Brian Robinson Jr. was taken with other higher-ranked RBs still on the board Percy Butler pick was likened to the selection of Troy Apke in the fourth round in 2018.
Despite that, Rivera echoed the sentiments of the team’s GM.
“We’re anticipating a number of these guys, especially the first four, are gonna get an opportunity to come out and contribute and play,” Rivera said. “So it’s exciting to know that we feel comfortable and confident with those guys.”
We like to think Mayhew and Rivera couldn’t care less about the outside noise. Having said that, it probably bugs them that folks aren’t critiquing Washington’s draft through the lens that Rivera and Mayhew wanted day one contributors.
Think about it. There was no roll of the dice.
The Commanders’ first three picks will all play huge roles as rookies and will thereby have an immediate impact on winning. It’s a questionable strategy, but it would be ingenuous not to consider that when analyzing these eight picks.