The Washington Commanders‘ drafting strategy has been a polarizing topic of conversation both during and in the aftermath of the showcase.
After nearly making the playoffs last season despite lackluster quarterback play, being ravaged by injuries and playing a gauntlet of a schedule, it’s clear Ron Rivera and the front office think highly of the roster’s core.
By adding a handful of day one contributors via the draft, and filling whatever holes remain in free agency, the Commanders should (emphasis on should) be in a position to compete for the playoffs in the weakened NFC next season.
While everyone and their mother likes to drag Rivera and the front office — understandably so, given the lack of winning they’ve done — they all deserve their flowers for orchestrating the heist that was the first-round trade-back.
The Commanders first-round trade back is deserving of more praise.
With Drake London and Garrett Wilson off the board just before the Commanders’ turn to draft, the remaining “top receivers were Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Jahan Dotson and Treylon Burks. The front office clearly had them graded closely together, so Washington couldn’t help but pull the trigger and move back five picks.
While both sides got what they want, the Commanders without question attained the better value. Not only did they get a wideout in Dotson whom many analysts peg as the best separator in this year’s class, but they recouped the third-rounder lost in the Carson Wentz trade and an additional fourth (No. 120 overall) which they used to flip into picks No. 144 and No. 149 in a trade with the Panthers.
With the added third-rounder, Washington got their ideal Antonio Gibson backup in Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. When the offseason started, The Athletic’s Ben Standig disclosed the team’s interest in adding another between-the-tackles runner regardless of whether JD McKissic was re-signed to lessen Gibson’s workload.
Thanks to the trade, Washington filled that hole.
As we mentioned, the No. 120 overall pick was flipped in a trade with Carolina that sent picks Nos. 144 and 149 to Washington. With those selections, the Commanders drafted Sam Howell, who projects as the long-term backup but could morph into starting material if he refines some of his weaker attributes.
From there, they took Nevada tight end Cole Turner, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound physical specimen whose wide catch radius, ability to stretch the field and become a vaunted red zone presence profiles as Logan Thomas’ long-term replacement.
That’s the best-case scenario, obviously, but there’s a reason the pick’s been universally praised by draft analysts. Turner was a steal in the top half of Round 5, and fans have Washington’s first-round trade-back to thank for that.
If you really deep it, Washington essentially gave up the No. 11 pick (Olave) for Dotson, Robinson Jr., Howell AND Turner.
In other words, they traded the rights to a receiver whom they graded similarly to Dotson for FOUR players, three of whom (Dotson, Robinson and Turner) could help the team win games from day one. The fourth, meanwhile, could develop into the team’s QB of the future if everything falls into place.
That’s outstanding front office work.
When evaluating Washington’s draft, maybe take the whole thing into context instead of grading each pick individually and on a value basis. For all of the flak the front office gets, this trade was a stroke of genius and could very easily benefit the team’s short- and long-term outlook.