Washington Commanders 2022 Draft analysis and grades
Percy Butler, Free Safety
Prior to the NFL Draft in Las Vegas, Washington was expected to add a Buffalo nickel type of safety earlier in the draft and possibly a free safety as well. Early on day three of the draft, Washington chose to add Louisiana free safety Percy Butler, but where was the Buffalo nickel that everyone was expecting? Fans were quickly asking one another, “Who is Percy Butler”? Let’s see if we can answer some questions about this Cajun County speedster.
Owning a draft pick early in the fourth round is generally a huge positive for teams. There are typically fifteen to twenty players each year that somehow fall to the fourth round and they are generally considered to be second and third rounders. The 2022 draft was no exception to this yearly phenomenon and Washington was staring at some solid prospects early on day three. When Butler was announced as the pick, most pundits and television commentators were scrambling to find any information on the former Ragin’ Cajun.
Quickly, the reports surfaced and it was leaving fans bewildered and analysts in disbelief. The scouting report: A special teams ace. A special teams gunner. Very fast 40 time. Rated as a seventh rounder or a priority undrafted free agent. Oh, and he plays free safety. Have you figured it out yet? Yes, this perfectly describes Troy Apke from a few years ago. Fans typically have this ineffable feeling about new draftees and it is natural to do so. Can we feel that way about Percy Butler?
The scouting reports as a free safety are mixed. Plenty of speed, but takes poor angles on occasion. A fierce tackler, but has trouble finishing plays at inopportune moments. He plays aggressively, but tends to make egregious errors at times. Good coverage as a deep safety, but lacks discipline and focus when needed. Butler can cover the best receivers, but he can also be easily fooled on play-action. Special teams players shouldn’t be a focus early in the fourth round, but Butler has potential as a free safety. Will he be a special teams standout? Yes. Does Butler have long-term potential as a free safety? Yes, but more time is needed to see if he can truly develop. We can’t hate this pick, but there is nothing wrong with being concerned about it. And one analysts really likes the draft pick.
Another interesting note: Butler said that he met with the coaches and front office personnel on several occasions, but we didn’t have any information on him in the prospects meetings report.
Grading the Fourth Round Trade
The second pick for Washington (No. 120 overall) in round four was another part of the trade with New Orleans in round one. The Commanders traded this draft choice and their sixth rounder to the Carolina Panthers for two picks in the fifth round.
On the surface, it appeared to be a solid, but unspectacular trade. However, we will offer a grade here that is partially based on the selections in the fifth round. The only reason we can’t give this the highest mark centers on losing the sixth round pick. Swapping picks in the seventh round (Washington’s pick at 230 for Carolina’s pick at 242) was certainly a better option.
Sam Howell, Quarterback
This is unquestionably the best overall pick for the Washington Commanders in the 2022 NFL Draft – at least based on value. To find one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 class in the fifth round is unheard of and the front office pounced on the opportunity to select him.
Last summer, Howell was considered to be one of the top five players in the upcoming draft, but he lost many of his linemen, a starting running back, and his number one wide receiver. The production suffered (as did his draft status), but he was able to show superior rushing skills and demonstrate another tool in his athletic arsenal.
Howell will have a great opportunity to learn the nuances of being an NFL quarterback and study Washington’s offense as well. Don’t be surprised if he is QB2 by mid-season.
Cole Turner, Tight End
Approximately two weeks before the draft, team vice president Marty Hurney and offensive coordinator Scott Turner were in attendance for Southern California wide receiver Drake London’s pro day. The following day, the pair traveled to Reno, Nevada to meet with Nevada quarterback Carson Strong and tight end Cole Turner. Both players also held a private workout for Hurney and Turner. The Commanders met with Strong many times throughout the offseason and it was easy to assume that he would be a target, but it appears that Cole Turner was the player that piqued Washington’s interest all along.
Turner could compete for playing time early in 2022 and could be TE2 within a short period of time. He can play inside and outside. Blocking is not his best attribute, but he can easily be one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL in a year or two. The value with this pick is superb and Washington produced a fifth round haul that will be talked about for many years to come.