Carving out the Washington Commanders 2023 NFL Draft blueprint

(Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) Jahan Dotson
(Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) Jahan Dotson /
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How could the Washington Commanders approach the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft as they look to make an immediate postseason return next season?

We begin today’s look at Washington Commanders’ draft strategy with an adage from the world of poker. It goes like this (simplified for the sake of brevity):

  • Good poker players play the cards
  • Great poker players play their opponents
  • The best poker players play the money

It means that all good players know the percentages based on what they have in their hands, and really good ones exploit tells and patterns in their opponents. But the best see inside the matrix. They see how all the parts fit and how having more or less money is what drives most bets.

In the NFL Draft, there is often the debate about drafting the “best player available” (BPA) or selecting for need. But if you really want to nail it, you better see the bigger picture.

You have to know what positions are strong and which are weak in the given year. You have to know what positions other teams in the league covet. Then you can make smarter picks.

One would think that simply getting a decent prospect would qualify the pick as a good one. That’s not always the case.

Look at what the New England Patriots did in 2020. They traded out of the first round and ended up, after other wheeling and dealing, with five picks on Day 2. With their first pick in the second round, they took safety Kyle Dugger from Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school in North Carolina.

Dugger has been a very good player for New England, and finding a player from such an obscure school – at least by NFL standards – seems to further burnish Bill Belichick’s status as a genius. But it was a bad pick.

New England had another pick 23 spots later and there is a pretty good chance Dugger would have been available. It is undeniable that his stock had been rising, and he may not have been there at No. 60. But even if he wasn’t, 2020 was a very good year for safeties.

Grant Delpit, Antoine Winfield, Jr., and Jeremy Chinn all went after Dugger in the second round. If someone else snapped him up, the Patriots could have had one of these other safeties.

They also could have gotten their quarterback. There were several reports that Belichick wanted to pick Jalen Hurts in the second round. But the Philadelphia Eagles grabbed him seven slots earlier.

So New England could have had Hurts and Dugger – or, at the very least, Hurts and Chinn. Instead, they ended up with Dugger and Josh Uche.

Uche has developed into a very good linebacker. But he isn’t a needle-mover like Hurts.