Why the Commanders must ace their 2023 NFL Draft picks

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Ron Rivera
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Ron Rivera /

Why must the Washington Commanders ace their upcoming 2023 NFL Draft selections in pursuit of a playoff return next season?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that big changes could be coming for the Washington Commanders soon. The prospect of ownership changing hands comes with fresh speculation about the future of influential figures within the organization, which only raises the stakes during the 2023 NFL Draft and the upcoming preparation period.

In a weird way, Ron Rivera‘s previous experience with new owners coming into the fold could work in his favor despite getting fired by the Carolina Panthers. Even so, his every move will be closely analyzed as the head coach looks to avoid a similar fate this time around.

The Commanders went through an underwhelming free agency period with very few splashes. Rivera seems confident in the team’s current depth – especially those that were strengthened by veteran arrivals – but not having much financial wiggle room means it is vital they come out of the draft with multiple home runs before the new campaign.

Commanders must ace their 2023 NFL Draft picks

This topic was discussed in a recent feature by Eric Edholm. NFL.com’s lead draft writer named the Commanders as one team that needs to ace the draft, which begins in a tricky spot at No. 16 overall and features just three picks in the top 100 as it stands.

"“The franchise feels like it’s at a flashpoint. The club could be sold, and a change at the top of the franchise could lead to questions about the future of head coach Ron Rivera, who has gone 22-27-1 in his three years on the job, and the front office. Their first pick (No. 16) lands smack dab in the middle of Round 1 — likely too low to nab a QB or a top offensive lineman. It might allow them to draft a starting-caliber corner, but they’ll need to stay on their toes, with trade-up candidates below them possibly ready to pounce.”"

Things could go either way for the Commanders next season. They are within one of the league’s most competitive divisions – which doesn’t help – but there is enough talent on the roster to make strides providing the right college recruits are acquired by the primary decision-makers in Washington’s war room.

Rivera’s fate could be determined by Sam Howell’s production. The quarterback is getting a legitimate chance to lead the franchise long-term, but the signing of veteran Jacoby Brissett in free agency indicates there might not be a high level of confidence in the former fifth-round pick when push comes to shove.

Finding some immediate contributors and prospects with high-level upside during the draft will be another big positive step in the right direction. One that could provide that extra spark needed for the Commanders to get over the hump in 2023.

Anything less could see landmark changes across the board if a new owner or ownership group finally gets the green light from Dan Snyder and the NFL. Therefore, this is easily the most important draft since Rivera arrived and among the most pivotal in recent franchise history.

And the pressure is on in no uncertain terms.

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