5 potential Commanders candidates to replace Nick Gates

The Commanders are looking for a new starting center.

Nick Gates
Nick Gates / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders could draft Drake Nugent

Other centers will be drafted ahead of Drake Nugent, who currently profiles to go somewhere on Day 3. But if I’m not going to invest a top-100 pick in a center, I'd put him high on the list of possibilities - if not at the very top.

Nugent was the tough-as-nails center of Michigan’s national championship offense in 2023. This came after starting for Stanford during the previous two seasons. His time as a Cardinal makes him well-known to Washington Commanders quarterbacks' coach Tavita Pritchard. Previous knowledge of a prospect is always invaluable.

The offensive lineman does not look as good on paper or in NFL Scouting Combine drills as some of the other players who will go ahead of him. Nugent is a little undersized and doesn’t have great speed. But he has proven to be strong enough and quick enough to be effective against outstanding defensive players throughout his college career.

Centers tend to rely on smarts and toughness more than other offensive line positions and Nugent has that. With holes along the protection after a woeful 2023 campaign, the Commanders might find it attractive to spend one or two higher picks on tackles or guards, while still getting a quality player like Nugent toward the end of the draft.