Chess or Checkers? The Washington Commanders puzzling 2023 NFL Draft

Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders' 2023 NFL Draft selections have caught many people's eyes, with some criticizing the direction Ron Rivera went down.

In a tweet from NBC Washington’s Insider JP Finlay, who had been speaking to Eric Nathan from Barstool Sports, it left no doubt how many felt the Washington Commanders approached their 2023 NFL Draft selections.

"We drafted like a team that is a perennial super bowl team that just had to fill out the depth chart...Maybe that's a good thing, maybe its a bad thing. I didn't hate it but I understand people that look at it and go, 'what is this?'"

Eric Nathan via JP Finlay

The Commanders' 2023 draft selections garnered a lot of different grades from different people. For example, The Ringer's Danny Kelly gave Washington a B+ for their choices.

While on the other hand, Yahoo Sports' Charles McDonald gave them a whopping D+ for their efforts.

While the grades may differ, it does not change the fact of who they selected and when the prospects were taken within the given draft. But when looking at the choices collectively, did they just “fill out the depth chart” or move the needle?

Commanders draft picks could define Ron Rivera's tenure

To answer the question, it is somewhere in between.

When you look at the first-round pick of Emmanuel Forbes, it makes sense. During the 2022 season, the Commanders ranked 26th in the league in total takeaways with 18 and they were ranked 28th in interceptions (9).

Forbes was a ballhawk at Mississippi State, attaining 14 interceptions throughout his collegiate career. He has the ability to be a factor when the ball is in the air.

However, when comparing the body of work of Forbes and Christian Gonzalez of Oregon, the latter was the better athlete, the more complete cornerback between the two, and a Day 1 starter.

So, when the New England Patriots drafted him immediately after the Commanders, it felt like a “gotcha” moment. However, only time will tell on that matter.

Their offensive line selections of Arkansas's Ricky Stromberg in the third round and Utah's Braeden Daniels in the fourth round felt like depth picks, which is fine.

The Commanders have struggled across their protection for multiple years, so depth was necessary. But not addressing the tight end position in a draft where the pool was deep raised more than a few eyebrows.

Logan Thomas will be 32 years old once the 2023 NFL season starts and has not had a productive season since 2020. Though in 2021, he only played six games due to injuries.

This year would have been a good one to upgrade the position. But again, time will tell as to whether ot ot this was the correct call.

Speaking of skill positions, head coach Ron Rivera did not need to select another running back in this draft. Especially considering that Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. is a power runner.

The Commanders' backfield is already loaded with running backs in the form of Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. Recently released J.D. McKissic was a pass catcher, but I do not see Rodriguez taking this role, which leaves one to scratch their head on the selection.

The fifth-round selection of Clemson’s K.J. Henry was a valid pick. He was seen as a sleeper choice and considering the Shaka Toney suspension, it made sense for the team to potentially replace him.

On numerous occasions, Rivera has gone on record saying he "feels confident" about the roster. Yet outside of the 2020 campaign, has not been able to get this team to the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Teams like the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles made moves to further build on their playoff rosters, such as trading up for Georgia’s Jalen Carter and moving up for promising tight end Dalton Kincaid.

Although the glaring difference between those teams and the Commanders is that they have their franchise quarterback. Something else they did not address during the draft.

The jury is still out on quarterback Sam Howell, but there is a lot to be said about the team going into the new season.

Is Rivera playing chess or checkers? We'll find out next season.

Next. Commanders 53-man roster prediction after the 2023 NFL Draft. dark