How much could Commanders CB Emmanuel Forbes move the needle in 2023?

Emmanuel Forbes
Emmanuel Forbes / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

How much could first-round cornerback Emmanuel Fobes move the needle during an important campaign for the Washington Commanders in 2023?

There remains a great deal of intrigue surrounding Emmanuel Forbes and what he could bring to the Washington Commanders. Many were surprised when the dynamic cornerback became the No. 16 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, but Ron Rivera and his staff clearly felt like this was the prospect capable of becoming the missing piece for Jack Del Rio's exceptional defense.

Forbes certainly left a positive impression throughout early workouts. His natural instincts and ability to turn chances into takeaways were evident throughout, which only whet the appetite further about what might be on the way once pads begin clapping at training camp.

The former Mississippi State star is going to get all he can handle from the likes of Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, and Dyami Brown in practice. Forbes will get a crash course in what it takes to successfully cover NFL-caliber wideouts who'll punish every mistake, but it's something that's sure to serve him well ahead of his first projected start in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Commanders could get instant impact from Emmanuel Forbes in 2023

Just where the Commanders utilize Forbes is anyone's guess. His best college production came as an outside presence capable of locking down one side of the field, but concerns about his size and tacking technique might result in some slot reps while he works on these potential flaws.

This was further highlighted by Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports, who placed Forbes at No. 5 on his list of rookie cornerbacks that could make an immediate impact next season. Ironically, the player Washington overlooked - Christian Gonzalez - was No. 1.

"[Emmanuel] Forbes is one unique cat. A hair under 6-foot-1 and… 166 pounds? Skinny! But, hey, Devonta Smith was right at 170 pounds a few years ago and it hasn't hurt him at the professional level. Plus, lighter, quicker, more explosive players are clearly en vogue in today's NFL. So maybe Forbes fits right in. Tackling issues are real with Forbes, but his standout athletic profile and ball production can't be ignored. Six house calls on interceptions as an SEC cornerback at Mississippi State is no fluke. There'll be times when Forbes is bullied by the deceptive strength of many No. 1 receivers in the NFL. In zone and off-man coverage, he'll flash the inherent playmaking abilities that made him the second cornerback off the board in April."

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports

Forbes has heard all the doubts about his potential and is using it as an extra source of motivation. The NFL game has changed to such an extent that a 5-foot-10 quarterback was the consensus No. 1 pick in this year's draft, so decision-makers are betting on talent rather than athletic measurables more often these days.

Besides, there's a good chance Forbes can add some muscle mass within an NFL nutrition and weight-lifting program. So plenty of analysts and fans could be eating their words this time next year where the defensive back is concerned.

Asking a rookie corner to completely shift the needle is a steep task based on league history. Not everyone is Sauce Gardner, but if Forbes can provide an assured presence alongside productive veterans such as Benjamin St-Juste and Kendall Fuller, that's all the Commanders' defense needs initially.

There will be growing pains. But the Commanders are confident and fans should be too.