Welcome to the Commanders most important 2024 NFL Draft evaluation

Drake Maye holds the key...

Drake Maye
Drake Maye / Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters' most important draft evaluation.

New Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters has a lot on his plate. He has to hire a coach. He has to revamp the front office. He must evaluate what appears to be a roster bereft of front-line talent. He must begin putting grades on several hundred draft-eligible college players and almost as many pros who may be available this offseason during free agency.

I like to help out in whatever small way I can. Today I am going to simplify one of those to-do list tasks. Washington’s entire draft strategy is dependent on one thing. How does Peters evaluate Drake Maye?

Of course, he needs to evaluate all the other top quarterback prospects, but Maye is the lynchpin. You will see, over the next few months, prospects flying up and down draft boards as the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days, all-star games, and interviews take center stage in the draft prep caravan.

Leaked rumors - typically related to health or character - will also make appearances.

Commanders assessment of Drake Maye is critical

In case you’re prone to flavor-of-the-week innuendo, I’ll save you some trouble. Caleb Williams will be the first pick. Either the Chicago Bears will pick him or they will trade the pick to another team who will select the signal-caller. Should they decide to stick with Justin Fields and build around him, the team they would most like to trade with is the Commanders.

If they flip positions with the Commanders, they will be able to add any non-Williams player they want - the smart money is on stud wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. - and add at least one of Washington’s two second-round picks. They will probably get more than that.

Drake Maye / Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

After they traded the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers last year, the Bears would be sitting with an extraordinary amount of draft capital to do with as they please.

Given what I’ve just laid out, you’d be right in asking whether the player Peters needs to evaluate is Williams. He needs to determine whether it is worth it to trade up that one spot to get a potentially generational talent. Of course, he must evaluate the Heisman Trophy winner, but the conclusions made about Maye are more germane. 

For one thing, I suspect Chicago's general manager Ryan Poles is going to select Williams. I think he has seen enough of Fields by this point to determine that he is an excellent runner who will always struggle with accuracy.

If he passes on the USC prospect, he will have to begin working on an extension with the former Ohio State star immediately. He could also buy some time with his fifth-year option in the neighborhood of $25 million.

Poles would not get a huge return for Fields on the trade market, but he would certainly get something. That would further bolster his draft position.

Even if Williams is on the market, Peters has to decide whether he is a better long-term option than Maye. This is why his evaluation of the North Carolina product is so crucial. Some respected football minds prefer Maye to Williams. This usually has to do with his size.

I am not one of those who rates Maye over Williams. I’ve seen them both make excellent throws. I’ve seen them both struggle with accuracy. Williams is better when forced to improvise. The downside is that he may be prone to this unique trait too often because he was so good at it in college. Still, if I were picking today, I’d take him.

This is far from a settled matter. Trading up for a quarterback is always risky.

In addition to the constant threat of injury, there is the unmeasurable “processing speed” issue. Talent evaluators can measure virtually everything, but they have yet to find a reliable way to gauge how efficiently a young signal-caller can process dozens of pieces of information in a matter of seconds. Especially when the likes of Aaron Donald and Micah Parsons are on the prowl.

If Peters decides that Maye is a really good quarterback prospect, the front-office leader will not be in the position of feeling he has to overpay for the chance to select Williams.

If he is not all-in on Maye, and Chicago does select Williams, Peters will still have the chance to take a quarterback because there are a lot of quality prospects available. His evaluations of Jayden Daniels, Michael Penix, Jr., Bo Nix, JJ McCarthy, and Michael Pratt will all figure into the long-term thinking.

The single most important quarterback Peters will have to evaluate - even more than Maye or Williams - is the one already on his roster. If he believes that Sam Howell can develop with better coaching and a better roster around him, he will have the luxury of trading back, building an offensive line, and adding a couple of playmakers at other skill positions.

That’s the direction I am currently leaning toward, but it’s a long way until April.

As we creep toward that weekend, I’d suggest an extra deep dive into Maye as a first step.