Commanders first-round picks compared to the best
Broadly speaking, I would say that about 30 percent of the league has done an outstanding job adding talent in the first round in recent years. Some of those teams - the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, and Dallas Cowboys - are among the league’s elite. Some - the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, and Houston Texans - are building. The Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals fall somewhere in the middle.
It is particularly instructive to look at the Ravens because they have had inferior draft positions to the Washington Commanders in each one of those five years. Their decision to trade down in 2022 left them with one pick lower than Baltimore, but they entered the draft with a better pick.
In those drafts, the Ravens have added Patrick Queen, Odafe Oweh, Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Lindebaum, and Zay Flowers. That’s five starters, including three on defense who are borderline elite players. There are a lot of reasons why Baltimore - who have been the antithesis of the Commanders when it comes to quality management - have the best record in football.
But what about the other 70 percent of the league? Some teams have failed in the first round as much as Washington. What about all the other recent cellar-dwellers?
Well, in Washington’s division, the stuck-in-the-mud New York Giants have had some big faux pas, including DeAndre Baker and Kadarius Toney. But they also added a legitimate starting left tackle in Andrew Thomas, as well as two dynamic young defenders in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Deonte Banks.
Banks has had an up-and-down rookie season. But he has been better than Emmanuel Forbes, selected by the Commanders eight slots earlier.
Look at all the teams that have truly screwed the pooch in the first round over the last five years. I suggest that even on those worst-of-the-worsts, you can always find one player who is better than anyone the Commanders have picked up.
The Tennessee Titans got Jeffery Simmons in 2019. The New Orleans Saints - who traded up with the Commanders in that 2022 draft - used the pick to take Chris Olave, a player Washington would love to have complimenting Terry McLaurin right now.
The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, who used to be so good in the first round, have been swinging and missing for years. But Bill Belichick came up with Christian Gonzalez - immediately after Washington chose Forbes - who was looking like one of the best cornerbacks in the league before getting hurt.
Broderick Jones - a player many of us thought Washington should consider - has not been anything special in his rookie year, but he is a starting right tackle as a rookie. When was the last time the Commanders had a young edge protector to build around? Morgan Moses?
We can quibble about some other teams. The Indianapolis Colts? Kwity Paye is arguably better than anyone Washington has since jettisoning Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Plus, they may have a quarterback in Anthony Richardson.
The Chicago Bears? Just like Pittsburgh, they at least found a young starting tackle in Darnell Wright. Depending on how you feel about Justin Fields, they have done about the same or much better than the Commanders.