Why did Commanders take two defensive backs to begin the 2023 NFL Draft?
By Dean Jones
Head coach Ron Rivera lifted the lid on why the Washington Commanders took two defensive backs to begin the 2023 NFL Draft.
There was a clear need to fortify the secondary heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. However, what came over the first two rounds where the Washington Commanders were concerned came as a huge surprise.
Taking two defensive backs right out of the gate raised more than a few eyebrows. While stud cornerback Emmanuel Forbes was seemingly their guy all along at No. 16 overall following an exceptional college career and phenomenal testing process, taking Quan Martin at No. 47 when some top interior linemen were available came with a mixed reaction among the fanbase.
Why did the Commanders take two DBs to begin 2023 NFL Draft?
When discussing the topic recently, head coach Ron Rivera outlined his reasoning behind the choices via Sports Illustrated. In short, this centered on draft board standing and the fit within Washington's defensive scheme under Jack Del Rio.
"They were very highly rated on our board, first of all, to begin with. But then secondly, the fit. When we got to that point and we're looking at what the options were, we really felt we could solidify that depth that we need in the secondary and actually have a guy that's also come in and compete to start at nickel and gives us some safety value as well."- Ron Rivera via Sports Illustrated
It's unfair to judge prospects even before they've participated in a single practice. They need a full body of NFL work spanning one or two seasons before firm conclusions can arise, which all starts for Forbes and Martin at Washington's rookie minicamp tomorrow.
Just what roles each will play right out of the gate is unclear. One anticipates Forbes will start as an outside option given his lockdown potential and ballhawk credentials, although this might come with the odd teething problem against elite-level opposition who'll punish almost every mistake.
Martin is an intriguing one. His size and physicality could see him line up as a third or fourth safety depending on the system, with the former Illinois standout also boasting the athletic intangibles to become a slot/nickel cornerback with additional refinement.
This did nothing to rectify the potential complications on the offensive line. Ricky Stromberg was taken in the third round, but whether the versatile center can force his way into the starting lineup immediately remains to be seen.
The Commanders' releasing Chase Roullier indicates a level of confidence in Stromberg. But there's a bigger chance of free-agent signing Nick Gates becoming the protection's glue when push comes to shove.
Whether Rivera's method pays off or not is the big question.
Ignoring a quarterback and displaying complete faith in Sam Howell will be job-defining with new ownership coming into the fold. If the offensive line fails to improve, further scrutiny will arrive about why it wasn't addressed much sooner during the draft.
Rivera has the courage of his convictions if nothing else. But that doesn't detract from the need for everything to go right.