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May 05, 2022

NFC East 2022 draft grades: Washington Commanders edition

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122821SamHowell Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Sam Howell

Over the last few days we've been grading the NFC East teams' drafts. In case you missed them, here were the Eagles', Cowboys', and Giants' grades. Last and usually least, we'll look at the Washington Commanders' draft.

Round 1, pick 16: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State: Dotson had a productive 2021 season at Penn State, catching 91 passes for 1182 yards and 12 TDs. He has some speed (4.43 40), he's a good route runner, and he is widely regarded as having the best hands in this wide receiver draft class. There is certainly plenty to like about him as a prospect:

On the downside, he's small and some of his other athletic testing measurables weren't great: 

Dotson was a surprise pick at 16th overall. And by that I mean, even he was surprised he got picked that early. 

The Commanders seemed destined to take a receiver in this draft, and while Dotson was a bit of a reach, they did make a trade from pick No. 11 to pick No. 16 that was good value. 

 Saints gotCommanders got 
 Pick 11 (Chris Olave)Pick 16 (Jahan Dotson) 
  Pick 98
  Pick 120

Still, there will probably be plenty of Commanders fans who will be paying attention to the careers of Chris Olave, the receiver selected at the spot that Washington vacated, and Jameson Williams, who got picked 12th overall.

• Round 2, pick 47: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama: Mathis is now the third Bama defensive end to land on the interior of Washington's D-line, joining Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Mathis had a very productive final season at Bama, with 53 tackles and 9 sacks.

• Round 3, pick 98: Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama: Over his career at Alabama (oh hey look, another Bama kid), Robinson has been behind guys like Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Bo Scarbrough, and as a result only had 274 career carries in four years heading into the 2021 season. In 2021, it was finally Robinson's turn, and he carried 270 times for 1336 yards (4.9 YPC) and 14 TDs. 

Robinson is a big back at 6'2, 225, and while he isn't often going to break off long runs, he is a hard runner who makes opposing defenders put him on the ground. He is also a competent pass catcher out of the backfield. He should be a nice complement to Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic.

Round 4, pick 113: Percy Butler, S, Louisiana: Developmental safety with 4.36 speed.

• Round 5, pick 144: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina: Howell is a very interesting selection by the Commanders in the fifth round. Some had Howell as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft before the start of the 2021 college season, but his production dropped off after the Tar Heels lost four skill players — running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, as well as wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome — to the NFL.

 Sam HowellComp/Att (Comp %) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
2019 259/422 (61.4%) 3641 (8.6) 38-7 
2020 237/348 (68.1%) 3586 (10.3) 30-7 
2021 217/347 (62.5%) 3056 (8.8) 24-9 

Still, Howell's body of work at UNC is impressive, especially for a player who started as a true freshman. Without his 2020 weapons around him, it should be noted that Howell became more of a runner in 2021, rushing 183 times for 828 yards and 11 TDs, when he only had 181 rushing yards in his previous two seasons combined.

Some highlights from Howell's 2020 season, when he relied on his arm more than his legs:

In the games I have seen Howell play, I agree with Daniel Jeremiah's comp to Baker Mayfield (on the field). That's not necessarily what you're hoping to see out of a first-round quarterback prospect, but it's fine when you're talking about a fifth-round pick.

Ron Rivera felt the need to tell assuage Carson Wentz's feelings by assuring him that this fifth-round quarterback was just a developmental guy.

While I don't think that Howell is any sort of threat to challenge Wentz for a starting job in training camp, if he beats out Taylor Heinicke as the backup and has to fill in for an injured Wentz during the season, he has enough talent to play well and spark a quarterback controversy.

Howell has the chance to be a good backup or a low-end starter, in my opinion. He represents excellent value in the fifth round, and yet, in a weird way there are scenarios in which he could be a detriment to the team if he has to play and he plays well, given that the starting quarterback is mentally fragile.

• Round 5, pick 149: Cole Turner, TE, Nevada: Over the last two seasons (20 games) Turner had 111 catches for 1,282 yards (11.5 YPC) and 19 TDs. He is a wide receiver turned tight end with obvious passing game chops, and at 6'6 is a weapon in the red zone. He will be a move tight end in the NFL, as he's not much of a blocker.

Turner is an interesting selection for the Commanders, since they already have Logan Thomas and rising second-year pro John Bates. Thomas tore his ACL in December, ending his season. He had already missed six games earlier in 2021 with a hamstring injury. Perhaps the Commanders are fearful about Thomas being unable to regain the promise he showed when he had 72 catches in 2020?

Round 7, pick 230: Chris Paul, OG, Tulsa: Paul played both guard spots as well as RT at Tulsa. His home in the NFL will likely be at guard. He ran a 4.89 at 323 pounds, and by all accounts is thought of as a smart, likeable person. Certainly worth a seventh-round flier.

Round 7, pick 240: Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State: I won't pretend to know anything about this guy. He was Dane Brugler's 69th ranked corner, and Lance Zierlein's 41st ranked corner.


I've been sitting here trying to think of something insightful to say about this draft, and I got nothing. They were able to gain a few picks back that they wasted in trading for Wentz, but it came at the cost of one of the top tier receivers in this draft. As for the picks they actually made, there's nothing egregiously bad about Washington's draft, but also nothing to get particularly excited about.

Grade: B-.

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