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May 08, 2023

NFC East 2023 draft grades: Commanders edition

Eagles NFL
050423EmmanuelForbes Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Forbes, dynamic playmaker, but really, really skinny.

After an uninspired free agency period, the Washington Commanders added a few potentially immediate starters in the draft, but overall had a pretty boring draft haul. Let's look at each of the Commanders' picks in the 2023 draft and grade them on what they did.

• Round 1, Pick 16: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State: Forbes is ball-hawking corner with 14 INTs last three seasons for Mississippi State, six of which he returned for touchdowns. His confidence jumps off the screen: 

Forbes was one of the most skilled corners in this draft class, which is why he snuck into the first half of the first round. BUT... at 6'1, 166, he is extremely skinny, so there will be concerns about his durability and physicality at the next level. It will be interesting to see how he holds up against a guy, like, oh, saaayyy, 226-pound A.J. Brown, who will outweigh Forbes by 60 pounds.

Round 2, pick 47: Jartavius Martin, CB, Illinois: The Commanders double-dipped on cornerbacks with their first two picks, taking Forbes in Round 1, and Martin in Round 2. Martin is a feisty, physical, slot corner / safety versatile defensive back with outstanding athleticism. Fun highlight reel:

Martin will likely be the Commanders' starting slot corner as a rookie. 

• Round 3, pick 97: Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas: Seeing as the Eagles employ Jason Kelce and they already have his replacement in Cam Jurgens, I didn't watch many centers this year, so I don't have any strong opinions on the player himself, but Stromberg seems like a reasonable pick at the back end of the third round.

Where it gets interesting with this pick is that Chase Roullier, who has been one of Washington's best offensive linemen for years, is probably on the way out. Roullier missed nine games in 2021 and 15 games in 2022. When you draft a center in the third round, most teams expect that player to start sooner than later, and Roullier has a salary of $8.3 million in 2023. Barring a significant pay cut, he will pretty clearly be a cap casualty.

Update: Oops, they released Roullier over the weekend.

Round 4, pick 118: Braeden Daniels, OL, Utah: Daniels had 18 career starts at LG, 13 at LT, and 11 at RT, per his bio on Utah's website. He doesn't have ideal size (at OG or OT, really), but he certainly has enticing athleticism:

Daniels could be a valuable backup immediately at multiple positions, with starting upside down the road. From an Eagles perspective, Daniels has a similar profile to Jack Driscoll, who has started 16 games over the last three seasons for Philly at various positions, and could start on plenty of other teams around the league.

Even if Daniels does little more than settle in as a versatile backup, those guys are valuable.

Round 5, pick 137: K.J. Henry, Edge, Clemson: Henry was a five-star recruit out of high school (ranked 26th nationally by Rivals, 6th by ESPN), who was a regular in the Clemson defense for four seasons. He's 6'4, 255, with below average athletic testing measurables, and he didn't post good sack production (13 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 48 career games). He did have 6 batted passes in 2022. He looks more athletic on the field than his testing measurables would indicate: 

Henry plays with great energy and he has some upside as a pass rusher, but is thought of as a liability setting the edge against the run. Off the field, he is considered one of the highest character prospects in this draft and for good reason. Good value in the fifth round.

Round 6, pick 193: Chris Rodriguez, RB, Kentucky: Rodriguez is a banger who averaged 6.2 yards per carry over his career at Kentucky. 

Chris Rodriguez Rush Yards YPC TD 
 201843 21.5 
 201971 533 7.5 
 2020119 785 6.6 11 
 2021225 1378 6.1 10 
 2022175 904 5.2 
 TOTAL417 2739 6.6 33 

The downside is that he's not much of a receiver, as he only has 20 career catches, and he probably won't be a threat to break off long runs in the NFL.

Rodriguez is a one-cut, north-south runner who will move piles and gain yards through contact. When Washington picked him, I'm pretty sure I nodded, like, "Yep, that makes sense." That's what I do. I nod my head with nobody else around congratulating myself for seeing the fit, and then write about the experience for all to see 🤷‍♂️. Anyway, his running style actually reminds me quite a bit of Commanders lead back Brian Robinson.

He is a safe bet to at least be a solid NFL backup. The Commanders feel like a team that seeks to have an offense that stays on schedule, converts short third downs, wears opposing defenses down, and tries to win close games. Rodriguez is the type of player that will help the Commanders achieve that goal.

Round 7, pick 233: Andre Jones, Edge, Louisiana: Lottery ticket traits-based 6'5 edge rusher with 34 1/4" arms who had 13.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles the last two seasons for Louisiana. He'll turn 25 during the 2023 season.


The Commanders should get some immediate bang for their buck with this draft class, as there's a decent chance that Forbes, Martin, and Stromberg will all start as rookies, while Daniels, Henry, and Rodriguez could all see meaningful snaps as role players. Of course, much of that is due to the Commanders having some glaring holes on their roster.

This offseason the Commanders signed Jacoby Brissett, a quality backup quarterback who will be competing for a staring job in Washington against Sam Howell, a 2022 fifth-round pick who started one meaningless game for the Commanders last season. Brissett is well-liked off the field, and a solid veteran player on it, but he gives the Commanders something close to a zero percent chance of winning a Super Bowl if he ends up being their best option in 2023.

At pick 16, Kentucky QB Will Levis was available, and the Commanders passed on him to take Forbes. Ron Rivera explained why.

"I think the big thing for us right now is what we did in free agency I think really helped us as a football team And, again, I like who Jacoby Brissett is. For the most part, I think with some of the guys we grabbed on the offensive line, adding to the depth, that really has helped us. Doing some of the things that we did on the defensive side, finding the middle linebacker, there's a lot of pluses to all the things we did. And yet the one thing that we will still have confidence in and are very comfortable with is what we have at quarterback. We think Sam [Howell] and Jacoby and Jake [Fromm] for that matter, give us a good room right now."

The Commanders can't reasonably be "very comfortable" with what they have at quarterback. If they truly are, I mean... lol.

As it turned out, Levis actually fell all the way out of the first round. Tennessee put an end to the fall by trading up from 41 to 33 to grab him, and the cost really wasn't that bad. Could the Commanders have put together a package to trade up from 47 that could have beaten what the Titans were offering? That's probably an unanswerable question.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how Levis' career turns out and if Washington will regret passing on him. From a 60,000-foot view, this team has little to no hope of doing anything special in 2023, and yet they'll still be good enough to win 7 or 8 games, making it difficult for them to find a long-term answer at quarterback the following offseason.

While I can look at this Commanders draft and say, "I like this guy and that guy and that guy and this guy," this team's offseason plan from free agency to the draft did little to change this never-ending cycle of mediocrity.

Grade: B-

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