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May 05, 2024

NFC East 2024 draft grades: Commanders edition

Is Washington trending forward after its first draft under Josh Harris' ownership?

Eagles NFL
050524JaydenDaniels Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Daniels

The Washington Commanders have been the NFL's doormat for a few decades, but their fans hope that under new ownership things will turn around. The 2024 offseason was the Commanders' first under new owner Josh Harris, new GM Adam Peters, and new head coach Dan Quinn. Let's look at what they did in the draft.

Pick 2: Jayden Daniels. QB, LSU: Since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, 27 different quarterbacks have started games for Washington. They are Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Tony Banks, Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, Kirk 'Kurt' Cousins, Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, Carson Wentz, and Sam Howell. 

In 2024, the Commanders will have their eighth different Week 1 starting quarterback in as many seasons:

• 2017: Kirk Cousins
• 2018: Alex Smith
• 2019: Case Keenum
• 2020: Dwayne Haskins
• 2021: Ryan Fitzpatrick
• 2022: Carson Wentz
• 2023: Sam Howell
• 2024: Jayden Daniels (assuming he can beat out Marcus Mariota in training camp, a very low bar to clear)

The Commanders nabbed Daniels in their first draft under new ownership, and they'll hope that he can be the long-term answer at quarterback that they have not been able to find in decades.

Daniels won the Heisman Trophy in 2023 after a season in which he completed 72.2 percent of his passes, averaged an incredible 11.7 yards per pass attempt, and had 40 TDs vs. 4 INTs, while also adding 1134 yards on 8.4 yards per carry and 10 TDs on the ground. Some highlights:

In addition to his electrifying ability as a runner, Daniels is a cerebral quarterback who can read defenses, set protections, and make anticipatory throws. The knock on him is that he does not possess elite arm strength and he has a very slender frame that some believe could lead to durability issues. There could also be concerns in that Daniels reportedly expressed that he'd rather play somewhere other than Washington.

If all goes well, Daniels could reinvigorate a Washington fan base that has not had much reason for hope since Robert Griffin III gave them some for a short window of time a little more than a decade ago.

• Pick 36: Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois: Newton is a short, squatty interior lineman with impressive strength, athleticism, and versatility. He is tougher to move off the line of scrimmage than his undersized frame might indicate, and he has a knack for penetrating the line of scrimmage, being disruptive both against the run and the pass. 

In 2022, Newton had an impressive 62 tackles from the interior of the line, to go along with 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 11 QB hits, and 3 batted passes. In 2023, he had 52 tackles and 7.5 sacks. I'm not sure how he didn't get selected in the first round.

The Commanders already had one of the best DT duos in the NFL in Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, but they had no depth. They now have a third talented player to add to the rotation. Great value pick.

• Pick 50: Mike Sainristil, CB, Michigan: Sainristil initially played wide receiver at Michigan (for three years, actually), catching 37 passes for 539 yards (14.6 YPC) and 5 TDs, before moving to defense for his last two years. On the other side of the ball, Sainristil quickly became a playmaking slot corner. At 5'10, 182, Sainristil doesn't have ideal size, but he's feisty, tough, and just a good football player. 

He'll probably start in the slot as a rookie. (He was a personal favorite prospect of mine.)

• Pick 53: Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State: In 2023, Sinnott had 49 catches for 676 yards (13.8 YPC) and 6 TDs. For his college career, he averaged a healthy 13.9 yards per catch, a pretty big number for a tight end. Most scouting reports say he has a ways to go as a blocker. This felt like a reach in the middle of Round 2.

• Pick 67: Brandon Coleman, OG, TCU: Coleman played at LT, LG, and RG during his career at TCU. Most draft analysts felt like Coleman's future in the NFL would be at guard, but interestingly the Commanders announced him as a tackle. 

He has sufficient arm length to play tackle, and he has outstanding athleticism.

The Commanders have decent enough interior offensive linemen, but their tackles just aren't very good. Coleman could have a chance to start as a rookie at LT.

• Pick 100: Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice: McCaffrey is a converted quarterback who played some running back and receiver at Rice. In 2023, he started to put it all together as a receiver, making 71 catches for 992 yards and 13 TDs. (And yes, he's the brother of Christian McCaffrey, who GM Adam Peters worked with in San Francisco.) 

Pick 139: Jordan Magee, LB, Temple: Magee is an undersized linebacker with decent athleticism. (I feel that that's the description for most linebackers these days.)

Over the last two seasons (22 games), he had 166 tackles, 8 sacks, 7 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. Nice fifth-round value.

Pick 161: Dominique Hampton, S, Washington: Hampton is an intriguing height-weight-speed safety prospect.

He led the Huskies with 109 tackles, and also chipped in 2 INTs and 7 pass breakups in 2023. Another nice fifth-round value.

Pick 222: Javontae Jean-Baptiste, EDGE, Notre Dame: Jean-Baptiste spent five years at Ohio State (including a redshirt year in 2018) before transferring to Notre Dame in 2023. He had 8 sacks in his time at OSU (mostly as a reserve), and 5 at Notre Dame in a bigger role. Tall, skinny dude with decent athleticism. He's still only 23 (he turns 24 in May) despite six years in college. It's a little weird to call a guy who spent six seasons at OSU/ND a "developmental player," but that's probably what he is.


The Commanders entered free agency with the most cap space in the NFL. After signing nearly 20 outside players, they still have over $40 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, the second-most in the NFL.

In free agency, they didn't add many players who appear to be in their long-term plans. I would count LB Frankie Luvu, C Tyler Biadasz, OL Nick Allegretti, and DE Dorance Armstrong among the long-term players. The majority of their other signings were veterans on one-year deals, an approach that some questioned.

However, they also had the No. 2 pick in the draft, which was almost certainly going to be used on a quarterback, three top-40 picks, 6 picks in the first two days of the draft, and 9 total. During free agency, they improved their roster to a level where the rookie quarterback wouldn't be surrounded by utter garbage, and were also going to be able to add plenty of good, young prospects at other positions.

With the No. 2 pick they landed Daniels, who in my opinion has the most upside of the quarterbacks taken in this draft, while also grabbing other good players likely to contribute immediately in Newton, Sainristil, Sinnott, and McCaffrey. With their other picks, they trended toward athletes with high upside, like Coleman and Hampton.

I kinda love what the Commanders did this offseason. They improved their team both in the short-term and long-term, surrounding their rookie quarterback with legitimate veteran talent, while also maintaining the flexibility to spend again in free agency next offseason.

To be determined if Daniels pans out. If he does, this draft will be a huge success. If he doesn't, then, you know, it won't. But having now seen the entire picture of the Commanders' offseason, I see a logical plan that I haven't been used to seeing from this organization.

Grade: A.

National view

The Commanders received positive feedback from the national guys/gals as well. 

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