The 2022 NFL Draft class of commanders all share a key commonality

A year ago, the Washington Commanders used their first-round pick against Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, a gifted athlete with exceptional speed and strength, but a player who was only a year old. of university starting experience. During his first season in the NFL, Davis sometimes flashed, but his rookie campaign was overall disappointing.

It is not clear if Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew had Davis leading in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Washington’s front office drafted this time around with a different philosophy. Commanders chose to prioritize experience and college production in last weekend’s draft, rather than focusing on raw but up-and-coming players like Davis.

And, throughout the three-day event, Rivera and Mayhew didn’t try to hide that thought either.

“Guys who have played and been durable and have a ton of college starts, those guys are more attractive to us than guys who only came for a year,” Mayhew said. “If the guys had been in the program and competed and were looking for an opportunity to play, that’s different. We want to see the history of the game. It means that guy can be consistent and can be relied on. So, we are still looking for that.”

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In the first round, Washington orchestrated a trade with New Orleans move back five places from n°11 to n°16 while collecting a third and a fourth round. The commanders then chose Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson with this selection, a four-year-old player whose production increased each season.

Last summer, Dotson had to decide whether to turn pro or return to Penn State for his senior season. He chose the latter, a decision that paid off hugely. As a senior, Dotson finished with 91 catches for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns as the center point of Penn State’s air offense, elevating his draft stock to first-round status.

“It was not a very difficult decision for me, just because I saw the benefits of staying one more year and realized that it was better for me, better for my family and better for everyone. world around me to take another step back and take a year of school and really focus on my craft and basically perfect my craft,” Dotson said.

As a senior, Penn State used Dotson in a variety of ways. The 5-foot-11 wide receiver has played both in the slot and out, showcasing his versatility — something Rivera and his staff covet. He has also shown an impressive ability to carry inaccurate and contested passes; Rivera and Mayhew have praised Dotson’s catching radius several times since the draft.

On Day 2 of the NFL Draft, Commanders stuck to their approach of producing above potential.

With their second-round pick, Washington nabbed Alabama’s defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, a four-year-old contributor who took off as a senior. Mathis had to wait his turn behind a stacked Crimson Tide defensive line but got his first real chance to start in 2021, where he finished with nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for the loss. He was also a team manager and named permanent defensive captain.

Hours later, Commanders used their third-round pick on Mathis’ Alabama teammate, running back Brian Robinson Jr. Like Mathis, Robinson had to wait his turn on the depth chart. After sharing carries with current Steelers star Najee Harris in 2020, Robinson became the star of Tide in 2021. He capitalized on his opportunity, finishing with 1,343 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns while winning the first-team All-SEC honors.

In Dotson, Mathis and Robinson, Washington drafted three seniors in the first three rounds who were all extremely productive in their collegiate season. It’s not an accident.

“You would like to think that the first picks that you anticipate are going to be able to contribute in some way and more so when you get into your top four, you want some kind of impact from them,” said said Rivera.

“We feel like we have guys who can come in and help impact what we do on offense or defense and can also contribute to special teams if they have to. Looking at what we’ve done, we’ve got guys that we think we’re going to come in, be part of a rotation, be part of an opportunity to play for us and really contribute.”

Washington’s philosophy of recruiting productive college players also carried over to day three of the draft. In the fourth round, the commanders drafted Safety in Louisiana Percy Butlera three-year starter on the Ragin’ Cajons defense and a standout on special teams.

Then with the first pick in the fifth round, Washington selected North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell, another three-year-old starter who was once in the conversation to be the No. 1 overall pick as recently as last summer. Rivera called Howell’s fifth-round slip a major surprise and believes the UNC quarterback was a “home pick” at pick No. 144.

In North Carolina, Howell was one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football. During his three-year career, he threw for over 10,000 yards, 92 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions. After losing a ton of offensive talent at the start of the 2021 season, Howell adapted his game and started using his legs a lot more, finishing his junior season with over 800 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

Unlike many previous Washington picks, Howell won’t be asked to contribute right away. Rivera made it clear that writing the UNC product was a development choice. Still, Howell has plenty of high-level college football experience under his belt and some pundits believe that because of his experience, he’s among the most pro-ready QBs in the Class of 2022.

Five picks after Howell, Washington selected Nevada tight end Cole Turner. The tight end started his career with the Wolfpack as a wide receiver, but switched to tight end after his second season. Over the next two years, Turner totaled 111 receptions for 1,282 yards and 19 touchdowns, continuing Washington’s theme of bringing in highly productive college players.

“Probably the guy I think intrigues us a lot more than anyone else is Cole Turner. He’s a dynamic pass catcher,” Rivera said. “He played in a spread style attack. He’s a guy who’s a big target, he has a huge catch radius, runs good routes and knows how to split at the right time. It’s going to be very intriguing as we let’s look at the development and growth of these players from now until we enter the season.”

turner feels it can have an instant impact on Washington’s attack, especially as a red-zone target for Carson Wentz. Washington’s red zone offense was among the worst in the NFL in 2021, so the addition of Turner — an athletic, big-body tight end — should only help the unit improve in that category.

The production theme of potential continued through the end of the draft, even with Washington’s two seventh-round picks. Offensive lineman Chris Paul was a three-year starter at Tulsa and has experience playing both guard and right tackle. The Commanders final selection, cornerback Christian Holmes, played five years of college football at Missouri and Oklahoma State.

In total, Washington’s draft class included seven seniors — all of whom played a lot of football in their final college season. Howell, the only commanders junior in the 2022 draft class, was a three-year-old starter. It’s pretty clear how much Washington was enjoying the college experience going into this year’s draft.

“You like to see a good playing history when you look at guys’ stats and look at their production over their college career,” Mayhew said. “So that’s something we like to see. It’s not necessarily always there, but in this situation these guys have it.”

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