Updated: Jun 11
With rookie minicamp set to begin, we’ll get to see our first looks at the 2023 Commanders draft class. Finally, Washington had a draft in which they could fill a couple of their needs to push them above mediocrity. The Commanders had a record of 8-8-1, and it could not get any more mediocre than that.
On the bright side, they were able to win eight games and avoid a losing record in a season highlighted by injuries and subpar offensive performances from the quarterback and offensive coordinator. They had large contributions from their 2022 class, let’s see what the class of 2023 can bring.
Commanders 2023 Defensive Class
Washington needed to attack the defensive back position, and this was the perfect class to draft some. Veteran CB Kendall Fuller is expected to be a free agent in 2024, and the Commanders needed another corner for the future to play alongside budding corner Benjamin St-Juste, who allowed an amazing 47.7% completion percentage in 2022. He also received LASIK eye surgery this offseason, and Commander fans know how important that can be.
A few INTS guaranteed! — Benjamin St-Juste (@Benj_Juice) January 20, 2023
Washington ranked 25th in creating turnovers in 2022 and 24th in 2021; it’s no question they needed a defensive playmaker. They found one in Emmanuel Forbes, the six-foot lanky corner from Mississippi State.
Forbes holds the title for the most interceptions returned for touchdowns in FBS history and ended his career with 14 interceptions in 35 games, so the Commanders will appreciate his ability to make plays.
In addition, Forbes has improved every season in coverage to the point where he was ranked third (!) in yards allowed per coverage snap, ahead of fellow 2023 first-round corners Devon Witherspoon (fifth) and Christian Gonzalez (181st).
Sauce Gardner says Emmanuel Forbes smaller frame isn’t a concern. Future star CB in the making? #HTTC pic.twitter.com/qM3u7XIDBC — Jordan (@wshingtontoday) May 4, 2023
The Commanders also needed a defensive back who could handle the middle of Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio’s Buffalo Nickel defense and play in the slot when needed. They found that player in Jartavius “Quan” Martin.
The versatile defensive back out of Illinois has played everywhere from corner to safety to the box for the Illinois defense and will likely do the same assortment in DC. This comes after Washington released safety Bobby McCain before free agency this offseason. Many, including me, feel this can significantly upgrade the Commanders’ defense.
Jartavius “Quan” Martin @JartaviusM_ is visiting the Washington Commanders today, and should be high on their board with his fit in this defense. One of the best slot CB/safeties in the Draft. 9.28 RAS score, 91 run grade by PFF, 7 career INTs. pic.twitter.com/DI0UFvs2Jj — Josh Taylor (@JoshTaylorFB) April 18, 2023
Not only did they need to address the DB room this Draft, but they also only had one edge player under contract for 2024. Additionally, Montez Sweat and Chase Young are both set to be free agents after the 2023-24 season, and it is yet to be known if the Commanders plan to keep both (for financial reasons).
The selection of K.J. Henry from Clemson gives them another option as an immediate relief EDGE player for this season and security in case one of Sweat or Young were to miss time or not return for the next season.
KJ Henry with a nice rep here #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/RHtbJ3E8yH — WalkTheMock (@WalkTheMock) January 31, 2023
Henry, whose father is a longtime Washington fan, has a lot of raw talent and strength that makes him pop on tape and make an impact on the field. His explosion could help contribute to that already impressive defensive front, which also added Ragin’ Cajun Andre Jones Jr. with their last pick of the Draft.
Commanders 2023 Offensive Class
We can’t forget about the offense, which will have new leaders under Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Eric Bieniemy and new QB1 Sam Howell. In addition, the Commanders snagged two of the most versatile offensive linemen in the Draft with LT Braeden Daniels and C Ricky Stromberg.
Daniels has precisely what you would want from your young offensive linemen. He has excellent awareness of stunts and blitzes, solid recovery when countering rush moves, and the athleticism to match up with these new-age dynamic pass rushers. I will not be surprised to see him in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Braeden Daniels / Tackle and Guard 6’4 / 297lbs / #71 Braeden is a Raw but aggressive prospect that can be played anywhere on the Oline. Here we see Braeden take the Hands of the DE and throw them down. Forcing the DE to the ground. Then Braeden buried him! #HTTC pic.twitter.com/99KVYf9nMw — The Podfather (@TheBurgundyZone) May 4, 2023
Stromberg was another overlooked player but is one of the best interior offensive linemen in the 2023 class. Like Daniels, Stromberg is an intelligent player and has the awareness to detect stunts and blitzes consistently.
In addition, he is one of the best interior run-blockers in this class, to go along with the fact that he has never allowed a sack while playing at center.
The Commanders, who have had issues with injuries along the line, will value his versatility as he can also play guard effectively. However, we also saw Chris Paul as a potential starter at left guard, so it will depend on if the Commanders continue to play free-agent acquisition Nick Gates at Center.
I appreciate just how simple and smooth Ricky Stromberg executes up front. Simple climb to the second level but the active feet, quick hips, anchor, and IQ popped on tape all year long. He’s going to compete for a Day 1 job. pic.twitter.com/4RGmTl2kBM — Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) May 3, 2023
Not only did they reinforce their OL, but they also picked up another gem at running back in Chris Rodriguez Jr. The RB out of Kentucky rarely goes down at first contact and has a fantastic burst up the middle. This helps the RB room since Brian Robinson Jr. had recently been the only running back under contract after this season.
After the Draft ended with undrafted free agent receivers Mitchell Tinsley and Kazmeir Allen, they also picked up some gems. Tinsley, a wide receiver out of Penn State, has excellent hands and concentration and will look to compete for a roster spot as the Commanders will likely keep six WRs on the 53-man roster.
Kazmeir Allen, the undrafted free agent out of UCLA, will also look to compete for a final roster spot. He can be a potential explosive asset in the Commanders’ return game and possibly on offense.
✌️⚡️ @kazmeir_ CAN FLY He takes the kick return TO THE HOUSE for @UCLAFootball 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zN6vgu5j6T — FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 20, 2021
Despite the fantastic talent on both sides of the ball, the Commanders lacked advantages. Now they head into camp with key improvements on both sides and look to gain benefits by creating turnovers and big plays on Special Teams, as we saw from last year’s rookies. This season seems to be more hopeful than later, and that’s all you can ask for now as a Washington fan.