Washington goes into the 2023 NFL offseason trending upwards thanks to the new signing of Eric Bieniemy as their new offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Bezos is also rumored to consider making a bid for ownership of the Commanders, so things are looking bright for Washington.
The next step to keeping that future bright is drafting well in April. Washington and their general manager Martin Mayhew seem to have a keen sense lately for diamonds in the rough, so let’s take a look at a few potential gems in the later rounds.
TE Payne Durham, Purdue University
The hiring of Bieniemy means that the tight end room will get a serious boost after he had spent the past five years helping call plays for possibly the best tight end of all time in Travis Kelce. With Logan Thomas not getting any younger and possibly being a cap-casualty, there is a good chance that Washington will take a tight end in this draft.
This draft has many capable players at the tight end position, each with unique skillsets and traits. All eyes will be on tight ends like Michael Mayer and Darnell Washington, but Payne Durham has my attention. Durham has the size, blocking ability, hands, and mobility to be a Kelce-esque tight end for Bieniemy.
He showcased some of this at the 2023 Senior Bowl, in which four Washington personnel coaches were down in Mobile, Alabama to coach the Senior Bowl players. We all know Mayhew loves players from the Senior Bowl, after five of his 2022 draft picks participated. I would not be surprised to see Durham in Washington this April.
CB Darius Rush, University of South Carolina
It is no secret that the secondary is one of the main weaknesses of this Washington defense, along with the linebacker position. While they have made recent strides in drafting studs like Darrick Forrest, Kam Curl, and Benjamin St-Juste, it feels like they are a defensive back or two away from a complete secondary and defense.
Thankfully, this draft class is deep at the corner position and Washington has no shortage of picks. It will be interesting to see if Washington goes after a corner on Day One, or if they reserve it to fill a need higher on the priority list, like offensive line, then pick a corner on Day Two in Rounds Two or Three.
Here’s a good compilation of CB Darius Rush from the Senior Bowl. Cam Taylor-Britt was my “guy” last year. Think this year it’s Darius Rush. pic.twitter.com/T1suOCogqo — Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) February 14, 2023
If they do decide to draft a corner Day Two, they should look no further than Darius Rush. Many have mocked his teammate Cam Smith to Washington, but it will depend on if Washington prioritizes an outside corner in Rush or a slot corner in Smith.
St-Juste has shown he is capable of playing on the outside, allowing only 47% of passes thrown his way to be completed. This is lower than every All-Pro and Pro Bowl corner in 2023, except for James Bradberry who had a phenomenal season outside of his costly penalty in the Super Bowl. It is also possible that Kendall Fuller moves to the slot as he is getting older and won’t be able to keep up with receivers on the outside much longer.
OL Tyler Steen, University of Alabama
The offensive line for Washington took a step back last year, but no worries. A lot of the Washington OL will have their contracts expiring soon and this draft is filled with versatile offensive linemen. With the holes and injuries Washington continues to have on their offensive line, they will definitely value versatility.
This is where offensive lineman from the University of Alabama, Tyler Steen, comes into play. The versatility of Steen cannot be understated. Steen played at left tackle at Alabama, but also has experience inside at guard. The Commanders have needs all over the line, so Steen will automatically be an upgrade.
OT/OG 😉 https://t.co/rCtLqmjjh3 — Tyler Steen (@ZzTylerzZ00) February 7, 2023
LB Dorian Williams, Tulane University
Playing at a private university like Tulane, you won’t get too much draft buzz. Thankfully for the Senior Bowl, we got to see more of him and his Tulane teammate, Tyjae Spears. Both of them are gaining recognition and rising up draft boards due their time in practice and during the game for the Senior Bowl.
Dorian Williams showing the ability to get lateral and upfield on the out-and-up. pic.twitter.com/fb2vGg372h — Cory (@realcorykinnan) February 1, 2023
Williams showed his natural knack of flying to the football and always being in the play. He creates havoc around the line of scrimmage and behind it, and also has the size and speed to hold up in coverage against receivers and running backs. Drafting Williams to pair with improving young linebacker Jamin Davis would not be a bad move, even if the Commanders decide to pursue a free agent inside linebacker like Tremaine Edmunds or Bobby Wagner. Williams will likely be one of the steals of the later rounds.
QB Clayton Tune, University of Houston
This is not the first time I have talked about quarterback Clayton Tune, and it will probably not be the last. Tune continues to stay towards the bottom of draft boards despite constantly showcasing his ability to be a quality QB. The quarterback out of Houston possess the mobility, arm talent, and awareness to make plays at a high level.
This is one hell of a throw from Clayton Tune, insane arm talent and great awareness maneuvering the pocket. pic.twitter.com/AFaqKQqM4l — Andrew Harbaugh (@AndrewHarbaugh_) February 22, 2023
Tune has played five seasons in college football and has spent four seasons as a starter, so that could be a reason that the 23-year-old isn’t high on many people’s draft boards. Though the fact that he is a senior could affect how scouts view his ceiling and potential, this also means he is more experienced than your average Day One rookie QB. This gives Washington the ability to use a possible Day Three pick to fill out their QB room.
This is a pretty ridiculous throw from Clayton Tune that probably should have been a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/B1nkSWSKhW — Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) February 18, 2023
Tune deserves an opportunity for a chance to compete at the NFL level, even if that is starting out as a third string QB, like former rookie QBs Sam Howell and Brock Purdy who are now in contention for their respective team’s starting quarterback position.
If Washington decides to add any one or more of these players in April, look for this team to take another step in the right direction.