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2023 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Cornerbacks are the most popular pick for the Washington Commanders

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2023 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Cornerbacks are the most popular pick for the Washington Commanders
Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Defense!

The 2022-23 season has been a strange one for Washington, and not just because it’s their first one using the Commanders name. They started out 2-4, but then their big QB acquisition, Carson Wentz, broke his finger and was placed on IR. Taylor Heinicke took over as the starter for the third season in a row, and led the team to a chance at the playoffs. That all fell apart in December, then we got the return of Carson Wentz and the debut of Sam Howell in January.

Washington currently has 6 picks in the 2023 NFL draft, but they are expected to receive comp picks for departed free agents Brandon Scherff (3rd round) and Tim Settle (6th round) per Over the Cap. The Commanders hold the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Washington Commanders Projected 2023 Draft Picks

1st Round: #16

2nd Round: #47

3rd Round: (traded to Colts for QB Carson Wentz)

#97 (Projected compensatory pick)

4th Round: #117

5th Round:#150

6th Round: #192

#216 (Projected compensatory pick)

7th Round: #235

There are 38 mock drafts featuring 14 different players in this roundup, and they address several positions for Washington. Cornerback was the pick in 21 of these mocks, and could be the way Ron Rivera goes in the first round next year. Washington looks to be set at safety for now with young DBs Kam Curl and Darrick Forrest, but the cornerback room could look very different in 2023.

The next most popular picks were LB and OL. Both of these positions saw starters get injured and their depth get tested throughout the season. Starting LB Cole Holcomb missed most of the season with a foot injury, and will be a free agent next season. Jamin Davis goes into next year as the only solid starter under contract. Offensive line will be a focus this year after they went bargain shopping to replace both their guards, and once again started 4 different centers.

Daron Payne is also a free agent this offseason, but the team has said they are interested in retaining him. That’s a change from last year when they didn’t extend him, and there were trade rumors. Washington might go down the tag route again to keep him paired with Jonathan Allen for at least one more year. Washington drafted Phidarian Mathis in the 2nd round last year as a possible replacement, but he was lost for the season after 4 plays.

The final three positions in this roundup are QB and TE. Washington is letting potential offensive coordinator candidates that Sam Howell is QB1 going into the offseason, but he will have to earn the starting job when they get more players on the team. They will likely not be in a position to get a top QB in this year’s draft, but could be looking to add another QB on Day 2 or 3. Washington’s TE depth chart was also affected by injuries since training camp. Washington had a few undrafted rookies that showed potential, but TE was definitely a group that was underutilized and underperformed when given opportunities.

Defense(10)

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Pro Football Focus(Renner)

Gonzalez is one of the most scheme-versatile cornerbacks in the class with a level of fluidity and explosiveness you rarely see in a 6-foot-2 player at the position. He picked off four passes and broke up six more in his first season with Oregon in 2022.

Pro Football Network(Hodgkinson)

While there are quarterback questions for the Washington Commanders too, their porous pass defense is likely to be the center of attention as they pick outside of the prime spots for passers in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez has everything you need to be a top-tier NFL CB. This season, he’s routinely displayed the enticing athleticism, football intelligence, and mind-blowing ball skills to lock up a first-round selection. Next up, locking down NFL wide receivers for fun.

Newsday(Klopsis)

Kendall Fuller has been solid and Benjamin St-Juste is ascending, but neither are true lockdown cornerbacks. Christian Gonzalez has excellent ball skills, and his 6-2, 200-pound frame allows him to match up well against bigger wideouts — such as NFC East receivers CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown.

Yardbarker(Trachtman)

Washington needs more depth in the secondary, and Gonzalez is a fine option. He recorded four interceptions and 50 tackles during the season for the Ducks.

FanNation(Bradshaw)

Get ready for a run on cornerbacks! Gonzalez is a long corner with true shutdown ability that will have many listing him as CB1 in the class. The Commanders haven’t had a true shutdown corner in what feels like a decade and Gonzalez would be the day one top dog for the team.

Tankathon

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

CBS Sports (Trapasso)

The Commanders could use more high-end talent at the outside cornerback position, and Porter is a long, disruptive defender.

CBS Sports (Edwards)

Washington plays a good mixture of man and zone coverage so Porter is a better option for its defense than some of the other options.

Walter Football(Campbell)

Washington needs more cornerback and safety help. Here is a starting corner who could provide a quick upgrade.

Overall, Porter was steady coverage in 2022 while recording 27 tackles and 11 passes broken up. However, he really did not provide any big plays and did not record an interception. Porter rotated in as freshman in 2020 and had a quality debut. In 2021, he collected 51 tackles, one interception, four passes broken up and one forced fumble. The son of legendary Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, Joey Porter Jr., has an NFL pedigree. The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder possesses excellent size and the upside to become an impactful player. Porter has freakishly long arms, which makes him a superb fit for press-man corner to take on big receivers.

NFL Mocks (Haas)

The Commanders might trade up for a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, but with an early run in this mock draft, Washington is left with an elite cornerback on the board. Joey Porter Jr. is not Sauce Gardner, but they do mirror each other quite a bit. JPJ steps in as the top cornerback on the roster immediately and brings a swagger to the position that instills confidence in the entire unit.

Bleeding Green Nation(Natan)

Washington can keep building up the back end of a talented defense. Joey Porter has the size and athleticism to grow into a shutdown type cornerback.

Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Pro Football Network(Rolfe)

The Washington Commanders’ offense also could do with help on the interior of their offensive line, but again, the value is not there. Therefore, they could also look to bolster their defense, with both linebacker and cornerback among the options. Cam Smith is the choice here, and I give him a slight edge over linebacker Trenton Simpson from a positional value perspective.

When it comes to fantasy consideration, Smith would be a relatively low-priority option in drafts. In leagues where DBs are grouped, he does not even definitively command drafting consideration. In formats with CBs, Smith could be worth a late-round selection, especially if you could stash him on a taxi squad.

The Draft Network(Eisner)

Washington’s CB room simply isn’t good enough for a team with playoff aspirations in 2023. Cam Smith is a man-coverage corner with toughness, quick feet, and ball skills—an immediate upgrade for the Commanders.

Draft Wire(Easterling)

This secondary needs a true shutdown artist to take over the No. 1 corner spot, and this gives Washington the perfect chance to do just that. Smith is a stellar cover man with a knack for making big plays whenever the ball comes anywhere near him.

CBS Sports(Stackpole)

The Commanders have a formidable front — especially with Chase Young being back — and linebacker Jamin Davis made significant strides in his second season. What the stout defense doesn’t have, however, is a shutdown corner. Kendall Fuller is a nice player, but he’s not going to consistently contain the likes of CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown. Cam Smith could develop into that type of cover guy, as his length and instincts will translate well to the next level.

Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

CBS Sports(Wilson)

The Georgia-to-first-round pipeline continues. A year after five Bulldogs went in Round 1, expect a handful this time around, too. Kelee Ringo is a long, physical corner who has matched up against some of the best players in the country.

Pro Football Network (Fragoza)

Kelee Ringo may very well go in the top 10. He has the size/athleticism profile to warrant such a selection. But if he does fall to the Commanders, they should sprint the card up. A 6’2″, 210-pound CB built like a linebacker with projected 4.3 speed who played on one of most dominant defenses in college football? Yea, Ringo won’t have to wait long to hear his ring go off in Round 1.

DraftTek

Winning was unequivocally not the right thing to do Sunday, but the Commanders did it anyway. Lucky for them, they only dropped two spots in draft order (from 14 to 16) instead of the possibility of picking as high as tenth if teams ahead of them won their games. Yes, Sam Howell fared well in his debut, but there’s a reason he was a 5th-round pick and, lest we forget, this franchise has spent three decades playing the ‘what if?’ game with quarterbacks.

For the majority of the past 15 years, Washington has been in QB purgatory because of their tendency to land somewhere between 6 and 9 wins, leaving their draft pick somewhere between 10 and 20, far away from the top signal-callers. While no fan wants to suffer through a 2 or 3 win season, a roster like this really would have benefitted from a ‘tanking’ year and a top prospect at the position.

As Kevin Sheehan has reiterated on his podcast (‘Sam Howell I am’), this roster is surprisingly very good. The defense is a top-five unit in the NFL even though it battled injuries throughout the season. The offensive weapons-from a strong stable of RBs to a possible elite duo of WRs in Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson-are young and talented as well. The offensive line needs work-and needs to get younger-and an extra CB along with the retention of DaRon Payne are important pieces, but this team is much closer to contention than it was at this point last season.

The one thing the team needs? The most important thing in all of sports. The one thing it may not be any closer to acquiring…remains a franchise quarterback.

Sportskeeda(Broyles)

Brian Branch, CB, Alabama

Walter Football

The Redskins can’t cover anyone, thanks to William Jackson being a complete bust as a free agent signing. They desperately need someone new to stay with A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb.

Brian Branch has nice size and cover ability.

Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

TouchdownWire(Farrar)

Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

NBC Sports Chicago(Morgan)

Simpson moves with a video game-like suddenness, startling opponents into poor decisions and effectively causing chaos on the offensive side of the ball. The type of three-down linebacker that lines up anywhere on the field, in 2022 Simpson not only lined up on the defensive front he also played in the slot and defended within the box. Simpson’s versatility is exactly what Washington could use to bolster its inconsistent second unit.

Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

NFL Draft Blitz(Vogel)

Washington is caught in a tough space, and that’s the limbo otherwise known as “quarterback purgatory.” While they clearly have talent across the board and a good roster, the lack of an effective and efficient quarterback prevents them from taking the next step as a team. Now, they perform well enough to pick outside of the top ten – but that’s a double blessing/curse because now they can’t get a top-end quarterback that they need without paying a kings ransom for the spot.

Washington is in no rush with their first round pick, and are more than capable of waiting for a great player like Nolan Smith, who is a stout run defender as well as an explosive pass rusher.

Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

SB Nation(Acosta)

Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

Yahoo Sports(McDonald)

With Daron Payne set to hit free agency, here’s another first round defensive lineman to potentially replace him. Bresee would fit in well on a Commanders defensive line that already has a lot of talent.

Sporting News(Iyer)

Daron Payne is a pending free agent and the Commanders should look for a new complement to Jonathan Allen to help Chase Young and Montez Sweat up front. Bresee offers good technique and nimble feet as a run-stopper and also can boost the inside pass rush.


Offense(4)

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

USA Today(Middlehurst-Schwartz)

In its quest to find a quarterback, Washington’s brain trust does what its passers can’t: repeatedly throw darts. Richardson, however, might represent one of the wildest gambles of all. A dazzling deep thrower with a rare blend of speed and power as a runner, the 6-4, 232-pound quarterback is a singular prospect in any draft class. But that’s also partly due to his maddening inconsistency as a passer, leaving him very much an unknown entity at this point in his career. Starting him anytime soon would be a massive risk for any NFL franchise, but would that really scare off the Commanders given their current outlook?

The 33rd Team

Richardson might need time to develop, but he is a high-upside prospect at 6-foot-4, 236 pounds. Washington needs to add a spark to their offense.

San Diego Union Times(Brown)

Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz and Sam Howell (he was solid versus the Cowboys) won’t prohibit the Commanders from seeking a quarterback. Especially one that might remind coach Ron Rivera of Cam Newton — not necessarily his fashion sense — his former MVP signal-caller in Carolina. Richardson is the wild-card in this QB class. His range is anywhere from first overall pick — I expect scouts and coaches/coordinators to fall in love with his traits (i.e. ceiling) — to a day two selection. Top needs: CB, OL, QB

Paris Johnson, Jr., OT, Ohio State

Bleacher Report

A quarterback could enter the chat if he’s not blocked by the Washington Commanders’ moderator, i.e., Ron Rivera.

A plan could come together to replace Carson Wentz, or Washington could go into another season with Wentz behind center. But the Commanders are far from settled at signal-caller.

The best way to make a poor quarterback setup look better is by placing a strong supporting cast around the position. Thus, Washington turns to their offensive line.

“Washington is in desperate need of help along the interior but could use an upgrade at tackle if a prospect of Paris Johnson’s caliber fell to them at 14,” Thorn reasoned. “Charles Leno Jr. still has two years on his contract, and the team drafted Sam Cosmi in the second round just a couple of years ago.

“But Johnson’s movement skills trump both and offer legitimate Pro Bowl upside. The 21-year-old consensus All-American has only played left tackle for one year at the collegiate level. Despite his inexperience, Johnson is a refined, potent run-blocker with the athletic ability and range to play on an island in the NFL.

“The early entrant does must get stronger in his lower half and refine his use of hands to transition into his anchor more efficiently. Both issues are workable, while he offers clear strengths to make an impact right away in the run game.”

A ripple effect should occur. Johnson can start his career guard, as he did at Ohio State, or move to right tackle while Cosmi can bump inside to improve the interior.

Fox Sports(Helman)

I bet it stings to watch Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff, originally drafted in D.C., anchor offensive lines for playoff teams while the Commanders sit at home. There’s talent at the skill positions, but this team could stand to upgrade its offensive line. What better place to start than at left tackle?

O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida

NFL Draft Bible

“Large human in terms of outright mass. Mainly a guard but has moved out to tackle and handled the duties well in limited snaps. Arms and strength to finish plays. Plays long with heavy hands at the point of attack.”

Draft Countdown (Hallam)

Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

NFL Spin Zone (Gurzi)

The Washington Commanders were another team that just missed out on the playoffs but they continued to play hard for head coach Ron Rivera. It will be interesting to see if he gets another year with the franchise after they struggled down the stretch. If so, he’s going to have to get the quarterback situation figured out.

Taylor Heinicke is good enough to win in spurts and Sam Howell showed some good and some bad in his debut in Week 18. They also have Carson Wentz and he seems to be the only one that they shouldn’t believe in.

As for this mock draft, they add a security blanket for whoever they go with in Darnell Washington. The Georgia tight end is massive at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds. He looks like a sixth offensive lineman when he’s on the field but he’s also very athletic.

He can get deep and once he has the ball, it’s hard to bring him down. Washington averaged 17 yards per reception in his three seasons with the Bulldogs, which is very impressive for such a large human.

Washington is incredibly raw but his testing is likely to be off the charts when he gets to the Scouting Combine. That’s how he ends up climbing the boards and finding a spot in the top 20.

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