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2023 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Mel Kiper Jr. gives the Washington Commanders a rising CB

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Arkansas v Mississippi State
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The hair is back

NFL free agency can be a whirlwind, and we’re somehow already in the 2nd or 3rd wave depending on who you ask. Teams have gone through changes big and small, and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what teams will be looking for in the 1st round and beyond of next month’s draft. Washington lost four free agents(Taylor Heinicke, Cole Holcomb, Wes Schweitzer, Cam Sims), and signed fives since the start of the legal tampering period last Monday. They also claimed a CB off or waivers, tendered Jeremy Reaves, and re-signed a small group of pending free agents. They still need a lot of help as they look to climb out of the bottom of the NFC East and post the first winning record of Rivera’s career in Washington.

This week’s roundup is led off with a new mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. He goes with the popular position(CB), but gives the Washington Commanders a player who is still getting mocked in the 2nd round by a lot of people. Kiper calls Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes a ballhawk(14 interceptions in 3 season), that will need to add some weight at the next level(6’1”, 166 lbs). Kiper left several players on the board that Washington could be interested in[Deonte Banks(#17), Darnell Wright(#19). The top four QBs, and the top three CBs and OTs are all off the board by the time Washington is on the clock at #16, which could leave them hoping for a trade down that likely won’t materialize in that situation.

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah also released his latest mock draft this morning, and he has Washington going offense, but not a lineman. Dalton Kincaid at #16 for the Commanders will anger a lot of fans that see OT or CB as the positions that need to be addressed in the 1st round. Ron Rivera has indicated Logan Thomas will be back this year after a down year that saw him return too soon from 2021’s torn ACL. This seems like a bad use of resources, even if Washington could use a talent infusion at the position.

Sam Howell got some company in the QB room when Washington signed veteran Jacoby Brissett to a 1-year deal. Howell was QB1 heading into the offseason, but Brissett will be his competition along with any other QBs that get added. The idea of Washington trading up for a QB, or even taking one in the first round, was dying down, but the Brissett signing must have rekindled the need to mock ridiculous trades for the Commanders. We have 3 different QBs getting selected in five different mock drafts, and three of them have Washington trading up.

And thank you Charlie Campbell from WalterFootball.com for keeping the Bijan Robinson to Washington nonsense going for another week!

Washington Commanders 2023 Draft Picks

1st Round: #16

2nd Round: #47

3rd Round: #97 (compensatory pick)

4th Round: #118

5th Round: #150

6th Round: #193

#215 (compensatory pick)

7th Round: #233

Defense(7)

Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

E$PN+(Kiper)

Before free agency, Washington had a massive hole at right tackle, but now that spot is filled by former Chiefs lineman Andrew Wylie, who signed a three-year deal last week. I’m not going to rule out the possibility of a tackle here — left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is 31 and on a reasonable contract through 2024 — but let’s move on to another key area: cornerback.

I’m a huge fan of Forbes, who is rail thin but really fast. He ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the combine but weighed in at 166 pounds, making him the lightest prospect at the position. He’s going to get bigger, of course, but some teams will be scared off by his size. The Commanders should capitalize; Forbes is a ballhawk who picked off 14 passes over the past three seasons — one of those was a pick-six off Will Levis — and could be an All-Pro player. He has gone up against some of college football’s best wideouts and consistently held his own.

Pro Football Network(Hodgkinson)

With Sam Howell seemingly entrenched as the starting QB for the 2023 NFL campaign, and free agency additions on the offensive line, the Washington Commanders can focus on another significant area of need in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Emmanuel Forbes instantly upgrades the Commanders’ cornerback room, improving one of the worst passing defenses in the league from last season. Forbes has eye-popping career statistics, but they’re backed up by high-level route recognition, exciting footwork, top-tier athleticism, and physicality beyond his slight frame.

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

CBS Sports(Wilson)

Washington added guard Nick Gates and tackle Andrew Wylie in free agency, so the urgency to upgrade the offensive line early in the draft is no longer what it once was. Instead, the team targets cornerback; Kendall Fuller is entering the final year of his contract and Benjamin St-Juste has been replacement level. Devon Witherspoon had a great season for the Illini, and while there will be questions about his 180-pound frame, you wouldn’t know it to watch him play.

Pro Football Network(Cummings)

Most of the Commanders’ top needs don’t align well at 16th overall, in terms of value. However, if a prospect like Devon Witherspoon falls, that’s an opportunity they can’t pass up. Witherspoon is an incredibly natural cover man with twitch and agility, but he’s also exceedingly physical, alignment-versatile, and a playmaker at the catch point.

Round 2: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida

O’Cyrus Torrence’s Combine shed light on his visibly non-elite athleticism, but he still has the size, power, and angle awareness to earn a starting opportunity with a team like Washington.

Round 3: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland

Jaelyn Duncan makes sense as an eventual successor to Charles Leno at left tackle with his foot speed and recovery athleticism.

Round 4: Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama

Round 5: Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose State

Round 6: Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State

Round 6: Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State

Round 7: Derius Davis, WR, TCU

Covers.com(Caley)

I had Anthony Richardson falling to the Washington Commanders in my last mock, but he’s long gone in this version. Plus, apparently, Ron Rivera believes in Sam Howell.

We’ll find out if that’s a smokescreen soon enough, but for now, the team addresses one of its many holes with one of the best defensive backs on the board. Witherspoon is a little undersized but plays much bigger. He’s fantastic in man coverage and has great instincts.

Mass Live(O’Malley)

Witherspoon has gotten rave reviews in the pre-draft process. He could wind up being a star.

Draft Countdown(Hallam)

Round 2: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

Round 3: DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas

Round 4: Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama

Round 5: Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati

Round 6: Alex Pihlstrom, iOL, Illinois

Round 6: Caleb Murphy, EDGE, Ferris State

Round 7: Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU

Sportsbook Review(McClymont)

The Commanders have been busy this offseason, adding quarterback Jacoby Brissett, tackle Andrew Wylie, and re-signing defensive tackle Daron Payne and center Tyler Larsen.

Most mocks have Washington targeting a corner with the No. 16 pick and Witherspoon would represent excellent value if he’s still available. He trails Gonzalez as the favorite to be the first corner drafted.

Rotoballer(Tyler)

Last season, opposing quarterbacks posted a 70.0 quarterback rating on throws outside the numbers against the Commanders (23rd).

Witherspoon intercepted three passes last season and was the second-best in the nation, allowing only 3.2 yards per target. He would be the perfect complement to Kendall Fuller.

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

CBS Sports(Stackpole)

Having signed two offensive linemen at the onset of free agency, the Commanders turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Joey Porter Jr.’s testing numbers weren’t great, but he’s still a very long, physical cornerback who won’t shy away from covering the other best receivers in the division.

CBS Sports(Edwards)

It is unclear how Washington views its offensive line after the offseason additions of Andrew Wylie and Nick Gates. Cornerback remains a big need for the franchise, and Joey Porter Jr. answers that call.

Fantasy Pros(Brown)

It’ll be interesting to see how the Commanders do with Sam Howell under center. There’s plenty of talent on this Commander’s roster, but they could add to that by just taking the best players available in the draft. In this situation, they do that here to help fix the future outlook of their cornerback position. Cornerback Kendall Fuller is set to become a free agent after this season, and Benjamin St-Juste has been mediocre.

The arm length of Joey Porter Jr. jumps off the screen when you put on the tape. It helps him to consistently be able to play through the catch point and it shows in the stat sheet with 10 pass breakups. Last season only allowed 12 receptions for 108 yards and no touchdowns. His size and fluidity help him to be in position at all times. As the future for the Commanders’ cornerback room could be turned unclear after this season, JPJ gives them assurance that the future is bright.

Sportsnaut(Johnson)

While the Washington Commanders have a pass rush that can dominate, it’s not as effective when the secondary makes so many lapses in coverage. Joey Porter Jr., son of the legendary linebacker, offers the size (6-foot-2)m athleticism and length you want from a No. 1 cornerback. With some quality coaching, Porter Jr. becomes the piece that gives Washington a top-10 defense.

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

College Sports Wire(Conn)

The Washington Commanders recently added cornerback Cameron Dantzler off waivers from Minnesota and re-signed Danny Johnson, but they need to continue to address the position. Adding Gonzalez would certainly help and gives them big-play potential on the back end of the defense.

Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Draft Wire(Popejoy)

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

The Draft Network(Weissman)

Deonte Banks is a fast riser who had an outstanding NFL Combine but also has excellent film. He fills a big need for the Commanders and helps solidify this secondary.

Draft Wire(Risdon)

Banks opted to shorten his name to “Tae” at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he was one of the week’s biggest winners. No matter what you call him, he’s got high-end speed and man coverage ability that would suit the Commanders’ defense nicely.

Round 2: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Round 3: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami

Brian Branch, CB/S, 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. He can play anywhere in the secondary.

Round 2: Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

The Redskins have endured major problems at cornerback for so long. I could see them double up at cornerback.

Eli Ricks is a 6-2 cornerback who had a breakout ‘21 season for Alabama.

Round 3: Emil Ekiyor, G/C, Alabama

The Redskins should consider adding to their offensive line to protect Slingin’ Sammy Howell.

Emil Ekiyor can play guard and center.


Offense(8)

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

CBS Sports(Trapasso)

TRADE: The Cardinals receive #16, Washington’s 2023 second-round selection (No. 47 overall), third-round selection (No. 97) and a first and second in 2024.

Levis is a big, strong, physical specimen at quarterback with a strong arm and plus running ability. Ron Rivera likes that type.

NFL Mocks(Haas)

A trade! The Commanders signed Jacoby Brissett and have stated their interest in giving Sam Howell a fair shake at quarterback. But Will Levis falling to No. 10 overall throws a wrench in these plans.

While I am not the biggest Levis guy in the world, his arm talent and ability to improvise are enticing. If a coach can rein in his wild tendencies, the Kentucky fireballer could put up gaudy numbers throwing to Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel.

DraftTek

Round 2: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

Round 3: Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse

Round 4: Wanya Morris, OT, Oklahoma

Round 5: Jon Gaines, OG, UCLA

Round 6: Gervarrius Owens, S, Houston

Round 6: Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri

Round 7: Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

NBC Sports Philadelphia(Roche)

The Commanders trade their top two picks in the 2023 draft (16th, 47th overall) plus a 2024 #1 to to Cardinals to move up to grab their franchise QB in Richardson. While he is somewhat raw, his natural talents will be a fantastic weapon for first-year OC Eric Bienemy.

Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

The 33rd Team

In what might some consider a surprise, Hendon Hooker (scouting report) lands in the first round to a quarterback-desperate Commanders team. Hooker would get to recover from his ACL injury and learn behind a true pro in Jacoby Brissett, who the team signed this offseason. Hooker showed enough to land in the first round with his arm and athleticism this past season.

Round 2: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State

Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

Pro Football Focus(Sikkema)

Even with the Commanders signing right tackle Andrew Wylie, Charles Leno Jr. is 32 years old and is entering the more experienced two seasons of his contract. They could draft his eventual replacement while not having to throw the rookie out there right away.

Round 2: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Round 3: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Touchdown Wire(Farrar)

Do the Commanders need cornerbacks? Yes, but if there’s a run on the position as there was early in this particular mock, there’s no reason to reach. Washington has Charles Leno at left tackle… which isn’t a bad option, but the team could do better for new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Jones is a true mauler in the run game, both at the line of scrimmage and on the move, and he allowed no sacks and just nine total pressures in 470 pass-blocking snaps last season against some of the most formidable pass-rushers in the nation.

Round 2: Sydney Brown, S, Illinois

Round 3: Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Draft Kings Nation(Simon)

Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

NFL.com(Jeremiah)

I wouldn’t rule out a quarterback with this selection, but I love the idea of adding a dynamic tight end to Washington’s impressive wide receiving corps. I’m excited to see what Sam Howell can do as the starter for the Commanders.

Tankathon

Round 2: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Round 3: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Walter Football(Campbell)

Washington needs more cornerback help, but Bijan Robinson is too good to pass on and there is corner depth for the team to address the need on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft. The seat is getting warmer under Ron Rivera, and a dynamic playmaker like Robinson would help the franchise tremendously as it tries to win with Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett as the starting quarterback. Antonio Gibson is in the last year of his contract, and Brian Robinson could be a solid No. 2 for Washington. Robinson would be a massive steal as the 16th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Over the process, we have documented in the Hot Press how sources from a number of teams have Robinson graded higher than other recent top-five running back prospects of Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott, and Robinson. Just a few weeks ago, team sources across the league said the 2023 NFL Draft lacked true high first-round talent, with the exception of Robinson, as he was the only one receiving a consensus elite grade around the NFL.

In 2022, Robinson averaged 6.1 yards per carry for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also notched 19 receptions for 314 yards and two scores. The junior had a painful overtime fumble against Texas Tech. Robinson was one of the best players in college football in 2021, producing a superb season for Texas. The sophomore averaged 5.8 yards per carry that season for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also took 26 receptions for 295 yards and four scores. In 2020, Robinson flashed his big-time skill set with 703 yards on only 86 carries – 8.2 average – and four touchdowns. He notched 15 catches for 196 yards and two scores that season. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Robinson has power, speed, cutting ability, and natural instincts as a runner. Team sources also say he possesses outstanding character.

Round 2: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Washington needs more talent at cornerback.

Forbes recorded 46 tackles, six interceptions and 10 passes defended during 2022. The 6-foot-1, 166-pounder is an interesting corner who has produced a lot of splash plays for the Bulldogs. He needs to grow more consistent on a down-by-down basis and be less of a feast-or-famine player. In 2021, Forbes collected 59 tackles, three interceptions and five passes broken up. The previous season, he had 44 tackles, five interceptions – three returned for touchdowns -, and six passes broken up. Forbes needs to fill out his frame for the NFL as he is dangerously thin and lacking weight.

Round 3: Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame

The Commies could use more talent at safety.

Joseph (6-1, 192) totaled 30 tackles, forced fumble, an interception and a pass broken up in 2022. He was one of the breakout stars of 2020, putting together a dominant year for Northwestern and helping get the program to the Big Ten Championship. Joseph was a ballhawk that season, producing a lot of splash plays among his six interceptions, two passes broken up and 52 tackles. In 2021, he collected 79 tackles, four pass breakups and three interceptions. Joseph has good size, instincts, quickness and athleticism for the next level.

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