The Commanders upgraded its speed quotient at wide receiver. Think about an opening day quartet of Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown and Jahan Dotson.
Even if you discount the fact that Chase Young had just one-and-a-half sacks in nine games, the defensive line needed more interior pass rush. Daron Payne had just four-and-a-half sacks in 17 starts, but posted a large number of quarterback hits. But they released DT Matt Ioannidis (Panthers), leaving a void in terms of depth along the front seven. He posted 24.5 quarterback sacks in six seasons with the team. Mathis could make up for some of the lost production and should be entrenched in a battle for snaps.
Washington finished 29th in passing defense a year ago but like their safeties in Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain, two former corners. They added more size to the outside lanes with the late addition of Christian Holmes, who will battle for a roster spot.
|Washington Commanders 2022 NFL Draft/UDFA|
|Player||School||DN Big Board|
|1 (16)||Jahan Dotson||WR/Penn State||32/2nd Round||Dotson's body control, route-running expertise and improved foot speed all provide upgrades in a receiving corps that desperately needed just that.|
|2 (47)||Phidarian Mathis||DT/Alabama||120/3rd Round||Mathis provides depth to an already impressive defensive front that severely underachieved in 2021. He provides a different type of interior pass rush presence for the Commanders, although the sack totals were not of a sustained profile.|
|3 (98)||Brian Robinson, Jr.||RB/Alabama||158/3rd Round||Robinson only started for one season, but that doesn’t take away from his improved receiving skills and impressive work in pass protection. He’ll be able to compete for a backup job in Washington.|
|4 (113)||Percy Butler||S/Louisiana-Lafayette||151/3rd Round||Butler’s work coming downhill in the alleys was only outdone by his work at gunner, where his 4.36 speed makes him tough to stop once he gets a bead on returners.|
|5 (144)||Sam Howell||QB/North Carolina||86/2nd Round||Howell was the only FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for over 800 yards this past season. His release still needs work, as does his footwork.|
|5 (149)||Cole Turner||TE-H-back/Nevada||292/4th Round||Turner, a former WR, overcomes any instant acceleration with body control, catch radius and Red Zone capability. He has worked on the kickoff return unit in school, blocked as an H-back with effort and improved every season on campus.|
|7 (230)||Chris Paul||OT-OG/Tulsa||342/5th Round||Paul has a couple of technique issues to clean up but that doesn’t take away from a quick-footed profile that still makes it tough to clear for defensive ends. He has flex capability along the team’s offensive line.|
|7 (240)||Christian Holmes||CB/Oklahoma State, Missouri||257/4th Round||Holmes was competitive at Missouri, which made it a surprise that he went to Oklahoma State in the first place. His physical style translates well as a backup and core special teams contributor.|
|Commanders 2022 UDFA signings|
|DN Big Board Rank||Player||Positions||School||Grade||Round||Nasty Take’|
|200||Jequez Ezzard||WR/All-purpose||Sam Houston State, Howard||5.63||4th Round||Ezzard will get an opportunity to compete for the starting punt return job in training camp. The all-purpose dynamo plays much bigger than his 5-foot-9-inch frame would indicate.|
|400||Cole Kelley||QB||SE Louisiana||5.05||5th Round||Kelley has worked on shortening his release and actually ran for 16 TDs this past season. He also found time to throw for over 5,000 yards and|
|417||Tyrese Robinson||OG-OT||Oklahoma||5||5th Round||Robinson moved to the right tackle position in 2021 and held his own. At 6’3, 318 pounds, we think he projects to the right guard spot in the NFL.|
|437||Kyric McGowan||All-Purpose||Georgia Tech, Northwestern||4.92||5th Round||McGowan’s frame and strength enabled him to get a free agent shot. He surprised in the slot this past season after being more of a return specialist at Northwestern. The former Wildcats|
|442||Curtis Hodges||TE/H-Back||Arizona State||4.9||5th Round||Hodges’ change of direction skill could be underrated considering his 6-foot-8-inch frame. After four uninspiring years on campus, Hodges took his game to another level in 2021.|
|582||Ferrod Gardner||LB-S||Louisiana-Lafayette, Missouri||4.38||6th Round||Gardner’s size (6’0 210) most likely eliminated any chance of him getting drafted. On the field, his ability to track things down was one thing, but he has long arms (32”) and positive instincts. He stood out against some of the Power 5 teams on their schedule (Iowa State ’20).|
|583||Tre Walker||LB||Idaho||4.38||6th Round||The first-team All-Big Sky linebacker covers ground well and was all over the field. Reading his keys a step faster would help his game. The effort working on the punt unit was more than satisfactory in school (see Indiana ’21).|
|672||Jacub Panasiuk||DE||Michigan State||3.96||7th Round||Will Panasuik’s strength translate? He finished with 29 career tackles for losses and has been a contributor since 2017. Decent size at 6’3, 257 pounds.|
|693||Drew White||LB||Notre Dame||3.74||7th Round||White can close in B-lines but he’s been a step late snapping the pictures.|
|Devin Taylor||DB||Bowling Green, Virginia Tech, Illinois State||N/A||N/A||Taylor, a double transfer with 32” arms, provides a presence on the outside lanes. The instincts have been phenomenal at every stop. The former All-MVFC finished with 13 interceptions and 43 pass breakups at three different stops.|
We may have been just as impressed with the free agent class of undrafted players. There were four players we had with fifth-round grades. Former Sam Houston State and Howard standout Jequez Ezzard may have an opportunity to compete for a punt returner’s role in a training camp. The team lost its starting punt returner, DeAndre Carter (Chargers), in free agency. Like Carter, Ezzard -the 2020-21 FCS National Championship Game MVP– enters the league as an undrafted free agent.