Commanders mock draft 2.0: The QB debate continues, 2 trades help fill roster holes


Making fake trades in these mock drafts is often rather lame.

They usually end up one-sided toward the team you’re focused on, thus taking the reader away from reality or veering into clickbait territory. But, sometimes, the situation calls for some shakeup. Enter the 2024 Washington Commanders.

It’s not that they couldn’t use all of their nine draft picks, including six in the top 100. After a relatively straightforward free-agency period, this feels like the place for general manager Adam Peters to, as the kids say, cook.

Maybe that begins with the second overall selection, though it’s hard picturing a scenario where Washington doesn’t end the draft with a starting quarterback prospect. Three-plus weeks are remaining to debate whether that’s Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy. There’s also much more in play beyond that initial selection.

Packaging some Round 2 and 3 picks for a second first-round choice is a prudent consideration. Trading back from their two high second-rounders could increase their 2025 portfolio — next year is likely when Peters turns up said cooking once he and coach Dan Quinn have a better feel for the ingredients — while remaining positioned to address issues at offensive tackle, cornerback, tight end and wide receiver.

Yes, there are some trades here of my own creation but done with both feet planted in reality and minus any attempt to go viral.

There are three forms of the mock draft (beat writer, first round, Commanders-only) in which the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the call at No. 2. That’s a nod to interpreting evaluations and insight from various league sources on the prospects, not the Washington regime’s internal thinking. Similar to the head-coaching search, the new guys aren’t talking.

While multiple league sources see a clear separation between Caleb Williams and Daniels from others, Washington might be smitten with Maye’s prototype size and deep ball prowess. Perhaps McCarthy’s winning edge and efficiency with processing defensive schemes is the differentiator. Some see Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix as first-round worthy, though not as high as two. Could Peters see one of those Pac-12 alums combined with a trade-down for a bushel of picks as the best path for a team with many holes?

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The answer to all of those hypotheticals is … we’ll see. The sources — a combination of general managers, personnel executives, scouts, former players, quarterbacks and others — offered candid views, the totality of which left a fuzzy picture. Except for Daniels. His meteoric rise during his final season at LSU — 40 touchdown passes compared to 49 in his first 43 games — showcased dual-threat dynamism and arm talent.

“Jayden probably made more progress (year over year) than any QB coming out in the last five or six years,” said one high-ranking NFC scout. “He can anticipate, make all the throws and is a great athlete.”

Daniels is more of a scrambler with blazing speed than a quarterback itching to run at all times. There are concerns about how his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame will hold up against rugged pros, especially if he cannot avoid the punishing hits he took in college. One scout cringed over the possible outcome if the acquiring team didn’t tailor its offensive plan around Daniels’ strengths.

The former Arizona State quarterback also has roughly double the number of starts as Maye and McCarthy should Washington seek an immediate contributor. The praise outweighed the concerns enough to distinguish Williams and Daniels from the pack.

“Two guys can play right now,” one assistant coach said. “Everyone else is a big maybe.”

If Peters concurs — as The Athletic’s consensus big board shows, public evaluators largely do not — and with Williams projected as the first overall pick, the GM would be hard-pressed to skip Daniels at No. 2.

Others: Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, UNC QB Drake Maye

Round 2, No. 36 — Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

Those familiar with my first-round mock draft from last month might call me a hypocrite. First off, how dare you. The reason for such potential blasphemy is that the most recent version had Washington trading into the first round for an offensive tackle because the higher-rated big men, including Morgan, wouldn’t stay on the board long enough for the Commanders to take at 36. That remains my primary view.

Morgan, a 6-5, 311-pound lineman with 5.04 40-yard speed, is typically ranked eighth among incoming tackles, as is the case in our consensus big board. The first seven names are in the top 30, with Morgan at 34. From there, the next tackle listed is BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia at 53, followed by Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie (66) and Houston’s Patrick Paul (67).

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If more corners or receivers push themselves into the 27-35 range, maybe a tackle or two slide. Some teams might see Morgan, a three-year left tackle at Arizona, as an NFL guard or worry about his 2022 ACL tear even after he recovered to earn All-Pac-12 honors last season. This scenario is about Washington rolling the dice or at least willing to wait before grabbing a tackle. These draft slot estimates aren’t gospel, but trading up might be required if the Commanders want to ensure a certain projection level or any tackle tasked with protecting a rookie quarterback’s blindside. Washington can allow any rookie tackle to develop behind Cornelius Lucas.

Others: Missouri DL Darius Robinson, Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Florida State WR Keon Coleman

Round 2, No. 40 — Trade

Commanders send No. 40 to the Saints for Nos. 45, 170 and a 2025 third-rounder

Rationale: New Orleans’ decision-makers face a potential playoff-or-bust season while playing in a division against a Tampa Bay squad coming off a third consecutive NFC South title and an Atlanta team that recently signed Kirk Cousins. If the Saints go tackle in the first round after signing defensive end Chase Young, next comes receiver. With four of five teams picking 40-44 needing help at wideout, including Washington, New Orleans jumps the line. The Commanders have enough holes where dropping a few spots and increasing their 2025 war chest is an attractive consideration.

Round 2, No. 45 — T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State

Expecting an edge rusher here? I was until I added 2025 thoughts to 2024 position assessments. Washington cobbled together a D-end rotation in free agency but still needs pass-rush talent. The big swing there might be next year when the Commanders may have another top-10 selection based on projected win totals from oddsmakers.

Another consideration is their 2024 big board. Some public versions have more corners than edge rushers in the top 50, but the ratio is flipped for the Commanders’ next selection (67).

Tampa skipped workouts at the NFL combine because of a hamstring injury but ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the recent Big 12 combine.

From The Athletic’s draft insider Dane Brugler’s big board: “With his height and arm length (32 1/2 inches), Tampa matches up well with size at receiver and shows the coordination and leaping skills to make plays on the football. He can operate from press-man and turn and run on vertical routes. He also can quickly read and react in zone, either outside or in the slot.”

Others: Western Michigan DE Marshawn Kneeland, Texas TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, BYU OL Kingsley Suamataia, Oregon WR Troy Franklin

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Round 3, No. 67 — Bralen Trice, DE, Washington

Positional importance could push Trice and other edge rushers higher. There are enough targets in the projected 50-70 range to strongly believe the Commanders can snag sincere help, whether that’s Kneeland, Kansas’ Austin Booker or Trice, the Huskies’ sacks leader the past two seasons.

Brugler’s pre-combine big board slotted the 6-3, 280-pound Trice at No. 56. One league scout told The Athletic this week he felt 67 was too high for the two-time All-Pac-12 selection.

Others: Rutgers CB Max Melton, Washington WR Ja’Lynn Polk, Yale OT Kiran Amegadjie, Houston OT Patrick Paul

Round 3, No. 78 — Blake Fisher, OT, Notre Dame

Two tackles in the first 78 selections aren’t a case of faulty memory or a misunderstanding of how starting lineups work. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment of positional value and helping a young quarterback. Lucas, a possible Week 1 starter, only signed a one-year deal. Right tackle Andrew Wylie’s 2025 salary equals cap cut potential. There’s massive uncertainty with 2023 fourth-round pick Braeden Daniels following a redshirt season.

Fisher started 23 games at right tackle for the Fighting Irish before entering the draft after his junior season. Some teams may see the 6-6, 312-pound tackle as a value play on either side since he might have been a top 25-50 pick with another year in college.

Brugler: “Fisher will entice evaluators with his size, compete skills and foot quickness — and he’ll drive them crazy with his inconsistent balance, technique and timing. His hands and feet are too often disjointed and can be exposed by savvy defenders, who will set traps for him. However, Fisher has several tools that cannot be coached, and his best football is ahead of him.”

Others: Kansas edge rusher Austin Booker, Notre Dame CB Cam Hart, Utah edge rusher Jonah Elliss

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Round 3, No. 100 (compensatory) — Brenden Rice, WR, USC

The Commanders signed free agent Olamide Zaccheaus and retained Jamison Crowder but have yet to adequately replace Curtis Samuel or add needed size next to Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson.

Enter Jerry Rice’s son. Rice isn’t some Megatron clone (6-2) or track star (4.5 40-yard time), but he caught 12 touchdown passes on 45 receptions for the Trojans last season with offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury on staff.

Others: Oregon CB Khyree Jackson, Ohio State TE Cade Stover

Round 4, No. 122 (Acquired via trade) — Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky

Commanders acquire No. 122 from the Bears for Nos. 152 and 170

Rationale: Chicago enters the draft with only four picks. Washington can include its lone seventh-rounder or swap for a 2025 sixth-rounder if needed.

Washington emphasized linebacker in free agency, signing Frankie Luvu and Bobby Wagner to join Jamin Davis. Luvu signed a three-year contract, while Wagner (who turns 34 in June) inked a one-year deal. Signing ex-Steeler Mykal Walker on Tuesday boosts the short-term depth.

Wallace flashed his athleticism at the combine by running a 4.51 40-yard dash at 237 pounds. The 6-1 linebacker finished second in tackles and tackles for loss for Kentucky last season, along with 5 1/2 sacks. In Washington, Wallace would focus on special teams while learning the NFL game and improving his instincts behind a future Hall of Famer in Wagner.

Others: USC RB Marshawn Lloyd, Kansas State TE Ben Sinnott

Round 5, No. 139 — Erick All, TE, Iowa

Maybe the Zach Ertz-Kingsbury reunion and the return of 2022 project Armani Rogers from an Achilles tear help create more robust production from the tight end room. On the other hand, only top blocker/TE2 John Bates has a clear path for snaps.

All’s first season at Iowa after four years with Michigan ended prematurely in October following a torn ACL. Having already set a personal best in touchdown receptions (three) while averaging 14.2 yards per catch, the 6-4, 252-pounder showed enough to keep evaluators interested.

Round 7, No. 222 — Beanie Bishop Jr., CB/KR, West Virginia

The Commanders let Antonio Gibson, their primary kick returner in 2023, exit in free agency. Rule changes designed to emphasize this aspect of the game could have Washington seeking more than a generic replacement.

After transferring from Minnesota, Bishop earned second-team All-American and All-Big 12 honors for the Mountaineers. He blistered a 4.39 40-yard time at the Big 12 combine, where he measured 5-9 and 1/8 inches and weighed 180 pounds. The fun here is whether his coverage ability and kick return skills — 24.1 yards per return in 2021 at Western Kentucky — push Bishop from an undrafted free agent to a late-round selection.

(Photos of T.J. Tampa, Jordan Morgan and Bralen Trice: Kareem Elgazzar / The Enquirer, Mark J. Rebilas, Darren Yamashita / USA Today)





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