Commanders 2023 NFL draft grades for every selection
The Washington Commanders wrapped up the 2023 NFL draft class by selecting Louisiana EDGE Andre Jones Jr. in the seventh round.
Overall, the Commanders drafted seven players, addressing weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line.
How did Washington do with each pick? We grade all seven Commanders’ selections from the 2023 NFL draft.
1 (16): Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes
Mississippi State Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) returns an interception for a touchdown. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
The Commanders surprised fans and draft analysts Thursday by selecting Emmanuel Forbes at No. 16 overall. The shock wasn’t Forbes going in the first round but that the Commanders took him with Christian Gonzalez on the board. The knock on Forbes is evident: He weighs 166 pounds, so that concern is a valid one.
But he can play. With 14 interceptions in three seasons, including six returned for touchdowns, Forbes is a ballhawk. He has long arms, speed and is a willing tackler despite his size. Forbes has a chance to be an excellent player. He’ll need to understand the risk vs. reward of every situation, but combined with Washington’s pass rush, Forbes can be a difference-maker in 2023.
Forget about what others think; the Commanders got their guy.
2 (47): Ilinois CB Jartavius Martin
Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Jartavius Martin (21) deflects a pass intended for Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (5) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
We knew Washington liked Martin. The Commanders had him in for a visit earlier this month. However, it was a shock that they selected him in the second round. It’s not that he isn’t a second-round talent, but that the Commanders had already selected a defensive back.
Let’s focus on the player. Martin improved each season at Illinois and had excellent film in 2022. He is versatile and can line up at outside cornerback, safety, slot corner and in the box. We’ve heard Ron Rivera talk about position flex. Martin fits that to a tee.
The Commanders needed a slot corner and were clearly looking for one. Martin fills that role immediately.
3 (97): Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg
Ricky Stromberg #51 of the Arkansas Razorbacks sets to block Brigham Young Cougars. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
The Commanders made fans happy in the third round by taking Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg. The SEC first-team selection also received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league’s top blocker. Stromberg is a good athlete. He can also play guard. He has plenty of experience and can compete to start in 2023. A good pick from this slot.
4 (118): Utah G/T Braeden Daniels
Another offensive lineman for the Commanders. And another good one. Daniels played guard and both tackle positions, ending his career as an All-PAC 12 selection. Daniels, much like Stromberg, is an excellent athlete for his size. It sounds like Washington will be leaning into a zone scheme under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Another pick with position flex. Daniels may not start in 2023, but he should compete for a starting position this summer.
5 (137): Clemson EDGE K.J. Henry
Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry (5) gets excited before the game with Wake Forest at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Washington moved up in the fifth round to select Henry. A four-year contributor at Clemson, Henry has played a lot of football, and his best two seasons were his final two seasons, meaning there is room for continued growth. Henry has excellent size, reach and athleticism and can serve in a backup role as a rookie. Considering Washington has its top five defensive ends headed for free agency in 2024, it was smart to begin adding some depth. Henry has excellent character, is coachable and has the physical traits you desire to develop.
6 (193): Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez
Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Washington was always going to select a running back. And in Chris Rodriguez, the Commanders found an ultra-productive one in the sixth round. Rodriguez fits the Brian Robinson Jr. profile more so than Antonio Gibson. That means Rodriguez will likely just spell Robinson, while Gibson will handle third down and obvious passing situations. Rodriguez rushed for over 3,600 yards and 33 touchdowns during his college career in the SEC. Not bad. Unless there is an injury, Rodriguez is probably not a big contributor in 2023. I thought Washington would go more of a back who could thrive in the passing game. However, they landed a good back.
7 (233): Louisiana LB Andre Jones
Jones played six seasons at Louisiana. He never had a huge, breakout season, but was consistent over his final three seasons. What stands out about Jones are his traits. His size [6-foot-4, 248] stands out. He has the frame to add more size. While he isn’t an elite athlete, he is a solid athlete. This is the time of the draft, where you gamble on traits. Jones has a good base for the coaching staff to develop. If he never starts, he can still provide depth as a reserve defensive end over the life of his rookie contract.