Commanders get their QB in Jayden Daniels, fill several holes in the NFL draft

Dan Quinn was pumped to know Jayden Daniels will soon be throwing passes for the Washington Commanders and “fired up” about the rest of the talent coming from the NFL draft.

There's good reason for that. While this rookie class won't immediately transform Washington into a Super Bowl contender, getting a potential franchise quarterback in Daniels with the No. 2 pick and filling several holes all over the roster is a good start for the new regime led by Quinn and general manager Adam Peters.

“We got a lot better,” Peters said Friday night after making a combined five selections in the second and third rounds. “Really proud of our process and identifying the right types of guys. Just couldn’t be happier with the young men that we brought in.”


It starts, of course, with Daniels, the Heisman Trophy winner out of LSU who was the second of six QBs taken in the top 12, a league record. The Commanders didn't show their hand about Daniels being their guy over North Carolina's Drake Maye, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Washington's Michael Penix Jr., though Peters called it nearly unanimous within the front office.

Daniels' final college season leading the nation with 4,946 total yards, throwing for 40 touchdowns and running for 10 more was too good to pass up on taking him.

“There’s very few people that put together as good a year as he had last year, after already playing in an excellent league,” Quinn said. “I think that alone speaks to it. The best of the best, they don’t ever stop. They just keep finding ways and ways to improve, and he has that trait.”


The 23-year-old from San Bernardino, California, knows enough about the Commanders' veteran offensive players from top wideout Terry McLaurin to running back Brian Robinson Jr. But part of the job this draft was replenishing at skill positions around Daniels after releasing Logan Thomas and losing Curtis Samuel in free agency.

Washington used a second-round pick on Kansas State tight end Ben Sinnott and a third on Rice receiver Luke McCaffrey. Taking the brother of 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey was special for Peters, who got to know the family during his time with San Francisco and loves what he sees on the field.

“For a guy that’s almost 6-2, he moves like a guy who’s maybe 5-10 in terms of his quickness,” Peters said. “He’s tough, he’s got great hands and he’s got an incredible mindset, too.”


Already having 2022 Pro Bowl selections Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen and 2022 second-round pick Phidarian Mathis made defensive tackle a position of strength. But that didn't stop the Commanders from using their second pick, No. 36, on Illinois' Jer’Zhan Newton.

While Payne is just a year removed from getting a $90 million extension, Allen is signed for just two more seasons and has no more guaranteed money left on his deal. Newton could be part of the succession plan.

“I feel like I’m dominant,” Newton said. “My football IQ is really high compared to other defensive linemen. I have a great pre-snap recognition. I know which plays coming at which down and distance, which formation brings which play, so I just feel like my knowledge on the game is very high compared to other people.”


The departures of safety Kam Curl and cornerback Kendall Fuller made the secondary an area of concern. Given Quinn's preference for turnover-forcing defensive backs, Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil (second round) and Washington safety Dominique Hampton (fifth round) could be difference-makers on defense.

Sainristil intercepted Penix to seal the Wolverines' national title, his sixth last season, and Peters lauded his toughness and intelligence.

“I can’t imagine anybody’s in his class in terms of ball skills on the defensive side of the ball,” Peters said. “He’s got incredible ball skills, and that’s what we look for is speed and ball skills.”


Left tackle is the one void that remains to be filled, unless the coaching staff is content to start the season with veteran Cornelius Lucas as the starter instead of in his previous reserve swing role. Peters made calls to try to trade back into the first round for one of the draft's top prospects, but a run at the position led the Commanders to wait until the third to take TCU offensive lineman Brandon Coleman.

After playing left tackle and guard in college, Coleman will get the chance to show what he can do but should be seen more as a developmental project.

“I’m just excited to get a chance and be able to compete at the Commanders and being in the NFL,” he said. "I’m just really excited to get this chance.”