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Grading each rookie from the Commanders’ 2023 draft class

The Washington Commanders finished the 2023 season with a 4-13 record. Head coach Ron Rivera was fired after four consecutive non-winning seasons.

The 2023 was a disaster from start to finish. Sure, there were some cool moments in September, but Washington’s flaws were evident beginning in Week 1.

The 2023 NFL draft class’s lack of production was a big reason for Washington’s struggles. First-round pick Emmanuel Forbes’ performance reflected the team’s season.

How did each of the Commanders’ seven picks grade out?

We grade Washington’s 2023 NFL draft class.

Round 1 (Pick 16): Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/31883/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:A.J. Brown;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">A.J. Brown</a> #11 of the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/philadelphia/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Philadelphia Eagles;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Philadelphia Eagles</a> vs. Emmanuel Forbes. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

This image best represents Forbes’ first NFL season. He played a lot early, but began to really struggle in Week 4 against the Eagles. We aren’t sure why former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had Forbes one-on-one vs. Brown, but the Pro Bowl wideout crushed Forbes. It continued the next week against the Bears and D.J. Moore.

Forbes was benched at least twice, missed a couple of games with an elbow injury, and had just one interception. The early returns are bad. Can things turn around? Sure. Washington needs to make a strong defensive coordinator hire with a good secondary coach, also. To make matters worse, Washington passed on good players to select Forbes, which was questioned at the time.

Grade: F

Round 2 (Pick 47): Quan Martin, DB, Illinois

Washington Commanders cornerback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/290654/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jartavius Martin;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jartavius Martin</a> (20). Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Commanders cornerback Jartavius Martin (20). Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

For the first half of the season, the Commanders didn’t play Martin a lot. It made no sense. The secondary was struggling, and you spent a second-round pick on Martin, who could play numerous positions.

When Martin was finally allowed to play, you could see why the Commanders liked him. It’s still fair to question whether Washington should have spent a second-round pick on another DB, but someone would’ve picked Martin in the second round. Martin will be a good player, and an intelligent defensive staff will utilize his skillset. We are grading Martin based on the second half of the season.

Grade: B-

Round 3 (Pick 97): Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas

Washington Commanders center Ricky Stromberg (53). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Commanders center Ricky Stromberg (53). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Stromberg appeared in only four games, playing a total of 26 offensive snaps, all at guard. Washington signed Nick Gates to a three-year contract to start at center and benched him after seven games. Why did the Commanders not turn to Stromberg? Instead, they turned to veteran Tyler Larsen.

Stromberg was injured and missed most of the second half of the season, but he wasn’t playing anyway. This is another case of you hoping Washington makes a strong hire for its next offensive line coach and Stromberg plays a role in 2024. Stromberg’s grade doesn’t necessarily reflect his play because he couldn’t help the previous staff’s issues—still, another ugly beginning.

Grade: D

Round 4 (Pick 118): Braeden Daniels, T, Utah

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/cincinnati/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Cincinnati Bengals;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Cincinnati Bengals</a> defensive tackle <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/33494/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jay Tufele;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jay Tufele</a> (97) blocks Washington Commanders guard Braeden Daniels (79).

You can find starters in the fourth round. Instead, Washington took a project. Look, Braeden Daniels was a good college player, but he wasn’t going to stick at tackle in the NFL. Yet, that’s where Ron Rivera had him. Even if you had planned on him playing guard, it would be a process as it was a new position for him.

Daniels would’ve been cut in the preseason if he hadn’t been a 2023 draft pick. The Commanders placed him on IR so they wouldn’t have to cut him or hold a 53-man roster spot for him. The next hire will be critical for Daniels, too, but he still faces an uphill battle.

Grade: F

Round 5 (Pick 137): KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson

KJ Henry #55 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
KJ Henry #55 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Much like Martin, Henry didn’t see much action through the first half of the season. For the most part, he was inactive. However, once the Commanders traded Montez Sweat and Chase Young, Henry became a full-time player. Sure, he still split snaps at defensive end, but he played regularly.

Henry didn’t put up big numbers, but he flashed a number of times. He has good size, plays hard and will be a solid rotational piece for the next regime. Henry doesn’t look like he will ever produce big sack numbers, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be in the two-deep for years to come.

Grade: B-

Round 6 (Pick 193): Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB, Kentucky

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/40231/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chris Rodriguez Jr;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chris Rodriguez Jr</a>. #23 of the Washington Commanders hurdles over <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/31087/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jordan Whitehead;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jordan Whitehead</a> #3 and <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/34355/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Tony Adams;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Tony Adams</a> #22. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Washington’s best pick of the 2023 NFL draft — so far. Rodriguez only had 51 carries but averaged 4.8 yards per attempt and scored two touchdowns. He always gains positive yardage, runs hard, and has the best vision on the roster. The problem with Washington’s run game was offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The Commanders were dead last in rushing attempts.

Rodriguez has a future in Washington’s backfield. He’s good, and he’s cheap for a few years—an excellent find.

Grade: B+

Round 7 (Pick 233): Andre Jones, DE, Louisiana-Lafayette

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/30121/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Christian McCaffrey;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Christian McCaffrey</a> #23 of the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/san-francisco/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:San Francisco 49ers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">San Francisco 49ers</a> is tackled by <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/32886/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kamren Curl;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kamren Curl</a> #31 and <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/40247/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Andre Jones Jr.;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Andre Jones Jr.</a> #50. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Jones was a seventh-round pick, appeared in 14 games, and was credited with two starts. He finished the season with four tackles and three passes defended. Jones flashed in training camp and in the preseason. In fact, he looked like more of a keeper than Henry in the summer but failed to distinguish himself with his opportunities in the season. It’s hard to grade a seventh-round pick because what exactly is expected from them?

He played 18% of Washington’s defensive snaps and did not record a sack. Jones will need to battle for a roster spot in OTAs and training camp.

Grade: C-

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire