Washington Commanders NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Swing on Upside of Sam Howell Saves Lackluster Draft Class
The Commanders are a franchise in flux for the moment as they traded for Carson Wentz over the offseason, who likely isn’t their long-term starter at the most critical position in football. It’s tough to figure out whether Washington sees itself as a win-now team or in a rebuild, which was further clouded by this confusing draft class. This article will provide a complete draft recap for the Commanders with individual analysis and grades for Washington’s picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Washington Commanders Draft Picks 2022
Round 1 No. 16 WR Jahan Dotson
Round 2 No. 47 DT Phidarian Mathis
Round 3 No. 98 RB Brian Robinson Jr.
Round 4 No. 113 S Percy Butler
Round 5 No. 144 QB Sam Howell
Round 5 No. 149 TE Cole Turner
Round 7 No. 230 OT Chris Paul
Round 7 No. 240 CB Christian Holmes
Overall Draft Grade: C-
Washington traded its No. 11 pick for the No. 16, No. 98, and No. 120 picks as the Saints moved up to take Chris Olave. While that trade was fair on face value if you use the Jimmy Johnson trade model, they also could have likely gotten more from the Saints, who are very comfortable swinging for the fences with trades up the draft order. The Commanders also didn’t utilize their added draft compensation to significant effect, and I would call the trade a substantial loss as I saw Jahan Dotson as an entire tier below the receivers who were selected ahead of him.
The Commanders’ 2022 draft class was full of reaches. The only players who didn’t go at least a round sooner than I had them graded were Sam Howell and their two seventh-round picks. That’s not a great look, and I have significant questions about the long-term direction of this franchise. Howell could see playing time as soon as this season, and drafting a high-upside quarterback with his traits in the fifth round will always be a win. Overall, though, I don’t believe this draft made the team significantly better, and they’re losing their grip in an NFC East with the consistent Cowboys and surging Eagles.
Washington Commanders Draft Grades 2022
Round: 1 Pick: 16 / Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Jahan Dotson’s film often looks great with his consistent route-running and remarkable hands – he only dropped two of his 93 catchable passes last year per Pro Football Focus. However, the athletic measurables presented more concerns, particularly as Dotson came in at just 5’10”, 178 lbs – that’s below the 20th percentile for both. Dotson’s 3-cone drill was also surprisingly slow at just 7.28 seconds, which ranked in the 9th percentile, and it wasn’t reflective of the suddenness he shows on film. With his smaller frame and lack of strength, press coverage will be a consistent problem for Dotson, and he might be a slot-only receiver long-term. I ultimately had him as my WR8 in the class, and I saw him as a second-round pick. In their move down with New Orleans, Washington acquired the 98th and 120th overall picks in the draft, who traded up for Chris Olave, but that nickel-and-dime approach resulted in them reaching on a receiver who isn’t the caliber of the player they could have had at No. 11.
Jahan Dotson has some glue on his gloves. Only explanation. pic.twitter.com/3zSyuiRvus
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 1, 2020
Round: 2 Pick: 47 / Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
The Commanders love their Alabama defensive tackles, and Daron Payne, one of their two current starters from the program, is set to enter free agency in 2023. Phidarian Mathis can conceivably take his starting spot next season, but there were better ways to utilize the No. 47 pick in the draft than that long-term plan, particularly with Mathis’s lack of upside. Mathis has strong, violent hands and excellent lower body strength that help him provide consistent run support as a two-gap defensive tackle. However, he’s not an elite athlete, and his below-average explosiveness off the line of scrimmage hurts his ability to provide a consistent pass-rushing presence. As a fifth-year senior with little room for further improvement, Mathis is who he is at this point, and I saw him as a third or fourth-round pick who lacks true game-wrecking ability.
Round: 3 Pick: 98 / Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama
Brian Robinson provides an element of physicality and power in the backfield that the Commanders don’t have at the moment, with Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic much more finesse, pass-catching backs. At 6’2”, 225 lbs, Robinson lays the hammer consistently and seems to love contact. However, his lack of big-play explosiveness and inconsistent pass protection will likely limit him to a short-yardage role, and his high-cut frame will create some issues in the NFL. Still, Robinson can fill a notable role for the Commanders, but I saw this as another reach on a skill set they likely could have found on Day 3.
“Built By Bama”
Phidarian Mathis & Brian Robinson 🐘🔥 pic.twitter.com/HOAemIoM7j
— Alabama DieHards (@DiehardsAlabama) May 6, 2022
Round: 4 Pick: 113 / Percy Butler, S, Louisiana
Another pick, another reach for the Commanders. Percy Butler has enticing athletic attributes with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and a 6.9-second 3-cone, but he’s undersized at 6’0”, 190 lbs and his lack of strength will hold him back in a box role. Butler also struggled with tackling, with a 14.5% missed tackle rate in his career, against non-Power Five competition. He also takes poor angles to the ball too often, and he lacks urgency to the ball to take advantage of his athleticism. Butler can thrive in a coverage-heavy role, and he’ll be a consistent special teams contributor, but some of his deficiencies won’t improve in the NFL, and I thought this was too early in the draft to take him.
Round: 5 Pick: 144 / Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
The Commanders made up for some of their earlier draft reaches with this selection of Sam Howell, who was once considered the top quarterback in this class and a surefire first-round pick. While Washington may have sold itself on Carson Wentz being the answer, everything we’ve seen from him in his career suggests he isn’t, and Howell could see playing time as soon as this season. With impressive deep-ball accuracy and elite rushing production – he had 63 broken tackles and 1,072 rushing yards last year – Howell has attributes that suggest a high ceiling at the quarterback position. In the fifth round, taking a swing on those attributes represents immense value for the Commanders.
Sam Howell to Jahan Dotson is what y'all want to see. pic.twitter.com/34K1HF0Mdr
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) May 6, 2022
Round: 5 Pick: 149 / Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
With Logan Thomas recovering from an ACL tear and Ricky Seals-Jones now with the Giants, the Commanders needed to add to their tight end room, but I’m not convinced Cole Turner was the right target. Turner had 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons, and the Commanders likely see him being a consistent red-zone threat, but he’s only 249 pounds and only benched 17 reps at the combine – that lack of strength will hold back his contested-catch ability. Turner’s narrow frame also hurts his blocking profile, and his overall lack of play speed and explosiveness will see him come down with fewer big plays than he did at Nevada.
Round: 7 Pick: 230 / Chris Paul, OT, Tulsa
Chris Paul had his fair share of fans in the pre-draft process, and I was surprised he fell to the seventh round with his impressive athleticism – he tested with a 9.47 Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Paul ran a 97th percentile 4.89-second 40-yard dash, and his 109” broad jump landed in the 83rd percentile. In his games against higher-level competition and the Senior Bowl, Paul struggled to maintain consistency, and his lack of balance and poor footwork make him a guard in the NFL. With his powerful lower half and quick feet, though, there’s a world where he becomes a starter for the Commanders.
Chris Paul was drafted with pick 230 of round 7 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.46 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 71 out of 1298 OG from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/ON09BZCJZL #RAS #Commanders pic.twitter.com/HRmh6WofcG
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
Round: 7 Pick: 240 / Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State
In the seventh round, the odds of finding a long-term starter are not high, so I like the strategy of targeting an elite athlete. Holmes tested with a 9.11 RAS featuring an elite 39” vertical and 1.52-second 10-yard split. Holmes is also battle-tested against some top talent in the Big 12, and he provides solid depth to the Washington secondary. With the upside to be a core special teams player and a rotational defensive back, this is a solid selection for the Commanders.