The Washington Commanders have not had a great offseason, as they have lost more than they have added. Washington replaced All-Pro offensive guard Brandon Scherff with Andrew Norwell and lost defensive linemen Tim Settle and Matthew Ioannidis. The Commanders did retain a couple of key players like J.D. McKissic and Bobby McCain, but also made a questionable add in trading for quarterback Carson Wentz.
While the Commanders haven't been active in free agency, it's not that big of a deal. Real contenders are built through the draft, and later this month is where Ron Rivera and Co. will get a chance to beef up this roster. The Commanders have registered seven wins in each of the last two seasons, but the campaigns felt very different. What will 2022 hold for this franchise?
Below, we will break down what Washington needs to accomplish in the 2022 NFL Draft: the positions it needs to prioritize, what it should do and not do.
1. Be careful with your first-round pick
Nailing your first pick is a goal for any NFL team, but it's much easier said than done. With Washington sitting at No. 11 overall, it's going to have a couple of different options at a couple of different positions of need. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is probably in the discussion, and safety Kyle Hamilton will be if he falls that far. I don't see a linebacker going at No. 11 overall, although Washington needs one. Taking a wide receiver, however, is a serious reality.
The bottom line is that Washington will have to split the difference between taking the best player available in the middle of the first round, and filling a major need. If Washington doesn't surprise with its first-round pick, it's probably a good thing. Don't reach for a middle linebacker or offensive lineman, and don't take a cornerback if the one you want is not there. Oh, and don't take a quarterback.
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2. Add a wide receiver
Washington landing Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave or Drake London with its top pick would suffice -- but I wouldn't be opposed to adding another prospect late in the draft as well. This class is deep, and broke records as a whole at the combine. You could excite fans with a double dip depending on how you plan it.
Coming into the 2021 season, Commanders fans were probably convinced it was no longer going to be Terry McLaurin vs. the world anymore. Tight end Logan Thomas was seemingly coming into his own, Washington signed Curtis Samuel in free agency and drafted Dyami Brown out of UNC. However, none of the three made much of an impact. That's not to say I am permanently out on Thomas, Samuel or Brown, but I say a big addition is needed, and maybe another for depth reasons.
Let's talk about taking one at No. 11 overall -- because I think that's a good possibility. Grabbing Wilson or Olave would be great, since both are from Ohio State, and would give McLaurin some kind of excitement as he enters this weird contract-extension period of his career. Listen, drafting an OSU player in the first round doesn't guarantee McLaurin stays in D.C., but bring in another Buckeye if you truly want to keep the guy.
Wilson is seen as the top wideout in this draft, so I probably don't have to do much persuading. As for Olave, some fans may think drafting him at No. 11 is a bit rich, but I don't. I've watched him for years and I think he's almost a bit underrated at this point. He may not be Ja'Marr Chase immediately, but he will not be a bust -- and could be an incredible No. 2 guy. He reminds me a bit of McLaurin just in the sense that he's a well-rounded Ohio State receiver that's going to really surprise people at the next level. I thought that comparison could just be low-hanging fruit, but that's exactly who NFL Media's Lance Zierlein compared him to in his pre-draft analysis. Don't be shocked.
3. Find your true middle linebacker and a cornerback
Washington had the No. 2 defense in the league two seasons ago, but that unit struggled in 2021. The Commanders finished with the No. 22 overall defense, but they were in the bottom three for a good part of the beginning of the year. There were multiple reasons for this, but talent needs to be added.
If you're working a 4-3 defense, you need that true middle linebacker. Washington does not have that. Rookie Jamin Davis played some middle linebacker, but he will likely stay outside now. Cole Holcomb is fun and played some middle linebacker, but I think you could bring someone else in for that true MLB spot while giving Holcomb more of a versatile role in different packages while also working on the outside. Trading down in the first round for Devin Lloyd out of Utah or Nakobe Dean out of Georgia would be great, but I think it's possible they fall to the second round. Then, Washington could trade up in that second round if it so desires. Figuring out your middle linebacker position is important right now, and it's something I've written about before.
As for cornerback, I consider this to be arguably the most important position on defense. We are in a passing league. William Jackson wasn't as good as we thought he would be, Kendall Fuller seems solid and Benjamin St.-Juste showed improvement after a rough start. Washington needs more than that at cornerback.