Commanders draft preview: Best — and bust — picks at the Burgundy and Gold’s 2024 selection spots

The new Washington Commanders era continues to take shape Thursday with the NFL draft. This year’s nine selections — should they keep them all and not trade any — are the most the franchise has had since 2021, when they had 10 picks. Don’t confuse quantity for quality, though.

The 2021 draft saw the Burgundy and Gold take five players after selection No. 155. This year they’ll have eight of their nine selections in the first 152 picks. There are opportunities to take more than a few impact players, and it all begins with a potential franchise-changing pick at No. 2.

What sort of players are available at these picks (2, 36, 40, 67, 78, 100, 139, 152, and 222)? We look at the “best” and “bust” picks since 2014 — and when armed with those selections in the past, which players did Washington choose? By the way, the streak of not picking at 14, 42, 57, 63, and 77 continues.

First Round (2)

They’re going to take a quarterback, right? This year, it’s a question of North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels, providing Chicago picks USC’s Caleb Williams. Washington’s gone that route in the past, taking the eventual Rookie of the Year, as well as a future 12-year starting quarterback (albeit largely with other teams).

Last Year: Houston selected Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and he produced a 4,108-yard passing season while leading the Texans to the AFC South title. You can’t get much better than that.

Best: It’s going to be a tie between Stroud and Nick Bosa (Ohio State defensive end), who was picked by San Francisco in this spot in 2019 and has helped lead the 49ers to a pair of Super Bowl berths while winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, as well as Defensive Player of the Year.

Bust: North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was taken by Chicago in 2017. Although he helped lead the Bears to a playoff berth, there were multiple players left on the board who produced at a higher level in their respective careers, starting with Patrick Mahomes and continuing with Desean Watson and Christian McCaffery.

Burgundy and Gold: Five times Washington has picked second overall, and they’ve not missed. Even Chase Young (2020) was a Pro Bowl defensive end and the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Robert Griffin III (2012) had one mercurial season where he took Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, and LaVar Arrington (2000) was a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl linebacker until Gregg Williams came to town. Norm Snead (1961) made a pair of Pro Bowls before getting traded to Philadelphia for Sonny Jurgensen (Snead would play until 1976 for the Eagles and three other teams). And Riley Smith (1936) would go on to lead the NFL with 22 extra points made for the 1937 NFL Champions.

Second Round (36)

Want to know one reason why the Commanders haven’t posted a winning record since 2016? They haven’t drafted a starter in the second round since 2015 (defensive end Preston Smith). You can’t miss on second-rounders and expect to compete.

Last Year: The Los Angeles Rams took TCU guard Steve Avila, and he would start all 17 regular season games for the Rams.

Best: It’s a close race between Shaquille Leonard (Indianapolis took the South Carolina State linebacker in 2018) and Derek Carr (the Fresno State quarterback was picked by Oakland in 2014). Leonard was a three-time All-Pro and earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, while Carr threw for 39,100 yards and had 242 touchdowns for the Raiders.

Bust: Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon was taken in this spot by Jacksonville in 2015 and was a two-year starter for Jacksonville but started just five games after his second season in the league.

Burgundy and Gold: Three picks, all before the year 1960: Santa Clara guard Dick Bassi (1937) played four seasons in the league, but none of those were with Washington; Holy Cross guard Joe Zeno (1942) made the 1942 Pro Bowl before finishing his career with the Boston Yanks; and West Virginia quarterback Fred Wyant played in 10 games after being picked here in 1956.

Second Round (40)

That’s right, the Commanders have multiple second-round selections for the first time since 2008, when they had three picks and chose three receivers. Sadly, Devin Thomas had issues with productivity, Malcolm Kelly had issues with injury, and Fred Davis had issues setting his alarm clock.

Last Year: New Orleans chose Notre Dame defensive lineman Isiah Foskey, who appeared in 10 games for the Saints. We’ll call him (10 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 2023) a work in progress.

Best: SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton was taken by Denver in 2018 and has averaged 50 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns with the Broncos. (Wide receivers are a popular pick here, having been the position of choice in this spot from 2015 to 2018.)

Bust: Houston chose TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock in 2020, and he made three starts in two years before being traded to Minnesota. He’s now played for two more teams in his short career.

Burgundy and Gold: Five picks, all before 1960: Notre Dame defensive end Bob Dove (1943) played 106 games and was a two-year starter who made one Pro Bowl; Central Michigan halfback Jim Podoley (1957) was a three-year starter during his four-year career and led the NFL in yards per catch (20.5) as a rookie; Oregon tackle Jim Stuart (1941) played just one season while Rice University tackle Paul Giroski (1951) and Oklahoma State end Jim Wood (1959) never saw the field for a regular season game.

Third Round (67)

Washington has three more picks in the top 100, which is often the line for prime prospects that can make an immediate impact. This is the round that delivered difference-makers like Terry McLaurin and Kendall Fuller to Ashburn.

Last Year: Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders was chosen by Denver. The former Razorback made four starts while playing all 17 regular season games.

Best: New Orleans picked Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara, who’s averaged over 800 yards rushing and 72 catches per season. He’s scored 77 total touchdowns in seven years with the Saints.

Bust: Florida linebacker Jachai Polite was taken by the New York Jets in 2019 and was waived in the Preseason. Polite played just one season in the league (11 games for the Los Angeles Rams in 2020). McLaurin was still on the board, as was NC State linebacker Germaine Pratt (who became a four-year starter for Cincinnati).

Burgundy & Gold: Just one selection, and Maryland guard Ed Kensler never played in a regular season game.

Third Round (78)

The Commanders have multiple picks in this round for the first time since 2021 when they chose defensive back Benjamin St. Juste and wide receiver Dyami Brown. More to this year’s needs, in 2014, they selected offensive linemen Morgan Moses and Spencer Long in the third round (Long with pick No. 78).

Last Year: Green Bay picked South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft, and the former Jackrabbit made 31 catches for 355 yards while making eight starts in 17 games played.

Best: NC State guard Joey Thuney was taken by New England in 2016, and he became a starter immediately for the Patriots during their Super Bowl run of 2016-18. After signing with Kansas City as a free agent in 2021, he’s gone on to start for two more Super Bowl champs while capturing All-Pro honors this past season.

Bust: In 2017 Baltimore chose Alabama outside linebacker Tim Williams, and he appeared in 19 games over 2+ seasons for the Ravens before finishing his career in 2019 with Green Bay.

Burgundy & Gold: Six selections over the years, none better than Wilbur Moore out of Minnesota in 1939. The wingback was a three-year starter and made the Pro Bowl during Washington’s 1942 NFL Championship season. Other picks include USC back Bob Hoffman (1940), who played 54 games for the franchise, and Southern Miss guard Mike Katrishen (1948), who played two years in the league. Neither Boston College tackle Leon Bennett (1958) nor Ohio University tackle Charlie Nickoson (1963) saw the field for a regular season game, while Nebraska guard Spencer Long (2014) started 31 games over four seasons before leaving via free agency.

Third Round (100)

This is where you start to see “college quarterbacks you remember who barely sniffed the field in the NFL,” from West Virginia’s Will Grier (Carolina in 2019 — two career regular-season games) to Michigan State’s Connor Cook (Oakland in 2016 — one career appearance).

Last Year: Cincinnati wide receiver Tre Tucker was selected by Las Vegas, and he made one start in 16 games played while catching 19 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns.

Best: FIU tight end Jonnu Smith was picked by Tennessee in 2018, and he started 53 games over four years with the Titans before playing with New England and Atlanta over the last three seasons.

Bust: Las Vegas chose Clemson safety Tanner Muse in 2020. He never played in a game for the Raiders and has been with Seattle and the Los Angeles Chargers over the last three years.

Burgundy and Gold: Five selections, all before 1961: Saint Mary’s end Joe Aguirre (1941) was a five-year starter who was voted All-Pro once before retiring after the 1949 season; Georgetown tackle George Perpich (1943) never played for Washington but did see action for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Baltimore Colts in the “All American Football Conference” (think AFL but not as successful); Boston College tackle Johnny Miller (1955) made 20 starts over three seasons before playing in the 1960 Championship Game for Green Bay; and Pitt defensive back Dick Haley (1959) made 21 starts in two seasons before being taken by Minnesota in the 1961 Expansion Draft. Duke end Dwight Bumgarner (1960) never played a game in the league.

Fifth Round (139)

Another double-dip for Washington, who has multiple picks in this round for the fourth time in six years.

Last Year: Houston quarterback Clayton Tune was chosen by Arizona. His numbers? A modest 12-for-21 for 62 yards and two interceptions while making one start in seven games played.

Best: In 2022, Baltimore selected Coastal Carolina tight end Isaiah Likely, who posted 66 catches for 784 yards and eight touchdowns in his two-year career.

Bust: Miami defensive tackler R.J. McIntosh was picked by the New York Giants in 2018. He played in 18 games over two seasons and was out of the league after the 2019 campaign.

Burgundy and Gold: Delaware State defensive end Lybrant Robinson (1989) played five games in his only season in the NFL, while Southern linebacker Harold McLinton (1969) was an eight-year starter during his 10 years with the team. USC end Harry Adelman (1946), Tennessee back Billy Gold (1947), and Cincinnati center Frank Middendorf (1952) never played a regular-season game in the league. In a time when the NFL was far from a sure thing and playing football was not nearly as lucrative as it is now, Middendorf entered the U.S. Army upon graduation before a 38-year career with UPS. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 94.

Fifth Round (152)

Unlike the barren second round, the fifth has actually been productive for Washington lately, yielding six starters over the last 10 drafts, from Ryan Grant to Sam Howell.

Last Year: Detroit took William & Mary offensive lineman Colby Sorsdal, who made three starts in 16 games while contributing on special teams for the playoff-bound Lions.

Best: Remember Matt Ioannidis? The Temple defensive tackle was picked in 2016 by Washington, and he posted 24.5 sacks as a three-year starter (over six years) for the burgundy and gold before finishing his career in Carolina.

Bust: Texas A&M guard Jarvis Harrison was selected by the New York Jets in 2015 and never played a game in the NFL before winding up in Canada with Saskatchewan and Montreal.

Burgundy and Gold: Twenty-one years before choosing Ioannidis, Washington found another gem from the Keystone State when they grabbed Lehigh defensive end Rich Owens (1995). The former Engineer (actual nickname of the Patriot League school at the time) would make 34 starts in three seasons with the team while notching 11 sacks in 1996. Owens would wind up playing eight years in the NFL. Wisconsin back Roger Dornburg (1954) never played a game in the league.

Seventh Round (222)

Value can be found in this round. Just look at 2020, when Washington took defensive back Kam Curl and defensive end James Smith-Williams. You just have to remember to keep the players that are keepers (read below).

Last Year: Minnesota took UAB running back DeWayne McBride. He didn’t appear in any games for the Vikings in 2023, and, even worse, is confused for “DeWayne McBridge” on Such is the stigma of a seventh-rounder.

Best: Remember Austin Reiter? Washington picked the USF center in 2015 and had him on their practice squad before he left to play for Cleveland and Kansas City, eventually starting all 19 games, regular and postseason, for the Super Bowl LIV-winning Chiefs. Shame he couldn’t get on the field in Ashburn.

Bust: Alabama long-snapper Thomas Fletcher was selected by Carolina in 2021, but a hip injury landed the special teamer on IR, and he was released the following year without ever playing a regular-season game.

Burgundy and Gold: Slim pickings after the man that got away (Reiter). Georgia Tech center Don Stephenson (1958) never played a down in the NFL, while Cornell running back Pete Larson (1967) didn’t survive the transition from Otto Graham to Vince Lombardi. Citadel fullback Nehemiah Broughton (2005) played six games before a torn ACL sidelined his career in 2007.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up