Commanders go into NFL draft not looking for a quarterback

Sam Howell may be the Commanders’ quarterback of the future, and he’s at least their quarterback of the present.

That puts the franchise in an enviable spot: Washington goes into the NFL draft not looking for a QB for the first time in a long time.

Initially projected to be a top-10 pick out of North Carolina, Howell fell to the fifth round last year, where the Commanders took him 144th overall as a developmental project behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. After an impressive pro debut in the regular-season finale, he’s now getting the chance to show he should start.

For good measure, Washington signed veteran Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal to compete with Howell.

Combined with the front office and coaching staff’s belief in Howell, the No. 16 pick can be used to fill another hole on the roster unless one of the top four passers in the draft somehow falls.

“You let the board come to you, and if one of these quarterbacks drops that you have ranked high enough, you take him,” said Mark Dominik, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM and director of scouting who’s now an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio. “But if not, you’re in a good spot: 16’s still a very strong spot in this draft. I think they’re going to be very happy about who they come away with if they don’t take a quarterback.”


If the draft last year, beyond Howell, was any indication, coach Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew could again be looking for NFL-ready players more than those with high long-term potential.

That’s because returning to the playoffs is again the expectation, and there’s greater urgency now with new ownership expected to be in place by the start of the season.

Wentz’s struggles — including a three-interception game that contributed to Washington being eliminated from playoff contention — prevented that from happening in 2022 and opened the door for Howell.

The goal now is to surround him with immediate help and close the gap in the NFC East after finishing last behind conference-champion Philadelphia, Dallas and the New York Giants.


By beating the Cowboys in Week 18 behind two touchdowns from Howell, the Commanders finished 8-8-1 and dropped to the 16th pick. They could have chosen as high as 14 with a loss.

The middle of the first round is a comfortable sweet spot for Washington, which traded down to No. 16 last year to take wide receiver Jahan Dotson out of Penn State. In 2021, linebacker Jamin Davis was the choice at No. 19.


Two years after taking Davis, linebacker remains a glaring need for the Commanders. The defense overseen by Rivera and coordinator Jack Del Rio has downplayed the position, somewhat strangely after each played linebacker back in the day.

But after losing Cole Holcomb in free agency and even after adding Cole Barton, the Commanders have only a handful of young, mostly unproven linebackers on their roster.

They could also use a cornerback and/or safety and more depth on the offensive line. With Logan Thomas getting up in age, tight end is another spot to watch, and Mayhew believes there’s a good class of talent available.


Beyond QB, the Commanders are set at wide receiver and like their one-two running back punch of Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson. On defense, the line is solid from the interior with Pro Bowl tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne to edge rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young.


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi projects the Commanders to go back to Happy Valley with their first-round pick and take Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., the son of former NFL linebacker Joey Porter. He had 27 tackles, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery in his final college season.


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