Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew addressed the media four days before the first day of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here are four takeaways from their joint press conference.
1. The board will dictate if and when the team moves around the draft.
It's Draft Week, which means the reports of teams looking to trade up or back are going to intensify all the way up to and during the first round. Mayhew did note there's been interest in moving around the first round, and he's made and fielded a few calls on the possibility.
With that said, Rivera and Mayhew are not ones to make rash decisions. Instead, they're going to rely on their draft board, which Rivera said was set last Friday, on whether it's in the team's best interest to trade the 11th overall pick.
"From my standpoint, it's all about who's there when you're on the clock," Mayhew said. "It's about, 'Can you go back to a point and still get a player who you really have conviction on?'"
With the Commanders picking just outside the Top 10, there's a strong chance to get a player who can immediately impact the team. So, it may serve the team to stay put and take a player they feel strongly about. If that player gets picked before them, they'll explore the possibility of moving back and stockpiling more picks.
Either way, Rivera's philosophy remains the same: "The board will dictate."
2. There's value in the middle of the draft
On a similar note, many draft analysts have pointed out how deep the 2022 draft class is. It seems that Mayhew agrees with that assessment, and there could be some high value found in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds where the Commanders pick.
"There are going to be starters, I think, going into the second, third and fourth round," Mayhew said.
Mayhew added that there's depth in this year's class that hasn't been there in the past, which could be credited to several factors. The COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to many college players opting out of the 2020 season, led to the class being packed with experienced prospects.
That bodes well for the Commanders, who have been able to find starters on Days 2 and 3 in recent years. Terry McLaurin, a third-round pick, immediately comes to mind on offense. On defense, Cole Holcomb and Kam Curl, taking with a fifth- and seventh-round pick, respectively, have been key additions since their rookie seasons.
With the Commanders' staff putting a priority on more experienced players, there should be plenty of options to strengthen the bottom of the roster.
3. The mantra will be to protect Carson Wentz and provide him with weapons
Naturally, the addition of Carson Wentz dramatically changed the Commanders' plans for the offseason. Now that they have their quarterback, there is a shift in priorities: they must protect him and provide him with weapons. The draft offers an opportunity to do both.
"We'll go into this draft with that mantra," Rivera said. "If you can't get one, then make sure you get the other."
The Commanders can take either avenue with the 11th overall pick. There are several offensive linemen, such as Kenyon Green, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross, who could come in and fill a starting role. Technically, the Commanders only have the right guard position open, but they could find someone who has the position flexibility to play at that spot.
While the receiver position is a deep one again this year, there are some who stand out among the rest. The list of players that have been mocked to the Commanders include Jameson Williams, Drake London, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. However, if the Commanders are set on getting an offensive lineman, there will be talented prospects in later rounds.
Rivera did say it would be a luxury to get dynamic playmakers in this year's draft with all the talent already on the offense, but the prospect of adding more to that group is exciting.
4. Need vs. Best player available is a "sliding scale"
It's a question that gets asked every season: how do coaches and general managers evaluate drafting for need over taking the best player available? It might seem like a simple question, but Mayhew said it's more of a fluid situation.
"It's sort of a sliding scale," he said.
To paraphrase Mayhew, the answer depends on where the Commanders are picking in the draft. In the earlier rounds, for example, where Mayhew said "where you really have to be right," taking the best player possible is more important. Position need does play a role, but the decision isn't limited by those restrictions.
Later in the draft, however, that thought process shifts in the other direction. So, if the Commanders get to the seventh round, where they have two picks, and they need more of a certain position, that will more heavily influence their decisions.
No matter what direction Mayhew and Rivera are leaning at certain points in the draft, the focus will still center around making the best decision for the football team with the picks they have at their disposal.