The Washington Commanders' draft picks are expected to offer some sort of contribution early in their careers, and that was the case once again during the 2022 season.
Whether it was on offense, defense or special teams, several of Washington's rookies became key contributors. Some dealt with injuries that limited their usage, but all have shown potential as being part of the Commanders' future going forward. Here's a look at how each rookie performed during their first seasons in the NFL.
WR Jahan Dotson (Round 1, No. 16 overall)
2022 stats: 35 receptions, 523 yards, 7 TDs
Way back when people were guessing at what Jahan Dotson could be at the professional level, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein projected the Penn State alum to be a second-round pick. Washington took him earlier than people anticipated, and he performed better than those analysts expected.
Dotson, who missed five games after sustaining a hamstring injury in Week 4, ended up performing among the best in the 2022 class of wideouts, many of whom have received more national recognition for their production. He was seventh in yards, despite being 11th in receiving yards, third in yards per catch and tied for first in receiving touchdowns among rookies.
Dotson's quickness, route running and knack for creating explosive plays show that he will be a vital piece of Washington's receiving corps going forward.
"The one thing that we saw in Jahan was his ability to get open, especially in space and confined spaces, and then his catch radius and his ability to go after the football," Ron Rivera said after the Commanders' 26-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys. "I think all those things combined is really what's his strength."
DT Phidarian Mathis (Round 2, No. 47 overall)
There was plenty of hype surrounding the Alabama defensive tackle, especially after the way he practiced in training camp, but we will need to wait until next season to see how he can impact the Commanders' defense.
Phidarian Mathis suffered a knee injury in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, knocking him out for the rest of the year. He told reporters in the locker room that his recovery is going well, and whenever he does come back, he could be a nice addition to the defensive line with the way he excels at stopping up double teams.
"He comes in every morning, gets his workout in," Rivera said. "He's pretty much done with the basic rehab. Now it's all just maintenance. But getting a chance to really watch him work out and see him developing and working on his explosiveness, his overall strength, core strength, I've gotten a lot of good reports on him as far as those things are concerned."
The Washington Commanders have begun their 2022 season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Check out the top photos from the afternoon. (Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
RB Brian Robinson (Round 3, No. 98 overall)
2022 stats: 205 attempts, 797 yards, 2 TDs
The start of Brian Robinson’s season was derailed after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds between training camp and final roster cuts, but he ended up being one of the more important pieces to the Commanders' offense when he returned to the roster.
Robinson ended up leading the Commanders in rushing yards with his impressive vision and surprising amount of quickness. He excelled at finding yardage between the tackles and shedding defenders. In fact, 44% of his rushing yards came after contact. Look back at his touchdown run against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football to see how hard Robinson fights for extra yards.
Washington began to lean on the running game more heavily as Robinson's comfort level improved. Case in point: Washington rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 of its final 14 games.
"You see a guy that does play downhill, that is a little bit of a workhorse and it's something that we can't get away from," Rivera said.
S Percy Butler (Round 4, No. 113 overall)
2022 stats: 15 games, 11 tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 fumble recovery
On the surface, it might not look like Percy Butler made much of an impact, which flies in the face of Rivera's assertions in April that he believed the rookie safety would have an immediate impact for the team. While he did not receive many defensive snaps until the season finale, he did find a way to make his mark on the 2022 season.
Washington's secondary is pack bunch full of talented players, so it was going to be tough for Butler to get on the field behind the likes of Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest. Instead, Butler carved out a role on special teams, and he contributed to a unit that was second in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. His hustle also led to a fumble recovery on a muffed punt against the Green Bay Packers which put the offense in position for a field goal.
Butler also got the chance to play a bigger role on defense against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18, and the Louisiana prospect did not disappoint.
"Very pleased with what we got from Percy," Rivera said. "Percy had a great opportunity this past Sunday and, and really showed out that he is capable, and again, he excelled on special teams."
QB Sam Howell (Round 5, No. 144 overall)
2022 stats: 11-of-19 (57.9%), 169 yards, TD, INT; five rushing attempts, 35 yards, TD
There was a lot of excitement from fans once it was announced that Sam Howell would be the Commanders' starting quarterback in Week 18. It was a chance for him to show what he had learned as a backup during the season, and while it was not perfect, there were encouraging signs for his future.
Howell's first completion in a game that counted was a touchdown, and as impressive as that was, what stood out more was how effectively Howell directed the offense and distributed the ball to his receivers. He made quick decisions and delivered passes to Washington's weapons in stride, which set them up for big gains after the catch. He also showed solid pocket mobility and the instincts of when to give up on a play and try to get yards with his legs.
And of course, he showed off his impressive arm strength with a 52-yard throw to Terry McLaurin.
"Did things that we believed...he's capable of," Rivera said. "I thought he handled it very nicely, went out and did some really good things."
TE Cole Turner (Round 5, No. 149 overall)
2022 stats: 2 receptions, 23 yards
Cole Turner’s season got off to an uneven start after sustaining a hamstring injury at training camp that kept him out of the lineup until Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans.
It was a disappointment for the Nevada prospect, because Turner was turning heads in training camp with his ability to make catches in the red zone. That was where he excelled in college, and that could still be part of his skill set as he prepares for Year 2 in the NFL.
Turner spent much of his rookie season learning and getting back up to speed after his injury. The hope is that an offseason of rest and recovery will get him back on track and ready to make a bigger contribution in 2023.
G Chris Paul (Round 7, No. 230 overall)
It was a mostly quiet season for Chris Paul. He spent the majority of his rookie year inactive on game days, but that did not mean his work to improve went unnoticed in practice. In fact, Rivera gushed over the Tulsa prospect on several occasions.
"He's a young man that I really do think as he continues to grow, he's gonna have a bright future here," Rivera said. "He's smart. He understands the game. He's athletic, very athletic, big man. Just some little detailed things that he's gotta show up, but his time is gonna come."
Paul got his chance to start in the season finale with Andrew Norwell inactive, and the rookie lived up to much of the praise Rivera gave him. He showed power in the run game and looked impressive working with center Wes Schweitzer on double teams. The only blemishes he had on his night were a penalty and one pressure.
Washington's interior offensive line will be a priority for the team this offseason, but Paul has shown that he can be an answer and at least provide some valuable depth.
"Chris Paul is a young man we want to take a really good look at," Rivera said.
CB Christian Holmes (Round 7, No. 240 overall)
2022 stats: 12 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries
Like Butler, Christian Holmes was mostly a special teams player during his rookie season, and he was one of the clear standouts on the unit with two fumble recoveries. The first turnover he created came in Week 6 against the Chicago Bears, which led to Washington scoring its only touchdown of the night.
Holmes got to see more action once Benjamin St-Juste started missing time with an ankle injury. He did allow the explosive play from Darius Slayton during the Giants game, but other than that, Holmes held his own against receivers and showed off the skills that encouraged Washington to take him with its final pick of the draft.
"He's a young guy that shows some promise, especially on special teams," Rivera said. "He was a tremendous contributor there for us."