The Washington Commanders wrapped up their 2022 draft class by taking Oklahoma State cornerback Christian Holmes in the seventh round. Here are five things you need to know about the newest member of Washington's secondary, presented by Grubhub.
1. He played on both sides of the ball in high school.
Holmes' skillset wasn't just limited to one side of the ball at McNair High School. He was a receiver and a corner, and of course, he was a star athlete.
Holmes, who ended up being a three-star recruit, according to ESPN, didn't start playing football until his junior year, although he did try out as a sophomore. It didn't take him long to stand out in the sport, though, as he made 30 catches for 640 yards. That was enough to earn him all-area and first team all-district honors as well as a spot in the Georgia High School All-Star Game.
"I stepped out on faith and started receiving offers in January after the season and SEC recognition in May!" Holmes told "Rock M Nation" in 2016. "It was literally unbelievable!"
Holmes brought plenty of athleticism in his high school career. In addition to running a 4.53, he also recorded a 4.67 40-yard shuttle and a 33.9-inch vertical. Holmes garnered interest from a handful of schools, but eventually he chose to compete in the SEC.
2. He started his career at Missouri before transferring to Oklahoma State.
Holmes committed to Missouri because of the coaching staff and winning tradition, and while he didn't get much starting experience, partly because of a shoulder injury he sustained in 2017, he did deliver some solid performances.
Holmes was mostly a special team contributor as a freshman, but once he came back from his injury, he rotated in with the rest of the secondary with snaps in all 13 games, plus eight starts. He led the team with 12 pass breakups to go with a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown against Memphis.
The following season, Holmes played in 12 games and started in four, recording 29 tackles and four pass breakups. He would eventually enter the transfer portal at the end of the season, though, and two weeks later, he found a new school to finish his college career: Oklahoma State.
3. He was a key piece of Oklahoma's defense as a senior.
Holmes was immediately inserted into Oklahoma State's defense and was a rotational player for the entire 2020 season. After recording 24 tackles and five pass breakups, he was elevated as a full-time starter for the 2021 season, where he had the best statistical stretch of his college career.
"He's had a really good camp, and his maturity is showing up out here," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said ahead of the season.
Holmes ended the season with 39 tackles, which was the second-most among all of Oklahoma State's cornerbacks. He also helped secure a 24-3 win against West Virginia with a fourth-quarter interception on top of seven pass breakups.
The effort earned him second team All-Big 12 honors from his coaches and The Associated Press. Analysts pointed out his size and physical nature on the field, and that's part of what prompted the Commanders to take him with the 240th overall pick.
"For a big guy you look at him, you're gonna think this guy's a safety, but he moves well for a corner," Ron Rivera said during rookie minicamp. "He's got some things to learn obviously, but he's a big body, so we are pleased for the most part."
Check out the top shots from the Washington Commanders' three-day rookie minicamp (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
4. He prides himself on his man coverage.
Holmes made a bold claim once the Commanders drafted him: he would put his man coverage skills "up against any of the other guys in this draft."
So, clearly, his ability to lock down receivers is something he takes seriously, and to him, there's no secret to being a strong player in man coverage; it all comes down to the tools in your arsenal, he said.
"You always gotta have different tools, because in the NFL, just like at the [Division I] level, there's always good receivers," Holmes said. "In the NFL, there's a whole roster full of them … You can't come out there every game pulling out the same technique."
Holmes does have a history of giving receivers problems. During his days at Missouri, there was a stretch in 2018 where quarterbacks had a 0.0 passer rating when targeting Holmes on third and fourth downs, which at the time was tied for the lowest among FBS defensive backs.
It's important, Holmes said, for corners to mix up the techniques, but it also comes down to being more competitive than the receiver to make a play.
"Everybody comes out there in the first series of the game with light in their eyes, running the fastest they can run, running the best routes they can run," Holmes said. "But when you've got a 200-pound guy slapping you every play…things like that wear a guy down."
Take a look at the Washington Commanders' draft class getting fitted for equipment during the first day of rookie minicamp. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
5. Ron Rivera wants him to learn and develop as part of Washington's secondary.
There's no pressure on Holmes as he tries to get through his rookie season. The top of the cornerback position is already set, and there's plenty of depth ahead of him.
So, Rivera doesn't want Holmes to rush towards trying to make a heavy impact in 2022. Instead, he wants to see Holmes grow and develop as much as possible.
"The biggest thing for Christian is really getting in, getting himself geared up, learn what we're doing, become part of what we're doing and then figuring out how you fit in," Rivera said.
There are some tools that Holmes could develop with the right work ethic. Rivera pointed out his physicality, quickness and speed, all of which will be of use once he gets an opportunity. But for now, the focus for Holmes needs to be learning from players like Kendall Fuller, William Jackson and Kamren Curl.
"He's a raw talent that does have some man skills about him and some opportunity, I think, to show what he can do."