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Commanders add 'elite athletes' to roster with 2024 draft class

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) runs during the first half of an NCAA football game against Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) runs during the first half of an NCAA football game against Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

The first draft of the Adam Peters-Dan Quinn era is now in the books, and analysts around the league view it as a tremendous success. How they managed their nine draft picks, from taking LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels to Notre Dame's Javontae Jean-Baptiste, is being called "a straight-up masterpiece" because of how they addressed needs and planned for the future.

But don't just take some flowery language from pundits as evidence; the numbers also point to Washington crushing the 2024 NFL Draft.

Drafting prospects with top-tier athleticism doesn't always equate to wins during the season, but it certainly doesn't hurt, either. The Commanders, who had six picks in the top 100 over the weekend, stuck to that philosophy more than any team in the NFL by drafting the most prospects with peak athletic traits.

How the players use that skill will be up to them, but they'll at least have a foundation to build upon.

"We added a lot of good players and a lot of players that we believe in...what we believe in," said assistant general manager Lance Newmark. "So just a very productive three days. We're all very excited."

Newmark explained that all nine draft picks fit what he referred to as "the Commander mold." He didn't reveal the specifics but explained that their draft picks were "our kind of football players." Considering that most were captains at the college level, one could assume that things like leadership and intense work ethic are valued assets to the coaching staff.

Apparently, so is athleticism, based on their Relative Athletic Scores (RAS). Designed by Kent Lee Platte of Pro Football Network, a player's RAS uses 10 measurements from the scouting combine to "intuitively gauge a player's athletic abilities relative to the position they play and provide tools to contrast and compare based on known measurables."

Scores given on a scale of 0-10 are based on the following factors:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Bench
  • Vertical
  • Broad jump
  • 40-yard dash
  • 20-yard split
  • 10-yard split
  • Shuttle drill
  • Three-cone drill

While a player's RAS does not predict how successful they will be at the NFL level, it provides a barometer of how athletic they are based on their peers. And according to Platte's calculations, the Commanders' draft class had the best overall RAS at 9.427.

"Washington had two players who didn't test, and if they had they likely would have had an even higher average RAS," Platte wrote on X. "2nd-rounder Mike Sainristil had their worst RAS at 8.45, which says a lot about their approach this year."

Daniels and second-round pick Jer'Zhan Newton were the only two players who did test at the combine. Newton was still recovering from surgery he underwent in January to fix a Jones fracture in his foot, and Daniels elected to throw at his pro day like the rest of the top quarterbacks.

There's no doubt that both players are some of the most athletic for their positions. Daniels showed that he could gash defenses in the air and on the ground, earning top five grades as a passer (92) and runner (92.4). Newton, a former high school running back and basketball player, has been praised for speed that rivals defensive ends, his quick hands that allow him to beat interior offensive linemen and impressive strength despite a smaller frame relative to his position (6-foot-2, 304 pounds).

All of that was why Peter was surprised Newton was available to them at No. 36 overall.

"We think he's an advanced player who can come in and play right away," Peters said. "Really a three-down player who you can play on the run downs, play on pass downs, skilled, hands and feet are tied together."

As for the players who did receive RAS grades, TCU tackle Brandon Coleman sits atop the Commanders' draft haul with a 9.97/10. An All-Big 12 selection in 2022 and 2023, Coleman ran a 4.99 40 with a 1.73 10-yard split, recorded a 34-inch vertical and had a 9-foot-6 broad jump -- all of which were top 10 metrics for offensive linemen.

Add that to Coleman being a three-year starter with experience at three positions, and it's easy to see why the Commanders would be interested in giving him a chance to compete.

"He really impressed us," Peters said of Coleman. "We had him in here on a 30 visit, really loved his story. And he's got over 1,600 snaps at tackle. He also played guard. We see him as a tackle, and we think he could be a really good tackle. He's really experienced. He's got heavy hands. He's a really good athlete. So, we were really fortunate to get him where we got him."

The Commanders made a habit of finding players who paired their athleticism with production. Ben Sinnott (9.73) had the best vertical jump for a tight end, which helped him leap to haul in passes and lead Kansas State with 676 receiving yards; Jordan Magee (9.6) ranked in the top 4% of linebacker prospects from 1987-2024 and used his traits to lead Temple in tackles (80) and sacks.

Even players like Javontae Jean-Baptiste (9.22), Washington's seventh-round pick who will be a developmental piece as a rookie, has upside for his future, as he paced Notre Dame with 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

"Another guy that's long [and] athletic," Newmark said. "Another guy that loves football, very excited about his opportunity here. It was a great phone call when we picked him. He was very, very excited and very emotional and really excited to add the length, the athleticism, the pass rush upside."

Platte isn't the only one who has picked up on Washington's knack for grabbing athletic players in this year's draft. Next Gen Stats noticed this too; the Commanders' first seven picks had an athleticism score of 83, the second-best of any team in the draft.

Nex Gen Stats also proclaimed that the Commanders had the best all-around draft according to their numbers.

"The [Commanders] new regime targeted elite athletes throughout the draft, securing a league-high six players with an NGS athleticism score of 80 or higher," Next Gen Stats said in a post on X.

Does this mean the Commanders will improve upon their 4-13 record from a year ago? It's difficult to tell right now. The New York Jets led the league with an overall RAS of 9.64 in 2023, but Aaron Rodgers' injury put their season into a tailspin. However, the Indianapolis Colts, who ranked second in 2023 with a RAS of 9.48, went from 4-12-1 in 2022 to 9-8.

It's possible the Commanders could repeat that feat, but Peters and the Commanders' front office are more concerned about simply improving the roster as they lay foundations for what they hope will be a perennial playoff contender at some point in the future.

They believe they have at least achieved that goal.

"A lot of good stuff happened in the last hour and the last three days have been extremely productive for our organization," Newmark said.

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