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Commanders can impact roster 'right away' in 2024 Draft

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Adam Peters cracked a smile last week when he was asked about embracing the pressure of making a decision on what to do with the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

"Do we look stressed?" Peters asked with a laugh before saying, "There is a lot of pressure and it's [a] great responsibility and we take this very seriously. That's why we've been working tirelessly on this and turning over every stone."

Peters and the Commanders' front office are about a day away from the moment they've been preparing for since January. Washington has nine picks in this year's draft, including six in the top 100, and with that capital, they must answer questions that have lingered long before they were charged with leading the franchise. What do they do at quarterback? When do they address needs on the offensive line? And which prospects from the pool of hundreds best embody the qualities they want to value in the new era?

The Commanders have several paths they can take when they're on the clock. The challenge, and fun part, for Peters and his staff is picking the right one. Luckily for them, they feel like they're set up to take any they want.

"I think we really have a chance to make this team a lot better," Peters said.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a team with as much flexibility as Washington in this year's draft. Their nine total picks and six in the first three rounds are tied for third-most in the NFL, and they're one of two teams in the NFL to hold at least three picks in the top 40.

Washington will use those picks to address the various needs they still have heading into Phase III of the offseason workout program. Quarterback is at the top of the list (it's widely believed that the Commanders will take one with the No. 2 overall pick), but offensive line, edge rusher, tight end and linebacker are some of the other positions that could stand to be injected with young talent.

But the Commanders already addressed most of those positions in free agency, bringing in Marcus Mariota at quarterback as well as defensive veterans like Frankie Luvu, Bobby Wagner and Dorance Armstrong. None of those moves prevent Washington from adding more players in the draft, but it does give them privilege to do whatever they want with their picks.

"It allowed us to have more freedom in the draft to go various different directions rather than need, need, need," said assistant general manager Lance Newmark. "It really allowed us to blend need and talent."

While it's considered a given that the Commanders will take a quarterback at No. 2, the question of who they'll take remains a mystery. As of last week, Peters said the team is "real close" to making a final decision, although they still don't feel rushed to make any proclamation yet.

However, Peters and the Commanders do have a "pretty good idea" of what direction they'll go. One thing they're willing to admit: don't count on them moving back for more picks.

"We feel great about staying at No. 2," Peters said. "I don't see a whole lot of scenarios where we trade down, to be honest with you."

The Commanders have a chance to end the quarterback carousel that has spun without end for the last seven years, and they're taking that possibility seriously. They've met with all the top prospects, been to their pro days and hosted them at the facility. No matter who they pick, they'll at least have done their homework.

And of course, Washington isn't going to tell anyone much about what they're looking for, but in a general sense, they're looking for a leader who has "tremendous inner belief in themselves."

"I think the more you're around a person, the more you feel that and see that in them," Newmark said. "And I would say the ability to unify people and create a common belief, but that core belief in themselves has always been something that I've seen and been a part of and seen that be translated to success."

As it stands right now, the bulk of Washington's draft haul will come during Day 2, as the Commanders have two second-round picks and three third-round picks. That's also where analysts believe they'll find the most value at positions of need, including edge rusher and tackle. Peters said the team is "really, really excited about that group" at offensive line because of how deep it is. There should still be talented prospects still available in the second round, when the Commanders start their day at No. 36 overall.

Most mock drafts have several tackles going off the board in the first round, though, meaning the Commanders would have to settle for whatever prospects are left to them. They do have enough picks to move back into the first round if a player they like is still on the board. Peters didn't rule it out, either.

"I think with the optionality we have in all those picks, anything is in consideration," Peters said. "So, like we've said before, we're going to do whatever's best for this organization. So, if that's moving up, if that's moving back, we'll do that. And lucky for us, we have the ability to do so with all the ammo we have."

It would be unfair to put so much weight on a general manager's first crack at the draft with a new team, but it's undeniable that the Commanders have a unique opportunity in front of them. Whether they choose to stick and pick, move back or package them together for a trade up, they can add players who will change the franchise's trajectory for at least the next four seasons and hopefully longer than that. They know they can't take that for granted, too, with Newmark acknowledging that their number and positioning of picks "really allow us to make a dramatic impact on our roster right away."

Peters has confidence that they'll hit home runs with all their picks, but two decades of NFL experience has taught him that it doesn't go that way most of the time. It's up to him and his staff to make sure it goes right. They aren't shying away from that authority.

"We want to do this, obviously, for this organization, but for this region, for this fan base and for the coaching staff and the players on the field to get this right," Peters said. "So, it's great responsibility. With that comes pressure, but that's what we signed up for."

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