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Commanders got 'the total package' with Emmanuel Forbes

Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) runs back a 76-yard touchdown interception against East Tennessee State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov.19, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Ron Rivera called it as he was driving to the Washington Commanders' training facility the morning of the 2023 NFL Draft: if Emmanuel Forbes is available when they're on the clock, they were going to take him.

"He's a turnover machine," Rivera said. "And that can impact our team, our defense in a very good way."

As it turned out, Forbes, who ESPN's Mel Kiper listed as the third cornerback on his big board, did in fact fall all the way down to the Commanders with the No. 16 overall selection. Washington had its pick of cornerbacks when it was on the clock, but rather than take Oregon's Christian Gonzalez, Maryland's Deonte Banks or Penn State's Joey Porter Jr., the team decided to stick with Forbes.

For Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew, taking Forbes was an easy decision because of what he could add to the Commanders' secondary.

"He's the total package. He really is," Mayhew said. "He can do everything that a corner should be able to do."

Forbes has been on the Commanders' radar from the beginning of their evaluation process. The first thing that stood out to Mayhew was the production. The numbers showed that Forbes was one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC who recorded 149 tackles, 22 pass breakups and 14 interceptions in three seasons with the Bulldogs.

When he turned on the tape, he saw a 6-foot-1, 166-pound defensive back who did not play like someone with such a slender frame. Instead, he saw a tough, physical corner who managed to thrive in the SEC, which many consider to be the best conference in college football.

"When you watch his tape, you don't know that he's that light," Mayhew said. "He doesn't look like that on tape. He doesn't play like that. He's been durable, hasn't missed a game because of an injury in three years. So, he's been durable in the SEC and played a lot of football."

What did stand out about Forbes on tape is that he's a true ballhawk. He was the highest graded cornerback in the conference during the 2022 season (87.8) and allowed career lows in receptions (26), completion percentage (51%), yards per reception (9.3) and yards after the catch (95).

What's even more impressive is that Forbes knows what to do with the ball in his hands. He holds an FBC record with six interceptions returned for a touchdown, and that's a credit to his ability to track and locate the ball.

"The guy just has a really good feel as a corner and he has got really good length for press coverage as well," Mayhew said. "I should mention that. I mean, we talk about his size, but we haven't talked about his length. He's tall and he's long. He gets his hands on guys in press. He disrupts routes, so he's the total package. He really is. He can do everything that a corner should be able to do."

There weren't many areas where the Commanders' defense struggled, but creating takeaways was one of them. With Forbes, Rivera feels they have solved that problem.

"This guy, this young man fit the bill and he did it at a very high level," Rivera said. "I mean, he did it in the SEC which is just...a notch below the NFL. He played against some big-time receivers, big time quarterbacks. So this is a guy that fits the bill for us, and we think it's gonna come in and help us and help elevate our defense."

And when it comes to how Forbes fits in with the Commanders off the field, there aren't any concerns there, either.

"He's had some charisma," Rivera said. "He did, he came in and he kind of lights it up when he is around people. As Martin said there's a lot of things about him to like, there really were."

Draft analysts have pointed out that Forbes is the lightest cornerback in this year's class, which they viewed as a potential issue. Washington did not have those concerns, and again, Rivera referred to his ability to perform in the SEC with no injury history.

Also, Forbes is still growing, Rivera said, and he believes the rookie will fill out naturally.

"Is there a concern? No, I don't have a concern just from watching his tape and watching who he played against."

When it comes to Forbes, the only thing Rivera and Mayhew were concerned about was whether he could play football at a high level.

After months of evaluating him, they're confident that Forbes checks that box.

"He's one of my favorite guys in this draft," Mayhew said. "From studying all these guys, he really was a guy that it was really fun to watch, because the guy gets the ball."

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