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Commanders' draft mantra will be to protect, provide Wentz with playmakers 


Any opinions expressed in this article do no reflect those of the team.

The Washington Commanders have had a quiet offseason compared to the first two years of Ron Rivera’s tenure, but they did answer their biggest question. 

The Commanders, which have started at least three quarterbacks in a season since 2018, traded multiple draft picks to the Indianapolis Colts for veteran signal-caller Carson Wentz. They believe Wentz's leadership, paired with his traits on the field, will be able to help them take the step forward Rivera desires in the third season of his tenure.

It's a big box that the Commanders are able to check off ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft, and the next priority they'll need to address with their six picks will be to protect Wentz and add to their arsenal of weapons. 

With this year's draft class being deep at several positions, they should be able to do both.

"We'll go into this draft with that mantra, that mindset that if you can't get one to make sure we get the other to help him," Rivera said during his and Martin Mayhew’s pre-draft press conference.

While it sounds like addressing offensive needs will be an emphasis for the Commanders in this year's draft, the good news is that there's already a foundation in terms of weapons and protection for Wentz. The offensive line finished in the top 10 in terms of ESPN's pass-block (9th) and run-block (1st) win-rate. The Commanders finished 21st in passing offense last season, but they have plenty of young talent with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown.

The receiver position has emerged as a favorite for experts to project to the Commanders. And if they do decide to use the 11th overall pick on a wideout, there's a strong chance that at least one of the top players at the position will be available. If not, there should be plenty to choose from in Days 2 or 3.

No matter which they pick, it will be important for them to make sure the prospect works well with Wentz, who Rivera said brings "a whole new level" to their offense.

There is a belief that Wentz works well with bigger receivers, but Rivera believes that's more of a coincidence. Size will play a role in their evaluations, but it's one of many factors.

"I think it's about getting the most talented guy, and everybody brings something different to the table," Mayhew said. "It's about guys fitting us and fitting what we try to do offensively and guys having the most ability."

And yes, the Commanders already have a number of dynamic pass-catchers already on the roster, but that doesn't mean the team will turn down the chance of adding another to that group.

"Would it be a luxury thing, stuff like that? Yeah, absolutely," Rivera said. "It could be exciting. It could be fun. But you know, we're going to address this as we go through the draft on what player that's available we feel can impact us."

On the offensive line, the losses of Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers left a hole in the interior, but there should be players available when the Commanders get on the clock who could impact the group immediately. For example, Ikem Ekwonu, who has been mocked to the Commanders by some analysts, started at tackle for N.C. State but has experience playing guard as well.

"He's got so much short-area power and explosiveness," an ACC coach told The Athletic. "He's violent. You'd go watch him on film: 'Oh, wow, he's destroying people.' He's got something in him that is not coached."

Other offensive linemen who could be available in that area of the draft, according to analysts, include Mississippi State's Charles Cross and Texas A&M's Kenyon Green. However, Rivera has used picks in later rounds to address the offensive line. What's more, the three players he has added -- Sam Cosmi, Saahdiq Charles and Keith Ismael -- have all seen playing time.

"I felt great about what we got from Keith and Saadhiq," Rivera said. "I thought those two young guys really took advantage of it."

So, it's possible that the Commanders could find starters at offensive line as well as other positions in the later rounds, as Mayhew has suggested.

"I think there's a really, really good middle to this draft," Mayhew said. "The middle starts pretty quickly."

That's not to say that the Commanders will necessarily place a higher need on offensive players over defensive players. But when it comes to looking at that side of the ball, every decision they make will come with the quarterback in mind.

"So we're just going to react to what happens more so than anything else," Rivera said. "We can try and create some things as well. We have all of our options open, and we still have a couple of days left."

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