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Five things to know about CB Emmanuel Forbes

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The Washington Commanders have drafted Mississippi State's Emmanuel Forbes with the 16th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about the team's newest cornerback, presented by Paycor.

1. He holds an FBS record. 

No defensive player has been better than Forbes in FBS history when it comes to finding the end zone, and that is a fact.  

Forbes, who had 14 career interceptions during his career at Mississippi State, returned six of those picks for touchdowns, shattering both the SEC and FBS records. He ended his career as the active FBS leader in defensive touchdowns and career interceptions, which are fourth in Mississippi State history. 

Forbes also set plenty of school records during his time with the Bulldogs. His 90-yard interception return for a touchdown is the longest in program history, and he has the most interception return yards (183) in a single season. 

"I think people throw around the term ballhawk pretty loosely. This guy really is that," said general manager Martin Mayhew. "The guy is an impact player. He's one of my favorite guys in this draft."

Take an inside look at the Washington Commanders' war room during the moments leading up to them drafting Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

2. He was a three-way player in high school.

Forbes has been an athletic player for his entire playing career dating all the way back to his days at Grenada High School in Mississippi. He was a receiver, defensive back and a returner, and for the entire four seasons he was there, he was a spark plug for the Chargers.

The numbers Forbes put up on defense should not be a surprise. He recorded 49 tackles as a receiver with eight interceptions -- two returned for touchdowns -- and 12 pass breakups. But Forbes was also a solid wideout, using his sub-4.4 speed to rack up 499 yards and seven touchdowns on 31 receptions.

Forbes also believes that his time as a receiver has helped him become a better defender.

"I had a knack for the ball, honestly. And it just translated over to the DB position if I feel like I can get my hands on him and try to go pick it. So that just helped me out a lot."

Then there's his ability as a returner; during his sophomore year -- his first as a full-time starter -- he had two punt returns for touchdowns. Perhaps he can contribute in that area with the Commanders, but regardless of where he plays, it seems the team has found an all-around athlete.

3. Mike Leach held him in high regard.

Late Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach worked with several talented players during his legendary career, but Forbes had a special place in his mind.

Back in November 2022, Forbes was in the midst of another strong season. He ultimately finished with career highs in interceptions (6) and pass breakups (11), and he was up for multiple awards because of that. One of them, however, was not the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the best defensive back in college football.

In fact, despite breaking records and getting the second-most interceptions in the FBS, Forbes wasn't even a finalist. That bothered Leach.

"I have great respect for the other finalists, but they didn't rewrite the record books like Emmanuel Forbes," Leach said. "He is the ultimate competitor. One of the greatest players I've ever coached."

That statement is significant, considering the players Leach coached during his legendary career. The list includes the likes of Danny Amendola, Gardner Minshew, Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree. So, having a player with the "Mike Leach seal of approval" is a solid benefit.

4. Don't be concerned about his weight.

Yes, we know. Forbes was listed at 166 pounds at the combine. And yes, we know that has been a concern for some people.

Ron Rivera is not one of those people.

"He did it in the SEC which is just...a notch below the NFL. He played against some big-time receivers, big time quarterbacks."

The Commanders are convinced that Forbes is not a victim of his size. It does not stop him from being physical and sticking his nose in the run game to shut down much bigger receivers. What's more, he was able to stay healthy throughout his entire college career and did not miss a game because of injury.

"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 … So, that's something that we don't really concern ourselves with."

And Forbes sent out a message to teams interested in him during his pro day.

"If they're not going to pick me because of what I weigh, I think they're making a mistake."

5. Rivera sees him as a difference maker.

The Commanders could have taken any cornerback they wanted when they were on the clock. Most of the players that were more highly regarded by analysts were available at that point, but Washington chose to stick with Forbes over all of them.

Why? Because the team believes he can change the way they play.

"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," Rivera said.

If there was any area where the Commanders defense struggled it was creating turnovers. They had just nine interceptions in 2022, which was ranked 28th last season. Fixing that was a point of emphasis for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. He wanted the team to find a ballhawk, and grabbing the active college football leader in interceptions should certainly help solve that problem.

"He's tall and he's long. He gets his hands on guys in press," Mayhew said. "He disrupts routes, so he's the total package. He really is. He can do everything that a corner should be able to do."

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