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Mock Draft Monday | Commanders find long term answers at positions of need

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It's a new year in a new era for the Washington Commanders, and they have a chance to start the Dan Quinn-Adam Peters regime off by taking one of the best players in college football.

The Commanders hold the No. 2 overall pick following a 4-13 finish to the 2023 season. After jumping out to a 2-0 start, the Commanders won only two games for the rest of the year and wrapped the season up with an eight-game losing streak, the longest in the league and the longest for the franchise since the 2013 season. But with them picking so high, the team will have their choice of whoever they want to name as the first player of Quinn and Peters' efforts to recalibrate the roster through the draft.

Most analysts anticipate that the Commanders will take a quarterback with the pick, and there are a variety of players to choose from if that is the path the team takes. While they are getting closer to a decision, there are several factors to consider. They could stay at No. 2, or they could trade the pick to move up or down, depending on whether the deal makes sense for them. They could also address other needs on the roster, whether it's offensive line, receiver or pass-rusher.

In anticipation for that selection, will highlight one mock draft from a draft expert each week to delve into how that player would fit with Washington. In the final edition of this year's Mock Draft Monday series, we're highlighting a mock draft from Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson, who has the Commanders taking a player who has risen up draft boards in recent weeks.

No. 2: Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

J.J. McCarthy doesn't have the hype surrounding him like some of the other top quarterbacks on the board. He's not a dynamic playmaker with his legs like Jayden Daniels; he doesn't have the prototypical height like Drake Maye; and he certainly doesn't have the buzz surrounding him like Caleb Williams.

It's clear, however, that there's something about the Michigan quarterback that teams seem to like. He's shot up draft boards since the combine, so much so that he's considered in the same group as Daniels and Maye. Monson believes the hype to the point that he thinks he'll be the second quarterback off the board.

"From the very outset of the draft process, there has been talk that the NFL likes J.J. McCarthy more than the public or the media," Monson wrote. "In a year where all of the prospects outside of Williams have their concerns, I'll buy that smoke and say Washington grabs the guy with NFL tape."

Evaluating McCarthy is a prime example as to why it's important to avoid judging a player based on his box score. While the numbers hint at his efficiency in his two seasons as the Wolverines' starter -- he completed 68.5% of his passes for 5,710 yards with 44 touchdowns and nine interceptions -- they hardly compare to the 12,749 yards that Daniels touted in his career or even the 7,929 that Maye had in two seasons.

The lack of opportunity to show off his skill set comes from the system Michigan ran with Jim Harbaugh as its head coach. The Wolverines led the Big Ten with 2,536 rushing yards on 564 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring 40 rushing touchdowns.

And yet McCarthy did his job when the situation called for it. He had eight big-time throws under pressure in 2023 -- tied for the fourth-most among FBS quarterbacks. He also had a completion rate of 59% under pressure, which was better than Williams (47.1%), Maye (43.3%) and Daniels (50%).

There's more. He completed 71.4% of his passes when scrambling, which leads all of the top quarterbacks in the draft by a wide margin (Bo Nix comes in second at 58.6%). When it comes to third-and-long scenarios, McCarthy also leads the pack with a completion rate of 73% -- beating out Daniels by one percentage point -- with six touchdowns compared to zero interceptions. Twenty-seven of his 36 completions (75%) resulted in first downs.

As ESPN's Dan Orlovsky put it, "He makes the hard look very simple."

"The really difficult plays that for so many quarterbacks are hard, his talent makes it look very simple."

The real question surrounding McCarthy is how ready he will be as a rookie. The traits hint that he could have the same level of talent as some of the other quarterbacks on the board. The problem, however, is that most of them have more experience. It's possible that he could be more impactful in a system that is similar to Michigan, meaning that team will need to rely on the running game more often.

On the other hand, it seems like there is confidence in McCarthy's long-term success. If he can continue to fortify his strengths, then whichever teams drafts him should be pleased with his ability to lead their offense for years to come.

No. 36: Minnesota S Tyler Nubin's Lance Zierlein described Tyler Nubin as "a ball thief," and he certainly earned that title. He grabbed 13 interceptions (now a program record) and forced 16 total turnovers in five seasons with Minnesota. He doesn't have the same level of speed or quickness as other defensive backs in his class, but he's a smart, instinctual player who knows how to put himself in position to make plays and is willing to help with run support.

No. 40: UConn G Christian Haynes

Often considered to be one of the top guard prospects in the draft, Haynes is a four-year starter who plays with power and balance. He's patient in pass protection but aggressive in the run game, particularly as a puller. His hands can be sloppy, and he does occasionally turn his hips, which can create open lanes for pass-rushers, but teams will be hard-pressed to find an offensive lineman more experienced than him.

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