The following article is based on the opinions of external draft analysts.
We're heading into the fourth season of the Ron Rivera era, and the Washington Commanders have a pristine opportunity to strengthen their roster.
In his first season as Washington's head coach, Rivera took Chase Young, who became the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year, with the No. 2 overall pick. The next season, he drafted Jamin Davis with the No. 19 overall pick, and the former Kentucky Wildcat showed promise in his first season. And last year, the Commanders took Jahan Dotson, who wasted no time in becoming a valuable member of the Commanders' receiving corps.
Now, the Commanders have the No. 16 overall pick, and analysts are predicting them to go with a plethora of positions, from offensive line to cornerback and linebacker, at that spot.
In anticipation for that selection, Commanders.com will highlight one mock draft from a draft expert each week and delve into how that player would fit with Washington. Here are the players we have covered so far:
Next, we're moving to the other side of the ball and addressing another player on the offensive line who could help the Commanders immediately.
Paris Johnson, T Ohio State
The offensive line was one of the Commanders' biggest problems in 2022. Just as it did in 2021, the group experienced several injuries to starters at various points in the season, but unlike two seasons ago, when the team was able to make do with a patchwork of backups, it crumpled at inopportune moments.
To put it plainly, the group needs more stability, and that starts at the tackle position, where Cornelius Lucas and Sam Cosmi rotated in the second half of the season. Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner and Sam Monson have an answer for that in their latest mock draft, and it involves taking one of the best offensive linemen available in this year's class.
"You can expect some growing pains early on due to Johnson's limited experience, but that's the nature of the tackle position. If he's dedicated to his craft, he'll be a stud."
One could argue that Johnson is already a stud. After starting at right guard as a sophomore and earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors, he moved over to left tackle and added a Second Team All-American selection to another all-conference nod. Over those past two seasons, Johnson started in 26 games, and Ohio State's offense was one of the best in the country, ranking first in yards per game in 2021 (561.5) and ninth in 2022 (490.7).
During that time, getting past Johnson made a habit of shutting down defensive linemen. During his three seasons with the Buckeyes, he only allowed three sacks and one quarterback hit.
"Long, athletic tackle in need of additional technique work but possessing the traits to become a long-time starter on the left side," NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote in his evaluation of Johnson. "Johnson is still filling out his frame and he should get stronger. He's much better as a move blocker than man blocker but he can bridge that gap with more coaching."
Pass protection is where Johnson stands out the most. He is coming off his best PFF pass blocking grade (77.8), and that includes three straight games where he had a grade of at least 86.3. He excels at lateral mobility, which allows him to mirror defensive ends and counter their quickness. He put those skills on display at the Combine, but some of the best examples of how effective he can be came against Iowa in Week 8, when he kept C.J. Stroud clean on 34 pass-blocking snaps.
Johnson feels that what he has done on film proves that he is the best tackle in this year's draft, but he wants to prove that he can help the team that drafts him no matter what his position will be.
"I think I'm a natural tackle, but I want to be part of the best five [starting linemen], so if I have to learn to snap it and be the center, I'll do it. That's just how I'm willing to play," Johnson said at the Combine.
And Johnson has the physical traits to be an NFL-caliber left tackle. His height (6-foot-6) and weight (313 pounds) are impressive, but what stands out the most is his arm length (36.13 inches). Since 2000, there have only been 19 players with arms longer than 36 inches, according to Renner, and Johnson's arms are two inches longer than Trent Williams.
Combine that with his athletic ability, and whoever drafts Johnson could have an answer at left tackle for years to come.
"He has all of the necessary tools to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL," said PFF's Max Chadwick.