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 staying in the SEC and looking at a cornerback who could have tremendous upside.
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
This year's NFL draft class is full of cornerbacks with impressive size, from Oregon's Christian Gonzalez (6-foot-1, 197 pounds) to Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. (6-foot-2.5, 193 pounds). You won't find those same metrics with Mississippi State's Emmanuel Forbes.
At 166 pounds, Forbes does not have the same weight advantage as some of the other top corners; he was actually the smallest defensive back at the combine. But one area that Forbes is not light in is athleticism, as he had the fourth fastest 40 times (4.35), a 37.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-11 broad jump.
Those metrics, plus some standout numbers for the Bulldogs, has ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. convinced that Forbes is an underrated prospect in a deep talent pool. He believes the Commanders should swoop in and take the All-SEC defensive back with their first-round pick.
"I'm a huge fan of Forbes, who is rail thin but really fast," Kiper wrote in his latest mock draft. "He has gone up against some of college football's best wideouts and consistently held his own."
Putting aside his size, Forbes has proven himself as one of the best defensive backs in the SEC over the last three seasons. 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).
The areas where Forbes stands out the most are his instincts and ability to track the ball. That led to him getting 22 pass breakups and 13 interceptions, six of which were returned for touchdowns. That includes his score against Kentucky, which came after Forbes jumped Will Levis' pass and didn't break his stride as he ran 60 yards to the end zone.
"He pounces on quick-game throws and has the ball skills to take the ball away," NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote in his evaluation of Forbes.
Forbes may have problems with bigger receivers at the next level. Philadelphia' A.J. Brown, for example, has about a 60-pound advantage on Forbes, and while Forbes has the speed to match up against Brown, it is possible Forbes will have trouble handling Brown's aggressiveness on quick routes. Regardless of where he is drafted, Forbes will need to put on some weight to be effective in the NFL.
However, it should be noted that Forbes' size does not deter him from holding his own in one-on-one situations or being physical. His PFF tackle grades steadily improved as the 2022 season went on -- he got an 84.3 in the season finale against Ole Miss -- and had six interceptions in man coverage scenarios.
"I ran a lot of man, a lot of zone," Forbes said when asked about the variety of coverages he’s played, per The Draft Network. "A lot of read and a lot of zero coverage and man free coverage, being on an island most of the time."
And in terms of his durability, Forbes believes what he has put on display over the last three seasons, during which he earned All-Freshman, All-SEC and All-American honors, should be enough to ease concerns.
"I played in the SEC for three years and never missed a game due to injury," Forbes said, "I just feel like I'm durable and physical for my size."
There is going to be some risk involved in taking Forbes because of his size. Teams will likely wonder how much he can contribute until he can put on some weight, but there's a long list of traits that point to him being a dynamic player if they can get past his frame.
"He's going to get bigger, of course, but some teams will be scared off by his size," Kiper said. "The Commanders should capitalize; Forbes is a ball hawk who picked off 14 passes over the past three seasons... and could be an All-Pro player.