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Players to watch during Washington's rookie minicamp

Washington Commanders first-round draft pick Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, talks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility in Ashburn, Va., Friday, April 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Washington Commanders first-round draft pick Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, talks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility in Ashburn, Va., Friday, April 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

By this time tomorrow, the Washington Commanders' draft class will have converged on the team facility in Ashburn, Virginia for the start of rookie minicamp, and soon after that, we will get our first look at the Burgundy & Gold's seven-player class. 

The Commanders addressed some of their most critical needs during this year's draft. That includes bolstering the secondary with first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes as well as the offensive line with Ricky Stromberg and Braeden Daniels. They also improved their depth at defensive end and running back with the likes of KJ Henry and Chris Rodriguez Jr. 

Some players, like Forbes, will be expected to contribute immediately; others will either have to fill in as depth or fight to carve out a more defined role for themselves. Regardless of how much they play this season, the impressions they make over the next few days will be part of their evaluations. 

Here's a look at some players to watch during rookie minicamp.

1. Emmanuel Forbes.

Insert "Duh" sounds here, but it wouldn't be a serious list if we didn't include the first-round pick.

It isn't clear yet as to where Forbes will fit in a secondary that finished fourth in passing yards allowed last season, but it is known that Washington intends to utilize his knack for creating turnovers. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio emphasized finding a player who can flip the field and get the ball back for the offense, and Forbes certainly fits the bill with his FBS record six interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Ron Rivera called Forbes "a turnover machine."

"Tremendous ball skills, and a guy that seems to be able to see through the receiver to the quarterback and have a feel for when to be able to make his move."

Forbes will be jumping into the Commanders' defensive playbook for the first time this weekend, so there are sure to be some growing pains. However, it will be encouraging to see how Forbes moves in coverage and how he matches up against different receivers.

2. Ricky Stromberg and Braeden Daniels.

Washington has made some efforts to tweak its offensive line since the offseason began. Veterans like Nick Gates and Andrew Wylie have been added to the mix, while long time center Chase Roullier has been released.

Now, enter rookies Stromberg and Daniels, who were taken with Washington's third- and fourth-round picks, respectively. Based on how Rivera sounded during his press conferences at the end of Nights 2 and 3, there's a lot of excitement for what they can add to the front.

"He has some position flex, he played guard as well," Rivera said of Stromberg. "So, he's a guy that we really think is going to come in and add some quality depth, and we'll see how things go. But he is a very bright, very smart guy."

Stromberg's intelligence is one of his most noteworthy qualities. That stood out to the Commanders when they brought him in for a visit, as he had in-depth conversations with Travelle Wharton and Eric Bieniemy. Not only was he able to effectively articulate Arkansas' protection and blocking schemes, but he was quick to comprehend the verbiage that Wharton and Bieniemy were using when discussing Washington's offense.

"I don't think he's gonna have a hard time catching up to NFL football, NFL terminology," said general manager Martin Mayhew.

As for Daniels, the Utah lineman is viewed as more of a raw talent with promising upside. He's going to compete at left guard, Rivera said, but the Commanders also want to look at him in the tackle position.

"You're getting a guy that has the ability to be a right tackle, a left tackle or a guard," Rivera said. "He's got position flex, he's young and he's a guy that we can develop and work with over the next couple of years."

Check out the top photos of Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg during his college career. (Photos vis The Associated Press)

3. Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Rodriguez will not be the Commanders' top option at running back this year, but there's a good chance he will get a healthy number of carries.

Bieniemy was a strong advocate for Rodriguez during the draft process. He believes there's an opportunity for Rodriguez to be an every down back, but Rodriguez has also proven that he can score with ease, as he is fourth on Kentucky's all-time total touchdown list.

"He's a big, physical guy. What he can do is he's a downhill runner," Rivera said. "He's a one-cut guy, put his foot in the ground and gets into that crease and blow some things up inside."

The playbook will be simple for Rodriguez and the rest of the offensive players, but it will be interesting to get a glimpse of what Bieniemy saw in his skill set.

4. The UDFAs.

Washington has a history of finding some contributors in the pool of undrafted free agents, so it's rational to assume that at least one of the 12 who were signed after the draft will have a chance to be on the 53-man roster.

The list includes the likes of Joshua Pryor, who was a standout pass-rusher at Bowie State and recorded 32 sacks during his time with the program. There's also UCLA's Kazmeir Allen, who is listed as a receiver but has experience as a return specialist. During his time with the Bruins, Allen had 39 returns for 1,054 yards and a touchdown.

Former Ole Miss Rebel Mason Brooks is the only undrafted offensive lineman that the Commanders signed, and he only played one season for Mississippi but appeared in all 13 games as a reserve player. He was a two-year starter for Western Kentucky, and his position flexibility at guard and tackle could be of use.

You can check out the full list of undrafted free agents, HERE.

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