Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew addressed the media one week ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. Here are some takeaways from their joint press conference.
-- The Commanders hold the No. 16 overall pick, and they are keeping all options open for what they want to do with that selection.
"I feel like we have the ability to go anywhere in this draft," Mayhew said.
That flexibility can be credited to the work Washington did in free agency. The Commanders had needs at offensive line, linebacker and backup quarterback. They addressed all of those areas in one form or another by adding 2022 starters like Andrew Wylie, Nick Gates and Cody Barton. Thanks to that, the team has more options in terms of what it can do, whether that means taking the best player available, trading up or trading back for more draft capital.
-- Mayhew praised the additions of Wylie and Gates, saying that their position flexibility creates more value and options for them in the draft. "Andrew has played guard and tackle and Nick has played center and guard. We have the flexibility there to go anywhere in the draft. Add someone and put the pieces wherever the pieces line up."
-- There are no updates on whether the Commanders will pick up Chase Young’s fifth-year option with Rivera saying that the team will "wait until May 2" to make that decision.
-- The Commanders rolled through their 30 allotted visits with prospects this month, and one of them was reportedly Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. Rivera reiterated that the Commanders are "very comfortable" with the quarterback position because of Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett.
Mayhew added that there are different ways to look at the top 30 visits. Sometimes, prospects are brought in to get interactions with certain coaches or learn more about their football knowledge. Sometimes they are brought in because of some on- or off-field concerns.
But bringing in someone for a top 30 visit does not necessarily mean they will draft them. As Rivera said, "Some guys we didn't bring in because we don't want you to know about them."
-- The question of whether teams should trade up or trade back comes up every year, and the answer always has layers to it. In Mayhew's opinion, "You have to have a very, very strong opinion of a guy in my mind to move up." However, Mayhew added that he prefers to move back because of the potential it brings to add more players to the roster. That happened last year, when they traded the 11th overall pick to the New Orleans Saints, and that caused a chain reaction that led to Washington getting Brian Robinson and eventually Howell.
-- There are still plenty of players who were granted an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19, which means that some prospects have played as many as 60 games. The caveat is that they are getting a later start to their NFL careers. That does come up, Rivera said, and there are positives and negatives to those players.
"Their game has developed, they've been in several different systems, so those are things that you believe that'll benefit them. But at the same time, you draft a guy like that and may not have the 10-year career because he's already 25 or 26."
-- Having assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy involved in the draft process has been an "interesting, very energetic experience," Rivera said. He has provided strong insight from the readings on prospects, and it did not take long for the team to learn what kind of players he is looking for. Listening to his evaluation of the talent on the roster was one of the things Rivera liked about Bieniemy when he was searching for a new offensive coordinator, and hearing it again has given him "a little bit more of an education to understand what he's looking for and what he's expecting out of guys."