Commanders post-draft depth chart: Rookie fits, O-line questions and more

The post-NFL Draft conversation shifts from who might join the Washington Commanders to those on the actual roster — or at least it will once Jayden Daniels and the other eight members of the 2024 class sign their rookie deals.

They will be part of Washington’s May 10-12 rookie minicamp, subsequent OTA sessions, mandatory veteran minicamp and late summer training camp. Those practices will aid the front office and coaching staff in determining which of the 90 players will be on the Commanders’ 53-man Week 1 roster.

Each position shows the current candidates with a projection of starters, but that’s as far as we’ll go with the roster guessing for now. Rookies are in italics. This list is over the mandatory 90-player limit, meaning there will be releases once the rookies sign their deals. The veteran market will be active in the coming days as teams make post-draft changes.



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Starter: Jayden Daniels

Others: Marcus Mariota, Jeff Driskel, Sam Hartman, Jake Fromm

None of Washington’s decision-makers who spoke at Daniels’ introduction last week — managing partner Josh Harris, general manager Adam Peters, coach Dan Quinn — were willing to name the No. 2 overall selection the Week 1 starter. The rest of us don’t need to pretend.

Daniels started 53 games at Arizona State and LSU and turns 24 in December. This talented, experienced quarterback should feel comfortable on the field, barring training camp questions. There’s a new playbook to learn, but “the veterans are only a few weeks ahead into that process,” Quinn said. That Washington is starting from scratch benefits the staff and the rookie because “the players will be taking the same course rather than coaches teaching English 101 and Masters English on the same day. You can’t teach the same class in the same way.”

Mariota, the second overall selection in 2015, is the veteran mentor ready to play as needed. Four quarterbacks attend the offseason program and, in turn, battle for QB3 duties. Signing Hartman to an undrafted free-agent contract with a hefty $245,000 salary/bonus package puts the former Notre Dame standout in prime position to audition for primary backup duties in 2025. Driskel’s starting experience (12 games in the last six seasons) over Fromm’s (zero since 2021) probably gives him the edge as the fourth quarterback in camp.



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Running back

Starter: Brian Robinson Jr.

Others: Austin Ekeler, Chris Rodriguez Jr., Jeremy McNichols, Austin Jones, Michael Wiley

This room felt complete when Ekeler signed a free-agent deal in March. The ex-Charger and two-time NFL touchdowns leader is arguably the top wild card regarding Washington’s offense. At a minimum, Ekeler is the passing down threat, with Robinson the hard-running hammer backed by another interior option in Rodriguez.

Stashing one or two backs on the practice squad likely represents extra depth, knowing that other positions require more significant numbers. Jones played for USC last year with Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury on staff. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked the 5-foot-9 back with over 3,200 yards from scrimmage as his RB33, four spots behind the sturdier-built Wiley.

Wide receiver

Starters: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Luke McCaffrey

Others: Dyami Brown, Olamide Zaccheaus, Jamison Crowder, Dax Milne, Mitchell Tinsley, Kazmeir Allen, Brycen Tremayne, Davion Davis, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint

Daniels walks into a situation with two playmakers at receiver, but there’s a gap between them. While McLaurin eked out a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, Dotson’s production declined. Whether the 2022 first-round selection experienced a sophomore slump or became victim to an unsteady offense, ESPN’s statistical tracker slotted Dotson in a tie for 143rd out of 153 receivers. The standard issue for both targets involved creating open space.

Kingsbury’s up-tempo attack should help. Otherwise, there’s a fair amount of uncertainty with this group. McCaffrey’s designation as the starting slot is written in pencil, though Christian’s younger brother brings size, quick feet and his family’s genes. Zaccheaus got lost among the Philadelphia Eagles’ playmakers last season but caught 40 passes — 11 more than Brown’s three-year total — for the Atlanta Falcons in 2022. Several long-shot flyers are in the mix for the final one or two spots. Crowder must retain his punt returner role to stick.

Tight end

Starter: Zach Ertz

Others: John Bates, Ben Sinnott, Armani Rogers, Cole Turner, Colson Yankoff

Whether this tight end group, among the league’s least productive over the past two seasons, improves significantly depends on Ertz’s odometer (turns 34 in November), Sinnott’s transition (49 receptions for 676 yards and six touchdowns at Kansas State last season) and Rogers’ recovery from the 2023 season-ending Achilles tear.

Ertz, who played under Kingsbury with the Arizona Cardinals, is the most likely to replace Logan Thomas. Ertz snagged 103 receptions in 21 games under Kingsbury from 2021 to 2022.

Selecting Sinnott at No. 53 garnered mixed reviews. But let’s see how those three look at OTA and minicamp before scouring free agent lists for help.

Offensive tackle

Starters: Cornelius Lucas, Andrew Wylie

Others: Brandon Coleman, Trent Scott, Braeden Daniels, Alex Akingbulu, David Nwaogwugwu

Questions about the left tackle options grew louder post-draft despite the third-round selection of Coleman, a 6-foot-4, 313-pound team captain with 4.99 40-yard speed and over 1,600 snaps at left tackle. He joins Lucas, a steady swing tackle the past four seasons, in an important position battle. Fans, having already expressed some valid and overwrought concerns with Wylie on the right side and knowing that protecting Daniels is a significant priority, are growing more anxious.

The reality is this free-agency cycle lacked saviors, and others came with age, injury or production flaws. Not to mention half the league sought help at tackle this offseason. After exploring the scene post-draft, we can note that Washington isn’t panicked.

Should the Commanders seek more big bodies before training camp, two names make sense. The New Orleans Saints moved three-time Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat back to tackle in 2023 for the first time in years. The nine-year veteran held his own in the final year of his contract. That Peat, 30, can play left tackle and guard would perhaps mean offering competition at both spots. Former Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries earned a 2021 Pro Bowl selection with Kingsbury as head coach. He allowed four sacks in 568 pass-protection snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.


Starters: Tyler Biadasz; Nick Allegretti, Sam Cosmi

Others: Ricky Stromberg, Michael Deiter, Chris Paul, Mason Brooks, Julian Good-Jones

Though I’m not trying to go overboard with the praise, this is the best interior starting trio in several seasons. Coming off a much-improved third season, Cosmi is a potential extension candidate. Biadasz received a three-year free-agent contract in March. As did Allegretti, though it feels premature to designate the former Kansas City Chiefs reserve the day one starter.

Perhaps Stromberg, a 2023 third-round center, gets a shot at left guard or contends with Paul, a multigame starter last season. Stromberg only played sparingly in four games — all at guard — before suffering a season-ending knee injury. That could also explain the signing of Deiter, who mainly played center last season for the Houston Texans. Brooks is the fun flyer after signs of stoutness the previous summer.

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Defensive end

Starters: Dorance Armstrong, Clelin Ferrell

Others: Dante Fowler Jr., KJ Henry, Efe Obada, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Andre Jones Jr., Jalen Harris, Joshua Pryor

The Commanders forged a credible rotation in free agency by signing Armstrong, Ferrell and Fowler. Obada could join if recovery from a significant leg injury permits.

Washington must draft higher-end talent next year. Henry (1 1/2 sacks, four tackles for loss, three starts in 2023), Jean-Baptiste, Andre Jones, Harris and Pryor may have a flier free-for-all in training camp.

Defensive tackle

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne

Others: Johnny Newton, Phidarian Mathis, John Ridgeway III, Benning Potoa’e, Norell Pollard

Taking a first-round-graded player (Newton) at No. 36 made Peters swoon and let the rest of us wonder what this means for Allen and his $23 million salary-cap hit next year.

For now, defensive tackle is once again the team’s strength. Dallas released Ridgeway before the 2022 season because of roster constraints rather than interest. He reunites with Quinn in Washington, where Mathis also has a new opportunity to make a case after two injury-plagued campaigns.


Starters: Frankie Luvu, Bobby Wagner

Others: Jamin Davis, Jordan Magee, Anthony Pittman, Keandre Jones, Brandon Bouyer-Randle, Mykal Walker

Changes were required, and Washington did so rather splashing by signing Luvu to a three-year contract and inking Wagner, a future Hall of Famer, to a one-year contract. Wagner is the coach on the field with notable tackling prowess, while Luvu is Quinn’s chess piece in the mold of Cowboys star Micah Parsons.

Only Davis returned from the 2023 roster after the Commanders declined the 2021 first-round pick’s fifth-year option. The remaining options concern special teams contributions, with Magee and Pittman being clear standouts.


Starter: Benjamin St-Juste, Emmanuel Forbes Jr., Mike Sainristil

Others: Michael Davis, Christian Holmes, Tariq Castro-Fields, Noah Igbinoghene, James Pierre, Nick Whiteside II, Kyu Blu Kelly, Chigozie Anusiem, A.J. Woods

Considering the significant decline last season, how the coaching staff helps the secondary is a primary focus this summer. That doesn’t mean giving Forbes and St-Juste a pass for their struggles. Instead, the arrival of defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. and defensive backs coach Tommy Donatell gives those players a strong shot at quick turnarounds.

Sainristil, a 5-foot-9 dynamo and a Nick Saban favorite, has a blend of athleticism, competitiveness and top-shelf coverage (and receiver?) skills. Put Davis in the top four, and it’s game on for the final spots. Anusiem’s 4.39 40-yard time — and $300,000 financial deal with Washington — makes him one to watch.


Starters: Jeremy Chinn, Quan Martin

Others: Darrick Forrest, Percy Butler, Jeremy Reaves, Dominique Hampton, Tyler Owens, Ben Nikkel, D’Angelo Mandell

If Sainristil is the nickel corner, does that put Martin at free safety? Is Chinn only an early-down defender, or would the aggressive safety play next to Martin when three corners are on the field? Does Forrest have a realistic shot to maintain the starting strong safety job?

The first five names may comprise the room. Reaves feels safe based on the special teams resume. Peters discovered Hampton and his 6-foot-7 wingspan when watching a University of Washington game last season. If the play matches the potential, Hampton forces his way onto the roster.

Special teams

Kicker: Brandon McManus
Punter: Tress Way
Long snapper: Tyler Ott

Way stays forever. There will be a new kicker and snapper. The new kickoff rules make for an interesting thought: Who replaces Antonio Gibson? Crowder is the incumbent but not necessarily the best bet for punt returner duties once camp opens.

(Photo of Andrew Wylie and Brian Robinson Jr.: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)

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