Martin Mayhew predicts ‘movement’ for Commanders’ draft picks

ASHBURN — The Washington Commanders have six picks going into this week’s NFL draft. General manager Martin Mayhew said he doesn’t expect it to stay that way by the time the three-day event is over.

And that’s not just because the team will be turning those picks into players.

“I believe there will be some movement,” Mayhew said, “whether up or back.”

This year’s draft, which begins Thursday, has been characterized as one of the more unpredictable incoming classes of recent memory. With the Commanders holding the 11th overall pick, Washington coach Ron Rivera lamented the difficulty in projecting what the teams ahead of them will do because of the lack of consensus when it comes to predicting this year’s order. That stems from what Rivera says is a lack of “top-end talent” — a sentiment that seems to be shared widely across the league.

But Mayhew, speaking alongside Rivera at a pre-draft press conference Monday, praised the overall depth in this year’s class and added there can be legitimate starters found in the middle rounds. The problem? Washington lacks selections in the third and fifth rounds because of previous trades.

At the moment, the Commanders hold the 11th, 47th (from Indianapolis), 113th, 189th, 230th and 240th (from Philadelphia via Indianapolis) picks. That’s one first-rounder, one second, one fourth, one sixth and two sevenths.

It’s why the Commanders could be open for business.

“There are going to be starters going into the third and fourth round,” Mayhew said. “There’s going to be an opportunity for us there. … There’s just a lot of really good talented players in that middle that haven’t been there in the past.”

Washington could use all the help it can find. The Commanders, after all, chose to be relatively quiet in free agency — despite having plenty of needs on the roster. Rivera reiterated Monday that this offseason’s trade for quarterback Carson Wentz — who holds a $28.3 million cap hit — altered the team’s plan to pursue free agents.

Instead, Washington has signed just two players from outside the organization over the last month in guard Andrew Norwell and defensive end Efe Obada — both of whom had previously played under Rivera in Carolina. Even with the additions, several holes such as safety and cornerback remain .

The best way to recoup additional assets may possibly be to find a suitor for the 11th overall pick. Last year, for instance, the New York Giants traded No. 11 to the Bears in exchange for the 20th pick, No. 164 and two 2022 picks (a first and a fourth) when Chicago moved up to grab quarterback Justin Fields.

Yet finding a similar type of package figures to be more difficult this year as the incoming crop of quarterbacks has drawn less than stellar reviews. The quarterback-needy Pittsburgh Steelers, who hold the 20th pick coincidentally, may not have to move up when the teams ahead of them don’t appear to be desperate to reach for a signal-caller.

Still, prior to trading for Wentz, Rivera did extensive research on this year’s quarterbacks — telling reporters he started his pre-draft scouting months earlier than normal to closely examine the crop of passers. Rivera, who said he went from watching 100 players to 150 because of the quarterbacks, believes the homework is still useful in case a team wants to move up for a rookie passer.

“You have a frame of reference,” Rivera said. “You feel pretty good about them. There were several of them that you liked. In my mind’s eye, I have a guy that I would think about that if we were still in this position (of needing a quarterback), I would most certainly consider.”

Rivera ruled out drafting a rookie quarterback in the first round, but didn’t eliminate the scenario for later in the draft. In fact, Rivera said the team wants to add another arm with only Wentz and Taylor Heinicke on the roster.

On draft night, Washington could very well end up staying at No. 11. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton or USC wideout Drake London would make sense if available as either player would fill a big position of need.

But, in the event they don’t make the selection, Mayhew said he’s already held conversations with other general managers to gauge the cost of potential trades.

“We’ll see how things fall,” Mayhew said. “If there’s a guy there at 11 that we really have conviction on, feel really strongly about, then we’ll take that player. If we think we can go back a few spots and still get one of the players, if we feel really strongly about them, we will definitely explore that.”

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