Commanders' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets Amid Terry McLaurin Contract, Trade BuzzApril 25, 2022
Commanders' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets Amid Terry McLaurin Contract, Trade Buzz
Carson Wentz will be the Washington Commanders' starting quarterback in 2022. The team parted with a pair of draft picks and swapped second-round selections to acquire him in a March trade with the Indianapolis Colts. But to whom will he be throwing the ball?
The obvious answer is Terry McLaurin, who has been one of the NFL's top wide receivers over his first three seasons in the league. However, there's been some recent buzz regarding McLaurin's future, as the 26-year-old is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
ESPN's Adam Schefter recently reported that McLaurin is among several star receivers looking for new deals who won't participate in on-field work during their teams' offseason programs. What that means for McLaurin's future isn't clear at this point, but it will be a situation to monitor moving forward.
No matter what happens with McLaurin, Washington could use another top playmaker in its receiving corps. Curtis Samuel didn't make much of an impact during an injury-riddled 2021 season, his first with the team. Nor did Dyami Brown in his rookie campaign. So it wouldn't be a surprise if the Commanders use the No. 11 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft on a wide receiver.
With that in mind, here are several players who could be potential targets for Washington in the first round of this year's draft, which begins Thursday.
Drake London, WR, USC
Drake London is a big, physical wide receiver who stands 6'4" and could bring some much-needed size to Washington's receiving corps. He had a strong three-year career at USC and put up big numbers as a junior in 2021, when he had 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games.
However, London's final year with the Trojans was cut short because of an ankle fracture. The injury has had an effect on what NFL teams have seen from him during the buildup to the draft. London didn't participate in USC's pro day earlier in April, instead holding his own private workout. And he chose not to run the 40-yard dash for the coaches and scouts in attendance.
But if London is healthy, it's clear what he's capable of, as he was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year for his production last season. The Commanders may have interest in him too, as ESPN's John Keim reported that the team recently hosted London for a visit.
It's possible London won't be on the board when Washington is on the clock at No. 11, as there are many ways the first 10 picks of the draft could unfold. Teams such as the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons could be in the market for receivers too.
Should London be available, though, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Commanders draft him.
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The last time Washington drafted an Ohio State wide receiver, it was McLaurin in the third round in 2019, and to say that worked out well would be an understatement. Why not try it again? Two Buckeyes receivers are likely to get selected in the first round this year: Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Wilson is likely the better prospect, but there's a good chance he will be off the board when the Commanders are on the clock. If that's the case—and if London has also been drafted—then it could be a wise decision for Washington to go with Olave.
Over four seasons at Ohio State, Olave was a consistent contributor to the team's receiving corps. He had his best year as a senior in 2021, when he posted career highs in catches (65), yards (936) and touchdowns (13).
"The quiet storm of the Ohio State wide receiver corps, Olave is smooth, steady and makes things happen," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote in a scouting report.
Olave may not be quite as talented as former teammate Wilson, but he's a strong playmaker worthy of getting taken in the first round. And depending on how the top 10 unfolds, he could be the best option for Washington at No. 11 overall.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Maybe the Commanders won't take a wide receiver at No. 11, even though it's one of their biggest needs. There are other holes on their roster to address, and if a player as talented as Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is still on the board, it may be the best move to take him.
Hamilton is considered by many to be the top safety in this year's draft class. He recorded 138 tackles and eight interceptions in 31 games over his three-year career with the Fighting Irish, and he has the versatility to play both in the secondary and up closer to the line.
Last year, Landon Collins filled a linebacker/safety hybrid role for Washington and had positive results. But he was released earlier this offseason to clear cap space. Hamilton could take over that job and give the Commanders another talented safety to play alongside Bobby McCain and Kamren Curl.
Like the other top prospects who should be among Washington's top targets, it will all come down to whether Hamilton is available and who else is still on the board. If the Commanders make a draft-day trade, it would be more likely to move down than up. But if Hamilton falls and they draft him, they would be adding a talented young player to a defense that should produce better results in 2022.