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The Washington Commanders are historically predictable when it comes to the NFL Draft. They don’t make a lot of noise or unexpected decisions, but they changed that during the first-round of the 2022 Draft by trading their No. 11 overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for picks 16, 98 and 120.
“You know, we had six picks. We had three picks that were in the sixth and seventh round. We felt like we needed more picks and the middle rounds of this draft we thought would be really valuable,” Commanders General Manager Martin Mayhew said. “So been working on that for a couple days now and talking with several different teams, we were interested in moving up and we finally were able to strike a deal with New Orleans.”
The trade back ultimately landed them with wide receiver Jahan Dotson at No. 16 overall. The Pennsylvania State University product played in 42 games with 38 starts at Penn State from 2018-21 and recorded 183 receptions for 2757 yards and 25 touchdowns. He additionally had eight carries for 18 yards and a touchdown.
He ended his career as Penn State’s all-time leader in punt return average (17.8), along with being tied for second all-time in career receptions and receiving touchdowns, and fourth in receiving yards.
Although Dotson didn’t have a lot of pre-draft interactions with the Commanders, he’s grateful they called his name.
“I had one meeting with Coach Terrell, the receivers coach, and that was pretty much about it,” Dotson said. “I hadn’t heard anything from Washington, so it was kind of a surprise to me as well as it was to you guys. So it is honestly a pretty cool moment just sharing it with my family back at home is awesome.”
As a senior, Dotson made 12 starts and tallied 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. He earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and Phil Steele, named a Reese’s Senior Bowl All-American, and earned first-team All-Big Ten by the media and second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
“He was high on our board. Obviously, we took him at 16. The guy’s got speed, he’s got playmaking ability. He’s got some competitiveness when the balls in the air,” Mayhew said. “He’s kind of like Terry [McLaurin] in the fact that he’s not like the biggest guy, but the 50/50 balls, he has the ability to go up and get those.”
“The guy’s just got tremendous ball skills and he’s got some versatility, so he can play in a slot, he can play outside, he can return punts. So, he brings a lot to the table and he helps us in a lot of different ways,” Mayhew further explained.
Dotson also touted similar skills as his strongest assets: “I would say my versatility as a receiver, being able to play anywhere on the football field, just being a very savvy receiver, being very smart. And just making some highlight plays and bringing energy to the team.”
Coach Ron Rivera has some high hopes for the rookie based on other NFL receivers he compared him to at the conclusion of Round 1.
“You know, it reminds me of [Former Washington Wide Receiver] Desean Jackson a little bit. He reminds me of [Former Carolina Wide Receiver] Steve Smith,” Rivera said. “A little bit smaller in stature, but plays bigger than that. And that’s what we feel pretty comfortable and very confident about it.”
Dotson will join a wide receiver corps that includes star wideout Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown and Curtis Samuel. With the addition of Carson Wentz in the offseason, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Commanders opted to get him some immediate weapons.
“We got the quarterback. We have a guy that can make all the throws. You know, Taylor [Heinicke] did a lot of good things for us, but when you watch some of the things that Carson has done, you know, we’ve got to now get guys that can get in that position to make those plays as well,” Rivera said.
“So, we just feel that getting a guy that’s a polished receiver right now and ready to go, will fit in very nicely with the rest of them,” he continued. “And you’ve got to have weapons, if you don’t have those guys making the plays and you know, we’ve got to find them well, now’s our chance to put those guys in position.”
As the Draft continues, Rivera and Mayhew will continue to focus on building a solid offense around Wentz.