- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 28, 2022

ASHBURN — The consensus heading into the NFL draft was that there was no consensus. In a year without a sure-fire quarterback prospect and a dearth of elite-level talent elsewhere, on offense and defense, analysts seemed to agree that Thursday night would kick off one of the least predictable drafts of all time.

The night didn’t start that way. But boy, did things take a turn fast. 

Leave it to Washington to get in on the fun. 

The Commanders selected Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson after trading down to No. 16. Before taking Dotson, a 5-foot-11 speed threat, Washington sent the 11th pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for picks No. 16, No. 98 (third round) and No. 120 (fourth round).  The deal helped Washington net additional selections as the Burgundy and Gold had only six picks entering the three-day event.

The Washington-New Orleans swap was part of a wild few hours that featured nine trades — including two blockbuster deals in which Tennessee sent wideout A.J. Brown to Philadelphia, while Baltimore dealt Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals.

This year’s draft began with five defenders taken with the first five picks — for the first time since 1991 — but the first round ultimately became about wide receivers. Dotson was one of six wideouts taken in the first 20 picks, starting with the Atlanta Falcons’ selection of USC’s Drake London at No. 8.

London was perhaps the target most associated with Washington over the predraft process, with the Commanders scouting the 6-foot-4 wideout at USC’s Pro Day and inviting him for an official top 30 visit to the team’s headquarters. 

Yet, the Falcons took London and the Jets soon grabbed Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson at No. 10. With the two suddenly gone, Washington chose to move back to recoup more assets. Adding to the drama, the Saints — widely thought to need a quarterback — passed on a signal-caller and moved up for Ohio State wideout Chris Olave.

The trades kept coming after Washington’s deal. The Lions moved the way up from No. 32 to No. 12 in order to grab Alabama’s Jameson Williams — arguably the draft’s most explosive wideout despite coming off a torn ACL.  The Eagles made two deals, first sending four picks (15, 124, 162 and 166) to the Texans so they could Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Then, the Eagles sent No. 18 and No. 101 to the Titans for A.J. Brown — giving the 2019 second-rounder a new four-year, $100 million contract as part of the trade. 

In between, the Ravens pulled off a stunner by shipping receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Cardinals. The duo became the latest star receivers to be dealt with this offseason. Weeks earlier, Pro Bowlers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams were dealt to the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively, as their former teams (Kansas City and Green Bay) opted not to give them new contracts.

The Commanders also have to make a decision with Terry McLaurin, whose contract is set to expire after next season. But the team’s selection of Dotson likely bares no impact on those potential negotiations as Washington was already in the market to add another weapon for quarterback Carson Wentz. Coach Ron Rivera had spoken openly about the team’s desire to draft a playmaker in light of acquiring Wentz last month. 

At No. 16, Dotson went earlier than expected. But over his four years at Penn State, the 22-year-old was a productive player. This past fall, Dotson caught a career-high 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. According to the NFL Network, Doston excels with his smooth route running and has the ability to shift in the air to haul in catches.

Dotson is Washington’s first receiver to be taken in the first round since Josh Doctson in 2016. Coincidentally, the team also traded back to grab Doctson — one of the team’s more prolific misses in recent history. 

But Dotson has the ability to play inside and out, which likely appealed to the Commanders. He’s projected to play alongside McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, the latter of whom missed most of the 2021 season with nagging injuries. 

Speaking with reporters, Dotson said he had little communication with Washington prior to being drafted — meeting only with receivers coach Drew Terrell once. 

“I hadn’t heard anything, so it was kind of a surprise to me,” Dotson said. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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