The only departure from the blueprint was the decision to trade a 2022 fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for sixth- and seventh-rounders this year.
“If you let the board do its job, if you believe in the way it’s been set, [if] the highest-graded guy … is still there, you’re going to get the steal,” Rivera said Friday, reflecting the remodeled front office’s philosophy throughout the draft. “Your grade may not reflect others’. He’s the guy you believe in.”
Read below for analysis on how each of Washington’s newest additions fits.
First round: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky (19th overall)
Rivera said Davis, 6-foot-3, 234-pounds, was the team’s top-rated defender available when it came on the clock in the first round. Washington selected Davis over linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, free safety Trevon Moehrig and left tackle Christian Darrisaw, among other possibilities. The move could shore up the middle of a defense that was susceptible against running backs and tight ends in the passing game last season.
“The grade matched up with the need,” General Manager Martin Mayhew added. “He checks a whole bunch of boxes for us.”
Rivera said after the pick that Davis is capable of playing any of Washington’s three linebacker positions, something that fit with his comments in a pre-draft news conference of wanting to build a versatile linebacker corps. Davis will play alongside Cole Holcomb, who is able to play either of the outside linebacker spots.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in early March that Davis reminded him of the Indianapolis Colts’ Darius Leonard, who is one of the best young linebackers in the league and succeeds because of his speed and length.
“Overall, Davis lacks some strength to bang versus blockers,” Jeremiah wrote, “but his speed and playmaking ability jump off the screen.”
Second round: T Samuel Cosmi, Texas (51st overall)
Cosmi was seen as one of the most athletic linemen available in the draft. During his pro day, the 6-6, 314-pound tackle ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash. He played right and left tackle for the Longhorns, and the position flexibility not only fits Rivera’s vision for his entire team, but gives offensive line coach John Matsko versatility in constructing his unit.
Several draft analysts said Cosmi could become an immediate starter. In Washington, Morgan Moses probably has the right tackle spot locked down, so Cosmi could compete at left tackle with last year’s stopgap, Cornelius Lucas; 2020 fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles; and last year’s opening day starter, Geron Christian, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6.
“He has good athletic ability, body control … [and can] recover from compromising positions,” offensive line expert Brandon Thorn wrote of Cosmi on Twitter. “He needs to revamp and refine his footwork in pass protection … but he has the work ethic and physical tools to become an above average starter.”
Third round: CB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota (72nd overall)
St-Juste is a big, versatile defensive back who played cornerback at Minnesota and shifted to safety at the Senior Bowl to show teams he could play the position. He has the size (6-3, 202 pounds) and enough speed (4.58-second 40-yard dash) to fit wherever Washington would like him, just like seventh-round pick Kam Curl last year.
Rivera said St-Juste has the skill set to play free safety, but that he would wait to see the 23-year-old on the field before choosing his role.
“I can do whatever,” St-Juste said Friday night, listing his positions as safety, cornerback and nickel cornerback. “I think that’s why they picked me.”
St-Juste’s journey to Washington was not an easy one. In 2018, Michigan announced the seldom-used reserve had medically retired. St-Juste disputed the announcement, saying the school used it as an excuse to get rid of him and gain an extra scholarship. He transferred to Minnesota and emerged as a consistent starter, tying for a team-high 10 pass breakups in 2019.
Third round: WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina (82nd overall)
Brown is a 6-1, 189-pound wide receiver with blazing speed and big-play ability, a skill set Jeremiah compared to current Washington star Terry McLaurin. In college, Brown posted two straight seasons of averaging more than 20 yards per catch, a skill set that could allow him to emerge as another vertical threat in coordinator Scott Turner’s Air Coryell-based offense.
Brown does not lack for confidence. In his introductory news conference, he said Washington’s speed at skill positions with McLaurin (4.35-second 40-yard dash), Curtis Samuel (4.31), Antonio Gibson (4.39) and himself (4.44) could “compete” with if not “be better” than the elite Kansas City Chiefs offense led by Tyreek Hill.
In college, Brown mostly played the outside, X receiver position and stretched the field. But he said he’s a more complete wide receiver and looked forward to showing it in Washington, whether in the slot or outside. His addition crowds a wide receivers room that, one year after struggling to have enough players to complete practice drills, should have a legitimate competition for the six or seven roster spots. The roster now includes McLaurin, Samuel, Brown, Adam Humphries, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Cam Sims, Steven Sims Jr., Isaiah Wright, DeAndre Carter and Kelvin Harmon.
Fourth round: TE John Bates, Boise State (124th overall)
This pick was a bit of a surprise, given that higher-rated tight end prospects were available. But it continued the trend of Washington targeting unheralded prospects at the position, such as Logan Thomas and Sammis Reyes.
Bates, who is 6-6 and 256 pounds, could become the primary complement to Thomas, who emerged as a productive starter last season. The team’s depth chart at the position is thin; Reyes has never played a snap of competitive football; Temarrick Hemingway is returning from injured reserve; Marcus Baugh bounced between the active roster and practice squad last season. The team also has Dylan Cantrell and Tyrone Swoopes on reserve/futures deals.
Fifth round: S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati (163rd overall)
The three-year starter is one of Washington’s most experienced picks. He fits the team’s mold for defensive backs with versatility and speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash), and he could be an immediate contributor on special teams. NFL.com compared him to Indianapolis reserve safety George Odum, a first team all-pro last season who led the league in special teams tackles.
Forrest said he can play either safety position but that he’s more experienced at strong. The team lacks an obvious starter at free safety after Troy Apke was benched twice last season and Jeremy Reaves played fine as his replacement in three games. The team has three strong safeties in Curl, coming off a standout rookie season; highly paid veteran Landon Collins; and special teams ace Deshazor Everett. Collins and Everett are returning from season-ending injuries.
Sixth round: LS Camaron Cheeseman, Michigan (225th overall)
The rookie will replace longtime long snapper Nick Sundberg, whom the team told it would not re-sign earlier this offseason. Cheeseman was the top choice used after Washington traded a 2022 fifth-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for sixth- and seventh-rounders this year.
Seventh round: DE William Bradley-King, Baylor (240th overall)
The 6-foot-3, 252-pound edge rusher is undersized as a base end, and on the draft broadcast, ESPN called him a linebacker. He seems to be a tweener, about the same size as recently departed linebacker Ryan Anderson, who was lost in the transition from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 last season.
Bradley-King could offer Washington depth on the edges behind Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams and others.
Seventh round: DE/OLB Shaka Toney, Penn State (246th overall)
It seems likelier Toney will play linebacker than defensive end in Washington’s scheme. He’s 6-2 and 242 pounds and ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at his pro day last month. Scouting reports describe him as athletic and instinctive against the run, but his size and strength could limit his potential as an every-down player in the NFL. He could bring value on special teams, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio could capitalize on his traits to deploy him as a situational blitzer.
Seventh round: WR Dax Milne, Brigham Young (258th overall)
The top Cougars wide receiver for No. 2 pick Zach Wilson posted six games of more than 100 yards during an impressive junior season. Scouting reports project him as a slot receiver in the NFL, with more quickness than vertical speed, and some questioned whether he was strong enough to consistently bring down contested catches. In Washington, he could compete with Humphries and Sims Jr. for a role in the slot, as well as with other wide receivers for a chance on special teams.