Commanders GM Adam Peters on NFL Draft plans: ‘We feel great about staying at No. 2’

ASHBURN, Va. — We still don’t know who the Washington Commanders will select with the second overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft. But now it’s clear they will snag someone.Feb 5, 2024; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters smiles during an introductory press conference for Commanders head coach Dan Quinn (not pictured) at Commanders Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“We feel great about staying at No. 2,” general manager Adam Peters said at a pre-draft news conference Thursday afternoon. “I don’t see a whole lot of scenarios trading down.”

Maybe this detail seems obvious, but quarterback is the sport’s most important position and has been most discussed regarding Washington’s first-round plans. During this pre-draft cycle, the staff spent considerable time studying, meeting with and generally being around the top prospects while revealing no more than a crumb about their intentions with the pick.

Washington met with Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix Jr. at the team’s Northern Virginia facility this week alone. Daniels and Maye are considered the leading candidates at No. 2. The Chicago Bears are expected to select another quarterback, Caleb Williams, No. 1 overall.

Meeting with is not the same as investing in. The Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders are among the teams seeking ways to move into the top five picks for quarterbacks. Peters’ comment signifies that the franchise has moved on from contemplating acquiring a haul of draft assets for its value pick. The Commanders have seen enough to allow one of these passers to become the face of the franchise.

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Any quarterback situation receives significant attention. Then recognize that Washington’s new brain trust, including coach Dan Quinn, is set to make the initial first-round pick since managing partner Josh Harris and his ownership group purchased the franchise last summer. Factor in that Washington has spent decades waiting for a star quarterback and, since 2016, for a winning season, and the pressure mounts.

“Do we look stressed?” joked Peters, seated next to assistant general manager Lance Newmark.

The answer is no, which fits with Peters’ standard vibe. “Very even-keeled and steady,” remarked Newmark about his longtime friend and first-time co-worker. “There’s very little fluctuation (in his personality).”

Steadiness has also been part of Washington’s homework on quarterbacks since Harris hired Peters away from the San Francisco 49ers’ front office in January. Newmark, a longtime executive with the Detroit Lions, followed soon after. The collaboration with the new coaching hires and existing staff is about more than one position. Peters thanked them all by name on Thursday, including scouts, kitchen employees and his mother-in-law, for helping his wife move their young children, a “dog and a cat,” across the country.

When it comes to an all-hands-on-deck scenario, there is no position like the quarterback.

“I mean, there is a lot of pressure, and it’s a great responsibility,” Peters said. “And we take this very seriously. And that’s why we’ve been working tirelessly on this. Turning over every stone. And we want to do this, obviously, for this organization, but for this region, for this fan base … this coaching staff and the players on the field. … So it’s a great responsibility. With that comes the pressure. But that’s what we signed up for.”

Daniels, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner with dual-threat explosiveness, has become a mock draft staple at No. 2 in recent days. Some public and private evaluators consider the 6-foot-4 Maye and his deep-ball prowess the one to take.

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As for whether there’s been a decision, the process-oriented Peters said, “We’re real close. There’s still a few more things in the process we have to do.” That includes debriefing from the “30” visits, hearing from the medical staff Thursday night and determining what questions about the players may exist.

Peters’ seven years in San Francisco taught the experienced scout the importance of time management. Therefore, the former assistant GM wasn’t zeroed in on quarterbacks with the NFC champion 49ers because they found one with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft in Brock Purdy.

“I learned that I need to focus my energy on the things that will be great for the team. So spending a ton of time on the first-round quarterbacks wasn’t something that I did,” Peters acknowledged. “I really wish I would have done that a little bit more.”

Commanders NFL Draft 2024 guide: Picks, predictions and key needs

The Commanders have packed in plenty of work on the passers since January. There were meetups at February’s NFL Scouting Combine and visits to pro days at USC (Williams), Michigan (McCarthy), LSU (Daniels) and North Carolina (Maye). The final pre-draft interaction came Tuesday with a group outing at a nearby Topgolf that included roughly 20 prospects rather than a single day dedicated to one player.

“It’s very beneficial to see everybody in a more relaxed environment,” said Peters, who experienced this dynamic with the 49ers and during his time in New England under coach Bill Belichick. Football conversations were held on Wednesday at the team facility, and there was ample individual time for players to meet with their respective position coaches and the primary decision-makers.

This setup was a first for Newmark. He appreciated how the “organic” atmosphere allowed him to see how guys came together, how magnetic certain individuals were versus others, and how the atmosphere carried over to the following day, “where it was more and more individualized.”

Washington holds nine selections entering the three-day draft, including six in the top 100. Needs include offensive tackles, edge rushers and cornerbacks. Peters and Newmark wouldn’t rule out trading for a second first-round pick or moving around the board. Peters concurred with Newmark’s earlier classification of “situational” — with one exception.

“Not necessarily at No. 2.”

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