- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2022

At Ohio State’s Pro Day on Wednesday, Commanders coach Ron Rivera struck up a conversation with Buckeyes receivers coach Brian Hartline. Video emerged of the two talking, but it was recorded from a far enough distance that it was impossible to hear the content of their conversation. 

Maybe, they were just discussing Washington’sTerry McLaurin, who Hartline coached in college. But no one would blame Rivera if he was trying to gather intel on Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave — Ohio State’s two star wideouts who could each be potential options for Washington in next month’s NFL draft.

The Commanders hold the 11th overall pick in a draft that features a plethora of wide receiver talent. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects six wideouts taken in the first round, while the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has seven. The latter would be the most taken since 2004, also with seven. 

Neither of those analysts have the Commanders taking a wideout in the first round in their mock drafts, but it’s not a stretch to imagine the team would consider it. After this month’s trade for Carson Wentz, the Commanders could use another weapon to pair with their new quarterback. The team has also lacked a consistent No. 2 opposite McLaurin, even after signing Curtis Samuel last year.

“It’s a great wide receiver draft,” Jeremiah said last month. “I feel like we could copy and paste the comments on wide receivers and use it for the next 20 years, because the college game is giving us a ton of these guys every year.”

Jeremiah hit on a point that favors taking a receiver in the first round: Wideouts, these days, seem more prepared to play right away than ever. The Bengals went to the Super Bowl recently with rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Rashod Bateman all had individual success with their teams.

This year’s crop includes Wilson, Olave and USC’s Drake London as the top options. Wilson and Olave dazzled at this year’s NFL scouting combine with impressive 40-yard dash times that fell under 4.4 seconds. London, with his 6-foot-3 frame, knows how to use his height to his advantage and has the makeup of a true possession receiver. 

Each of them would have appeal for Washington. At Ohio State, Wilson routinely broke off long runs after the catch and zipped around defenders with his shifty speed. Olave, by comparison, can take defenses over the top and his smooth footwork naturally draws comparisons to McLaurin. 

London, on other hand, would bring a skill set that the Commanders don’t really have. The only other wideout taller than 6-foot-1 on the roster is Cam Sims, who recently re-signed with Washington on a one-year deal. London would help create mismatches for the offense and likely be a threat in the red zone, an area Washington struggled in last year when tight end Logan Thomas was injured.

Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson are other possible first-round wideouts, albeit later. 

Though experts appear to agree on the quality of this year’s class, opinions differ on the range of each pick. In Kiper’s latest mock draft, the analyst has the Jets taking London at No. 4, the Falcons taking Wilson eighth and the Eagles selecting Olave 15th. Jeremiah’s run doesn’t begin until 8 — also agreeing with Wilson to the Falcons — but then has London to the Jets at 10 and Williams as the third receiver off the board at No. 21 to the Patriots. 

Rivera has said he likes his group at wideout. But there’s no doubt that help is needed. This past season, McLaurin led with 1,053 receiving yards — and J.D. McKissic, a running back, ranked second with 397. The Commanders were one of two teams — joining the Indianapolis Colts — to not have a second receiver top 400 yards. 

A little while after the video of Rivera talking to Hartline was captured, another journalist took a picture of the coach chatting with someone else at Ohio State’s Pro Day. 

He was with Olave

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

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