Updated: May 19, 2022
By Adam Aniba
Washington set the tone on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, trading back from the #11 overall selection to #16 with the New Orleans Saints. In return for swapping 1st round selections, the Commanders received pick #98 in the 3rd rd and #120 in the 4th round. After trading their 3rd round rd pick for Carson Wentz.
The trade back involved passing on receiver Alabama Jameson Williams and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, to the dismay of many fans. Instead, Penn State WR Jahan Dotson was the selection at #16. Maryland Terrapins fans surely remember the Nittany Lion receiver, who torched their defense last November (242 rec yards on 11 receptions for 3 tds) and should bring some juice to Ron Rivera's passing game.
5'11" 178 lbs | WR | PSU
Career Stats (42 games) 183 rec 2,757 yds for 25 tds 15.1 per rec avg
2021 (12 games) 91 rec 1,182 yds for 12 tds 13.0 per rec avg
Dotson grew up in Newark, NJ attending Nazareth HS, serving as a team captain his senior year. The Nazareth senior broke school career receiving records with 187 receptions for 2,755 yards and 40 TDs. His final season was his best with 62 receptions for 889 yards and 15 TDs, on the way to being selected to the USA Today’s All-USA Pennsylvania Football Team.
Dotson also played basketball and was a standout in Track & Filed. He earned the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference crown in the 100 and 200 meters, as well as the 4x100 relay in 2018. The honor roll student was heavily courted by PSU and selecting Penn State was a no brainier for Dotson.
The biggest misconception with Dotson is that his combination of size/speed means he's purely a go-route deep threat and not physical. Although Dotson thrives when utilized as a deep ball threat, his ability in the short/intermediate receiving game as a crisp route runner, has been grossly understated. His improvement on back shoulder catches and 50/50 end zone receptions in particular, stood out during his '21 season evaluation.
Dotson had the following to say during his interview with The Draft Network (4/4/22) regarding his '21 breakout season.
"I would honestly just point to the amount of work I put in throughout the offseason. We had a new offensive coordinator in coach Mike Yurcich coming into my senior season. We were really excited about the offense he installed. We knew we were going to be able to spread the ball around a lot. I knew I was going to receive a bunch of opportunities to make plays."
Dotson's ability to gain separation is notable. He ranked in the 95th percentile in regards to separation rate in the FBS per PFF. 2021 was his best season at PSU, in which he set a single game record with 242 yards receiving yards in the aforementioned Maryland match up. He also leaves PSU, ranked 2nd all time for single season receptions (91) and touchdowns (12) behind only LA Rams Allen Robinson.
When drafting a 1st round receiver, big play ability is imperative and Dotson's upside as a deep-threat was evident in '21. The Nittany Lions receiver tied a PSU record with the 4th longest run all time (86 yards).
A route running technician who consistently gains separation
Situational awareness and overall football IQ is evident when facing man/zone coverage
Impressive speed and overall burst at the snap
Reliable and strong hands, plucks overthrows out the air with authority
Scheme versatile with the ability to line up outside or in the slot, even saw time as a "Wildcat QB"
Ability to take over games, punt return background adds to his overall value
Needs to display the ability to gain more yards after initial contact (minimal concern)
Occasional issues with physical press-man DB's, needs to work on counters
Although durable, needs to add weight/mass to sustain NFL punishment
Guilty at times of chest-catching on deep routes, will lead to more pass deflections if not corrected
Although a willing downfield blocker, needs to work on overall technique
Comps have been made between Dotson and former Washington receiver Santana Moss. Considering his ability as a situational punt returner (PSU's All-Time PR Leader 17.8 per return avg) and ability to be a dynamic deep threat, the comparisons are warranted. Although Dotson didn't post a sub 4.3 second forty yard dash time like Moss, as a rookie pass catcher, the PSU receiver is farther along as a route runner and can be used in all phases of the passing game.
Dotson was the primary weapon in the Nittany Lions passing game, which lacked star power on offense, particularly at QB. In fact, many of Dotson's catches came on under/overthrows, which led to a few highlight reel one-handed receptions.
When PSU utilized bunch formations, Dotson was nearly impossible to bottle up. Commanders OC Scott Turner, now has another big play threat to compliment Terry McLauirn. After the addition of Dotson, Turner should be able to scheme up more high percentage downfield passing plays with his new strong armed QB.
The rookie WR will see a lot of single coverage early on, which should lead to big splash plays for the offense. He'll also have an opportunity to be involved as a punt returner.
Hopes are high within the organization, that Curtis Samuel can stay healthy, Dyami Brown/Cam Sims will be valuable possession receivers and the run game will be more diverse with the new Alabama power back.
Only time will tell if trading back and drafting Dotson was the right decision. Dotson is a high character receiver, who understands the importance of constantly refining his route running in order to become a better receiver.
His ability to instantly add explosion to Washington's passing game and possibly in the return game, should lead to an exciting rookie season.
*Games Watched- 9/4 vs WISC, 9/11 vs Ball St, 9/18 vs AUB, 9/25 vs VILL, 10/2 vs IU, 10/9 vs IOWA, 10/23 vs ILL, 10/30 vs OSU, *11/6 vs MD, 11/13 vs MICH, 11/20 vs RUTG, 11/27 vs MSU
*Career Best Performance