A few minutes before the Washington Commanders' rookie practice on May 6, coach Ron Rivera provided a quick assessment of this group for the assembled media. He rattled off first impressions of each draft pick, sounding like someone who would like to fast-forward to August.

"It's an exciting group," he said. "[However] it's still early ... so we just try to temper all that."

Washington should have bigger expectations for players who were on the roster before the draft. If the Commanders are going to improve on a 7-10 season and not only contend for the NFC East title in Rivera's third season, but also win a playoff game, the veterans must take the lead.

It's realistic to envision their top four 2022 draft picks -- receiver Jahan Dotson (first round), defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis (second), running back Brian Robinson Jr. (third) and safety Percy Butler (fourth) -- playing key roles. Even fifth-round tight end Cole Turner has a chance to help.

That would make it a solid draft. However, of that group it's possible only Dotson starts. Any big strides as an organization will be aided more by the following four veterans.


Quarterback Carson Wentz

Washington ranks last in the NFL in total QBR and touchdown passes over the past four seasons combined. It has started 10 different quarterbacks during that stretch.

Last season, Taylor Heinicke started the final 16 games after starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured in the second quarter of the season opener.