‘Disappointing’ Commanders First-Rounder Has Something to Prove

Emmanuel Forbes Jr.

Getty Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes Jr.

The Washington Commanders took a lot of heat when they selected Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes Jr. in the first round (No. 16 overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Critics pointed to Forbes’ size — he checked in at 6-foot-1 and 166 pounds at the NFL combine — and the Commanders pointed to his record-setting six interceptions returned for touchdowns in his college career.

In this case, the critics seem like they were right. Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine has Forbes listed among his disappointing NFL players with something to prove in training camp after Forbes was essentially bullied off the field during his rookie season.

“Most first-round picks enjoy a certain margin for error in their first few years, but that dynamic changes with the arrival of a new front office that didn’t make you a first-round pick,” Ballentine wrote. “With Dan Quinn taking over as head coach and Adam Peters as general manager, the 23-year-old has to prove himself to a new regime.

“… it’s on Forbes to prove his upside is more than hypothetical. His lack of bulk will force him to play with much better technique than he demonstrated this season, and he has to show the coaching staff he’s capable of that.”

Forbes Struggled Through Rookie Season

Forbes was inserted as a starter right away and was promptly torched by Philadelphia Eagles star A.J. Brown for 9 receptions, 175 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4 and seemingly never recovered. That dismantling got bad enough that Brown landed a $10,927 fine for taunting Forbes at one point during the game.

Forbes was benched multiple times during the season but will get a new start with Quinn — one of the NFL’s most well-known defensive coordinators over the last decade.

Forbes finished his rookie season with 38 tackles, 1 interception and 11 pass deflections in 14 games with 6 starts. According to PFF, Forbes graded out at 50.9% for his rookie season. He was also the worst cornerback in the NFL against the run.

“Forbes had plenty to endure this year, including a heavy target share, a midseason benching and an ejection against Seattle,” PFF’s Dalton Wasserman wrote following the 2023 regular season. “He also finished with a league-low 28.4 run-defense grade. Washington has a ton of issues to alleviate on defense, one of them being the need for significant improvement in Forbes’ sophomore season.”

Commanders Drafted Another Cornerback in ’24

The Commanders may have already recognized their mistake in Forbes and drafted another cornerback in 2024 with second-round pick (No. 50 overall) Mike Sainristil, who looks like he could be the nickel package cornerback right away.

Sainristil, 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, was the defensive leader on Michigan’s defense in 2023 as the Wolverines went undefeated and won the College Football Playoff national championship. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and registered a 40-inch vertical leap at the NFL combine.

Forbes might not even start in 2024. He could get beat out by fourth-year cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste, who only permitted an 87.3 passer rating on 106 targets in 2023.

St-Juste performed better than Forbes last season. The 6’3″, 200-pound corner was a better tackler and only gave up a passer rating of 87.3 on 106 targets. He started 16 games for the Commanders in 2023 with a career-high 67 tackles and 17 pass deflections.

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