Commanders’ Day 2 Draft Pick Predicted to Be ‘Best’ in the NFL at Key Position

Mike Sainristil

Getty A day 2 draft pick for the Washington Commanders is predicted to be the "best" in the NFL at a key position.

The Washington Commanders got a best-in-class player when they selected Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil in the second round of the 2024 NFL draft.

Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms told fans “Don’t be surprised if he is the best nickel in the nfl in two yrs.”

That’s quite an endorsement, but Sainristil proved his worth as a core player for the national champion Wolverines. He also represented excellent value for the Commanders as the 50th-overall pick.

Washington’s defense needs help in the secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. Playing in the slot in nickel situations has become so much more than a niche role in football’s modern era.

Sainristil gives new Commanders’ head coach Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. a potential stud at a premium position. Simms isn’t the only one who thinks so.

Mike Sainristil a Draft Steal at Vital Position

Commanders’ general manager Adam Peters has already confirmed Sainristil “will play inside at the ‘star’ position,” per Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post. The terminology is more than mere verbal semantics.

In this case, the ‘star’ role is an umbrella term for a number of different responsibilities. Aside from covering receivers in the slot, the ‘star’ has license to roam around and blitz or even tuck in at the linebacker level.

Former Alabama head coach Nick Saban once described what it takes to play the position: “If you have really good quickness and cover ability, the slot guy (receiver) has a hard time beating you in that position, because he’s closer to the safeties, he’s closer to the middle of the field. So a good tackler, a good blitzer, a good cover guy on a slot player, which is different than a good cover guy on an outside player,” per Brent C. Taylor of SB Nation’s Roll ‘Bama Roll.

That’s a hefty to-do list, but NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger believes Sainristil will handle a complex workload because he “might be the very best ‘nickel back’ in this draft.” Baldinger applauded the 23-year-old’s key attributes: He’s got quicks, he’s got start, he’s got savvy. He’s a tackler, he’s a two-time captain. There’s your next slot corner on your defense.”

Putting Sainristil in the nickel spot, as well as using his versatility as a safety, will help the Commanders overhaul a defensive backfield stripped of key personnel this offseason.

Commanders Still Need Secondary Help

The secondary will look a lot different under Quinn and Whitt Jr. Change is inevitable after safety Kamren Curl joined the Los Angeles Rams, while cornerback Kendall Fuller signed with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

Holdovers Emmanuel Forbes Jr., Benjamin St-Juste and Darrick Forrest are still around, but a new face like Sainristil can have a bigger impact. Especially if he translates his nose for the ball to the pros after snatching six interceptions during his final season at the collegiate level, according to PFF Commanders.

If Sainristil is half as good as the pundits believe, he’ll transform an obvious area of weakness for the Commanders. He might also become the best member of a class set to be defined by the durability of first-round pick Jayden Daniels, the team’s new QB1.

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