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May 29, 2024

Why the Commanders took draft prospects to Topgolf

Why the Commanders took draft prospects to Topgolf

After nearly three months of intense speculation, as the pre-draft delirium crescendos with hubbub over an emoji, Washington Commanders General Manager Adam Peters made one small, concrete admission about the team’s plans next week.

“We feel good about staying at No. 2,” he said Thursday afternoon at team headquarters. “I don’t see a lot of scenarios where we’d trade down.”

Otherwise, Peters, who hasn’t always looked entirely comfortable in news conferences, was calm, confident and coy. He acknowledged the stakes of the draft were high with Washington holding so much capital — nine picks, including six in the top 100 — and said the team is “real close” to settling on the player it will take when the draft kicks off next Thursday night. When asked whether the team would package other picks to acquire another selection in the first round, he added that “anything is in consideration.”

Peters even cracked a couple jokes, including: “I know you guys have all heard about Topgolf.” The Commanders on Tuesday and Wednesday hosted more than 20 prospects on visits to Ashburn, and the group activities included a trip to the high-tech driving range.

The unconventional approach, which Peters learned during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, became a subject of national debate. Notably, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk criticized the team because, he argued, a group visit diluted the team’s ability to evaluate each player individually.

NFL agent Ron Butler, who represents LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels — a commonly projected pick for the Commanders at No. 2 — liked a post on X criticizing the approach and responded to a video of Florio making that case with the thinking face emoji. It’s unclear what Butler meant, but it nevertheless fueled speculation among a portion of the Commanders’ fan base.

Peters, who was not asked about Butler’s social media activity, said he liked the group approach and praised player personnel assistant Ashley Cohrs for creating a grid schedule to make sure each player’s visit was productive and efficient.

“It was very beneficial to see everybody in a more relaxed environment,” Peters said. “They all got a lot of time individually with their coaches, with us, where they were staggered coming in, too, so it wasn’t like they were sitting in a room together. They all had their own individual time with everybody. So it worked out really well.”

“This is the first time that I’ve been a part of doing it with a huge group of players together at once,” assistant GM Lance Newmark added. “I thought it was a really cool dynamic seeing … how guys came together, how magnetic certain individuals were versus others. Just that loose kind of casual feel from the one night to the next day, where it was more individualized the next day.”

Managing partner Josh Harris, who sat in on the team’s quarterback interviews at the NFL scouting combine, was also present for the Commanders’ in-house meetings with Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and the University of Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

“[Harris] has been extremely supportive, and if we’ve needed something, he’s been there to provide for us,” Peters said, adding, “He has been inquisitive. [He] wants to know how we do things just because this is his first draft.”

Over the next few days, the Commanders have a few more procedural steps to complete, Peters said, including a debrief from the prospect visits and a meeting on the medical evaluations from the combine. The team will settle on its selection early next week, he said.

Peters opened his news conference by thanking nearly every member of the organization for their contributions to the pre-draft process, including interns, and shouted out his wife, Jen, their two daughters and his mother-in-law for moving the family across the country while he worked.

“I haven’t opened one box, and I feel terrible about that,” he said.

In just more than a week, when the draft is over and Peters has set the foundation of the rebuild — or “recalibration,” as he calls it — maybe he will have a little more time to help them out.

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