ASHBURN, Va. (DC News Now) — The Washington Commanders selected seven players in the 2023 draft. That group has a solid chance of earning their way on to the team’s 53-man roster, or at leas the practice squad.
In addition to the draftees, the Commanders are hosting 53 more undrafted rookies at their rookie mini camp this week, comprised of more than a dozen undrafted free agents and 40 tryout players. The Commanders are hoping that some of these unexpected rookies will step up and impress.
“Scouting and drafting and signing college free agents is a difficult thing. It’s not a proven 100 percent science,” Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said. “You know some guys are going to slip through the cracks and who knows, maybe this is an opportunity to find one of those guys.”
Rivera said Friday that inviting more tryout players to the team’s rookie camp than usual was new offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Bienemy’s idea. Having the number of players that would usually fill a roster during the regular season allows the Commanders to simulate real practice situations for the rookies.
Around a third of the tryout players at rookie camp have connections to the immediate Washington, D.C. area. Undrafted free agent defensive end Josh Pryor is the only drafted player or signed UDFA to have a connection to the DMV.
“It’s a blessing just being able to put on for everyone at home and at my school,” Pryor said. “I know they’re happy for me and stuff like that. I’m just thankful for all the support that I can get.”
Pryor, who DC News Now spoke to at Maryland football pro day during the draft process, is a Baltimore native and former Bowie State standout.
“Just the same thing I’ve been doing going into this process,” Pryor said. “Just put on for Bowie State and show that we play football there too. I’m just trying to keep doing that throughout my career.”
Other players with local connections include former James Madison quarterback Todd Centeio, former Navy linebacker Diego Fagot, former University of Maryland wide receiver Brian Cobbs and several other teammates of Pryor from Bowie State.
Some traveled far for their chance, like wide receiver and return man out of UCLA – undrafted free agent Kazmeir Allen.
“It’s been fun, first time on east coast,” Allen said on Friday. “It kind of feels like back home right now. Is this like the hottest day?”
Returner is a position the Commanders have been trying to solidify for many years, opening the door for a player like Allen, who has a chip on his shoulder, to make the team.
“My mindset is I was drafted,” Allen said. “I didn’t come in here with an undrafted mindset. I came in here to learn, work and add value to the team.”