NFL Draft: Commanders take pair of Alabama players in Round 2

The second night of the NFL draft had a heavy Alabama flavor for the Washington Commanders.

Washington selected defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round and running back Brian Robinson Jr. in the third on Friday night. Mathis is the third Alabama defensive lineman the team has drafted over the past six years, joining Crimson Tide products Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne on the roster. 

Washington taking Mathis with the 47th pick opens up the possibility of trading Payne before he becomes a free agent following the 2022 season. Rivera said the team’s opinion on Payne has not changed but also mentioned the salary cap and decisions that might be necessary down the road.

NFL Draft: Commanders pick Jahan Dotson, Penn State wide receiver

Mathis nevertheless gives the Commanders interior defensive line depth after losing Tim Settle in free agency and cutting Matt Ioannidis in a salary cap-saving move. He had 53 tackles and nine sacks in his senior season at Alabama.

Meanwhile, selecting Robinson with the 98th pick, acquired from New Orleans when the Commanders moved down from 11th to 16th in the first round to take Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson, further reinforces that the team wants to give new quarterback Carson Wentz more offensive weapons.

Robinson, like Dotson and Mathis, played four years of college football and could be ready to contribute right away after rushing for 1,343 yards and four touchdowns during his senior season at Alabama.

General manager Martin Mayhew downplayed the Commanders taking three seniors with their first three picks, saying it was important to have a good play history to judge from. Beyond playing together at Alabama, Mathis and Robinson have something else in common in the eyes of the front office.

"I think we got tougher as a football team," Mayhew said. "I think we got more physical."

A physical runner, Robinson waited his turn at Alabama behind a group of star running backs that included Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs. Robinson can put away his patience now, however, as he joins Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic in Washington’s backfield and won’t have to wait to make an impact.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.