The Washington Commanders’ game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday will highlight the team’s disappointing returns on first-round picks under Coach Ron Rivera.

Rivera’s first pick, defensive end Chase Young (2020), will return to Washington for the first time since he was traded in November, and his last, corner Emmanuel Forbes Jr. (2023), will continue trying to climb back into the lineup after a disheartening start to his NFL career.

New starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett will try to rediscover wide receiver Jahan Dotson (2022), who has gotten lost in the offense for long stretches this year. The limited impact of linebacker Jamin Davis (2021), who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 13, speaks for itself.

While Rivera’s regime also has been uneven outside the first round, the early misses have played an outsize role in the Commanders’ disappointing season. There’s a connection between the underwhelming top picks and the units that torpedoed this year’s team, including the inconsistent pass rush and blown-coverage-prone secondary.

The most obvious and damaging miss is Young. The No. 2 pick was supposed to be a franchise cornerstone, an elite talent at a premium position. But after his rookie season, he didn’t live up to his potential for several reasons, including undisciplined rushing and a devastating knee injury.

Every Commanders loss from here is a win

In San Francisco, Young has been a rotational edge rusher behind star Nick Bosa. He has played 54 percent of the snaps, down from 73 percent this season in Washington, and shared reps with ends Clelin Ferrell, Randy Gregory and Drake Jackson. In seven games, Young has generated pressure at a great rate — 13.3 percent, according to the website TruMedia — but totaled relatively few splash plays: 2.5 sacks, one batted pass and one tackle for loss. Still, Young’s name seems to garner respect.

“Oh, trust me. I know he’s on the other side,” Brissett said Wednesday.

When Washington hired Rivera in 2020, vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith led the front office. But the next year, Smith departed after Rivera hired General Manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of player personnel Marty Hurney. Rivera still had final say on all football matters and at the very least greenlighted drafting Davis, Dotson and Forbes.

Arguably the biggest question mark is Forbes. Washington bet big by making the long, skinny prospect the second corner drafted — behind Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon, just ahead of New England’s Christian Gonzalez — and Forbes has not impressed. He hasn’t had a steady role since Week 5, when he was benched after struggling with difficult assignments against elite wide receivers.

Emmanuel Forbes Jr. played zero snaps in Atlanta. So what’s next?

Afterward, Forbes hardly played as the coaching staff tried to improve his technique and eye discipline. He hit speed bumps in returning to the starting line — including an early ejection for targeting in Seattle and an injured elbow against the Giants. He played six snaps two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Rams because of the “matchup,” Rivera said, and jumped to 29 last week against the New York Jets.

Rivera said Forbes still made “a couple of mistakes” but is showing growth.

“We’re seeing a little bit more eye discipline,” Rivera added. “That’s, I think, one of the biggest things for him because he’s got the skill set. It’s just a matter of putting it together, using the eyes and putting him in the proper place.”

The future is murky for Forbes, who, like Davis in 2021, can at times look overmatched against the speed and physicality of the NFL. Davis has made modest strides, though, and this season, he made two game-changing plays: a forced fumble in Denver and a game-sealing interception at Atlanta.

Who could be the Commanders’ next GM?

The Commanders are likely to make big changes to their coaching staff and front office after the season, and the next general manager could decline Davis’s fifth-year option in May. The contracts website Over the Cap projects the option will be for about $13.3 million, which would be the seventh-highest average per year for any linebacker.

Rivera’s best hope for a first-round legacy in Washington is probably Dotson — and not just because of the wide receiver’s talent. In the 2022 draft, Washington traded down in the first round, ultimately turning the No. 11 pick into Dotson (picked 16th), running back Brian Robinson Jr. (third round), quarterback Sam Howell (fifth round) and tight end Cole Turner (fifth round).

Regardless of Howell’s future, Rivera’s regime turned the 2022 first rounder into two building blocks of the offense’s future. But they are, at this point, just building blocks: a No. 2 wideout and three-down back at a time when the value of three-down backs in the NFL has never been lower.

Even though Rivera’s first rounders have underwhelmed, there’s good news for the Commanders. Come the spring, they can try again with what is likely to be a very high pick in 2024.

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