Washington Commanders draft Mike Sainristil: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

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After helping Michigan to a national championship, cornerback Mike Sainristil capped a surprising climb into Round 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft, where the Washington Commanders selected him with pick No. 50. The Commanders acquired the selection from the Eagles, trading their Nos. 40, 78 and 152 picks to Philadelphia for Nos. 50, 53 and 161.

Born in Haiti, Sainristil moved to the United States (near Boston) with his family when he was 3 months old. Small and compact, Sainristil was recruited as a defensive back and wide receiver by several Power 5 programs, and he started his career at Michigan as a receiver before shifting to star as a nickel corner. 

Sainristil, 23, is one of the most physically confident defensive backs in the class — a fearless tackler and blitzer who isn’t afraid to mix it up with larger players. He displays outstanding intelligence and anticipation and was a two-time captain at Michigan (including on last year’s title-winning squad). 

He’s probably too undersized to hold up as an outside cornerback in the NFL, but he’s a culture-changer and a very good defensive back overall. 

NFL Draft 2024 tracker: Live blog, pick-by-pick grades and analysis
Big board best available: Who’s left from Dane Brugler’s Top 300?
Draft pick grades: Nick Baumgardner, Scott Dochterman rate the selections
Full draft order: Team picks for all 257 selections
“The Athletic Football Show”: Watch live reaction to the draft

‘The Beast’ breakdown 

Sainristil ranked No. 43 on Dane Brugler’s Top 300 big board. Here’s what Brugler had to say about him in his annual NFL Draft guide:

“Sainristil has obvious size limitations that will remove him from some teams’ draft boards, but other teams will be more than happy to bet on his outstanding toughness, instincts and ball skills. He will compete for immediate starting reps as a rookie nickel.”

Coaching intel

What two anonymous coaches had to say about Sainristil in Bruce Feldman’s NFL Draft confidential:

“He is one of my favorites. The habits are just so good. I’m not leery of his size because I think he plays a lot bigger. I have no reservations about him. He’s so aggressive and plays the ball so well in the air. I think he uses his lack of size to an advantage because he’s super quick and he’s able to get around blocks and people can’t get their hands on him.”

“I’m not as high on him as some people. I think he’s a really good zone nickel. He has all the production with his eyes on the quarterback. He’s really good at that, but does that fit what you do at that position? To me the highest value of the nickel is, can he cover the slot? And you don’t really see that as his major skill set.”

Why he’s a second-round pick 

Sainristil’s size will limit his role at the next level. In a pass-happy league that forces defenses to lean heavily on sub-packages, though, Sainristil has the goods to be a productive nickel immediately as a rookie. He also should contribute on special teams. His toughness and work ethic alone are first-round qualities. 

Come back shortly for more analysis of the Sainristil pick.

(Photo: Zach Bolinger / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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