A little over 18 months has passed since the 2017 NFL Draft, which has given players time to settle in to their new teams and general mangers the chance to evaluate their selections. With some players notably going above the standards set for them when they were drafted, and others perhaps trending in the opposite direction here’s a look at how the first night of the draft might have panned out had front office staff known what they know now.
The 2017 NFL (Re)Draft – First Round
Pick One: Cleveland Browns select – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Not only is Myles Garrett already one of the best edge rushers in football, but taking a defensive superstar first overall in 2017 gave the Browns the luxury of hand picking their franchise quarterback from what was by all accounts a very strong 2018 quarterback class. Finding foundations on both sides of the ball is extremely important for young teams and Cleveland now have building blocks to sustain success for the next decade.
Pick Two: Chicago Bears select – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Chicago are still willing to give up a premium to go and get their quarterback, but it’s a different man under centre in the Windy City. Patrick Mahomes has been nothing short of electric through his first 7 games of the 2018 season, had he not have played in week 17 last season he would be making a case to Ben Simmons’ the NFL’s 2018 rookie of the year award. This is no disrespect to Trubisky, who seems to be thriving in Matt Nagy’s offense, but Nagy (who worked under Andy Reid just last season) would be able to cause all sorts of problems with Mahomes at quarterback.
Pick Three: San Francisco 49ers select – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Solomon Thomas is an extremely talented defender, but it’s more difficult for edge-rushers to make the jump from college football than it is for most positions, as can be seen by his lack of production since entering the NFL. A total of three career sacks in his first 21 games isn’t the return you’d expect from a top three pick. Instead the 49ers take the reigning DROTY and add some genuine top end talent to a beleaguered secondary.
Pick Four: Jacksonville Jaguars select – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Jacksonville Jaguars need a fix at quarterback and they need it fast. The 2019 Draft doesn’t look to have any depth at the quarterback position and the Jaguars picked far too late this April to pick up a viable threat to Blake Bortles. Much maligned as he is, Blake played well enough in 2017 to assume that Trubisky would be given time to develop in Nathaniel Hackett’s system, giving the front office a natural out to Bortles’ contract with a natural successor waiting and ready to go in 2018.
Pick Five: Tennessee Titans select – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Neither of Tennessee’s two first-round picks have had instant success in the NFL. Whilst speed trap Adoree Jackson could argue he still warrants a first round pick, even those inside the Titans’ building have probably accepted they reached on Corey Davis. With no elite level talent at receiver on the board, the Titans opt for the best player available and take Solomon Thomas at number five.
Pick Six: New York Jets select – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Although I’m not quite sure how, the Jets once again end up with their perfect scenario on draft day. Jamal Adams is a generational talent at safety and became a leader on the Jets defense from the moment he entered the facility. Much like the Browns at first overall, the Jets front office can pick a defensive star in the knowledge that their quarterback of the future will be there for them next year.
Pick Seven: LA Chargers select – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Mike Williams is by no stretch a bust, but looking at the way the Chargers’ offense is operating spending a top ten pick on yet another wide receiver may not be the smartest move for the team. If one of the linebackers in this 2017 class were playing at an elite level then that would be the pick, however the choice that makes the most sense is Malik Hooker from Ohio State. It’s worth remembering that the Chargers’ defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was once in charge of the ‘legion of boom’, names like Derwin James, Malik Hooker and Casey Heyward could have formed part of the league’s next great secondary.
Pick Eight: Carolina Panthers select – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
The Panthers selected running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall in the 2017 Draft and he’s proved every bit worth the pick. The only problem for McCaffrey is that Alvin Kamara does everything he’s able to do, and does it a little bit better. The former Volunteer is the current offensive rookie of the year, and helped the Saints go within the ‘Minneapolis miracle’ of an NFC Championship game in his rookie year. Almost impossible for defenders to bring down, Kamara could be the perfect compliment for Cam Newton’s offense.
Pick Nine: Cincinnati Bengals select – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
John Ross’ combine display definitely helped his stock soar prior to last year’s draft, unfortunately that breakneck speed hasn’t helped him see the field. Two separate shoulder injuries and a knee issue throughout his rookie season means that he only has eight career starts through his first 18 months in the league. Therefore, the Bengals go best player available and add a legitimate shutdown corner in Tre’Davious White. Who wouldn’t want to see White vs Antonio Brown twice a year?
Pick Ten: Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo) select – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Chiefs still trade up for a franchise quarterback, but it’s the Clemson Tiger who has a year to sit and learn under Andy Reid. Watson was a legitimate MVP candidate before a knee injury prematurely ended his season. His ability to make plays through the air and escaping pressure would no doubt play perfectly into Big Red’s system at Arrowhead.
Pick Eleven: New Orleans Saints select – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Saints still get their gadget back to compliment Mark Ingram but they have to use their premier pick to get him. McCaffrey has excellent vision and some of the best hands at the running back position in the league, a trio of Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and McCaffrey establishes New Orleans as a legitimate offensive powerhouse for as long as Brees can throw the football.
Pick Twelve: Cleveland Browns select – TJ Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
No trade here anymore. With Watson off the board there’s no more quarterbacks worth trading up for and Cleveland stay at twelve. TJ Watt had an electric start to the 2018 season, at one point he was tied at the top of the league in sacks (alongside his brother), with seven before Aaron Donald began his tear. It was TJ Watt who kept the Browns’ win-less streak alive after blocking a kick in Pittsburgh’s week one tie with Cleveland by blocking a kick in overtime. Browns’ fans would hope he’s able to establish one of the best young defensive units alongside the number one overall pick.
Pick Thirteen: Arizona Cardinals select – Cam Robinson, LT, Alabama
A change at quarterback has been in the offing for some time, so general manager Mike Girsch should have done a better job creating an environment for the new eventual signal caller to try and develop behind. Unfortunately for Josh Rosen, he has spent much of his start in the NFL as he had done in college – picking himself up. Robinson offers a long-term solution as a bookend on what is a patchwork offensive line.
Pick Fourteen: Philadelphia Eagles select – Takk McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
Whilst most pass-rushers see their production stall during their first year in the league, McKinley managed to total a respectable six and a half sacks and two turnovers and is quietly (contrary to his draft day interview) putting up another impressive season in an injury-ravaged Falcons defense. The Eagles front seven was successful by committee on their way to a Super Bowl last year, and the UCLA product would be an excellent addition.
Pick Fifteen: Indianapolis Colts select – David Njoku, TE, Miami
You can never have too many tight ends in a pass-happy league, especially when your franchise quarterback is coming off a long-term injury. A duo of Jack Doyle and Njoku could add an entirely different entity to the Colts’ offense, during Njoku’s time at Miami, “tight end u” developed another star ready to succeed in the NFL. Whilst there are concerns across the rest of the roster, Indianapolis have more than enough cap space to take this luxury pick and then invest in other areas of the squad.
Pick Sixteen: Baltimore Ravens select – Leonard Fournette RB, LSU
Joe Flacco is the median point across all NFL quarterbacks. He certainly isn’t bad, but I’m not sure you can call him good either. Admittedly his ‘weapons’ (for want of a better word) haven’t helped in recent years, but rather than go for a receiver to help the Ravens’ beleaguered offense, the answer is a running back.
Much like his impact in the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars side, Fournette would be able to dictate the game clock, giving a talented defense the opportunity to maximise their potential whilst minimising the mistakes of a sputtering offensive unit – that is if he can stay healthy of course.
Pick Seventeen: Washington Ravens select – Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
One of the few picks which doesn’t change. Allen struggled to make an immediate impact in the capital during his rookie year, but he has also transformed a front seven into one of the best run defenses in football this year. With Washington top of the NFC East at this point in the year, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Pick Eighteen: Tennessee Titans select – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
It’s becoming more and more obvious that Marcus Mariota needs help on offense. and with Delanie Walker missing for most of 2018 and also 34 years old, it’s even more apparent that the Titans need to find a new Pro-Bowl tight end – enter OJ Howard. A legitimate redzone threat, Howard can both stretch the field and accumulate catches as the offense’s most reliable target.
Pick Nineteen: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select – Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
The Buccaneers aren’t a good football team. With holes all over the roster it’s difficult to justify spending a first round pick on a running back, but given the fact Tampa finished 27th in rushing yards last year and currently sit in the bottom three. Taking the reigning NFL rushing champion shouldn’t be a particularly hard sell.
Pick Twenty: Denver Broncos select – Ryan Ramczyk, LT, Wisconsin
The Denver Broncos tried to fill the right need with their top pick in 2017, unfortunately for John Elway, they picked the wrong player. Garrett Bolles is an average tackle with an age disadvantage on almost every other rookie. However Ryan Ramczyk can provide stellar help in pass protection, which means that he can sure up the blindside spot on Denver’s line for a decade.
Pick Twenty-One: Detroit Lions select – Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
Jarrad Davis has received some criticism in his first 18 months in the league for not hitting the ground running quite as expected, the same cannot be said for current 49er Reuben Foster. The former Alabama product fell in the draft due to an array of off-field issues, whilst these incidents haven’t escaped him since he turned pro I would expect a coach from the Bill Belichick tree to stop letting distractions from derailing his potential.
Pick Twenty-Two: Miami Dolphins select – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Juju Smith-Schuster has become one of the most eye-catching players in the entire league during the short time he’s been in the NFL. A game-breaking wide receiver who garners all the right attention for his franchise. Given the current landscape of receiving options in Miami, the Dolphins would do well to pick up a wideout with the natural ability of number 19. Tannehill need’s a new number one target since Jarvis Landry went to Cleveland and at only 21 years-old JuJu has all the tools needed to become that option.
Pick Twenty-Three: New York Giants select – Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Forrest Lamp’s rookie deal was derailed after an unfortunate ligament tear in camp kept him off the field his whole rookie season. But he has the talent level to become one of the premier offensive guards in football and alongside current rookie Will Hernandez, the two could have became part of a unit ready to rival that of the Giants’ NFC East rivals Cowboys.
Pick Twenty-Four: Oakland Raiders select – Budda Baker, S, Washington
With coach Jon Gruden seemingly losing faith in his second year corner – benching Gareon Conley last month, there are other prospects on the board who could revitalise Oakland’s secondary. Budda Baker quickly became a favourite within the Arizona Cardinals building, so much so that they opted to trade away former Pro-Bowl defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Baker could have become one of the foundations for what is going to be a new-look Raiders’ roster.
Pick Twenty-Five: Houston Texans select – Taylor Moton, RT, Western Michigan
Moton might be a surprise first-round pick, but the Texans’ roster is close enough that they can reach to fill what is a desperate need. Having played in all of Carolina’s 24 games since he was drafted, he’s somebody who can offer reliable protection on an offensive line which resembles Swiss-cheese. They need to start keeping whoever is under center upright.
Pick Twenty-Six: Atlanta Falcons select – Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The Falcons and Eagles have switched picks in this draft re-do, and I don’t think either will be too displeased. Barnett had a decent rookie season as a part of what was a very good Philadelphia front seven, whether he can garner similar effect down in Atlanta would be interesting to see, but the former Volunteer is an upgrade to most of their current pass-rushers
Pick Twenty-Seven: Buffalo Bills select – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bills’ offense isn’t a place made for rookie quarterbacks to develop, let alone for a quarterback who was described as a ‘raw talent’. So, giving Josh Allen all the help he can get to start his career seems like a no-brainer for those in Buffalo’s front office. Williams is 6″4, 218 and has a sup 4.5 40 time. After a disappointing rookie year which saw him haul in only eleven receptions and no touchdowns, he has started to blossom into a playmaker with five touchdown receptions this year (which is more passing touchdowns than Buffalo have through nine games in 2018).
Pick Twenty-Eight: Dallas Cowboys select – Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
Dallas are probably missing Jason Witten more than they care to admit. The passing game of ‘America’s team’ has suffered to the point they traded their first-round pick in 2019 for former Raider Amari Cooper. To go alongside Cooper and the otherwise struggling band of Dallas receivers Evan Engram could easily become a focal point for the Cowboys offense. Despite suffering from a case of the drops throughout his professional career Engram would immediately become one of Dak Prescott’s number one options.
Pick Twenty-Nine: Cleveland Browns select – Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Despite trading for Jarvis Landry before the beginning of 2018 season, rookie QB Baker Mayfield has literally nobody to throw to. So what better way to spend this pick than with one of the favourite targets on the best offense in football. The Browns need a notable number two in order to give good production whilst their WR1 gets the majority of coverage, which is what Kupp has seemingly specialised in since coming in to the league.
Pick Thirty: Pittsburgh Steelers select – Desmond King, CB, Iowa
With TJ Watt gone, the Steelers can focus on retooling their secondary in the hope of once again establishing a fearsome defense. Desmond King has quietly become the fastest riser in terms of draft stock from 2017, where he was taken in the fifth round by the Chargers. Finishing his rookie season amongst PFF’s top ten rated cornerbacks, King currently leads the league with a 90.4 rating. The grades of PFF’s model aren’t gospel, but the three interceptions (tied third in NFL) and defensive touchdown prove his ability to make plays.
Pick Thirty-One: San Francisco 49ers (from Atltanta) select – Dalvin Tomlionson, DL, Alabama
If they wanted to, San Francisco could have the nastiest 3-4 defensive front in football with this pick (maybe second – sorry Houston), Dalvin Tomlinson and DeForest Buckner could become the best interior line pairing outside of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. With a team very much in the middle of a rebuild, why not sure up your run defense for the next five years.
Pick Thirty-Two: New Orleans Saints (from New England) select – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The New Orleans Saints didn’t get to pick Lattimore with their original selection, and therefore still double down on the 2017 class to find a starting cornerback. Marlon Humphrey isn’t up to the same standard as the reigning DROTY, but could certainly do a job with the disruption caused by New Orleans’ defensive front. It also stops Eli Apple from being their number one corner, so, there’s that.