After the uproar surrounding Alabama being left out of the CFB playoff projection for the first time, plus the 49ers staying ahead of the Seahawks in this week’s power rankings, now feels like the perfect time for another pointless exercise that’ll do nothing but fill everyone who reads it with some level of rage. It’s still too early to grade most of the first-round picks made a year ago, although some (hey, Arizona) are already clearly a failed experiment.
But as last years’ rookies have had the chance to settle into the league, you can only imagine there will be general managers who would desperately like to change their minds. With that being said, here’s how last year’s draft should have played out if teams had the knowledge they do now:
Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
It hasn’t looked good this year, has it? The Browns need to admit they made a mistake with their coaching hire as quickly as possible as to make sure that their franchise quarterback isn’t lost in the mire of poor decisions from above – as has been the case with so many of Cleveland’s quarterbacks.
Baker showed flashes of his true potential last seasons as he guided the Browns to seven wins, the most by one quarterback in a single season since Brian Hoyer in 2014. Whilst the team hasn’t been able to build on their momentum following last year, Baker’s ball placement and leadership qualities means he remains the Cleveland Browns prodigal son.
New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Easily the best player of this class, Saquon Barkley has played a total of 22 NFL games and he’s already in the conversation as the top running back in the league. Not only is Barkley the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he has now become the best friend of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Gettleman “might” look at Bradley Chubb. The Giants need to use some draft capital to spark some life into their non-existent pass-rush. That would be a mistake, Saquon is the pick.
New York Jets – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Much like with Cleveland, the Jets selection hasn’t been helped by poor front office decisions. Sam Darnold has blown hot and cold so far in his career, but he’s also been held back by a lack of surrounding talent and awful coaching. Some Jets fans are already giving up on Darnold, but with a new coach and a better offensive line he still has the chance to cement himself as a franchise quarterback.
Cleveland Browns – Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
This has nothing to do with Denzel Ward, who is nothing more than a victim of circumstance in this exercise. If you’ve watched the Browns this year, it’s clear just how much Baker needs offensive line help. With no franchise tackles in the 2018 class, adding a sure-fire All-Pro to their interior offensive line will keep Mayfield clean and allow him to make more of the plays that saw him break the NFL’s rookie touchdown record.
The smart move would be to move Joel Bitonio out to left tackle, where he has some experience and would likely thrive, allowing Nelson to continue his charge toward becoming the most dominant offensive lineman in football.
Denver Broncos – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
He was never going to last to pick 32 was he? Lamar Jackson was knocked for just about everything pre-draft, but so far he’s proved everyone wrong. After handily beating the New England Patriots, Lamar Jackson is quickly turning into an MVP favourite. If the Ravens hold onto the second seed in the AFC come January, it will be impossible to keep Jackson out of the conversation. The Broncos struck gold with Bradley Chubb, but the positional value of quarterbacks – and the desperate situation under center in Denver, means Jackson hears his name called with the fifth overall pick.
Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
Chubb was never going to fall very far. The star pass-rusher had an unbelievable rookie season with 12 sacks. Unfortunately for Broncos fans he suffered a knee injury against Jacksonville which has ended his sophomore season, but he is exactly what the Colts need as they put the finishing pieces towards building a potential championship roster.Justin Houston isn’t a permanent solution for Indianapolis due to age, so giving the Colts blue-chip edge rusher is the perfect move.
Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Despite not being the biggest believer in Josh Allen, it’s hard to argue with a 6-3 record. The Bills needed a franchise quarterback and look to have found someone who can be a long-term starter in the NFL. There’s no position more important to get right, it looks as though Brandon Beane did as well as he could have with the options available. Allen remains the franchise quarterback in Buffalo.
Chicago Bears – Roquan Smith, MLB, Georgia
Smith hasn’t been as dominant as scouts thought he would coming out of Georgia, but the former Bulldog still totalled 121 tackles in his rookie season. His speed, instincts and ability to tackle in the open field are all elite traits, he remains the perfect fit for the middle of a front seven that’s capable of getting after quarterbacks.Unfortunately for Bears fans, Trubisky hasn’t looked like a franchise quarterback this season, but with Allen coming off the board at seven there is nobody left in this class who can provide a challenge for the third-year passer.
San Francisco 49ers – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
McGlinchey has proved himself to be a high-level tackle in his first 18 months in the NFL. The Notre Dame product had been playing well prior to his knee injury that sidelined him for the last few weeks, returning in last night’s narrow loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Hopefully he can find his regain his form quickly and establish himself as a true bookend tackle in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Arizona Cardinals – Derwin James, DB, Florida State
Well, it was never going to be Josh Rosen. The UCLA quarterback couldn’t have been placed in a worse situation to start his NFL career. Drafted to a franchise that didn’t believe in him, with no offensive line and a receiving corps with little depth beyond now 36 year-old Larry Fitzgerald.Instead, the Cardinals take one of the top five players from last year’s class. Derwin James has performed at such a high level he was voted first team All-Pro in his rookie season. Unfortunately, James suffered a stress fracture in his foot during training camp this year and has yet to take the field as a result. The Florida State man could have been the perfect candidate to replace long-time Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Matthieu, as a do it all safety who exceeds in the box.
Miami Dolphins – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Quite honestly, this feels like the best fit for Denzel Ward outside of Cleveland if for no other reason than the trade value he would command, as the Dolphins continue to ship their best players for draft capital. The latest in a very long line of first-round defensive backs coming out of Ohio State, Ward has been shutting down one side of the field whenever he’s fit enough to play.
If Dennis Hickey decided to keep the second-year corner (and potentially trade an older, more expensive Xavien Howard) then the Dolphins would have a true blue-chip talent to build a team around. Something they currently have very few of.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Was defensive tackle even a need? The Buccaneers took Washington lineman Vita Vea over the likes of Derwin James in last years class, and so far, have seen a very limited return for such a high pick. In this re-draft, however, Tampa pick up the perfect weapon for a Todd Bowles defense.Coming into the draft, it wasn’t known where Fitzmagic (yes, he’s the one who trademarked it) would slot into an NFL secondary, he has had stints at corner, nickel and both safety positions in his short professional career. A level of versatility that any defensive coordinator would fall in love with. Tampa’s secondary has been an issue for years now, Minkah can be a much needed game-changer on a team with not a lot of backend talent.
Washington Redskins – Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Derrius Guice has been solid when on field, but unfortunately injuries have derailed his early NFL career. On the flip side, Nick Chubb has been immense in Cleveland so far. Baker Mayfield takes most of the plaudits for the Brown’s turnaround last season, but Chubb’s work on the ground has been phenomenal.Washington drafted their future franchise quarterback in Dwayne Haskins this year, the wisest move would be to take some of the pressure off the Ohio State passer by picking up a running back in Chubb that you can build an offense around.
New Orleans Saints – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Saints might be the most well-rounded team in the league, but Leighton Vander Esch can walk into any defense in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboy standout has shown already that he is capable of leading a team on the field, and his ability to shut down the run makes him the perfect partner for Demarrio Davis in New Orleans.Marcus Davenport hasn’t provided the production Saints’ staff had hoped when they traded up to get him. Luckily, Vander Esch has proven to be one of the safest players of this entire draft class – despite concerns about a neck injury coming out of Boise State.
Oakland Raiders – Darius Leonard, LB, SC State
How does a man make the All-Pro first-team, win defensive rookie of the year and still miss out on the Pro Bowl? Darius Leonard did it all for Indianapolis in his NFL season. The SC State alum lead the league with 163 tackles last year, with seven sacks and two interceptions.The Raiders have looked much better than most people expected the to at the beginning of the year. The offense has looked fantastic with Derek Carr under center. Whilst Darren Waller’s impressive production has meant the Black Hole will have already forgotten about Jared Cook leaving for New Orleans.
Even the secondary has been better than expected, so much so Mike Mayock felt comfortable trading former first-round pick Gareon Conley before the deadline. The most obvious need for the Raiders would be to address the linebacker position. There isn’t much better value than a player of Leonard’s quality at 15.
Buffalo Bills – Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP
There aren’t any wideouts that present great value in the first sixteen picks, but that doesn’t stop Buffalo from surrounding quarterback Josh Allen with talent. Will Hernandez hasn’t been as devastating as Nelson since entering the league but is still a bullish interior lineman.Buffalo addressed in the offensive line heavily last off-season, adding six linemen in free agency, but none of the guards that were brought in have had the impact that Hernandez could provide.
Los Angeles Chargers – Braden Smith, OL, Auburn
If you needed any further proof that Chris Ballard is a fantastic team builder, three of their 2018 draft picks make the first 20 of this re-draft. Braden Smith has been largely unnoticed so far because his teammate and fellow offensive lineman, Quenton Nelson, has been exceptional. That being said, Smith has established himself as a quality tackle on the right side of Indianapolis’ offensive front.The Chargers have struggled across the line in 2019, former first-rounder Forrest Lamp has been unable to stay on the field consistently throughout his career whilst the rest of the offensive line has little to no depth. Adding Smith would keep Rivers clean throughout the latter stages of his career, and add authority to the offensive line for when a young quarterback comes in (Chargers fans ought to get familiar with Justin Herbert).
Green Bay Packers – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Green Bay got incredibly lucky that Alexander fell to them at 18 in the actual draft, and through need alone he has managed to slip all the way to 18 again. The Louisville corner transformed this packers secondary in his first year, turning a major weak-point into one of the team’s greatest strengths.
The thought of adding a legitimate WR2 in Calvin Ridley is enticing here, but for too long the Packers have been undone by their lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Dallas Cowboys – Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
With Dallas favourite Vander Esch and reigning rookie of the year Darius Leonard off the board, the Cowboys select the next best linebacker from this class. Unfortunately for Jerome Baker, the situation in Miami means that his excellent production has gone largely unnoticed so far this year – but he has shown himself to be an exceptional defender.
Baker’s combine stats highlight his raw athletic ability, finishing in no lower than seventh amongst linebackers in any of the drills he participated in during workouts. Including an impressive 4.53 40 time and a 10’6″ broad jump (good enough for 4th and 3rd amongst LBs respectively). Adding someone with that level of natural talent alongside Jaylon Smith would prove to be a nightmare for opposition defenders.
Detroit Lions – Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
It should have gone without saying that the brother of Eric Reid would become a standout player in the NFL. The younger of the Reid brothers entered his rookie season with Houston on a depth chart with Tyrann Matthieu and Andre Hal but became the Texans’ best defensive back by the end of his first year.
The Lions have just traded Quandre Diggs to Seattle, much to the dismay of the remaining players in Detroit – especially Darius Slay. Adding a talent such as Justin Reid would fill that void instantly. The second-year pro has elite speed and great coverage ability. In a division with some great offensive talent, Reid would be able to help neutralise some of those high-powered units and help the Lions return to the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Almost any position but running back is a position of need for the Bengals. If any team was going to take a flyer on Josh Rosen despite the poor start to his career it’s the team that benched Andy Dalton for Ryan Finley.
But, whoever is at quarterback for Cincinnati next year (here’s looking at you, Joe Burrow) needs better protection in front of him. Orlando Brown has become a key piece to the Ravens offensive line, providing reliable protection opposite franchise tackle Ronnie Stanley. The ideal scenario is to build an offensive line for a rookie QB to grow behind, rather than find a quarterback and hope for production with no means of protecting him. Therefore the Bengals add a valuable piece to protect Zac Taylor’s chosen passer.
Tennessee Titans – Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Rashaan Evans has been solid for Tennessee since they drafted him last year, but by selecting Da’Ron Payne the Titans can legitimately boast one of the best defences in football. Jurrell Casey has been a monster for this team since being drafted in 2011, but adding Payne, alongside current rookie Jeffrey Simmons? The Titans would become virtually impossible to block.
For a team that has huge question marks on the offensive side of the ball, the Titans would be wise to build a frightenin front-seven. Thus allowing Kevin Byard to mop up the scraps and let the defense carry them toward contention in an unpredictable division.
New England Patriots – Calvin Ridley, WR, Georgia
Do they need him? No. Would it be completely unfair to the rest of football? Yes. Is that exactly why it makes sense? Of course.
Isaiah Wynn was the top-ranked offensive line prospect not named Quenton Nelson last year, and yet the Patriots won a Super Bowl without him setting foot on the field. It really doesn’t matter who New England take with either of their picks as they would likely remain competitive. But Ridley would be a lethal weapon in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Last year he caught 64 passes for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns, with Edelman requiring so much attention from the slot it would be fair to assume those numbers would sky rocket had the Alabama product been drafted to Foxboro.
Carolina Panthers – Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
It doesn’t matter if they play him at center, or if they slide him over to guard to replace Andrew Norwell – just please keep Cam Newton clean. The Panthers’ last two seasons have been derailed by injury to the former MVP.
Newton played hurt for a lot of 2018 as he recovered from shoulder surgery, which you could see as his rushing numbers drastically dropped from the year before – and has been sidelined since week two with a foot injury. Center Matt Paradis is 30, whilst left guard Greg Van Roten has become a starter out of necessity since Norwell signed with Jacksonville.
Ragnow has the ability to succeed in any interior spot, if the Panthers want to win with their current roster they need to build the offensive front.
Baltimore Ravens – Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
Whilst Davenport hasn’t put up huge numbers since entering the league two years ago, his natural athletic ability at his position is enough for the Ravens to take a punt on a pass-rusher. If there was one flaw with this Baltimore team it is their inability to get pressure.
Currently, the Ravens rank 29th in sacks this season, ahead of only Miami, Atlanta and Cincinnati – all of whom are in contention for the number one overall pick. Davenport should be able to get after opposition quarterbacks better in a team with an elite secondary behind him, if he could translate his traits into production then the UTSA man might be the piece to push Baltimore over the top.
Atlanta Falcons – Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
The Falcons haven’t been good this year, injuries have hurt the team and it looks as though they’ll be picking inside the top 10 come April. Picking 26th, there’s nobody who could retrospectively save their 2019 season, but adding former Bulldog Isaiah Wynn to the offensive line will prolong Matt Ryan’s career by some distance.
Last year the Falcons selected two offensive linemen in the first round, taking Chris Lindstrom and Caleb McGary (14th and 31st respectively) but Isaiah Wynn could replace James Carpenter as an interior lineman and do so at an elite level.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson’s rookie season wasn’t breath-taking but he has been impressive in coverage so far in 2019. He has the potential to get burned by top-speed wideouts but has still only allowed a passer rating of 84.8, which places him 16th amongst defenders. He’s also becoming somewhat of a ball-hawk, with seven interceptions in his first two seasons in the league.
Opposition receivers have only caught 54.5% of targets when Jackson is in coverage, ranked 13th amongst defenders, which shows his ability to become a team’s number one corner. Pittsburgh are comfortable with Joe Haden since he arrived, but giving Jackson the opportunity to progress on a talented team feels like a great fit for him and the Steelers.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Connor Williams, OL, Texas
Beyond being blown away by “MinshewMania” in the opening part of the season, the main takeaway from watching the Jaguars play is that they missed wildly on Andrew Norwell. The former All-Pro guard signed a five-year $66.5m deal prior to the 2018 season and oh boy it’s backfired.
Fortunately for Jacksonville, there is a potential out at the end of this season with only a $9m cap hit. But if Norwell is released at the end of the year there will still be a hole on the offensive line. Connor Williams was first thought of as a left tackle coming out of Texas, but due to smaller stature has been better suited to life as an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. It doesn’t really matter which guard position the Jaguars plug Williams in to, as they need help in both.
Minnesota Vikings – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virgina Tech
The Vikings are one of the better teams in football, which means they have very few holes in the roster. Therefore, rather than looking at any particular need the Vikings can take the best player available at 29, that player is Tremaine Edmunds.
Edmunds can do pretty much everything as a linebacker, so much so that Lance Zierlein had his pro-comparison as Brian Urlacher. The Virginia State product hasn’t quite hit those heights, but his speed and range of coverage/tackling would elevate the Minnesota defense tremendously.
Kansas City Chiefs – Billy Price, C, Ohio State
Billy Price would walk into the Chiefs offensive line at either left guard or center. The Chiefs have the best quarterback in football and some of the speediest wideouts in recent memory. As such it’s criminal that the front office haven’t done more to keep Mahomes healthy and winning games.
Kansas City have two fantastic linemen in Mitch Schwartz and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, but without adding more talent upfront then there will always be a ceiling to the Chiefs potential.
New England Patriots – Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
2018 was a fantastic year for tight ends but nobody expected Mark Andrews to be the most productive of all of them. Not even his current team, the Baltimore Ravens, who drafted Hayden Hurst in the same position at 25th overall.
Andrews has shown himself to be a fantastic run blocker in his short career but it’s the production through the air this year which puts him in the first round of this re-draft. Many people weren’t sure what a Lamar Jackson led offense would look like coming into 2019, but with Andrews providing both a reliable target and big play ability, he is a huge contributor to the Ravens current success. Something that the Patriots could use after Gronkowski decided to retire.
Baltimore Ravens – D.J Chark, WR, LSU
There’s the possibility that Baltimore take Rosen at 32 to see what happens if they allow him to develop behind a steady quarterback in Joe Flacco and give them the fifth-year option with a young quarterback. Reality is, unfortunately for Rosen, his time as a potential franchise quarterback is likely over.
Therefore, the Ravens need to address the issues that held Flacco back from being successful in Baltimore, which is a serious lack of receiving talent. In terms of raw athleticism, no wideout was more impressive in 2018 than LSU’s D.J Chark.
The second-year wideout became Gardner Minshew’s favourite target in the early part of the season, putting the aerial attack on his back in Jacksonville. An improved offensive attack would allow the Ravens to take advantage of a weakened AFC North.