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One year is just far too soon to grade an NFL draft and put a permanent stamp on it. Three years? We can get behind that. But one? Too big an overreaction. Just look at the sheer number of second- and third-year breakouts for players in recent years following a sub-par rookie season — there are at least a dozen examples every year.
But it is fair to wonder which teams hit it big, which ones are feeling regret and which ones might have just struck a solid single up the middle with their first-round selections. We think there are examples of each category a few days short of one year later.
Naturally, the quarterbacks provide the most fascinating debate, even after such a relatively short amount of time. We have only one going to his original team, which is interesting, and we know the Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t be likely to take Josh Rosen again amid rumors they might want to move on from him this year.
Rosen’s projection and fit take a hit after his first-year struggles, but you get the idea his environment had a lot to do with that. That’s why we still feel there was a team in Round 1 a year ago that could have been a far better fit from the outset.
Let’s take a look at what a redo might look now:
1. Cleveland Browns
Actual pick: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Redraft pick: Mayfield
Let’s not get cute here. Find me one sane person who would choose anyone else.
2. New York Giants
Actual pick: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Redraft pick: USC QB Sam Darnold
This would be our chloroform-Dave-Gettleman selection, and he can’t do anything about it. Look, we love Barkley; he’s special for sure. But Darnold showed enough across town late in Year 1 to suggest he could be very good at the far more important position for a longer time than Barkley will be a special running back.
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)
Actual pick: Darnold
Redraft pick: Barkley
OK, so they’re not likely trading up from 6 to 3 to get a running back. But given the positions they were in, this might have been the safest result. All passing on a quarterback might have turned into would have been a Josh McCown-Teddy Bridgewater QB battle, and that might not have been an awful thing.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)
Actual pick: Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
Redraft pick: Florida State S Derwin James
Ward ended up being a great pick. But James would have been even better. He has a chance to be the league’s best safety for a decade if his health holds. He’s just rare, man.
5. Denver Broncos
Actual pick: North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb
Redraft pick: Chubb
I almost slotted Chubb third to the Jets, knowing how badly they need rushers now. He’s coming off an excellent season, and we think John Elway nailed the pick. No revision here.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets)
Actual pick: Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson
Redraft pick: Nelson
I actually mulled this one a bit. Nelson was really darned solid as a rookie, but maybe not the superstar guard everyone said he was in Year 1. But in the end, he’s just too good to pass. Maybe injuries pile up and he only dominates for, oh, eight years instead of 10. The Colts stick with their guy.
7. Buffalo Bills (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Actual pick: Wyoming QB Josh Allen
Redraft pick: Ward
This was a tough call because we think they actually believe Allen is the guy, and it’s another trade-up situation for a QB in real life, complicating things for this piece. But there’s a workaround to this situation, which you’ll have to keep reading to find out. Ward would give them another shorter corner but a darned good one. He’s worth the pick here, even though I almost gave them one of the standout middle linebackers, which was a position they clearly did a lot of homework on.
8. Chicago Bears
Actual pick: Georgia LB Roquan Smith
Redraft pick: Smith
This is very tricky because the Bears clearly think they made a great pick, and likely for good reason, but there were other inside backers who performed at a higher playmaking level in Year 1. But we think when it’s all said and done, Smith to Chicago is a great fit and will have as a strong career as the other ILB standouts.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Actual pick: Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
Redraft pick: South Carolina State LB Darius Leonard
How badly did they need a playmaker at linebacker? They gave Kwon Alexander an absurdly bloated contract. That tells us they should have filled the need elsewhere and bypassed taking a solid tackle, but not a franchise-changing one.
10. Arizona Cardinals (from Oakland Raiders)
Actual pick: UCLA QB Josh Rosen
Redraft pick: Allen
Knowing what we know now, the Cardinals are at least exploring the idea of trading Rosen and – we suspect – never loved him to begin with. The guy they were said to have loved was Allen, so he lands here. It’s far from perfection, and changing this pick would have had seismic effects on the 2019 NFL draft.
In an ideal world, would we select Allen 10th? Maybe, maybe not. But the Cardinals realized quickly how big a mistake they made on Sam Bradford’s contract, so perhaps Allen and his athletic gifts could have rescued them from a terrible offense line and scheme design.
Those issues plagued Rosen severely. Maybe he just needed a better setting in Year 1, although the lack of trade buzz surrounding his name is pretty interesting right now.
11. Miami Dolphins
Actual pick: Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
Redraft pick: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
We absolutely liked the Fitzpatrick pick and think he’ll be very good for a long time. But there’s a case to be made for Vander Esch being just a bit of a higher ceiling player and a tad better return on investment. It was a tossup, frankly.
12. Buccaneers (from Bills)
Actual pick: Washington DT Vita Vea
Redraft pick: Fitzpatrick
Confession: We actually liked Vea a year ago. But that doesn’t mean the Bucs didn’t make a terrible decision to pass on James – twice! – and take a far more limited defender. Spared with that situation in this scenario, we provide a good fallback. Take Fitzpatrick, who could have done a solid James knockoff and given them help in a really troubling area.
13. Washington Redskins
Actual pick: Alabama DL Da’Ron Payne
Redraft pick: Payne
I see no real reason to change things. A QB maybe? We thought about Rosen here, and who knows? Maybe they trade for the guy by week’s end. But Payne was really darned solid last year and has a bright future.
14. New Orleans Saints (from Green Bay Packers)
Actual pick: UTSA EDGE Marcus Davenport
Redraft pick: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
This might look really, really dumb in a year when, say, Davenport has 14 sacks and four forced fumbles. But stick with us for this reasoning: Maybe the Saints get to the Super Bowl last year if they have a decent sidekick to Michael Thomas. That really held them back down the stretch when all the veteran options they brought in – Cam Meredith, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall – dropped like flies.
Ridley was about as close to a veteran option as you can find in the draft: He was 24 by the end of Year 1 and he produced admirably as Julio Jones’ sidekick. You’ll trade the short-term goal of a possible Super Bowl over the long-term gain here in Drew Brees’ twilight. Plus, the Saints can avoid having a good player go to their longtime rivals in Atlanta.
15. Oakland Raiders (from Cardinals)
Actual pick: UCLA OT Kolton Miller
Redraft pick: Davenport
The way we view it, if Jon Gruden knew there was a chance to trade Khalil Mack – at the time a holdout – why wouldn’t they have considered drafting his potential replacement? Davenport flashed enough in Year 1, even with an injury, to be considered here. And the dropoff at the EDGE spot in this class was precipitous.
16. Bills (from Baltimore Ravens)
Actual pick: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds
Redraft pick: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Style-wise, Jackson is closer to Allen than he is to Rosen, so there’s a scheme fit here, not just a talent grade. We had Rosen above Jackson a year ago and still believe he has a higher chance of having long-term success. But we think the Bills could have swapped in Jackson last year and cast the roster in a similar mold without too much dropoff – perhaps just a higher rate of mistakes. Both are talented and flawed.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Actual pick: James
Redraft pick: McGlinchey
No longer gifted pennies from heaven, the Chargers could have gone with a very safe pick in McGlinchey in more of the range we thought he belonged last year. Top 20? Yeah. Top 10? Not for us.
18. Packers (from Seattle Seahawks)
Actual pick: Louisville CB Jaire Alexander
Redraft pick: Alexander
He had a strong start followed by a few rough patches, but – kill us for saying it – we think he’s in a good spot here and still has some real promise. Maybe some folks will like Donte Jackson (four INTs as a rookie) better, but we’re not feeling the fit exactly. The Packers got a guy they liked, and we’re still on board.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Actual pick: Vander Esch
Redraft pick: Edmunds
A respectable swap when it’s all said and done, as Edmunds might be a terrific player in time. He was picked on a bit as a rookie, but for a 20-year-old kid he held up remarkably well. If we do this exercise, redrafting this class in three or four years, Edmunds might end up going higher than this – and maybe higher than even where the Bills actually picked him. Interesting player. Fascinating debate.
20. Detroit Lions
Actual pick: Arkansas OL Frank Ragnow
Redraft pick: Ragnow
Who else you taking here? The Lions seemed to get about the 20th best player with the 20th pick. He’s solid as heck. Not too flashy, but solid. The Lions found a guy they liked, and we have no issue with it now.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills)
Actual pick: Ohio State OL Billy Price
Redraft pick: Price
This is another one of those picks where there might have been better players available, but not a ton, and they filled a major need in the process. Maybe Price is never special, and his injuries are something to keep an eye on long term. But this one kind of just works, even for a team that eventually needs to find its successor to Andy Dalton.
22. Tennessee Titans (from Ravens)
Actual pick: Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
Redraft pick: Boston College EDGE Harold Landry
Weird. The Titans drafted a guy in Round 1 they should have taken in Round 2, and they drafted the guy in Round 2 they should have taken in Round 1. Nice symmetry. We’re still trying to figure out why Landry slid the way he did. Evans is a nice player, we think, but is he ever going to impact games the way Landry might?
23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams)
Actual pick: Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
Redraft pick: Maryland WR D.J. Moore
We know Bill Belichick despises drafting wide receivers high, and frankly they haven’t evaluated the position all that well over the years. But Moore felt like such a Patriots-esque pick at the time, we don’t view this as a stretch. His 427 yards after the catch represented more than half his season total for yards, which could have made Tom Brady’s life a little easier last year. After all, that whole winning-a-Super-Bowl thing can take a lot out of a guy.
24. Carolina Panthers
Actual pick: Moore
Redraft pick: Iowa OL James Daniels
Gutted by seeing their very good pick going one spot above them, the Panthers could have shifted gears and attacked a problem spot: the offensive line. After slipping into early Round 2, Daniels started at guard Year 1 in Chicago and might be moved back to center at some point here. And in Carolina, he could have provided a great baton recipient for the retiring Ryan Kalil and saved the franchise a lot of cash they ended up throwing at – consults notes – Matt Paradis. Ask yourself what looks better now.
25. Ravens (from Titans)
Actual pick: South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
Redraft pick: UTEP OG Will Hernandez
Nothing against Hurst, whom we liked coming out, but he wasn’t even the most effective rookie tight end on his own team’s roster. In fact, he wasn’t even the draft’s most effective Hurst in Year 1; that would be Oakland’s Maurice, who fell amid concerns over his heart. Oh yeah, and Hurst is turning 26 in August. Hmm.
Daniels would have looked nice, so this is another heartbreak pick. A pretty decent alternative would have been Hernandez, who was very solid as a rookie after a few early hiccups. He’s a great run blocker for a team built to do just that.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Actual pick: Ridley
Redraft pick: Vea
We have some weird NFC South incest going on with our picks, but never mind that for now. The Falcons are seeking some depth and talent this year at D-tackle, and Vea – who played pretty well down the stretch – could have provided help. Grady Jarrett and Vea would have been an interesting pairing and allowed the Falcons to move those guys around a bit up front.
27. Seahawks (from Packers)
Actual pick: San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny
Redraft pick: Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Penny showed a few flashes last year, but it’s hard to know what to make of the guy heading into Year 2. Maybe with Mike Davis out of the picture, Penny can cut into Chris Carson’s workload. But we just like Chubb (or even his college teammate, Sony Michel) a tad more.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Actual pick: Virginia Tech S Terrell Edmunds
Redraft pick: Stanford S Justin Reid
If they were bent on taking a safety, there were better options. Reid was one of them. Another bizarre slide player, Reid strangely lasted until Round 3. We don’t know why on him either. If they wanted to find an earlier replacement for Ryan Shazier, maybe Evans would have been a solid option.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Actual pick: Florida DT Taven Bryan
Redraft pick: UCLA QB Josh Rosen
We know it likely worked out OK in the end, with Nick Foles entering the picture now. But maybe, just maybe, the Jaguars could have spurred things with a quarterback change last year that didn’t involve Cody Kessler. The Jaguars were coming off an AFC title game with limited QB contributions, and they were still in the middle of things even at 3-5 entering the bye.
Maybe Rosen could have sparked just enough to losing four one-score games in a six-game span that ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs. He showed too much in college, we think, to be thrown out with the bathwater already, even if his trade value right now feels pretty shaky and won’t net Arizona even close to what it paid to draft him.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Actual pick: Central Florida CB Mike Hughes
Redraft pick: Auburn OL Braden Smith
Total disclosure here: We thought Smith was a reach in early Round 2. It turns out we might have been wrong. Maybe Colts GM Chris Ballard knows football or something … weird.
We don’t really know how good Hughes is because his rookie year was cut short, so this is another pick that could change drastically if we redo this in a few years. But with Smith, the Vikings would have had a better guard-tackle option than the dudes they trotted out there last year.
Actual pick: Michel
Redraft pick: Wynn
We still like Wynn a lot and think he’ll be a very good starter in this league. They won a Super Bowl without him but certainly look like they’re planning on him being the left tackle right now.
32. Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)
Actual pick: Jackson
Redraft pick: SMU WR Courtland Sutton
Losing out on their Joe Flacco replacement stings, but you kind of get the idea the Ravens could have stuck with him another year if they had to. Jackson’s emergence – and the 180-degree style shift his ascension necessitated – was what pushed Flacco out. So here, the Ravens could have gotten a year ahead on their WR rebuild plans with a big, gifted target instead of having to start from scratch (again) this year.
Anthony Miller also could have made a good choice in this spot, which would have put three actual Bears selections into our revised 32 picks. Not a bad consolation for Chicago fans, who are being forced to sit out the first 86 picks of this year’s draft.
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