1. Miami Dolphins- QB Joe Flacco (Delaware)
There was nothing wrong with taking Jake Long #1 overall in 2008. However, the Dolphins made the playoffs in just one of his five seasons so far and that was the one year Chad Pennington explicably finished as the runner up in MVP*. Long might not have been the wrong choice, but in a re-draft like this using full hindsight, you’re always going to take a franchise quarterback before you take anything else if one is available. Flacco and Ryan is a debate, but I have to lean with the former after his recent Super Bowl victory.
*=How weird was 2008? Brett Favre came out of retirement in July and was traded to the Jets and was on the cover of Madden as a retired Packer. Favre pushed Pennington out of New York and he was signed by division rival Miami. Even though he hadn’t done anything noteworthy since 2004, Pennington game managed the Dolphins to the greatest single season turnaround in NFL history, going from 1 win in 2007 to 11 wins in 2008. Pennington was, of course, helped by the wildcat, a phenomenon that led to new Head Coach Tony Sparano being billed as an offensive genius and to Pat White getting selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft and never throwing a pass in one season with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins’ 11 wins won the Dolphins the AFC East over Brett Favre, who led the NFL in turnovers, and the Jets, and Matt Cassel and the Patriots, who had gone 16-0 the year before, but lost Tom Brady to a torn ACL week 1. Still, the Patriots somehow won 11 games, but failed to make the playoffs at all, the first time in the wild card era a team had won 11 games and not made the playoffs. The following year, with Brady healthy, they would win just 10 games and win the entire division.
Meanwhile, back to 2008, Pennington’s Dolphins would get bounced at home in the first round of the playoffs by rookie Joe Flacco and the Ravens 27-9, a game in which Pennington threw 4 interceptions, more than half of the 7 he had thrown all season. Flacco would beat the Titans the following week to become the first quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games in his rookie year. The following week, the Ravens lost to the Steelers, but Joe Flacco could still hold his head high knowing he had guided the Ravens to the AFC Championship as a rookie before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers. Except for the fact that, you know, Joe Flacco completed just 44% of his passes that post-season and threw 3 interceptions to 1 touchdown. And yes, this was 2008, not 1968.
Pennington’s efforts earned him a 2nd place finish in MVP. He would go on to attempt just 76 passes the rest of his career. Pennington finished 2nd in MVP voting despite throwing for just 3653 yards and 19 touchdowns. And again I repeat, this was 2008 not 1968. Though a down year for quarterback production across the board, possibly due to the fact that the league was missing one of its premier signal callers with injury, Pennington finished just 12th in the NFL in passing touchdowns and 9th in passing yards. Drew Brees, meanwhile, threw for 5000+ yards for just the 2nd time in NFL history, to go with 34 touchdowns, but because he missed the playoffs due to a terrible defense, Brees, my MVP pick that year, did not get a single 1st place MVP vote.
Peyton Manning won the MVP that year with 27 touchdowns and passing 4002 yards. Those 4002 yards to this day are still the 3rd fewest yards he’s ever thrown for in a season in his 14 year NFL career and those 27 touchdowns were tied for the 4th lowest he’s ever thrown in a season. 2008 was also just the 3rd season since Peyton Manning’s rookie year that the Colts didn’t win the division and the 2nd time since we switched to 4 team divisions.
The AFC South was won that year by the Titans, who somehow inexplicably won 13 games despite a Vince Young suicide scare and Kerry Collins subsequently starting 15 games at quarterback. The 36 year old Collins threw for just 12 touchdowns and 2676 passing yards on that 13-3 team and once again I repeat this was 2008 and not 1968. And if that’s not enough for you, the Cardinals made and almost won the Super Bowl, losing to the Steelers and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who would be traded to the Jets for a 5th round pick 14 months later. Also, it was the last season this website didn’t exist and I wrote all of my thoughts on something that looked like this. 2008 was weird.
2. St. Louis Rams- QB Matt Ryan (Boston College)
Again, nothing wrong with Chris Long here, but the Rams haven’t made the playoffs once in his five seasons with the team. In hindsight, the Rams would take whichever of this draft’s two franchise quarterbacks the Dolphins pass on.
3. Atlanta Falcons- OT Duane Brown (Virginia Tech)
The Falcons miss out on both franchise quarterbacks, but left tackles do have a ton of value as well and the Falcons needed one as well in 2008, taking Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. Brown gets the nod over Jake Long. While Brown was extended for 6 years, 53.4 million last season (which I thought was a bargain), Long’s recent injury history has led to the Dolphins making the decision to let him test the open market. Brown is arguably the NFL’s best all-around left tackle, as no other player has ranked in ProFootballFocus’ top-5 offensive tackles in both 2011 and 2012. Only Joe Thomas has ranked in the top-7 both years.
4. Oakland Raiders- OT Jake Long (Michigan)
Quarterbacks, left tackles, and defensive ends are by far the most popular position atop drafts because of their high position value and that remains the case in this one. Long picked a bad time to start having injury issues, as he heads into free agency, but remember he did make the Pro-Bowl in his first 4 seasons before 2012. The Raiders, who allowed 41 sacks in 2007, take him here to shore up their left tackle position.
5. Kansas City Chiefs- DE Chris Long (Virginia)
Continuing with the quarterback/offensive tackle/defensive end trend, the Chiefs take Chris Long here. They had recently traded Jared Allen and would go on to record an unfathomably terrible 10 sacks the following season. They ran a 4-3 at the time before switching to a 3-4 and while there are questions about how Long would fit in a 3-4, I think you have to take him here in hindsight.
6. New York Jets- 3-4 DE Calais Campbell (Miami)
Sticking with high positional value players, Campbell is a 3-4 end rather than a 4-3 end, but he still makes a huge impact on the game. He’s not a big sack number guy, but he always gets consistent pressure from an interior position and is great against the run. The Jets had the right idea taking a front 7 player for their 3-4 defense in 2008, after ranking 25th in sacks and 20th against the run in 2007, but Vernon Gholston obviously didn’t pan out as he never managed a single sack in his 3-year NFL career, all with the Jets.
7. New Orleans Saints- CB Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech)
In 2008, the Saints went 8-8 despite Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards. In 2012, the Saints went 7-9 despite Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards. Seeing some sort of trend? Their defense hasn’t always been horrendous (there’s a reason they won the Super Bowl in 2009), but they’ve always needed secondary help and they definitely could have used a shutdown cornerback like Brandon Flowers all along. He would have immediately helped what was the league’s worst pass defense in 2007.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars- OT Ryan Clady (Boise State)
Back to left tackles, the Jaguars would take a fine left tackle by the name of Eugene Monroe in the 1st round in 2009. Let’s give them one a year earlier. Clady hasn’t always been as consistent and well- rounded as Duane Brown and Jake Long, but he’s submitted some excellent seasons and should command a fair price in an extension this off-season after being franchise tagged.
9. Cincinnati Bengals- RB Ray Rice (Rutgers)
In 2007, the Bengals were 28th in the NFL in YPC with Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson splitting carries and then in 2008 they were 30th as Chris Perry and Cedric Benson split carries. Benson would have better seasons, but neither he nor BenJarvus Green-Ellis, their 2012 starting running back, have ever been anything more than plodders. I bet the Bengals would have preferred to have stolen Ray Rice away from division rival Baltimore in the 2008 NFL Draft instead.
10. New England Patriots- CB Brandon Carr (Grand Valley State)
Jerod Mayo was a fine pick here, but from 2008 to 2012 the Patriots used 1st or 2nd round picks on 6 defensive backs, Terrence Wheatley, Patrick Chung, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, and Tavon Wilson and only got one 2012 starter out of it. Let’s save them the embarrassment and help Tom Brady win a 4th ring by giving the Patriots an actual shutdown cornerback.
11. Buffalo Bills- DE Cliff Avril (Purdue)
From 2007-2011, the Bills had 138 sacks, an average of about 27 and a half per season. They managed to get into the middle of the pack with 36 in 2012 after signing Mario Williams, but he only shored up one defensive end spot. They would have loved to have gotten a pass rusher like Cliff Avril out of the 2008 NFL Draft. In 5 seasons, Avril has 39.5 sacks, including 28 in the last 3 seasons.
12. Denver Broncos- OLB Jerod Mayo (Tennessee)
The Broncos were 2nd to last in the NFL against the run in 2007, 30th in 2008, 27th in 2009, and 29th in 2010. They definitely could have used a tackling machine like Jerod Mayo.
13. Carolina Panthers- WR Jordy Nelson (Kansas State)
The Panthers have been searching for a complement for Steve Smith for years. Dwayne Jarrett, Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams, none of these guys have really worked out. LaFell is the best of the bunch and he’s marginal at best. Nelson would have not only given them a complement, but an eventual heir apparent, a huge need now as Smith will turn 34 in May.
14. Chicago Bears- RB Matt Forte (Tulane)
The Bears actually took Forte in the 2nd round, but they won’t get him there in a re-draft. I don’t think they would mind using their first round pick to lock him up, especially since they used this pick originally on mega-bust Chris Williams.
15. Kansas City Chiefs- OT Branden Albert (Virginia)
It’s interesting how the Chiefs’ first pick, Glenn Dorsey, completely busted, but still 4 of the top-16 players in this re-draft (we’ll get to the 4th in a minute) were drafted by the Chiefs. How did Romeo Crennel screw this up so badly that they managed to go 2-14 last season? Anyway, Branden Albert gets overshadowed by some of the other tackles in this class and he struggled in his first 2-3 years in the league, but over the last 2 years he’s blossomed into a legitimate left tackle and those are hard to come by. Given the way this draft has gone, I think the Chiefs would do it all over again with Albert if they had to.
16. Arizona Cardinals- RB Jamaal Charles (Texas)
Here’s the 4th Chief. I can’t shake the feeling that Jamaal Charles is a top-5 back in the NFL in terms of talent. Yes, he’s had injury issues and has never been trusted by a Head Coach to carry the load, but remember who he’s had as Head Coaches, Herm Edwards, Todd Haley, and Romeo Crennel. Haley gave him fewer carries in 2010 than Thomas Jones even though Charles almost set the single season record for yards for carries. He was averaging a good 2.5 yards per carry more than Jones. Last year, Charles got 5 carries in a loss to the Raiders and when asked why after the game, Romeo Crennel’s answer was “I don’t know.”
Sure, he’s had just 784 carries in 5 seasons, but his career 5.8 YPC is MOST ALL-TIME of back with more than 500 career carries. After him, it’s Marion Motley, a fullback, linebacker, and kick returner who I think wore a leather helmet (1946-1955), Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen, and some dude named Spec Sanders who also served as his team’s punter (1946-1950). Why do his coaches never give him the ball?! You might not think things will get better with Andy Reid coming in, but while Andy Reid hates to run the football, when he does, he’s faithful to one back and his playbook has enough passes to backs that Charles should be able to surpass his career high of 320 touches in a season.
Anyway, enough about Charles and more about why the Cardinals would pick him. In 2007, the Cardinals were led in carries by a 84-year-old 29-year-old Edgerrin James, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry and then, after they somehow made the Super Bowl with James splitting carries with Tim Hightower in 2008, the Cardinals wasted a 1st round pick on Beanie Wells in 2009. Charles saves that whole mess from happening and gives them the franchise back they haven’t had in seemingly forever.
17. Detroit Lions- G Carl Nicks (Nebraska)
The Lions used this original pick on an offensive lineman, Gosder Cherilus, who wasn’t any good until his contract year in 2012. In this re-draft, they use it on a better offensive lineman, albeit at a less important position. Guards rarely go this high, but that’s because, unless they turn out to be Pro-Bowlers, they’re not worth the pick. In hindsight though, we know Nicks has made a pair of Pro-Bowls, gotten a massive contract from the Buccaneers, and is all-around one of the best interior lineman in the NFL. He makes a lot of sense here to a Lions team that allowed the 9th most sacks in the NFL in 2007.
18. Baltimore Ravens- RB Chris Johnson (East Carolina)
The Ravens miss out on Ray Rice, but they’ll still have to upgrade their running back position as Willis McGahee was nearing the end of his time as a feature back in Baltimore. Chris Johnson is tough to slot. His 2009 was one of the greatest seasons by a running back ever, but everything else has been a mixed bag. Sure, he hasn’t had great blocking always, but then again, he’s still a running back and running backs don’t have a high positional value because of their interchangibility and their short shelf life. I think he makes sense for the Ravens.
19. Carolina Panthers- S Tyron Branch (Connecticut)
The Panthers have had issues in the secondary recently, especially at safety. Drafting Branch in the first round in 2008 would have helped solve those issues as Branch has been one of the league’s best, getting franchised last off-season and eventually signing a 5-year, 35 million dollar deal.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- WR DeSean Jackson (California)
I remember I originally mocked Jackson to the Buccaneer in 2008. It made a lot of sense. Starting receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard were heading into their age 37 and 32 seasons respectively in 2008 and no one else on the 2007 Buccaneers had more than 385 receiving yards. In 2008, the only receiver who had more than 484 receiving yards was Antonio Bryant, who fell off the face of the earth and caught just 36 passes the rest of his career. They could have used a borderline #1 receiver like DeSean Jackson.
21. Atlanta Falcons- WR Steve Johnson (Kentucky)
The Falcons eventually solved the wide receiver position opposite Roddy White in 2011 with Julio Jones, but remember all those years they were pretending Michael Jenkins was a caliber starting receiver? Jenkins never surpassed 777 receiving yards in his career and only twice surpassed 532 receiving yards. Johnson took a little bit to develop, but he would have solved their wide receiver problem faster than Jones would have and saved the Falcons some extra picks in 2011 and 2012.
22. Dallas Cowboys- WR Pierre Garcon (Mount Union)
The Cowboys would trade a 2009 1st round pick and 2009 3rd round pick to the Lions during the 2008 season for Roy Williams, which was remembered as the only time Matt Millen ever won a trade (damn 2008 was weird). Using the 22nd pick in 2008 on a receiver like Pierre Garcon would have saved them from that embarrassment and the embarrassment of using this pick on Felix Jones.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers- C John Sullivan (Notre Dame)
The Steelers have used two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks in the last 3 drafts on offensive linemen, but before that they had a real problem upfront. Sullivan would have shored up the center spot for them. He’s not a well-known player because he’s a center, but he’s the only player who has been a top-3 center on ProFootballFocus in each of the last 2 seasons and he’s one of the best centers in the NFL behind Nick Mangold.
24. Tennessee Titans- RB Darren McFadden (Arkansas)
McFadden was also tough to place. He’s electric when healthy, but when does that ever happen? Plus, this year, even before he got hurt, it looked like injuries had permanently sapped most of his explosiveness, though that may have just been the Raiders’ terrible zone blocking scheme. Anyway, the Titans take a chance on him here to replace Chris Johnson, their original pick at this spot.
25. Dallas Cowboys- MLB Curtis Lofton (Oklahoma)
Akin Ayodele and Bradie James started at middle linebacker for the Cowboys in 2007. They brought Zach Thomas over from Miami in the off-season for the 2008 season, but he was heading into his age 35 season anyway and would retire afterwards. Let’s give them a young middle linebacker for their 3-4 defense.
26. Houston Texans- S Kenny Phillips (Miami)
Before the days of Wade Phillips, the Texans had a truly horrific defense, especially in the secondary. Someone like Kenny Phillips, as injury prone as he is, would have been much welcomed.
27. San Diego Chargers- OT Sam Baker (USC)
AJ Smith only once used a pick higher than the 3rd round on an offensive lineman in his tenure in San Diego, which spanned over 9 drafts. It really showed towards the end of his tenure and now offensive line is easily their biggest need. Baker has been up and down so far in his career, but still deserves to go in the 1st round in a re-draft. He could have played right tackle for the Chargers, always a huge need, and played on the left side when needed, which has been pretty frequently over the past 2 seasons.
28. Seattle Seahawks- DE Red Bryant (Texas A&M)
I don’t think Red Bryant would have as much value to anyone else as he does to the Seahawks because of his very specific role on their defensive line, but I don’t think the Seahawks would mind using a 1st round pick to lock him up here in this re-draft, especially after originally using this pick on Lawrence Jackson, who played just 2 seasons with the Seahawks before Pete Carroll dealt him to the Lions for a mid-round pick before the 2010 season.
29. San Francisco 49ers- C Brian La Puente (California)
Brian La Puente would have gone closer to where Sullivan went if he had more than one good season, but he was actually ProFootballFocus’ 2nd rated center this year for the Saints. The 49ers could have used a center like that before settling on veteran Jonathan Goodwin recently. The 49ers probably would have given La Puente playing time sooner and that could have really been good for him.
30. New York Jets- TE Dustin Keller (Purdue)
I hate not changing a pick, but this is the only time I’m doing it and I don’t know a better fit here than giving Dustin Keller back to the Jets. He was their leading receiver in 2011 and they really missed him as he battled injuries in 2012. Unfortunately because of their miserable cap situation, his tenure with the Jets is likely done.
31. New York Giants- S Thomas DeCoud (California)
The Giants originally used this pick on Kenny Phillips. DeCoud isn’t as good as Phillips, but he would have been more reliable and Phillips isn’t available anyway. Don’t let DeCoud’s 6 interceptions in 2012 fool you. He had just 8 in his first 4 seasons and is among the worst tackling safeties in the NFL. Still, he’s good enough here to go to the Giants at a position of need.