1. Detroit Lions- QB Matt Stafford (Georgia)
If the Lions had to do it all over again, I don’t think they’d change anything here. After some early career injury problems, Stafford has played all 48 games in the past 3 seasons, completing 60.7% of passes for an average of 7.24 YPA, 90 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions. The Lions still have a lot to build around him, but the quarterback position is the most important one and a franchise quarterback is always worth the #1 pick. That’s what Stafford has been.
2. St. Louis Rams- OT Eugene Monroe (Virginia)
The Rams took Jason Smith here #2 overall and he ended up being one of the being busts of the draft. They had the position right though. Orlando Pace was heading into the final year of his career, which he played in Chicago, so the Rams desperately needed a replacement. Monroe went 8th overall originally, but he could easily go even earlier the 2nd time around considering he’s blossomed into one of the best left tackles in the game. He’s graded out 6th, 15th, and 16th among eligible offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively.
3. Kansas City Chiefs- OLB Clay Matthews (USC)
The Chiefs took Tyson Jackson here originally. Adding to the front 7 was the right call considering the Chiefs had just 10 sacks the entire season the year before, the fewest by an NFL team ever. However, Jackson never really developed into much more than a strong run stuffer. Tamba Hali, who led the 2008 Chiefs with 3 sacks, eventually developed into one of the better edge rushers in the NFL and the Chiefs drafted Justin Houston in the 3rd round in 2011 to give them a feared duo of edge rushers. However, adding Matthews would have given them that even sooner.
4. Seattle Seahawks- DE Brian Orakpo (Texas)
The Seahawks have a great pass rush now, but that wasn’t always the case. In 2008, the Seahawks’ top-3 defensive ends were Patrick Kerney, who was going into his age 33 season, Lawrence Jackson, a massive bust as a 1st rounder in 2008, and Darryl Tapp, a decent veteran who they would eventually trade to the Eagles for Chris Clemons. Clemons’ addition would give them a feared edge rusher later, but pairing him with Brian Orakpo would have given them one of the NFL’s best pass rushes very quickly.
5. New York Jets- RB LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh)
The Jets knew they needed to address the running back position in 2009, as they drafted Shonn Greene in the 3rd round. Thomas Jones was heading into his age 31 season in 2009. Greene wasn’t terrible, but having LeSean McCoy would have been much better. In 5 seasons, McCoy has 7600 yards from scrimmage and 49 touchdowns, while Greene has 4239 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns, about half of McCoy’s production. The Jets are unfortunately unable to address the quarterback position here because Stafford was the only good one to come out of this draft, but drafting McCoy 5th would have been much better than using this pick on Mark Sanchez and taking Greene in the 3rd.
6. Cincinnati Bengals- DE Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech)
The Bengals eventually took Michael Johnson in the 3rd round, but they have to take him earlier here to keep him around. Johnson was Pro Football Focus’ 13th ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2012, earning the franchise tag, and then was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 4-3 defensive end this season. He’ll get a good amount of money on his next contract. The other option here would be for the Bengals to just draft Andre Smith again as he’s been very good for them at right tackle in recent years, but I think Johnson has been the more important player for them.
7. Oakland Raiders- S Jairus Byrd (Oregon)
Safeties rarely go in the top-10, but that’s because if they don’t become Pro-Bowl caliber players, they’re almost automatically busts. Getting a just solid starter at safety out of a top-10 pick is a failure. However, with complete hindsight, we know that Byrd has become one of the best safeties in the league and even one of the best defensive players at any position. Byrd was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked safety in 2011 and 2nd ranked in 2012. He ranked 8th in 2013, which wasn’t as good, but he missed a few games with injury to start the year so that had something to do with it. Upon his return, he was just as good as he was before the injury. The Bills now have a choice between franchise tagging him for the 2nd straight year or letting him hit the open market, where he could become the highest paid safety in the NFL. Either way, he’ll get paid. As for the Raiders, they needed all the talent they could get at this point. Drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey here didn’t help. The Raiders would eventually take Michael Mitchell in the 2nd round, but he never developed into the starting safety they wanted him to be.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars- CB Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State)
The Jaguars felt the need for a cornerback in 2009, drafting Derek Cox in the 3rd round. He flashed at times, but wasn’t nearly the player they wanted him to be. Lardarius Webb is much better. Webb was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked cornerback in 2011 and has been an above average player in all 5 seasons of his career, though he was derailed by a torn ACL in 2012. He wasn’t quite as good as he was in 2011 this year, grading out 21st, but there’s a very good chance he could once again be a top-10 cornerback again in 2014, another year removed from that injury.
9. Green Bay Packers- RB Arian Foster (Tennessee)
The Packers have been searching for a talented running back to complement their talented passing game for years, finally finding Eddie Lacy in 2013. Arian Foster could have solved the problem a lot faster. He’s had some injury problems of late, but he’s still totaled 6777 yards from scrimmage and 52 touchdowns in 5 seasons. Imagine him and Aaron Rodgers in the same backfield.
10. San Francisco 49ers- WR Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech)
This is one where the pick doesn’t change. Michael Crabtree took a little bit to come around, but he had his first 1000+ yard season in 2012, catching 85 passes for 1105 yards and 9 touchdowns. He missed 11 games and was limited in the others after tearing an Achilles in 2013, but he showed enough down the stretch to suggest he should make a full recovery for 2014. Colin Kaepernick loves throwing to him and he’s the 49ers’ #1 receiver. They don’t let him get away here.
11. Buffalo Bills- OLB Brian Cushing (USC)
The Bills needed another linebacker other than Paul Posluszny going into the 2009 season. Cushing would be a great fit because he’s scheme versatile and the Bills have run both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense over the past 5 years. Cushing has had a lot of issues with injuries, but he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in 2009 (when he won Defensive Rookie of the year) and 3rd ranked middle linebacker in 2011. He’d be an obvious upgrade over Keith Ellison and Kawika Mitchell, who were their other starting linebackers at the time.
12. Denver Broncos- DT Henry Melton (Texas)
It’s amazing that the Broncos are going to the Super Bowl considering how bad Josh McDaniels messed things up in just 2 years there. It’s a huge credit to Peyton Manning and the new front office and coaching staff. The Broncos desperately needed front 7 help in 2009, but drafted just one front 7 player, outside linebacker Robert Ayers who never fit the scheme and has been a bust. They took Knowshon Moreno here and even to today he hasn’t proven to be worth a first round pick. Henry Melton would have been a much better pick to fix the defensive tackle position, their biggest need. He was Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked defensive tackle in 2011 and 7th ranked in 2012, before tearing his ACL in 2013 after being franchise tagged.
13. Washington Redskins- OT Andre Smith (Alabama)
The Redskins would take Trent Williams 4th overall in 2010 and he’s been a fantastic player for them, but they needed help at both offensive tackle positions and Andre Smith could be a strong right tackle for them. The right tackle position is still a problem to this day, as the Redskins’ trade for Jammal Brown never panned out. Smith struggled to start his career, but he was Pro Football Focus’ 28th ranked offensive tackle in 2011, 4th ranked in 2012, and 20th ranked in 2013.
14. New Orleans Saints- DE Michael Bennett (Texas A&M)
Not enough people know about Michael Bennett. Bennett has been Pro Football Focus’ 7th, 7th, and 5th ranked 4-3 defensive end from 2011-2013 respectively. He has the versatility to play both inside and outside and can both rush the passer and stop the run at a high rate. He would have been a very valuable complement for Will Smith in New Orleans and helped a pass rush that was, for years, much in need, really up until this season.
15. Houston Texans- CB Vontae Davis (Illinois)
The Texans used to have serious secondary problems. They drafted Kareem Jackson in the 1st round in 2010, but Davis would have solved the problem even quicker and could have formed a very formidable duo with Jackson in a couple of years. That would have allowed the Texans to avoid paying Johnathan Joseph a massive sum of money to be their other starting cornerback. Davis has been inconsistent in his career, struggling with injuries at times and getting traded to the Colts for a 2nd and 6th round pick, but he is coming off of a fantastic contract year. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked cornerback this season and was also 12th in 2010.
16. San Diego Chargers- S Glover Quin (New Mexico)
The Chargers have been in need of safety help for years. They’ve never really replaced Rodney Harrison. Eric Weddle is a fantastic player, but they need another safety opposite him. Glover Quin struggled early in his career, but has turned it around big time since moving to safety. He was a solid starter in Houston at safety for 2 years and then signed a 5-year deal last off-season with the Lions, where he had arguably the best season of his career in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked safety.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- WR Mike Wallace (Mississippi)
The Buccaneers desperately need wide receiver help in the 2009 draft. Antonio Bryant was their leading receiver in 2008 and no one else had more than 484 yards. As good as Bryant was that season, he was out of the league in 2 years for a variety of reasons. They added Kellen Winslow before the 2009 season and he led the team in receiving yardage in 2009, but they needed help on the outside. They’d eventually use 2nd and 4th round picks of Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams in 2010, but this would have been a better way to go.
18. Denver Broncos- CB Jason McCourty (Rutgers)
As I mentioned the Broncos really messed up the 2009 draft. Even though they had 2 first round picks and 5 picks in the first two rounds, Knowshon Moreno is the only player of substance they drafted. I addressed the front 7 with the 12th pick, but they also had a need in the secondary. The Broncos traded a future first round pick for Alphonso Smith, but that didn’t work out as Smith never developed into a starter and that future first round pick turned into Earl Thomas, one of the best safeties in the game. McCourty solves the problem a lot better. He’s been a top-10 cornerback on Pro Football Focus in each of the last 3 seasons, though much of his positive grade comes against the run.
19. Philadelphia Eagles- WR Jeremy Maclin (Missouri)
Jeremy Maclin never turned into the 1000+ yard receiver the Eagles were hoping he would, but he still had 258 catches for 3453 yards and 26 touchdowns from 2009-2012, before tearing his ACL and missing the entire 2013 season. Still, he’s expected to make a full recovery and the Eagles still have interest in bringing him back on a one year deal. I have to think that, if given the chance, they’d take Maclin once again in this situation.
20. Detroit Lions- CB Keenan Lewis (Oregon State)
The Lions went 0-16 the year prior to the 2009 NFL Draft so they really had needs at every position. Cornerback was a big one as they allowed 8.8 yards per pass attempt in 2008, not only the most in the NFL that season, but most seasons. Keenan Lewis has graded out above average in back-to-back seasons since becoming a starter in 2012, grading out 40th and 26th on Pro Football Focus. He’s probably the best available left here.
21. Cleveland Browns- C Alex Mack (California)
Here’s another team that stays with their original pick. The Browns drafted Alex Mack in the first round in 2009. It was a risky proposition, even though he was widely considered one of the top center prospects of the decade, because they would need him to emerge as a perennial Pro-Bowler. If he was just an average starter, he would have been a bust because center isn’t that valuable of a position. However, he’s been top-10 on Pro Football Focus among centers in all 5 seasons, so he’s been well worth this pick.
22. Minnesota Vikings- WR Percy Harvin (Florida)
Percy Harvin’s tenure in Minnesota was up and down. He never went over 1000 receiving yards despite getting the lion’s share of the targets and he also missed 10 games in 4 seasons, but he was an explosive all-purpose weapon, returning kicks and carrying the ball, in addition to his work as a receiver, despite working with terrible quarterbacks for the most part. In his final 25 games with the team, he averaged 83.4 yards from scrimmage per game and also got the Vikings a 1st round pick in return when they traded him to the Seahawks. I think they’d do it all over again in this situation.
23. Baltimore Ravens- OT Phil Loadholt (Oklahoma)
The Ravens originally drafted Michael Oher here and he started for 5 seasons for them on the offensive line, playing both left tackle and right tackle. However, he was very inconsistent and had a terrible year in 2013, grading out 68th out of 76 eligible offensive tackles on a terrible Baltimore offense. Phil Loadholt would have been a better fit. He’s broken out as a great right tackle over the past few years, grading out 24th, 22nd, and 10th on Pro Football Focus among offensive tackles from 2011-2013 respectively.
24. Atlanta Falcons- DE Paul Kruger (Utah)
The Falcons have been struggling for pass rush for years. They’ve been looking for a complement for John Abraham for years, using a 4th round pick in 2009, a 5th round pick in 2012, and a 4th and 5th round pick on defensive ends, as well as giving a large contract to Ray Edwards that was a huge failure. Paul Kruger would solve that problem, a problem that was especially bad over the past season with John Abraham gone.
25. Miami Dolphins- G Louis Vasquez (Texas Tech)
The Dolphins have had needs on the offensive line for years. Louis Vasquez is too good to pass on here. He’s graded out above average in all 5 seasons on Pro Football Focus that he’s been in the league and would be a real asset on the offensive line. He maxed out at 3rd overall among guards on Pro Football Focus in 2013. If they had him, they never would have needed to bring in Richie Incognito.
26. Green Bay Packers- DT BJ Raji (Boston College)
The Packers originally drafted BJ Raji 9th overall. He hasn’t been quite that good because he’s been very inconsistent, but he was an integral part of their Super Bowl team so they’d probably want to hang on to him here with their 2nd pick in the first round. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2013 and last ranked defensive tackle in 2011, but he was also their 7th ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2012 and 28th ranked defensive tackle in 2010.
27. Indianapolis Colts- G Andy Levitre (Oregon State)
The Colts have needed offensive line help dating back to the Peyton Manning days and grab one of this draft class’ many talented interior offensive linemen here. Andy Levitre has graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in 4 straight seasons as a starter, grading out 6th, 9th, and 13th in 2011-2013 respectively. He became one of the league’s highest paid interior linemen before the 2013 season, when he signed a 6 year, 46.8 million dollar deal with the Titans, leaving Buffalo.
28. Buffalo Bills- OT Sebastian Vollmer (Houston)
The Bills acquired this pick from the Eagles for Jason Peters, but they didn’t replace the left tackle, opting instead for center Eric Wood, who has been just alright. Vollmer would be an upgrade on the blindside over the terrible Demetress Bell, who took over for Peters. Bell was eventually replaced by Cordy Glenn, who has done a solid job over the past 2 seasons, but Vollmer and Glenn would form quite a tandem today if they had drafted both of them.
29. New York Giants- WR Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina)
Hakeem Nicks has had a bunch of injury problems in his tenure in New York, missing 10 games and being limited in countless others, but he’s overall had a solid 5 years, catching 311 passes for 4622 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Giants are probably moving on from him this off-season, but I think, given their current choices, they’d do it all again with Nicks, who had 2 seasons of 1000+ yards and was an integral part of their Super Bowl team.
30. Tennessee Titans- C Max Unger (Oregon)
The Titans take another one of this draft class’ talented interior linemen. They’ve had issues at the center position since Kevin Mawae retired following the 2009 season. Unger could play guard for a season until then and then move to center, where he’s been one of the NFL’s best over the past few years. He had some issues with injuries in 2013, but he was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked center in 2012.
31. Arizona Cardinals- G Alex Boone (Ohio State)
Alex Boone took an interesting road to the 49ers’ starting lineup. He went undrafted in 2009 because of concerns about his alcohol abuse, after he was arrested for DUI, jumping on car hoods, yanking on a tow truck cable, and trying to break a window. The 49ers snatched him up as an undrafted free agent and he got his life clean, moving into the starting lineup in 2012. He was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked guard that season and even though he struggled through injuries in 2013, he’s still worth a pick here, especially for an Arizona team that has been hurting for offensive line help for years.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers- DE Desmond Bryant (Harvard)
The Steelers originally used this draft pick on Ziggy Hood, a collegiate defensive tackle converted to 5-technique defensive end in Pittsburgh. Hood struggled through weight problems though and was largely a bust. Here they do the same thing with Bryant, a much better player. Bryant was very good on the defensive line for the Raiders in 2011 and 2012, playing both defensive end and defensive tackle, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked defensive tackle in 2012. He wasn’t quite as good in 2013, struggling through injuries, but he’s still worth this pick.