1. Indianapolis Colts – QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
This is a no brainer. This draft class has produced several dominant players, including quarterback Russell Wilson, but the Colts wouldn’t hesitate for a second drafting Luck again. Luck hasn’t led them to the Super Bowl yet, but that’s largely as a result of GM Ryan Grigson failing to surround him with enough talent. Perhaps things will be better under new GM Chris Ballard, after Grigson was let go this off-season.
2. Washington Redskins – QB Russell Wilson (Wisconsin)
The Redskins traded 3 first round picks, including the 6th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, to move up 4 spots to 2 to select Robert Griffin, a move that looked good in the beginning, when RG3 won Offensive Rookie of the Year, but that quickly went downhill after RG3 tore his ACL in a playoff loss to the Seahawks and was never the same. Turns out, the quarterback the Redskins should have drafted would have been available at 6…and at 60. Russell Wilson, a 3rd round pick of the Seahawks, has made all 80 starts in 5 seasons in the league and has made the playoffs in all 5 seasons. While the Colts would still take Luck over him, there’s an argument to be made that Wilson is better than Luck, so he’s a no brainer choice for the Redskins at 2.
3. Cleveland Browns – MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)
The Browns have needed a quarterback for forever and Kirk Cousins would make some sense here because he has developed into one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, but he didn’t really develop into that player until his 4th year in the league, after 3 years backing up RG3 in Washington. If the Browns took Cousins at 3, they’d probably rush him into action too early and mess up his career, so I’m going to give them a much safer option. Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the league and the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. Even the Browns couldn’t mess up his career.
4. Minnesota Vikings – S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame)
The Vikings had a pair of first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, trading up into the bottom of the first round on draft day. Matt Kalil was selected 4th overall, but he never lived up to a promising rookie year thanks to injuries. However, their other first round pick, safety Harrison Smith, has developed into one of the best safeties in the league. If the Vikings were doing this over again, they’d keep Smith before they kept Kalil, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent this off-season.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Kirk Cousins (Michigan State)
The Jaguars took a quarterback in the first round in 2011, Blaine Gabbert, but he never came close to developing into a starting quarterback. Cousins took a little bit to develop into the quarterback he is now, but considering the Jaguars are still searching for a competent quarterback 5 years later, even after using another first round pick on a quarterback in 2014 (Blake Bortles), they’d welcome Kirk Cousins with open arms, even if he had to sit behind Gabbert for a couple years.
6. Dallas Cowboys – DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)
Originally the 12th pick in the draft by the Eagles, Fletcher Cox has developed into one of the best defensive players in the league and would undoubtedly go higher in a re-draft. Cox would have provided a massive upgrade at defensive tackle for the Cowboys both then and now and, by drafting him, the Cowboys also keep him away from division rival Philadelphia, where he has been a dominant interior defender for several seasons.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
Olivier Vernon isn’t a household name, but he’s one of the best defensive linemen in football and worth every penny of the 5-year, 85 million dollar deal the Giants gave him after the 2015 season. The 2012 Buccaneers only had one edge rusher with more than 3 sacks and that was Michael Bennett, but the Buccaneers strangely let go to the Seahawks on a cheap one-year deal the following off-season. Vernon would give them a big upgrade at a position where they’ve needed help for years and would still be their best edge rusher today.
8. Miami Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M)
This is a tough one. Ryan Tannehill has been unspectacular in 5 seasons in Miami and there are other good players left on the board, but the quarterback position is so valuable and Tannehill has been a capable starter for the Dolphins at that position since they drafted him 8th overall. They committed to him long-term with a 4-year, 77 million dollar extension two off-seasons ago and would probably pick him again at 8 if they had to do it all over again.
9. Carolina Panthers – MLB Bobby Wagner (Utah State)
The Panthers lose out on Luke Kuechly in this re-mock, but Bobby Wagner isn’t much of a downgrade, so the Panthers grab him here. Wagner, originally a second round pick by the Seahawks in 2012, is considered by some to be the second best middle linebacker in the league behind Luke Kuechly and would ensure the Panthers’ defense not miss much of a beat, even without Kuechly.
10. Buffalo Bills – WR TY Hilton (Florida International)
Steve Johnson had thousand yard years for the Bills in 2011 and 2012, but they lacked a capable #2 receiver behind him. Johnson was eventually replaced by Sammy Watkins, the 4th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Bills have lacked a capable complement to Watkins throughout Watkins’ career. TY Hilton has developed into one of the best wide receivers in the league and would give the Bills’ receiving corps an instant boost. He and Watkins would be arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – DE Mike Daniels (Iowa)
Dontari Poe was a solid pick by the Chiefs here, but Mike Daniels would have been better. Poe has a rare combination of size, quickness, and stamina, but Daniels is a much better pass rusher and one of the best defensive linemen in the entire NFL. He also has never had any serious injuries, while Poe had to accept a one-year deal in Atlanta as a free agent this off-season because of concern about his back.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – MLB Dont’a Hightower (Alabama)
The Eagles don’t get Fletcher Cox in the re-draft, but they still get a great defensive player. The 2011 Eagles were the so called “dream team” Eagles that finished 8-8, largely because of poor linebacker play. The Eagles focused on upgrading the linebacking corps the following off-season, trading for veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and drafting outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks in the 2nd round. Hightower can play both linebacker spots and is an upgrade over Kendricks and a long-term replacement inside for Ryans, whose last full season as a starter for the Eagles was 2013.
13. Arizona Cardinals – OLB Chandler Jones (Syracuse)
The Cardinals ultimately ended up with Chandler Jones, trading a 2nd round pick to the Patriots for him before the final year of his contract last off-season and re-signing him to a 5-year, 82.5 million dollar deal this off-season. Jones had 11 sacks for the Cardinals in his first season in Arizona in 2016 and has had double digit sacks in three of the past 4 seasons. He filled a big need for the Cardinals when he arrived and would have filled that need sooner if they had taken him in 2012. The 2012 Cardinals didn’t have a single edge rusher with more than 4 sacks.
14. Los Angeles Rams – OT Cordy Glenn (Georgia)
The Rams ended up with the 2nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but didn’t end up picking until 14, after trades down with the Redskins and Cowboys. The trade with the Redskins moved them down from 2 to 6 for the 39th pick in 2012 and what became the 22nd pick in 2013 and the 2nd pick in 2014. The Rams traded down again from 6 to 14 with the Cowboys for the 45th pick, which they traded down for the 50th pick and the 150th pick. In 2012, the Rams used the 14th, 39th, 50th, and 150th picks to select defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running back Isaiah Pead, and guard Rokevious Watkins. In 2013, the Rams traded down again from 22nd to 30th with the Falcons, picking up the 92nd pick in the process. The Rams used the 30th pick on linebacker Alec Ogletree and the 92nd pick on wide receiver Stedman Bailey and then in 2014 used the Redskins’ #2 overall pick on Greg Robinson.
Ultimately, they got 7 players for one pick and were the obvious winners of the trade, given that the Redskins used that #2 overall pick on Robert Griffin. However, the trade could have been a lot better for the Rams if they used those picks more wisely. Janoris Jenkins was a solid cornerback for the Rams, while Michael Brockers and Alec Ogletree are capable starters, but they didn’t get a franchise changing player out of it. The biggest bust was Greg Robinson, the #2 overall pick in 2014, who has struggled mightily in 3 seasons in the league. He was drafted to fix the left tackle position, which has been a problem for the Rams for years. If they had drafted a left tackle like Cordy Glenn in 2012, it would have saved them from making the mistake they did with Robinson in 2014.
15. Seattle Seahawks – G Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State)
As seems to always be the case, the Seahawks lose out big-time in this re-draft, because second and third round picks Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson are long gone at this point. Luckily, this was a very deep draft. Bruce Irvin was a solid pick here at 15, but the Seahawks could do better. Offensive line was a problem for the Seahawks back then and it’s even worse now. Kelechi Osemele can play both tackle positions and both guard positions and has developed into one of the best left guards in the league, signing a 5-year, 58.5 million dollar deal with the Raiders last off-season, after spending the first 4 seasons of his career with the Ravens, who selected him in the 2nd round in 2012.
16. New York Jets – DE Malik Jackson (Tennessee)
The Jets would go on to select 3-4 defensive ends in the first round in 2013 and 2014 in Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, but in 2012 they needed a starter opposite 2011 first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson at the 3-4 defensive end position. Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams have all become great players and are arguably the Jets’ 3 best players, but they all play the same position so it’s tough to get all 3 on the field at the same time and they’ve all struggled out of position. In this scenario, the Jets take Jackson in 2012 to start next to Wilkerson and hopefully focus on other positions in 2013 and 2014.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – G Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin)
The Bengals had two first round picks in 2012 because of the Carson Palmer trade and they selected cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick at 17 and guard Kevin Zeitler at 27. This off-season, both were free agents and the Bengals re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick to a 5-year, 52.5 million dollar deal, while letting Kevin Zeitler take a 5-year, 60 million dollar deal with instate “rival” Cleveland. That suggests the Bengals might see Kirkpatrick as more valuable going forward, but it’s hard to argue he was more valuable than Zeitler over the past few years, considering Kirkpatrick didn’t become a starter until his 4th year in the league. In fact, Zeitler has more than double the amount of starts Kirkpatrick has made in his career, 71 vs. 34. Kirkpatrick has been inconsistent too, while Zeitler has consistently been one of the best guards in the league throughout his career. Choosing Kirkpatrick over Zeitler this off-season didn’t make much sense to me and I highly doubt they would have done it in 17 if they had to go back and do it all again. Zeitler is arguably the best player available too.
18. San Diego Chargers – CB Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt)
The Chargers ended up with Casey Hayward anyway, signing him to a 3-year, 15.3 million dollar deal last off-season, after he was buried on the depth chart with the Packers to start his career. The 2012 2nd round pick flashed in limited action with the Packers and proved to be a steal for the Chargers in 2016, as he was one of the best cornerbacks in the league and led the league with 7 interceptions. In this re-draft, they select Hayward and don’t leave him buried on the depth chart like the Packers did.
19. Chicago Bears – WR Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina)
The Bears ended up with Alshon Jeffery in the second round in 2012, but they need to use a first rounder to keep him in this re-draft. That’s not much of an issue for them, as they originally drafted Shea McClellin here with the 19th pick and he proved to be a massive bust. Jeffery wasn’t perfect in 5 years with the Bears, but, at his best, he was one of the best receivers in the league. He signed with the Eagles in free agency this off-season and he will be missed.
20. Tennessee Titans – DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois)
In 2012, the Titans were aiming to select Shea McClellin at 20, to fill their need for an edge rusher opposite Derrick Morgan, but the Bears selected him one pick earlier and the Titans had to settle for Kendall Wright. That ended up being a good thing, as Wright was, by default, the better player in the NFL, but the Titans can do better in a re-draft. In this scenario, they take Whitney Mercilus, who has developed into one of the better edge rushers in the league for division rival Houston.
21. New England Patriots – DE Melvin Ingram (South Carolina)
The Patriots miss out on Chandler Jones in this re-draft, but they do get the opportunity to select Melvin Ingram instead. Ingram’s career got off to a rough start because of injuries, which is why he goes 8 spots lower than Jones in this re-draft, but he’s developed into one of the best edge rushers in the league over the past 2 seasons and is arguably a better player than Jones is right now because he’s a better run stopper and can drop into coverage.
22. Cleveland Browns – OT Mitchell Schwartz (California)
The Browns picked at 4 and 22 in 2012 and ended up with Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. The one saving grace of the Browns’ 2012 draft was 2nd round pick Mitchell Schwartz, who has become one of the best right tackles in the league. They have to take him a round earlier in this re-draft, but it’s worth it. Unfortunately, the Browns decided to let him take a reasonable 5-year, 33 million dollar deal with the Chiefs last off-season and have yet to find a good replacement.
23. Detroit Lions – CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama)
Cornerback was a big problem for the Lions in 2012. They ultimately upgraded the position by selecting Darius Slay in the 2nd round in 2013 and developing him into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. However, Slay and Jenkins would have made a strong cornerback duo on a team that still to this day hasn’t found a good #2 cornerback.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – G David DeCastro (Stanford)
The Steelers stick with their original pick here at 24. DeCastro hasn’t been quite as good for the Steelers as Zeitler was for the Bengals and his career got off to a rough start thanks to a knee injury, but he’s still one of the better guards in the league. He’s made 63 starts over the past 4 seasons and was re-signed to a 5-year, 50 million dollar extension last off-season. The Steelers are clearly happy with this selection.
25. New England Patriots – MLB Brandon Marshall (Nevada)
The Patriots originally drafted defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the first round in 2012. In this re-draft, they can’t get either player, but it’s a deep enough draft that they can find good replacements for both. A fifth round pick in 2012, Marshall didn’t play much in his first 2 seasons in the league, but has become one of the best linebackers in the league since and has made 39 starts over the past 3 seasons. The Broncos kept him on a 4-year, 32 million dollar extension last off-season. Losing Hightower definitely isn’t great for the Patriots, but keeping Marshall away from a hated rival almost makes it worth it.
26. Houston Texans – G Brandon Brooks (Miami-OH)
The Texans originally got Brooks in the 3rd round in 2012, but have to use their first round pick to keep him in this re-draft. Brooks became a starter for the Texans in 2013 and instantly became one of the best guards in the league. He made 44 starts for the Texans in 3 seasons before signing a 5-year, 40 million dollar deal with the Eagles in free agency, with whom he has continued to play at a high level.
27. Cincinnati Bengals – OLB Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State)
Dre Kirkpatrick is definitely an option for the Bengals here at 27, but I’d argue Vontaze Burfict has been more valuable to their defense in 5 seasons with the Bengals than Kirkpatrick. Like Zeitler, he has made significantly more starts (56 vs. 34) than Kirkpatrick and he’s been the better player too. A former undrafted free agent, Burfict was re-signed to a 4-year, 20 million dollar extension after just 2 seasons in the league, which has proven to be a steal thus far for the Bengals. He’s set to hit free agency next off-season, so we’ll see how much of a pay increase the notoriously stingy Bengals are willing to give him.
28. Green Bay Packers – DE Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati)
The Packers drafted Nick Perry here at 28 in 2012, but the real prize from their 2012 draft class was Mike Daniels, a 4th round pick who has developed into one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football. Daniels went 11 to Kansas City in this re-draft, so the Packers take his replacement here at 28. Wolfe took a few years to develop, but he too has become one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league and could fill Daniels’ hole well. Part of the reason Wolfe took so long to develop could have been that he was playing out of position as a 4-3 end early in his career. The 2012 2nd round pick is much better in a 3-4.
29. Minnesota Vikings – CB Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina)
It was a big debate between Matt Kalil and Morris Claiborne for the Vikings in 2012, but they ultimately selected left tackle Matt Kalil at 4 and then safety Harrison Smith at 29 and then addressed cornerback in the first round in 2013 (Xavier Rhodes) and 2015 (Trae Waynes). In this re-draft, they take Smith at 4 and then take a cornerback at 29. Josh Norman, a 5th round pick originally, took a few years to develop, but has become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Even before his 2015 breakout season, he was still a solid cornerback. He’s made 54 starts in 5 seasons in the league, including 42 in the past 3 seasons.
30. San Francisco 49ers – DT Damon Harrison (Hampton)
Harrison didn’t even get drafted originally because of his weight and the fact that he played at Hampton, but he’s become arguably the best pure nose tackle in the league. “Snacks” has gotten his weight under control after weighing over 400 pounds at one point. The 360-pounder is still a monster in the middle of the defense, while having the stamina to still play about 60-70% of the snaps and the quickness to play in a 4-3 defense, which he did last season with the Giants. The ex-Jet signed with the Giants on a 5-year, 46.2 million dollar deal last off-season. He would have filled a big need for the 49ers at nose tackle.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OLB Lavonte David (Nebraska)
Here’s another team keeping a player they drafted in a later round. Lavonte David was the Buccaneers’ 2nd round pick in 2012 and has developed into one of the better 4-3 outside linebackers in the league and a much more valuable player than Tampa Bay’s first round pick, running back Doug Martin.
32. New York Giants – RB Lamar Miller (Miami)
The Giants drafted David Wilson in the first round in 2012, but his career was unfortunately cut short by a neck injury. The Giants were right to address the running back position though, as they’ve struggled to run the ball in recent years. Lamar Miller could give them the feature back they were expecting Wilson to develop into and an upgrade on any running back they’ve had in the past few seasons.