2017 NFL Mock Draft

Updated: 4/26/17

*=player has had private visit/workout with team

1. Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)*

Typically, the top pick in the draft is a quarterback, as a non-quarterback has gone #1 overall just 5 times in the last 19 drafts. In 3 off those instances, the team drafting #1 overall simply didn’t feel the need to upgrade at the quarterback position, as the 2000 Browns, 2006 Texans, and 2013 Chiefs all did not draft a quarterback at any point in that draft. The two exceptions were the 2008 Dolphins selecting Jake Long over Matt Ryan and drafting Chad Henne in the 2nd round and the 2014 Texans selecting Jadeveon Clowney over guys like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr and then selecting Tom Savage in the 4th round.

The Browns figure to be the third exception. Not only is this a weak quarterback class at the top, but the Browns also select again at 12 and likely feel they can get a quarterback they like with that pick. There isn’t an obvious fit for a quarterback between 1 and 12, so it’s very possible the Browns will have the same choices of quarterbacks when they pick again as they do here. Instead, the Browns select the consensus top player in the draft, Myles Garrett, who will be an instant upgrade for the Browns at defensive end, as they transition to a 4-3 defense.

2. Carolina Panthers (TRADE) – RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)*

It’s no secret that the 49ers are looking to move down from two. With needs all over the field and no consensus #2 overall player in this draft, the 49ers likely feel they can move down into the 6-10 range, still grab a player they really like, and pick up additional picks in the process. The Panthers, meanwhile, are known to covet LSU running back Leonard Fournette and may be willing to move up to grab him. In this scenario, the Panthers send the 49ers the 3rd round compensation pick they got from losing Josh Norman last off-season (#98) and a 2018 1st round pick, which they likely think will be in the mid to late 20s, to move up from 8 to 2 to grab their feature back of the future. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his time in Carolina.

3. Chicago Bears – CB Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)*

Lattimore is a strong candidate to go #2 to the 49ers because he is the best available player that fills a major need for them. The 49ers would probably prefer to move down for another player instead of taking him at 2, but, if they do take Lattimore, that would make the Bears a candidate to move down with a team like Carolina that is looking to leapfrog the Jaguars for Fournette. In this scenario, Lattimore is available and they make the easy choice and fill a huge need with this draft class’ top cornerback. I think it’s Lattimore or trade down for both the 49ers and Bears.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (TRADE) – DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)

The Jaguars are known to covet Leonard Fournette and will probably end up with him unless someone leapfrogs them for him via draft, as the 49ers and Bears aren’t realistic candidates to draft Fournette. The Bears have Jordan Howard, who rushed for over 1000 yards as a rookie last season, and Fournette doesn’t fit the prototype of what 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks for in a running back. In this scenario, the Panthers leapfrog the Jaguars for Fournette, leaving the Jaguars with a tough choice. They’re known to like tight end OJ Howard, but likely feel they can get him a few picks later, so a trade down makes a lot of sense. The Bengals are a candidate to move up and grab this draft class’ second best defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas, who would fill a need for them at both defensive end (in base packages) and defensive tackle (in sub packages). He’s a great prospect, but isn’t an ideal fit for either San Francisco, Chicago, or Jacksonville because none of those teams have a big need for an interior pass rusher. The Bengals send their 2nd rounder to Jacksonville in order to move up.

5. Cleveland Browns (TRADE) – QB Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina)*

The trades continue, as the Titans will likely try to move down unless Lattimore falls to them. The Titans’ big needs are at cornerback, middle linebacker, and wide receiver and any player at those 3 positions would be a reach at this point. The Browns, meanwhile, are reportedly looking to move up to secure Mitch Trubisky, who is apparently the quarterback they want. There isn’t a clear spot for a quarterback in the top-10, but the Browns might not be wrong that they have to move up to get him, as other teams could want to jump them for Trubisky. Moving ahead of the Jets, the quarterback-neediest team in the top-10, makes sense, especially since Tennessee is a willing trade partner. The Titans recoup the second round pick (#52) they sent to the Browns last year on draft day and get a late round pick to move down from 5 to 12. The Browns have 22 picks over the next 2 years, so they have some serious trade ammunition and probably intend to use it.

6. New York Jets – S Jamal Adams (LSU)*

The Jets are probably Jamal Adams’ floor. He might be the second best player in the draft, but there isn’t an obvious fit for him in the top-5 because the 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, and Titans are all set at safety right now. That doesn’t mean one of them won’t fall in love with him and draft him anyway or that a team won’t trade up ahead of the Jets to get him, but the Jets at 6 seem like the most likely spot for him. Adams would be a massive upgrade over both Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist. Pryor is going into the final year of his rookie deal, while Gilchrist’s status for 2017 is in doubt after rupturing his patellar tendon in December.

7. San Diego Chargers – DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama)*

Like Thomas and Adams, Jonathan Allen is another player that doesn’t have an obvious fit earlier than this unless someone trades up for him. The 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Titans, and Jets all have much bigger needs than interior pass rusher. That’s good news for the Chargers, who are moving to a 4-3 and need another defensive tackle inside next to Corey Liuget. Last year’s first round pick Joey Bosa rushes the passer from the interior in obvious passing situations, but Allen is a true every down 3-technique defensive tackle.

8. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE) – RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

I mentioned earlier that Leonard Fournette doesn’t fit the Shanahan running back prototype. Well, Christian McCaffrey fits like a glove and the 49ers pick up a future first round pick moving down from 2 to 8 to grab him. Carlos Hyde is currently the 49ers’ lead back, but he’s injury prone and going into the final year of his deal and doesn’t do much as a pass catcher, which hurts him in the 49ers’ new offense. It’s no secret the new coaching staff is not sold on him, meaning he’ll likely be let go as a free agent this off-season. In 2017, he can serve as a power complement to McCaffrey, who is a speedier, quicker back with great hands out of the backfield, and then McCaffrey can be the feature back in 2018.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE) – TE OJ Howard (Alabama)*

With Fournette off the board at 4, OJ Howard becomes the likely target for the Jaguars, as they have a huge hole at tight end after trading away Julius Thomas. Howard is one of the best tight end prospects in years, but 4 would be the highest a tight end has ever gone and the Jaguars can likely get him a few picks later, which is why they traded down. In this scenario, it works out perfectly, though Howard is going to be a candidate for the Jets at 6, especially if Jamal Adams is off the board.

10. Buffalo Bills – S Malik Hooker (Ohio State)

The Bills have bigger needs at cornerback and wide receiver, but Malik Hooker is too good for them to pass on here and he also fills a need. The Bills currently have Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer penciled in at safety, but Hyde will play slot cornerback in sub packages and Poyer is a mediocre starter. Hooker can start next to Hyde with Poyer coming in as a 3rd safety when Hyde covers the slot in sub packages. Hooker could have been a top-5 pick, even ahead of Jamal Adams, if not for shoulder surgery that will keep him out until training camp. He falls out of circumstance and could be the next Earl Thomas for the Bills if he develops and stays healthy.

11. New Orleans Saints – DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)*

It should come as no surprise when the Saints double up on defensive players in the first round (unless they trade one of the picks to New England for cornerback Malcolm Butler). The Saints traded away wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a first round pick because they had an excess of good wide receivers and major holes on defense, particularly at cornerback and defensive end. I expect them to target those positions in the first round. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is an option here, but reports say the Saints are targeting defensive end at 11 due to the depth of this cornerback class. Barnett fills a major need opposite Cameron Jordan, the only Saints defensive end to have more than a sack and a half last season, and they can target a cornerback at 32.

12. Tennessee Titans (TRADE) – WR Mike Williams (Clemson)*

I mentioned earlier that the Titans’ biggest needs are at middle linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver. They moved down 7 spots and no players at those positions were drafted in those 7 picks, so the trade works out perfectly for Tennessee, who previously didn’t have a second round pick. Middle linebacker Reuben Foster and cornerback Marlon Humphrey are options here, but Mike Williams is someone the Titans have shown a lot of interest in and it’s very possible he’s the highest ranked player left on their board at this point. He’d fill a need instantly opposite Rishard Matthews.

13. Arizona Cardinals – QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech)*

The Cardinals are in an interesting position in the first round. They won 13 games in 2015 and were much better than their 7-8-1 record suggested last season, but they suffered many losses on defense this off-season and, with Carson Palmer going into his age 38 season, their championship window might have closed. They could select a non-quarterback in the first round who can contribute instantly, like middle linebacker Reuben Foster, middle linebacker Haason Reddick, or cornerback Marlon Humphrey, try to win in 2017, and then address the quarterback position in 2018. Or, they could take a quarterback of the future like Pat Mahomes, who has great upside, the best arm in the draft, and is known to be liked by head coach Bruce Arians. Drafting Mahomes wouldn’t be an admission that they aren’t trying to compete in 2017, but it will make doing so harder. Both the coaching staff and the front office have pretty good job security at the moment though, so they may be willing to take the risk and pull the trigger on a quarterback.

14. Philadelphia Eagles – DE Charles Harris (Missouri)*

Connor Barwin was released this off-season because he was set to make a significant amount of money and wasn’t a good fit in Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense in 2016. They need a long-term complement to Brandon Graham, as free agent acquisition Chris Long is just a stopgap at best going into his age 32 season and Vinny Curry lines up inside at defensive tackle in most passing situations. Harris would be a much better fit for their defense than Barwin.

15. Indianapolis Colts – CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)

The Colts didn’t do much to upgrade their defense in the draft in 2016, focusing on the offensive line instead, and it showed, as the Colts’ aging defense couldn’t stop anyone in 2016. I expect defense to be the focus for the Colts in the draft this year, with few needs on offense and needs on all 3 levels of the defense. Humphrey could easily be seen as the top rated defensive player left on the board and would fill a huge need at cornerback opposite Vontae Davis, where the inexperienced Rashaan Melvin is currently penciled in as the starter.

16. Baltimore Ravens – OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)*

The Ravens took an offensive tackle in the first round last year, but they could easily do so again this year, after losing Ricky Wagner to the Lions in free agency. They have some internal options they like, but they’re also really known to like Cam Robinson, who went to the University of Alabama, Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome’s alma mater. There’s a good chance he’ll be seen as the best available remaining player that makes sense, though there are a lot of different ways this pick could go, including wide receiver (John Ross or Corey Davis).

17. Washington Redskins – MLB Haason Reddick (Temple)*

Middle linebacker was a major issue for the Redskins this season. They addressed it in free agency with Zach Brown, but he was only signed to a one-year deal and they could use an upgrade at the other middle linebacker position as well. Reddick is a rising prospect that the Redskins are known to like. He’s a versatile player who can also line up as an edge rusher in passing situations, which is good for the Redskins, who like to drop safety Su’a Cravens down to middle linebacker in sub packages. Reddick could be a Jamie Collins type player in the NFL and makes a lot of sense here.

18. Tennessee Titans – CB Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)*

As I mentioned earlier, cornerback, wide receiver, and middle linebacker are the Titans’ biggest needs. The Titans addressed wide receiver earlier with Mike Williams and Haason Reddick went a pick earlier to the Redskins, so it’s between middle linebacker Reuben Foster and one of the cornerbacks. Foster is definitely a possibility, but I went with a cornerback because it’s a bigger need, especially after the Titans released Jason McCourty. Awuzie is someone the Titans are known to be interested in and he makes sense for them at 18. He can start at cornerback day 1 opposite free agent acquisition Logan Ryan.

19. Atlanta Falcons (TRADE) – DE Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)*

The Buccaneers are another team reportedly looking to trade down. If Takkarist McKinley falls out of the top-16, they might have a trade partner. The Falcons are rumored to be interested in moving up and it makes sense. They have very few pressing needs so they can afford to trade away their second round pick to jump up the board if it’s for a player they really like, someone like McKinley, who they have been interested in throughout the process. Despite Vic Beasley’s league leading 15.5 sacks, the Falcons finished in the bottom half of the league with just 34 sacks as a team in 2016. Dwight Freeney was their primary edge rusher opposite Beasley in sub packages and he’s a free agent right now, coming off of a 3-sack season and going into his age 37 season. Even if he’s brought back, he’s obviously not a long-term solution for the Falcons.

20. Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles (Utah)*

The Broncos lost Russell Okung in free agency to the Chargers and replaced him with Menelik Watson, an injury prone swing tackle caliber talent who struggled when pressed into duty in Oakland over the first 4 seasons of his career. Currently Watson is penciled in as a starting offensive tackle, with Donald Stephenson, another mediocre player, who struggled mightily as the Broncos’ starting right tackle in 2016. It’s a huge position of need for the Broncos and a position they could definitely address in the first round. Bolles is the consensus top left tackle prospect in this draft class, with Cam Robinson being more of a pure right tackle.

21. Detroit Lions – DE Taco Charlton (Michigan)*

Devin Taylor and Ezekiel Ansah both struggled to get to the quarterback in 2016. Taylor remains unsigned as a free agent and, while Ansah has a ton of bounce back potential in 2017, after playing through a bad ankle injury in 2016, he is going into the final year of his rookie contract. Charlton can start immediately opposite Ansah and would give them insurance in case they lose Ansah as a free agent next off-season. The Lions are known to be interested in him.

22. Miami Dolphins – G Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky)

The Dolphins are moving last year’s first round pick, Laremy Tunsil, back to his natural position at left tackle, following the trade of incumbent left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars. That leaves them really thin at guard, where mediocre veterans Ted Larsen and Jermon Bushrod are currently penciled in as the starters. Lamp would be an immediate upgrade over both and would likely start week 1 at one of the two guard spots. A small school kid, Lamp’s stock is rising and he will likely be taken in the first round. Given that guard is their biggest need, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Dolphins took him at 22.

23. New York Giants – TE David Njoku (Miami)*

The Giants’ defense led the way for them last season, as they made the playoffs and won 11 games. However, they need multiple position upgrades on offense. I’ve had a quarterback here in the past because Eli Manning is going into his age 37 season and coming off one of the worst seasons in his career, but the Giants haven’t worked out any of the top quarterbacks so that doesn’t seem likely anymore. Instead, they give Eli Manning a new weapon to work with and take a player they have been very interested in throughout the process. Njoku would be a big upgrade on Will Tye at tight end and would fit the Giants’ pass heavy offense well.

24. Oakland Raiders – MLB Reuben Foster (Alabama)*

The Raiders entered the off-season with big needs at middle linebacker and outside linebacker, with mediocre veterans Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith hitting free agency this off-season. The Raiders signed Jelani Jenkins to plug a hole outside, but he was only signed to a one-year deal, so he’s not a long-term solution. Inside, they have done nothing this off-season and unproven 2015 5th round pick Ben Heeney is penciled in at the top of the depth chart. Reuben Foster falls because of a failed combine drug test, but the Raiders at might be his floor. They are known to be interested in him, even despite the failed test, and he’s a top-10 talent on tape. He’d be a major upgrade on Heeney. 

25. Houston Texans – QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)*

The Texans were able to pawn off Brock Osweiler on the Browns for the price of a 2018 2nd round pick, but are stuck with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback now, with Tony Romo opting for retirement rather than potentially signing with the Texans. They are likely to look at quarterbacks in the first round and they take Deshaun Watson here. He’ll probably be the 3rd quarterback off the board behind Trubisky and Mahomes and would probably sit as a rookie behind Savage, at least to begin the season, but he’s worth the risk for the Texans at 25.

26. Seattle Seahawks – CB Kevin King (Washington)

The Seahawks have had success drafting defensive backs in the middle rounds and coaching them up in Pete Carroll’s time in Seattle, but this year they might take a cornerback early, possibly as early as the first round. Deshawn Shead, who played well last season as the starter opposite Richard Sherman, is likely to miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, so they need a new #2 cornerback. King can be that immediately and take over as the #1 cornerback long-term with Richard Sherman’s relationship with the team souring. He might not be traded this off-season or next off-season, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be with the Seahawks beyond the final year of his contract in 2018. King has been compared to Sherman and fits what they look for in a corner at 6-3 200.

27. Kansas City Chiefs – QB DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)*

Alex Smith is a capable starting quarterback, but he’s going into his age 33 season and is no lock to be with the Chiefs beyond the final year of his contract in 2018. Given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they draft a quarterback early, much like Andy Reid’s Eagles did with Kevin Kolb when they still had Donovan McNabb. They reportedly really like Kizer’s upside and he would be a great fit for them. He’s not ready to play right away, but he could have been a top-10 in 2018 if he stayed another year at Notre Dame. The Chiefs don’t have another quarterback on the roster besides Alex Smith who’s ever thrown a pass in the NFL, so Kizer could backup Smith for a year, compete with him for the starting job in 2018, and take over as the starter long-term in 2019.

28. Dallas Cowboys – CB Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut)*

The Cowboys lost cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safeties JJ Wilcox and Barry Church in free agency this off-season, leaving them thin at both positions. Melifonwu can play both positions and has a chance to sneak into the end of the first round after a strong pre-draft process. The Cowboys will likely start the 6-4 224 pounder at cornerback, but his best pro position figures to be safety.

29. Green Bay Packers – RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

The Packers lost Eddie Lacy this off-season, so they’ll be in the market for another running back. I didn’t originally expect them to take a running back in the first round because I expected all of the first round backs to be gone by their pick at 29, but Dalvin Cook is slipping after a disappointing combine and the Packers could definitely be the ones to end his fall. Cook would give their offense another dimension and allow Ty Montgomery to play on primarily passing downs, when he’s most valuable. He would also fit the Packers’ strategy of drafting the best available player.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers – WR John Ross (Washington)

The Steelers got good news when Martavis Bryant was reinstated by the league after a one-year ban for substance abuse. The Steelers struggled for playmakers outside of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell last season and Bryant certainly qualifies as a playmaker. However, he’s going into the final year of his rookie deal and is a constant suspension risk, so his long-term future with the team is still up in the air. The Steelers don’t have a lot of needs and could easily take a wide receiver early in the draft. Brown, Bryant, and Ross could be a deadly combination in 2017.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TRADE) – CB Adoree Jackson (USC)*

The Buccaneers drafted a cornerback in the first round last year, but I wouldn’t rule out them taking another one this year, especially if they are able to move down from 19. It’s a deep cornerback class and the Buccaneers don’t have anything behind last year’s first rounder Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes, who is going into his age 34 season and the final year of his contract. Grimes was still a capable player last season, but Jackson can serve as the 3rd cornerback as a rookie before taking over as a starter opposite Hargreaves in 2018.

32. New Orleans Saints – CB Tre’Davious White (LSU)

As mentioned earlier, the Saints likely feel they can wait on a cornerback more than a defensive end, so they took a defensive end at 11 and focus on cornerback at 32. There’s been a little bit of a run on cornerbacks late in the first round (3 of the last 6 picks), but the Saints can still get a good cornerback at 32. There’s also a possibility that the Saints trade this pick to the Patriots for Malcolm Butler, which would serve the same purpose as drafting White. The Saints really need at upgrade at cornerback.

2012 NFL Draft Redo

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.

2011 NFL Draft Redo

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Cam Newton (Auburn)

The 2011 NFL Draft was one of the most talented in recent memory, but I don’t think there’s any question that the Panthers would make the same choice again if they had to do it all over again. Cam Newton won the 2015 NFL MVP and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl and has been one of the better quarterbacks in the league over the past few seasons. The Panthers need more help around him, but he’s definitely someone that can lead them to where they want to go and that’s all you can ask for out of the #1 pick.

2. Denver Broncos – OLB Von Miller (Texas A&M)

This is how quickly things change in the NFL: The Panthers and Broncos went from picking #1 and #2 in the 2011 NFL Draft to facing off against each other in Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season. The Broncos’ turnaround was initially led by Peyton Manning, who the Broncos signed a year after drafting Von Miller #2 overall, but Manning struggled mightily throughout the 2015 season and the Broncos still were able to win the whole thing, beating Carolina in Super Bowl 50, thanks to their defense. Von Miller was the leader of that defense and was given Super Bowl 50 MVP. One of the best defensive players in the entire league, Miller was one vote shy of winning Defensive Player of the Year this past season.

3. Buffalo Bills – DE JJ Watt (Wisconsin)

This is how talented the 2011 NFL Draft was: JJ Watt is a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year and goes 3rd overall. Watt would have made sense for either the Panthers or the Broncos in this re-draft, but both teams are so satisfied with their original picks that I don’t think they’d change anything. Instead, Watt falls to the Bills at 3, who waste no time turning in their selection. Marcell Dareus, their original pick, has been a great player for them, but Watt is on another level. Despite missing most of the 2016 season with a back injury, Watt is still on a Hall of Fame track.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – WR AJ Green (Georgia)

The Bengals have plenty of good options here, including wide receiver Julio Jones, who I think is a little bit better than AJ Green. However, like the Panthers and Broncos, the Bengals are so satisfied with Green that I don’t think they’d change anything for continuity reasons. Green is one of the best wide receivers in the game.

5. Arizona Cardinals – CB Patrick Peterson (LSU)

Another team sticks with their original pick, as the Cardinals select Patrick Peterson again. You could make an argument that Richard Sherman is a better cornerback than him, but that argument would likely fall on deaf ears in the Cardinals’ front office, given how valuable Peterson has been for them in his career.

6. Atlanta Falcons – WR Julio Jones (Alabama)

I promise this will get more interesting, but I have a hard time seeing the Falcons pass on Julio Jones if they had to do it all over again. The Browns, who traded out of this pick for the picks to draft Phil Taylor, Brandon Weeden, Greg Little, and Owen Marecic, would probably like a do over, but that’s not how these re-drafts work.

7. San Francisco 49ers – OLB Justin Houston (Georgia)

Here is where teams start regretting their picks a little bit. Aldon Smith was one of the best young defensive players in the league to start his career, with 33.5 sacks in 2 seasons, but legal issues and substance abuse issues limited him to 10.5 sacks in 18 games in 2014 and 2015 combined. The 49ers cut ties with him the following off-season and he remains suspended indefinitely as a member of the Oakland Raiders as of this writing. Justin Houston’s career is the kind of career Smith could have had if he stayed out of trouble. Houston is one of the best edge rushers in the league, with 50.5 sacks from 2012-2015, before missing most of the 2016 season with a torn ACL.

8. Tennessee Titans – QB Andy Dalton (TCU)

Here is where teams REALLY start regretting their picks. In one of the most talented top-11s in an NFL draft ever (Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, JJ Watt), the Titans reached on a quarterback and ended up with a dud, Jake Locker, who lasted 4 seasons in the NFL and went 9-14 in 23 starts with the Titans. There are more talented players available, but the quarterback position reigns supreme and Dalton would have given the Titans an instant stabilizer at quarterback. He’s gone 56-35-2 in 93 starts with the Bengals, who drafted him in the 2nd round originally.

9. Dallas Cowboys – OT Tyron Smith (USC)

I mentioned Tyron Smith under the last write up. Considering he’s developed into one of the best left tackles in the entire league, I’d say the Cowboys are pretty happy with him. They locked him up on a 8-year, 97.6 million dollar extension in 2014, after just three years in the league, and he’s been worth every penny so far.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Richard Sherman (Stanford)

Like the Titans, the Jaguars reached on a quarterback and wound up missing out on some incredible players. Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars’ original pick here, went just 5-22 in 3 seasons with the Jaguars before being sent to the 49ers for a 6th round pick. The Jaguars miss out on Andy Dalton, but they still have plenty of good options to choose from to build around the quarterback position. Richard Sherman is arguably the best available player. The 2011 5th round pick is one of the biggest steals in recent memory. A converted wide receiver who played cornerback for just one season at Stanford, Sherman has developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s arguably better than Patrick Peterson, the 5th pick in this draft.

11. Houston Texans – CB Chris Harris (Kansas)

Here is another cornerback that’s arguably better than Peterson as well. Harris, Peterson, and Sherman, three of the best cornerbacks in the league, being in the same draft just highlights the depth of this draft. The Texans miss out on JJ Watt, but they get a dominant cornerback to help soften the blow. Originally undrafted, Harris developed from a slot cornerback to a dominant #1 cornerback in just a few short years in Denver.

12. Minnesota Vikings – DT Jurrell Casey (USC)

The Vikings needed an upgrade at defensive tackle next to Kevin Williams, an aging veteran who left the Vikings after the 2013 season. They actually drafted Sharrif Floyd in the first round in 2013, but this fills the need a year earlier and with a better player. Jurrell Casey isn’t the biggest name, but the former 4th round pick has developed into one of the best defensive linemen in the league in relatively obscurity in Tennessee.

13. Detroit Lions – DT Marcell Dareus (Alabama)

The Lions originally drafted a defensive tackle here, taking Nick Fairley, but his career in Detroit was a mixed bag and he was often criticized for his effort, leading to the Lions letting him go after just 4 seasons with the team. Marcell Dareus is an upgrade for a team that needed one next to Ndamukong Suh, the team’s first round pick in 2010. Dareus and Suh would have been arguably the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL, which is likely what they had in mind when they drafted Fairley.

14. St. Louis Rams – DE Robert Quinn (North Carolina)

Here is another team satisfied with their original pick. Quinn hasn’t been quite the same player in the past 2 seasons thanks to injury, but he had 40 sacks in 3 year stretch from 2012-2014 and is still just 27 so he should still be in the prime of his career if he can get healthy. The Rams locked him up on a 4-year, 66.575 million dollar extension after 3 seasons in the league and he is under contract through 2019.

15. Miami Dolphins – DE Cameron Jordan (California)

The Dolphins selected center Mike Pouncey here originally. He hasn’t been a bad player for them, but hip injuries have limited him in recent years. Cameron Jordan fills a much more important need for them, as they needed another pass rusher outside of Cameron Wake. Jason Taylor was their 2nd leading sacker in 2011, in his age 37 season, his final in the league. In 2012, no one had more than 4.5 sacks outside of Wake. Jordan can rush the passer from the inside and the outside and has 45.5 sacks in the past 5 seasons for the Saints.

16. Washington Redskins – OLB Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue)

The Redskins originally drafted Ryan Kerrigan here in 2011 and he hasn’t disappointed, totalling 58.5 sacks in 6 seasons. He’s had at least 7.5 sacks in all 6 seasons in the league and hasn’t missed a game. The Redskins wisely locked him up on a 5-year, 57.5 million dollar extension two off-seasons ago.

17. New England Patriots – OT Nate Solder (Colorado)

Yet another satisfied drafter. Nate Solder has replaced long-time Brady blindside protector Matt Light well. Solder spent his rookie year on the right side before taking over for Light and has made 79 starts in 6 seasons in the league, consistently playing at a high level. He’s graded out above average on Pro Football Focus 5 times in 6 seasons.

18. San Diego Chargers – DE Cameron Heyward (Ohio State)

The Chargers originally drafted Corey Liuget here, a solid player who wasn’t a bad pick. However, this draft is deep enough for them to get an upgrade here. Cameron Heyward has developed into an above average starting 5-technique defensive end for the Steelers and would be the Chargers’ best interior defensive lineman even today.

19. New York Giants – RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)

The Giants averaged just 3.47 YPC in 2011 and ended up using a first round pick on running back David Wilson in 2012. Wilson never ended up becoming the feature back they drafted him to be because of a neck injury. DeMarco Murray could be that guy. Not only does picking him here save them from making a mistake with Wilson in the following draft, it keeps him away from division rival Dallas, who got him in the 3rd round. Murray has had some injury issues, but has rushed for 6515 yards and 43 touchdowns on 1420 career carries (4.59 YPC) in 6 seasons in the league.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Doug Baldwin (Stanford)

The Buccaneers leading receivers in 2011 were Mike Williams (771), Kellen Winslow (763), Preston Parker (554), and Arrelious Benn (441). Despite going undrafted and signing with a run first team quarterbacked by Tarvaris Jackson, Doug Baldwin had more receiving yards (788) than any of them. Baldwin has 368 catches for 4954 yards and 34 touchdowns in 6 seasons for the Seahawks, despite playing for one of the run heaviest teams in the league. He’s been especially good in the past 2 seasons, going for 78/1069/14 and 94/1128/7, while being one of the most efficient receivers in the league on a per route and a per target basis.

21. Cleveland Browns – QB Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)

Tyrod Taylor didn’t make a start until his 5th year in the league, after the 6th round pick spent the first 4 years of his career on the bench behind Joe Flacco with the Ravens. However, the Browns have been so desperate for quarterbacks in recent years that they can afford to wait on him to take a couple years to develop. Taylor has been a surprisingly competent quarterback over the past 2 seasons with the Bills.

22. Indianapolis Colts – OT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College)

Like the Patriots, the Colts took a left tackle in the first round and are pretty satisfied with him. Solder has definitely outplayed Castonzo at times, but Castonzo is a more consistent player with 89 starts (all at left tackle) in 6 seasons in the league. The Colts gave him a 4-year, 42 million dollar extension 2 off-seasons ago and would definitely make this selection again if they had to do it all over again.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – OLB KJ Wright (Mississippi State)

The 2011 Eagles were the so called “dream team” Eagles and they were done in primarily by poor linebacker play. Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle led the team in tackles from the linebacker spot, which shows you how bad things were. KJ Wright was just a 4th round pick of the Seahawks in the 2011 NFL Draft originally, but he has grown into one of the best and most consistent three down 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL.

24. New Orleans Saints – DE Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State)

The Saints can’t draft Cameron Jordan, their original pick, because he’s gone at this point, so they draft Pernell McPhee instead. Like Jordan, McPhee can line up inside and outside and has experience in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense. McPhee has never put up big sack numbers, but that’s mostly because he was buried on the depth chart in Baltimore and has dealt with limiting injuries in Chicago, since signing a 5-year, 38.75 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago. Throughout his career, he’s been one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL on a pressures per pass rush snap basis.

25. Seattle Seahawks – WR Randall Cobb (Kentucky)

The Seahawks leading receiver in 2011 was undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin, who has already been drafted at this point. The Seahawks take Randall Cobb here as a replacement for Doug Baldwin. Cobb has had some big years in Green Bay, though he has had issues with injuries, especially in recent years.

26. Kansas City Chiefs – C Rodney Hudson (Florida State)

The Chiefs originally drafted Rodney Hudson in the second round, but they have to use their first round pick to keep him in this re-draft. Considering they originally whiffed with Jonathan Baldwin here, the Chiefs probably won’t mind. A collegiate guard, Hudson became one of the best centers in the league with the Chiefs and has continued that high level of play with the Raiders over the past 2 seasons. Hudson’s 5-year, 44.5 million dollar deal was the most expensive in NFL history for a center at the time it was signed, but he has been worth it. The Chiefs probably regret not bringing him back.

27. Baltimore Ravens – CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

One final team sticks with their original pick. Jimmy Smith took a couple years to develop and also has dealt with some injuries, but, at his best, he’s a legitimate #1 cornerback. The Ravens gave him a 4-year, 41.1 million dollar extension two off-seasons ago and would probably like to keep him in a re-draft.

28. New Orleans Saints – DT Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)

The future Saints will thank the 2011 Saints for using both first round picks on defensive players in this re-draft, given how bad their defense has been in recent years. Even though they were unable to keep Cameron Jordan in this re-mock, Pernell McPhee and Muhammad Wilkerson are a nice haul. Wilkerson probably would have gone 10-15 spots higher a year ago, as he struggled mightily in the first year of a 5-year, 86 million dollar deal last off-season. Part of that was that he was coming off of a broken leg and part of that was that he was playing out of position frequently, but there were also effort concerns with him, very concerning considering the Jets just guaranteed him 36.75 million. For the first 5 seasons of his career though, he was one of the better interior defensive linemen in the league.

29. Chicago Bears – G Clint Boling (Georgia)

The 2011 Bears needed help at pretty much every offensive line position and originally grabbed Gabe Carimi here, to upgrade one of the two tackle positions. However, Carimi was a massive bust who lasted just 2 seasons with Bears. Boling, on the other hand, was a 4th round pick who has become one of the better guards in the league. He didn’t play much as a rookie, but has made 74 starts in the past 5 seasons for the Bengals and has graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in all 5 seasons. Jay Cutler would have loved to have had him.

30. New York Jets – OLB Aldon Smith (Missouri)

The Jets have had such a need at the edge rusher position for years and, given where they’re drafting, I think they would be willing to draft Aldon Smith even knowing how much trouble he was going to get into. Smith burst into the league with 33.5 sacks in his first 2 seasons in the league, but has just 14 sacks in 27 games since thanks to suspensions and remains suspended indefinitely by the league, after missing all of last season. The Raiders still own his rights though and the fact that they haven’t given up on him, despite his issues, just shows how good he is when he’s right.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska)

The Steelers were pretty much old at every position in the secondary in 2011 and Prince Amukamara is arguably the best available player left on the board. He would have been a future replacement for Ike Taylor in Pittsburgh. He’s been a solid cover cornerback whenever he’s been healthy, though he has missed 27 games in 6 seasons in the league thanks to injury.

32. Green Bay Packers – RB Mark Ingram (Alabama)

The 2010 Packers won the Super Bowl with James Starks as their starting running back down the stretch and the 2011 Packers averaged just 3.94 yards per carry with James Starks and Ryan Grant splitting carries. Given the players left on the board, Mark Ingram might be their best choice at this point. Ingram has rushed for 4238 yards and 32 touchdowns on 953 carries (4.45 YPC) in 6 seasons with the Saints and would have stabilized the running back position for the Packers.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots: Super Bowl LI Pick

Atlanta Falcons (13-5) vs. New England Patriots (16-2) in Super Bowl LI

There are distinct differences between these two teams, but they have one impressive similarity: both teams have lost key players and played as well or better without them. On New England’s side, one of their losses was a self-inflicted one if you can even call it a loss, as the Patriots “lost” linebacker Jamie Collins in a midseason trade. Collins, one of the Patriots’ best defensive players and one of the best athletes on the defensive side of the ball in the entire league, was stunningly sent to the last place Browns for a mere 3rd round compensatory pick during the Patriots week 9 bye. The 3rd round compensatory pick they got from the Browns is what they would have gotten in 2018’s draft if they simply let Collins walk at the end of the off-season, so they essentially got no compensation. Despite Collins’ obvious talent, Bill Belichick didn’t like Collins’ tendency to freestyle and simply thought his defense would be better without him.

That seemed like an absurd idea at the time, even giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt as much as he deserves, but, if the numbers are to be believed, the Patriots have been a lot better without him, with young role players like Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts filling in well for Collins. In 8 games with Collins, the Patriots allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a 34.54% rate, as opposed to 29.49% in 10 games without him, a substantial difference. To put that into perspective, the figure with Collins is around where the Seattle Seahawks finished the regular season in first down rate (19th). The figure without Collins would have been lower than every offense in the league this year except for the Rams’ offense. In 8 games with Collins, the Patriots allowed 166 first downs and 15 touchdowns. They allowed the same amount of touchdowns and two fewer first downs in 10 games without him.

The numbers don’t give the full context, as the Patriots played an easier schedule in the second half of the season. 7 of the 10 offenses they’ve faced since trading Collins finished the regular season 26th or worse in first down rate (NY Jets twice, St. Louis, San Francisco, Baltimore, Houston, and Denver). The other three were Miami (18th), who was starting a backup quarterback, Seattle (19th) who beat them, and Pittsburgh last week, in a game in which the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell with an injury early in the game. Their schedule wasn’t that hard in the first half of the season either, but it was definitely easier after losing Collins, so that probably played a role in the significant statistical improvement. It might not be fair to say their defense is definitely better without Collins, but at the very least the trade has not backfired in any way. Their defense is untested, but it’s still one of the better stop units in the NFL.

On the other side of the ball, it’s definitely not fair to say the Patriots have been better offensively without Gronkowski. Gronkowski was fully healthy for 5 games this season, not counting the 2 games he played as a decoy with a 3rd string quarterback under center in week 3 and week 4 or the game in which he hurt his back in and left the game in the first quarter in week 12. In those 5 games, the Patriots picked up first downs at a 43.35% rate. The only team that picked up first downs at a better rate than that this season is their opponent this week, the Atlanta Falcons (more on them later obviously). In the 9 games since Gronkowski last caught a pass, the Patriots have picked up first downs at a 37.06% rate, good, but significantly down from the 5 games in which Brady and Gronkowski tore apart the NFL (they averaged a ridiculous 14.0 yards per target). That first down rate is most equivalent to the Detroit Lions, who finished just 12th.

The Patriots’ offense hasn’t been derailed by the absence of the Gronkowski this season, as it has been in years past, thanks to a deeper than usual receiving corps, a great #2 tight end in Martellus Bennett, a much improved running game and offensive line, and, of course, Tom Brady somehow arguably having the best season of his career at age 39. It’s a myth that they don’t need Gronkowski and should sell low and trade him this off-season, ahead of just his age 28 season. They just aren’t screwed in the playoffs without him like they have been in recent years because the rest of the team is better on both sides of the ball.

Without Gronkowski, it’s very hard to argue that the Patriots have the better offense in this game, an unfamiliar position for a New England team that is used to having the better offense in the Super Bowl. Matchup wise, the Falcons most resemble the Patriots’ first Super Bowl opponent, against the Greatest Show on Turf Rams. The Falcons finished the regular season with easily the best first down rate in the NFL, picking up first downs at a 43.92% rate. The next best team was the Saints, who picked up first downs at “just” a 40.72% rate in the regular season. In fact, there was a bigger gap between 1st and 2nd in first down rate than there was between 2nd and 9th. That number has actually jumped after two playoff games and they’ve picked up first downs at a 44.61% rate between 16 regular season games and 2 postseason games.

Basically, as good as the Patriots were offensively for 5 games with Gronkowski, the Falcons have been better than that all year for 18 games on the offensive side of the ball. Led by their version of the triplets (Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones), along with one of the best offensive lines in football, the Falcons have been so good offensively that they lead the NFL in first down rate differential, despite a defense that has allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a 38.23% rate, more or less equivalent to the Colts’ 7th ranked offense in terms of first down rate. They’re not a balanced team, but they still rank #1 in that in first down differential, just ahead of the Patriots.

The good news for Atlanta is, like the Patriots’ defense, the Falcons’ defense has statistically been significantly better down the stretch, despite losing one of their best defensive players, cornerback Desmond Trufant, for the season. In 9 games with Trufant, the Falcons allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a 40.06% rate, most equivalent to Dallas’ 3rd ranked offense. In 9 games without him, they’ve allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a 36.27% rate, most equivalent to Oakland’s 15th ranked offense. Part of that could be that they faced weak offenses like San Francisco and Los Angeles during that time period, but their defense has held up much better without their best defensive back than you’d expect.

Young cornerbacks Brian Poole and Jalen Collins have played well in his absence and overall a very young defense has gotten better as the season has gone on. The Falcons are starting 4 rookies (2nd round and 4th round linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, 1st round safety Keanu Neal, and Poole, an undrafted free agent), 3 second year players (first round edge rusher Vic Beasley, Collins, a 2nd rounder, and 5th round defensive tackle Grady Jarrett), and a third year player (safety Ricardo Allen, a former 5th round pick). They aren’t a great defense by any stretch of the imagination, especially after losing starting defensive end Adrian Clayborn with an injury a few weeks back, but Dan Quinn has done a good job developing young defensive talent in 2 years on the job and this defense is definitely better than it was earlier in the season, even without Trufant or Clayborn.

It’s definitely fair to wonder if their young defense has much of a shot to stop Tom Brady and company though, especially since they don’t consistently pressure the passer. The Falcons enter this game with the better offense, but the Patriots have easily the better defense and probably have a better chance of slowing down the Falcons’ offense than Atlanta’s defense has of slowing down the Patriots. One thing that could be very important in a close game is the fact that Atlanta All-Pro center Alex Mack is playing hurt and reportedly might not be able to last the whole game. It’s tough to wager on this game with the line at 3 though because I think this has a very good chance to be a 3 point game. At the very least, I see this game being decided by a touchdown or less, a shootout where the team who has the ball last likely wins the game. New England is my pick, but it figures to be a great game either way. Unfortunately though, this game is a non-bet.

New England Patriots 38 Atlanta Falcons 34

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Low

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Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: 2016 AFC Championship Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) at New England Patriots (15-2)

Like the Packers in the NFC, the Steelers enter this game on a long winning streak, winning 9 straight games to go from 4-5 to 11-5, the 3rd seed in the AFC, 2 playoff wins, and an AFC Championship appearance. However, the Steelers have two big obstacles to overcome if they want to make their 4th Super Bowl in the Ben Roethlisberger era. One, they haven’t been very good on the road this season. Two, they’re facing a New England team that isn’t just the best team in the NFL, but that also has rarely lost at home in recent years, especially against AFC opponents. Since 2010, they are 57-9 at home, including 48-4 against AFC opponents, with one loss coming in a meaningless week 17 game and another coming in a game started by 3rd string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brady has lost just two meaningful conference home games in the last 6 seasons, though both came in the playoffs (both against Baltimore).

On the other side, in 7 home starts this season (including playoffs), the Steelers are 6-1, with the one loss coming in a close shootout with the Cowboys and the 6 wins coming by a combined 96 points. In those 7 home games, Roethlisberger completed 70.9% of his passes for an average of 8.66 YPA, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, a QB rating of 115.3. In 9 road games, however, his QB rating is 36.5 points lower. The Steelers are 6-3 in those 9 games, but with a point differential of just +18, as compared to +91 in 7 home games started by Roethlisberger. This home/away split is nothing new for Roethlisberger, as he’s had at least a 15 point disparity in home to road QB rating in 4 of the last 6 seasons, including each of the last 3.

Fortunately for the Steelers, they have arguably the league’s most dangerous weapon, Le’Veon Bell, doing work both as a de facto #2 receiver out of the backfield and as a runner, behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The Patriots were able to keep the Steelers’ run game in check in their first matchup with the Steelers, but that was because Ben Roethlisberger was injured and Landry Jones was starting, enabling the Patriots to stack 8 or 9 guys in the box against Bell on almost every snap. Bell still had a huge game overall, leading the team with 10 catches for 68 yards in what was ultimately a 27-16 home loss for the Steelers. Roethlisberger hasn’t been the same quarterback on the road this season, but he’s an obvious upgrade over Landry Jones, so the Patriots won’t have the luxury of being able to stack the box against Bell as often.

Roethlisberger is also an obvious upgrade over most of the quarterbacks the Patriots have faced in recent weeks. In fact, since Brady’s return, the Patriots have faced Cody Kessler, Andy Dalton, Landry Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson (their one loss), Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian, Bryce Petty, Matt Moore, and Brock Osweiler. That at least calls into question some of the legitimacy of the Patriots’ defense, which finished the regular season ranked 4th in first down rate allowed. It’s concerning that they lost at home to the only even decent offense they’ve faced since trading Jamie Collins.

In fact, 7 of the 9 offenses they’ve faced since trading Collins finished the regular season 26th or worse in first down rate (NY Jets twice, St. Louis, San Francisco, Baltimore, Houston, and Denver). The other two were Miami (18th), who was starting a backup quarterback, and Seattle (19th) who beat them. The Steelers rank 10th, and that’s with Le’Veon Bell missing 3 games, Ben Roethlisberger missing one, and most of the key offensive starters resting in a meaningless week 17 game. Even with Roethlisberger struggling on the road, this is still the toughest offense the Patriots have faced since trading away one of their best defensive players almost 3 months ago.

Fortunately, it’s much tougher to call into question the legitimacy of the Patriots’ offense, which has managed to keep rolling without injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, something they haven’t been able to do in recent years, because their running game, offensive line, and complementary pass catchers are all better and healthier than they’ve been in recent years. And, of course, because quarterback Tom Brady is having arguably one of the best seasons of his career. They finished the regular season 8th in first down rate, despite Brady missing 4 games with injury and despite the fact that the defenses they’ve faced are much tougher than the offenses they’ve faced. Baltimore, Seattle, Houston, and Denver all have weak offenses, but they also all have top-8 defenses and the Patriots have had impressive offensive performances in 3 of those 4 games. The Patriots’ offense is much more battle tested than their defense and Pittsburgh’s average stop unit figures to have trouble with them.

Overall, the Patriots have had a pretty easy schedule, as their opponents had the 2nd lowest combined winning percentage of any team’s opponents this season and two of the playoff teams they faced (Pittsburgh and Miami) were using backup quarterbacks when the Patriots faced them. However, at the end of the day, you can only play the teams that are on your schedule and it’s not like the Patriots were squeaking out victories against these teams. Just 4 of their 15 wins have come by 7 points or fewer and two of those were weeks 1 and 2 when Tom Brady was suspended.

Their average margin of victory was 15.47, 16.33 in Brady’s 12 wins. They finished the regular season with a league best +24 offensive touchdown margin (Dallas was second at +just 15) and a league best +191 point differential (Atlanta was second at just +134) and they have the highest first down rate differential of any team left in the playoffs (+6.26 vs. +2.34 for Pittsburgh). So, while the Patriots might not be quite as good as their 15-2 record suggests, they’re probably still the best team in the league.

For that reason, they should be able to win big here at home against a Pittsburgh team that hasn’t been that good on the road this season, but it’s tough to lay 6 points with them confidently. This line was at 5.5 earlier this week and I made a big mistake not locking in that line at the time (expecting the line to possibly go to 4 or 4.5 if the sharps liked Pittsburgh). If 5.5 or lower comes back in the next 24 or so hours before the game, it’s worth a bet, but it would be tough to be confident at 6.

New England Patriots 31 Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Pick against the spread: New England -6

Confidence: Low

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Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 NFC Championship Pick

Green Bay Packers (12-6) at Atlanta Falcons (12-5)

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are red hot right now and understandably getting a lot of attention. Since an unimpressive 4-6 start, the Packers have won 8 straight games to make the playoffs with a 10-6 record and to win two playoff games and advance to the NFC Championship game. If you watch sports talk shows this week, you’d think it was the Packers favored by 4 points and the presumptive favorite to move on to the Super Bowl, but instead it’s the other way around, with the higher seeded Falcons favored by 4 points at home.

There’s a reason for that. As much attention as the Packers’ offense is getting, the Falcons’ offense is still significantly better and is statistically one of the top offenses in NFL history. Including last week’s win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Falcons have picked up a first down or touchdown on 43.92% of offensive snaps this season, more than 3% higher than the next best team, the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers, meanwhile, have moved the chains at a “mere” 38.94% rate this season, including playoffs, almost 5% lower than the Falcons.

Even if you just look at their 8 game winning streak, the Packers are only moving the chains at a 41.60% rate, meaning, as red hot as they are right now offensively, the Falcons have still been better than them offensively all season. If you look at just the last 8 weeks, the Falcons are actually even better, moving the chains at a 47.19% rate over that time period. As good as the Packers are offensively, the Falcons are simply better. They run the ball better and with more consistency. They have a better overall offensive line. And they also have healthier wide receivers.

Atlanta’s top receiver Julio Jones has been limited by a toe injury in recent weeks, but, as you can see, it hasn’t hurt their ability to move the ball. On the Green Bay side, #1 receiver Jordy Nelson could miss his 2nd straight game with broken ribs, while fellow starter Davante Adams and #4 receiver Geronimo Allison are expected to be gametime calls. Even if all 3 of them play, they all figure to be limited, as head coach Mike McCarthy admitted that none of them would play if this wasn’t a playoff game.

Defensively, these two teams are comparable. The Packers have a little better defense overall (37.34% first down rate vs. 38.01% first down rate allowed), but the Falcons have been better than the Packers if we just look at the last 8 weeks (36.94% first down rate vs. 35.51% first down rate allowed), even with the Packers being 8-0 over that time period. The Falcons aren’t undefeated over that time period, but they’re pretty close, going 6-1 with their one loss coming by 1 point against a Kansas City team that scored 9 points off returns and won despite losing the first down battle 32 to 17.

On the season, the Falcons have won 8 of 12 games by more than a touchdown, with just 1 loss coming by more than a touchdown (9 points in Philadelphia), and have they the NFC’s best point differential at +150, along with the NFC’s best first down rate differential at +6.07% (vs. +2.15% for the Packers). The public seems to be eating up the sports talk media idea that the Packers are the better team here, as more than ⅔ rds of the action is on Green Bay. I disagree, which is probably a good thing, considering the public always loses money in the long run. I think this line should be around 6 in favor of the Falcons, so we’re getting good line value with them at 4. They’re worth a bet if you can get that number, though this line is 4.5 or 5 in some places.

Atlanta Falcons 38 Green Bay Packers 31

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -4

Confidence: Medium

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 AFC Divisional Round Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

The Chiefs have been on my overrated list for a while. Despite their 12-4 record, they rank dead last among remaining the 8 remaining playoff teams in first down rate differential. Their record is largely the result of 6 wins by 8 points or less (including two overtime victories), a +16 turnover margin (best in the NFL), and a +7 return touchdown margin (best in the NFL), but it’s tough to rely on teams to get takeaways and return touchdowns to win close games, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin and, as a result, there’s no week-to-week correlation in return touchdown margin. They won’t be able to count on winning the turnover margin to win close games every week, especially not in the playoffs, and they had just a +1 offensive touchdown margin in the regular season, on top of a -37 first down margin.

However, I don’t love the Steelers this week for a few reasons. For one, the Chiefs’ play has improved as the season has gone on. Thanks to the emergence of youngsters Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones, along with the return of Justin Houston from injury, the Chiefs have played better football in recent weeks. You also have to take into that account that, for whatever reason, Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid seems to turn into Bill Belichick after a bye, going 14-5 ATS off of a bye as a head coach. He’s only 3-1 ATS in the playoffs, but this would worry me if I bet on the Steelers.

I was hoping to get at least a field goal here with the Steelers on the road, but their blowout victory over the Dolphins last week made that line impossible. That’s really unfortunate because their win last week was against a mediocre Miami team that made the playoffs thanks to an easy schedule and close wins and because that game was in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers have had no problem winning this season with Ben Roethlisberger under center all season. In 7 games started by Ben Roethlisberger at home this season (including playoffs), the Steelers are 6-1, with the one loss coming in a close shootout with the Cowboys and the 6 wins coming by a combined 96 points. In those 7 home games, Roethlisberger completed 70.9% of his passes for an average of 8.66 YPA, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, a QB rating of 115.3. In 8 road games, however, his QB rating is 34.9 points lower and the Steelers are 5-3 with a point differential of just +16. The money line is your best bet here as the Steelers probably have about a 60-65% chance of winning, but this isn’t a high confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Kansas City Chiefs 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +1.5

Confidence: Low

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