Re-Drafting the 2012 NFL Draft
With the 2014 NFL draft upon us—make that finally upon us—it's worth taking a look back at some of the recent drafts and seeing whether things could or should have been done differently.
Hindsight is 20-20, they say, and we in the media never shy away from hopping into the time-travel device of our choice (I'm a huge nerd, so mine is a TARDIS) and attempting to rewrite history.
In this slideshow, we'll be reexamining the 2012 NFL draft and taking a stab at figuring out what, if anything, should have been done differently in the first round.
Before we do that, though, here are a few ground rules to go over.
First, we are only tackling the first round. Secondly, we're using the original draft order—before any "day of" trades.
So Washington still has the second pick, but all the teams who made a trade on the first day of the draft are back in their original spot. We will not be replicating or making up our own trades at all.
If you're curious and want to check out how the entire 2012 NFL draft went down, you can see it here.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Actual Pick: Same
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While he has yet to bring a Super Bowl trophy to Indianapolis, Andrew Luck is without a doubt every bit the franchise savior he was purported to be coming out of Stanford in 2012.
I can’t imagine anyone in Indianapolis doing anything differently with this pick—nor should they.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Actual Pick: Same
I would imagine there might be a contingent of Washington Redskins who wish they had Russell Wilson, and it's a fair enough argument given the knee injury and subsequent poor 2013 season Robert Griffin III had.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Griffin is a great quarterback when healthy, and his upside is phenomenal. While Wilson has a ring, he didn't exactly win it merely on the strength of his arm—the Seattle defense and ground attack had a lot to do with that.
Griffin has had a year to recover from his torn ACL, has more weapons at his disposal than ever before and should regain the fantastic form he had in his rookie season.
Washington shouldn't change a thing.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Actual Pick: Matt Kalil (after trading back with Cleveland)
I was tempted to keep Matt Kalil here, as he has been fantastic overall for the Minnesota Vikings, but let's face it—hindsight tells us Christian Ponder isn't the answer, and most figure Matt Cassel isn't, either.
The Vikings are back to needing a quarterback in 2014, and given that we've seen some great things from Wilson already, you can assume that: 1) He wouldn't fall to the third round again and 2) The Vikings would jump all over him now.
That means even if I could make a deal, the Vikings wouldn't be trading here.
This might actually hurt Adrian Peterson's 2012 NFL MVP pursuit, as Wilson wouldn't need Peterson to carry the load the way Ponder did.
Then again, the formula for success the Seahawks have used involved a strong run game. The Vikings certainly have that.
4. Cleveland Browns: Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
Actual Pick: Trent Richardson (after trading up with Minnesota)
Given that Brandon Weeden isn't going to be picked in this round (because the Browns got a warning from a psychic), they would have liked to grab Russell Wilson here. Since he's gone, we imagine (knowing that they will be back here needing a quarterback again in 2014) that they'll stay with the position, though.
Nick Foles has certainly proved he can ball, and Cleveland would be nuts to let him slide by.
Philadelphia Eagles fans will be livid, but them's the breaks.
Foles would find a great weapon in Josh Gordon, and while the team still has needs at running back, outside linebacker and wide receiver, none of that matters without a quarterback.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Actual Pick: Mark Barron (after trading back with Jacksonville)
With no trades, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are stuck here, but that works out OK. Secondary is a need, as are linebacker and wide receiver, but looking back, the linchpin of this draft is actually a guy they got at the end of the round—Doug Martin.
In the reboot of this draft, they don't have the ability to finagle another first-round pick to use on Martin. Even if they did, the Bucs have to know Martin will not be there where they snatched him the first time.
So better safe then sorry—grab Martin, a guy who ran for over 1,400 yards in his rookie season and kept the offense afloat at times when Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon struggled.
6. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Actual Pick: Michael Brockers (after trading back with Dallas)
While you couldn't fault the St. Louis Rams for getting more defensive help at the time, if Matt Kalil was sitting here at No. 6, you could fault them for doing it when you consider the beating Sam Bradford had been taking in previous seasons.
Kalil has performed very well for the Minnesota Vikings and would lock down left tackle for the Rams just the same. The Rams would also have the added benefit of keeping Bradford on the field more consistently, so the team could finally decide if he's truly its franchise quarterback.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Justin Blackmon (after trading up with Tampa Bay)
Boy, would Jacksonville like this doozy back, right?
In all honesty, a lot of pundits had Justin Blackmon high on their boards, while others said Alshon Jeffery had some work-ethic issues. The Chicago Bears took a chance on Jeffery, trading up in the second round to snag him.
At which point, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller may have squealed with joy.
While Michael Floyd has begun to come into his own and T.Y. Hilton has been a pleasant surprise, it's safe to say that Jeffery is currently the best receiver to come out of the 2012 NFL draft.
So if they were to do it all over, it's hard to fathom Jacksonville passing on him.
Meanwhile, nobody would touch Blackmon with a 10-foot pole.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Actual Pick: Same
While I'm far from the most ardent Ryan Tannehill supporter, and he's not in the same category as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin or even Russell Wilson, the Miami Dolphins would be crazy to mess with this pick.
Yes, he can be inconsistent, and yes, he had some bad moments in each of his first two years, but you can't ignore that he has improved each year as well.
Perhaps this is still high for a guy as raw as Tannehill, but Miami may have a franchise quarterback on its hands, and if the Dolphins don't take him here (again), someone else probably will.
9. Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Actual Pick: Same
Again, why mess with success?
In two short years, Luke Kuechly has become one of the more potent inside linebackers in the NFL.
Now if we could only go back (or is it forward? Time-travel is confusing) to the 2014 offseason and find a way to stop the Carolina Panthers from dumping all their wide receivers...
10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Same
This pick has worked out pretty well for the Buffalo Bills, though Stephon Gilmore was hurt for the first five games of the season and struggled a bit when he returned.
However, over the course of the last month of the season, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Gilmore was thrown at 27 times and only allowed 11 receptions for 122 yards and no touchdowns. He also only allowed a single touchdown over the course of the season (again according to PFF's reckoning).
It is hard to know what a player's coverage is supposed to be sometimes, and he was dominant that last month against Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami—all of which were struggling or had cashed in their chips for the season—and a New England team with its foot slightly letting up on the gas.
Still, even if we disregard our enthusiasm about the last month, we've seen enough of Gilmore to believe he will be a part of this defense for a long time.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Actual Pick: Same
This makes four picks in a row where I would have likely done the same thing in retrospect.
Dontari Poe had an OK rookie season, but he added 4.5 sacks and a baker's dozen worth of overall tackles, per ESPN stats, on his way to being Pro Football Focus' No. 10-rated defensive tackle in 2013 (subscription required).
That's pretty good value for the Kansas City Chiefs.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
Actual Pick: Bruce Irvin (after trading back with Philadelphia)
No doubt about it, Bruce Irvin is good.
I just happen to think Lavonte David may become something extraordinary.
In two years, David has amassed 284 tackles (both solo and assists), had nine sacks (seven this past season) and excelled against the run, as well as in coverage, per ESPN stats). This past season, Pro Football Focus ranked him as its second-best outside linebacker out of a 4-3 base defense, one spot behind Denver's Von Miller, who played half as many snaps (subscription required).
He would be phenomenal in the Seattle defense and hard to pass up.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Actual Pick: Same
While it's taken him a couple of years, Michael Floyd is well on his way to a promising career. The Arizona Cardinals could go with an offensive lineman here, but Floyd is too good to pass up (again).
With the way he was able to produce opposite Larry Fitzgerald, you get the sense that his first 1,000-yard season was just one of many to come.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Actual Pick: Same
I can foresee a debate in the comments on whether Claiborne would be here at No. 14, and I think it's a fair question. This re-draft started off heavy on quarterbacks, and as a result, talent has dropped.
Some will point to a pair of underwhelming seasons and say he's a bust and that Orlando Scandrick is just playing better, such as Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com.
But keep in mind, as Watkins points out in his piece, that Claiborne was hurt, lost his father and had a daughter all in the span of a season. That's a big burden to carry.
I suspect this year is when he turns it all around and shows us what he's really capable of.
That will make this pick look much better (especially since Dallas didn't trade up for it).
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia
Actual Pick: Fletcher Cox
The Eagles are in constant need of pass-rush help, and Bruce Irvin would have been a great fit in Philly.
He started out as a defensive end but has converted to linebacker, and that versatility would make him very productive for the Eagles defense. He could rotate to the outside-linebacker spot if need be or stay on the line.
Irvin's a bit small for a full-time line position, but by moving him back and forth depending on situation and scheme, the Eagles would be able to keep offensive lines guessing and allow Irvin to use his pass-rushing ability to create pressure.
Fletcher Cox converted to defensive end anyway, so why not take a guy who can do it out of the gate?
16. New York Jets: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Actual Pick: Quinton Coples
Quinton Coples has played alright, but he was never the defensive end the New York Jets wanted (hence being moved to linebacker and the team drafting Sheldon Richardson).
Meanwhile, the Jets have figured out that they are in desperate need of quality wide receivers. Santonio Holmes ended up being more of a headache than a help, Stephen Hill (drafted in the early second round of this same draft) is close to being a bust and they had to go out and buy help in free agency in 2014.
Despite some shaky quarterback play, Kendall Wright topped 1,000 yards this past season for the Tennessee Titans, per ESPN stats, and while he's not a classic No. 1 receiver, he is a very good No. 2 with upside.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Actual Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick
While Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't been a disaster, he hasn't been great, either.
Janoris Jenkins has his flaws—his sophomore season featured considerable regression across the board statistically, per ESPN—but you can overlook them when you think about the three pick-sixes from his rookie season.
While he can be a bit inconsistent overall, his ball-hawking ability is something the Cincinnati Bengals could really use.
The Bengals were able to generate a lot of turnovers in 2013—some by each of the corners on the roster, per FootballGuys.com (subscription required)—but for the most part, they lack a guy with Jenkins' skill set.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Actual Pick: Melvin Ingram
Admittedly, this isn't the sexiest pick in the draft.
But while I am not ready to call Melvin Ingram a bust after injury issues, I will say the San Diego Chargers offensive line has been a problem for as long as anyone can recall.
Cordy Glenn was tied for No. 13 in Pro Football Focus' offensive-tackle rankings for the 2013 season (subscription required) and was called the "stud" of the offensive line in PFF's rankings for all 32 offensive lines.
As writer Khaled Elsayed says in the description of Buffalo's line, "The team drafted Cordy Glenn to be a stud left tackle, and a stud left tackle he has [become]."
The Chargers are so desperate for a legit left tackle that there is no way they can pass on one here.
19. Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Actual Pick: Shea McClellin
Again, I'm not sure I'm ready to call the 2012 pick a bust, but Shea McClellin has been a big disappointment. Now that he's even being transitioned to outside linebacker, as Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune reports, it stings even a bit more.
So if you're going to end up transitioning a guy anyway, why not go back in time and grab someone we know can do the job?
Last season was a bit of a catastrophe for the whole Houston defense, but Whitney Mercilus had some good moments, including totaling seven sacks.
In the Bears' 2012 defense, he would have reached his potential sooner. And when the Chicago defense began to fade last season, Mercilus would have helped prevent the collapse.
20. Tennessee Titans: T.Y. Hilton, Florida International
Actual Pick: Kendall Wright
With Kendall Wright a New York Jet, the Titans still need a receiver. While T.Y. Hilton was a late third-round pick, we've seen enough to know he's worth far more than that.
In fact, you can make the argument that the Titans would be happier with Hilton, a guy who can go deep and get separation. Hilton would have been a prime choice to take over for Kenny Britt once he was done wearing out his welcome.
Now they would just need a quarterback.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Actual Pick: Kevin Zeitler (after trading back with New England)
Since the Bengals didn't trade back, they were able to get a better guard in David DeCastro.
While both Kevin Zeitler and DeCastro are good (and were worth that first-round pick), DeCastro is becoming one of the better interior linemen in the NFL.
Whether he's blocking for the run game or a pass play, DeCastro has been instrumental in keeping the oft-maligned Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line from coming apart at the seams.
The Bengals wanted an interior lineman in the 2012 NFL draft, and they will have received one of the better ones out there.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic
Actual Pick: Brandon Weeden
So this has worked out pretty well for the Cleveland Browns. Seriously, I think Browns fans should be working on time-travel technology now.
Instead of getting an older quarterback with limited upside and an ineffective running back, they now end up with a very good young quarterback and one of the best young running backs in the NFL.
There's little doubt, even with the devaluing of running backs in today's NFL, that Alfred Morris would be gone with this pick. You could even make a strong case that someone might jump up and grab him earlier.
Between Nick Foles and Morris, this offense would be red-hot.
23. Detroit Lions: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
Actual Pick: Riley Reiff
There is a bit of an element of risk to this pick since Casey Hayward spent the majority of the 2013 NFL season on injured reserve.
However, based on his rookie season, Detroit would likely pull the trigger here.
Pairing Hayward with Chris Houston would have been a winning combination. The Lions have tried to plug that hole across from Houston but never seem to find the right fit.
In 2012, Hayward showed that he would be the guy to finally lock down the other half of the field.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Actual Pick: David DeCastro
With David DeCastro off the board just a few picks too soon, the Steelers can either try to travel back in time a few hours earlier and kidnap the Bengals front-office staff, thereby causing them to miss their pick and making DeCastro fall even further...
Or they can just pick Kevin Zeitler, who, while not as good as DeCastro, is a rock-solid guard.
The Steelers know the offensive line is vital—and a problem area—so it's doubtful they'd pass on a very good guard.
Besides, they know that going back in time and kidnapping people will cause a paradox, so they just have to suck it up.
25. Denver Broncos: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Actual Pick: None (moved back in trade with New England, then out of the first round in trade with Tampa Bay)
The Denver Broncos chose to back off in the 2012 NFL draft and take two guys in the second round—defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Regardless, this offseason the Broncos are working toward building a more physical secondary, and Barron is a physical defender.
26. Houston Texans: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Actual Pick: Whitney Mercilus
With Whitney Mercilus gone, the Houston Texans turn their attention to linebacker and Dont'a Hightower. Hightower has played both interior and outside linebacker (Ourlads has him as a middle linebacker, but Pro Football Focus graded him as an outside linebacker—subscription required—which says all you need to know about how many hybrid looks New England uses.
Wherever you use him, Hightower does a great job rushing the quarterback and creating pressure. With Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt in the front seven with him, Hightower could be a real monster.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints): Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Actual Pick: Same (after moving up in place of Cincinnati)
This pick has worked out pretty well for the New England Patriots, though now they don't have to move to get him.
Chandler Jones made a huge leap forward in his second season with the Pats, going from six sacks to 11.5 (leading the team) and 45 combined tackled to 79, per ESPN stats.
He will continue to be a big part of this New England defense.
28. Green Bay Packers: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
Actual Pick: Nick Perry
Nick Perry may still pan out, but trying to change him from a defensive end to a linebacker doesn't seem to be working.
There are no great pass-rushers here, but using the TARDIS, we’ve looked ahead and seen that Charles Woodson will leave, while M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian will be average at best.
Harrison Smith and Morgan Burnett would be a fantastic safety tandem—something the Packers will have to address in 2014 anyway.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
Actual Pick: None (traded out of the first round with Minnesota)
The Baltimore Ravens traded in order to grab Courtney Upshaw, who has played well, particularly on run defense.
Bobby Wagner is coming off a year in which he averaged 10 tackles a game over the course of the final eight games of the season, per ESPN stats. While he started slow and missed two games due to injury—both of which contributed to a dip in production compared to his 2012 totals—Wagner finished strong.
The Ravens are now rebuilding their defense, but it would be handy to have such a productive player on their squad.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State
Actual Pick: A.J. Jenkins
While sort of a luxury pick, the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff and front office probably would like this one back.
Even though the team had the rock-solid Mike Iupati, Alex Boone has never been better than average.
Kelechi Osemele has been incredibly good for the Baltimore Ravens, his versatility allowing him to slide over to either guard or tackle. The Niners do like versatile players and could use an upgrade over Boone on the interior line.
31. New England Patriots: Melvin Ingram, LB, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Dont'a Hightower (traded up with Denver)
As with the Detroit Lions' earlier pick of Casey Hayward, this pick carries a little risk, as Melvin Ingram is coming off an ACL injury, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, and can sometimes disappear in games.
Still, what we saw in the final leg of the 2013 NFL season (and what you read in Williams' article regarding his attitude and energy) is compelling.
Ingram is going to be a very good player, and he might even have gotten there more quickly under Bill Belichick's tutelage.
32. New York Giants: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Actual Pick: David Wilson
While I have tried to avoid calling players in this reboot a bust, since it's only been two years, it's hard to see David Wilson as anything but. Injuries, lackluster games and too many fumbles seem to have sunk a once-promising career.
Meanwhile, the Giants are continuing to play "street free agent" tight ends. That's got to end, as quarterback Eli Manning needs more help.
The Indianapolis Colts took two tight ends in the 2012 NFL draft, and Dwayne Allen (selected with the first pick of the third round) is the better of the two, with the type of skill set which could make him a constant pain in the rear for defenses.
While he missed almost all of last season due to injury, we expect a bounce-back year in 2014. He will continue to blossom with Andrew Luck—and would have solved the Giants' tight-end conundrum for Eli Manning.