How Would the 2011 NFL Draft Look If We Redrafted Today?
If the draft were today, would the Carolina Panthers still take Cam Newton?
Other decisions wouldn't be as easy, however. If, on draft day, the Jacksonville Jaguars had selected Andy Dalton instead of Blaine Gabbert, they would have been called insane. Now, not so much.
Looking at the draft now, many general managers look brilliant. Others are in danger of losing their jobs because of their draft day decisions.
Months after the 2011 NFL draft, we have one benefit that these general managers didn't have.
(*For simplicity's sake, all draft-day trades have been neglected in determining the order of this redraft.)
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
To put it simply, Cam Newton has been brilliant this year. Most NFL draft analysts thought that Newton, in time, could develop into a great quarterback.
Well, he's already there. Unlike Vince Young as a rookie, Newton isn't just running the ball. The former Heisman winner hasn't been great throwing the ball, but he has been better than expected.
Still adjusting to an NFL offense, Newton has excelled purely because of his elite physical ability. Once he gains experience and becomes more familiar with the pro game, he could become one of the game's best players.
2. Denver Broncos: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Prior to the draft, it was said that Von Miller was explosive enough to immediately become one of the game's best pass-rushers. Everyone who said that was correct.
Through just 11 games, Miller already has 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. As a linebacker, Miller is not yet great in every aspect, but he is accomplishing what he was drafted for: making plays.
These sack numbers would be impressive if he were a defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker, but Miller isn't either of these; he's a 4-3 outside linebacker who doesn't blitz on every play.
Miller isn't purely a pass-rusher, however. He has made crucial stops in the backfield against the run, including one phenomenal play against the San Diego Chargers in Denver's Week 12 victory.
The former Texas A&M star is still just scratching the surface of his potential.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
At Alabama, Marcell Dareus primarily played the 3-4 defensive end position. With Buffalo, however, he has moved around, playing nose tackle, end and defensive tackle in both the 3-4 and 4-3.
Because Dareus is so versatile, Buffalo can feasibly run either defensive scheme in the future. Dareus' size and incredible athletic ability have helped him make huge plays for the Bills.
Even though he is playing the role of a run-stuffer, Dareus has 3.5 sacks in 2011. This type of talent doesn't come along too often.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Though Andy Dalton has been great for the Bengals, A.J. Green has been better. Despite missing a game, Green is on pace for more than 1,000 yards.
Rookie wide receivers rarely get off to great starts, but Green has been phenomenal.
There may be better athletes at wideout than Green, but few have as good of catching ability. The former Georgia star has the size, athleticism, body control and hands to make plays that only an elite group of players can.
Green still has much to learn about playing the wide receiver position, and that's a huge part of what makes his future so terrifying for opposing defensive backs.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Patrick Peterson was widely considered to be one of the best cornerback prospects to ever enter the draft. The 6'1", 220 pounder possesses an unheard of combination of size and athleticism, but he is still very raw.
Because he is so raw, no one was too surprised when Peterson got off to a bit of a slow start at cornerback. Sure, he was still incredible as a return man, but he hadn't fared so well on defense.
Now, however, Peterson is playing at a high level in every aspect of the game. As Arizona's No.1 cornerback, Peterson is facing opposing teams' best receivers, and he isn't doing too badly either.
It is not a stretch to say that Peterson has the potential to be the best player in the NFL.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
And now, at pick No. 6, we see our first change. Julio Jones was drafted with the sixth pick, but it was the Atlanta Falcons, not the Cleveland Browns, that picked him.
When healthy, the 6'3", 220 pounder has been great, gaining 498 yards in eight games. Jones may not be quite as good as A.J. Green, but he has huge upside nonetheless.
Unlike the Falcons, Cleveland seriously lacks playmaking ability on offense. Greg Little has made some plays for the Browns, but he is no Julio Jones.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
As a pass-rusher, Aldon Smith has been fantastic, accumulating 7.5 sacks in his first 11 games. As an overall player, however, Smith is still raw.
The 6'4", 258 pounder has only 20 total tackles, and he isn't a finished product in coverage either. Smith's athleticism and pass-rushing ability are just so good that the 49ers can deal with his other flaws.
In time, Smith should become a good run defender and coverage linebacker. With his size, strength and speed, there is no reason to think otherwise.
8. Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Okay, Jake Locker has hardly even played for the Titans, so it might seem a little strange putting him ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton. There is, however, one huge difference between Locker and Dalton: upside.
Locker possesses great speed and a rocket arm, while Dalton is somewhat physically limited. In the little action Locker has seen, he has displayed improved accuracy and more-than-adequate decision-making.
Sure, Matt Hasselbeck has been decent this year, but it is incredibly obvious that he isn't the future in Tennessee. Jake Locker, on the other hand, very well could be.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Though he is playing right tackle instead of protecting the blind side, Tyron Smith has been fantastic as a rookie. Many had concerns about the somewhat undersized Smith dealing with stronger linemen, but he has been just fine on the supposedly more powerful right side.
As a pass-blocker, Smith is quick and difficult to beat around the edge. The USC product isn't quite as dominant in the run game, but he isn't bad either.
Though Doug Free is currently the Cowboys' left tackle, Smith could easily play there and may in the future.
10. Washington Redskins: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
Entering the 2011 season, most predicted that the Redskins would have issues at the quarterback position.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise to Mike Shanahan when they did.
Though he was a second-round draft pick, Andy Dalton has been great for the Bengals. Dalton may not possess elite physical ability, but his accuracy and intelligence have made up for it.
In the future, Dalton probably won't become an elite quarterback, but he should be good enough to win a Super Bowl. And that is, after all, the ultimate goal of every NFL team.
11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Because they were transitioning to a 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips, the Texans selected J.J. Watt to play 3-4 defensive end. The 6'6", 290 pounder has not disappointed and has been one of Houston's best defenders.
Though Watt was athletic enough to play end in a 4-3 scheme, he was better suited to play the 5-tech position. However, Watt's athletic ability is crucial to his success, and he is able to provide some pass rush as well.
Because of the position he plays, Watt may never get a ton of national recognition, but his play has already been noticed by those who watch closely.
Expect Watt to be one of the game's best 3-4 defensive ends sooner rather than later.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Christian Ponder hasn't been great by any means, but the Vikings have nothing else at quarterback. Donovan McNabb was a huge failure, and Ponder has been handed the reins sooner than Minnesota would have liked.
At the time of the draft, Ponder was a risky pick, and he still is. Ponder's upside isn't anything great, and he has a low floor as well. Though Ponder's production is not good, he has shown flashes.
Only time will tell if Ponder develops into a good quarterback, but the position he plays warrants the high selection.
13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
At the time of the draft, Nate Solder was widely considered a high-risk/high-reward prospect. For the Patriots, Solder has already demonstrated why he was seen this way.
The 6'8", 319 pounder is a great athlete with fantastic length, but he remains incredibly raw. Already, Solder has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has also struggled at times.
The Lions have a huge need at left tackle. Jeff Backus is awful, and Matthew Stafford is taking a beating because of the team's poor line play.
Though Solder is not yet starting in New England, he has seen action due to injuries. For the Lions, Solder could step in and be the team's best offensive tackle.
14. St. Louis Rams: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Ryan Kerrigan only has one more sack than Robert Quinn, who St. Louis selected with the No. 14 pick, but he has been much better on the whole. The 6'4", 267-pound Kerrigan is great against the run and can still get after the quarterback.
With the Redskins, Kerrigan has played outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 defense, but he is more than capable of playing defensive end. In fact, the Purdue product may be even better suited as a down lineman.
Because he isn't an elite athlete, Kerrigan's pass-rushing upside isn't as high as Quinn's. Kerrigan will, however, always be better against the run, and he is currently better.
15. Miami Dolphins: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Because of an injury, Prince Amukamara has only played in two games so far, but he was a good enough prospect to be worthwhile here. The 6'0", 207 pounder isn't on the same level as Patrick Peterson, but he is a solid cornerback nonetheless.
Sean Smith has been a huge disappointment for Miami; he would be better suited at free safety. Amukamara would be an immediate upgrade, and Smith would improve the Dolphins' safeties as well.
Though Amukamara probably won't become elite, he should be a legitimate No. 1 cornerback for years to come.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
Though he hasn't started the entire season for the Texans, Brooks Reed already has six sacks. The 6'3", 260-pound linebacker stands up in Houston, but he could play as an undersized defensive end as well.
Prior to the draft, Reed's style of play (and hair) drew comparisons to Green Bay's Clay Matthews. With the Texans, Reed has far outplayed his expectations as a second-round draft pick.
For years, Jacksonville has desperately needed pass-rushers. Reed provides an athletic, high-motor player with considerable upside.
17. New England Patriots: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Though he was just a third-round draft pick, DeMarco Murray has been one of the NFL's most productive running backs in a limited amount of playing time. Murray is an athletic runner whose catching ability has caused some to question whether he should play wide receiver.
At 6'0", 218 pounds, Murray has great size to go along with his speed and receiving ability. Above all else, New England values receiving ability in their running backs, and the team could use an impact runner.
Murray doesn't possess the power to be an elite running back, but his style of play fits in perfectly with the Patriots.
And based on Murray's production, he isn't a huge reach here.
18. San Diego Chargers: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
When the Chargers selected Corey Liuget, many thought general manager A.J. Smith had messed up. Liuget was viewed as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and San Diego's 3-4 defense seemed to be an odd fit.
However, Liuget has been great as a defensive end, and he has the athletic ability to improve. The Illinois product is new to the 3-4 defense, but he has still been great.
In most 3-4 schemes, Liuget would probably struggle. Unlike many teams, the Chargers run a 1-gap scheme, and Liuget is a perfect fit for this.
19. New York Giants: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Like Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith has suffered from injuries. Smith recently returned to the playing field, however, and he has impressed.
By the end of the season, Smith could very well be starting at cornerback for the Ravens.
The 6'2", 210-pound Smith is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL, but character issues prevented him from being selected higher. If he stays out of trouble, Smith could develop into an elite defender.
Though the Giants seem to have a surplus of cornerbacks, many of them could soon be leaving. Terrell Thomas recently tore his ACL and has an expiring contract. Former first-round pick Aaron Ross is also a free agent after the 2011 season.
Corey Webster is a legitimate No. 1 cornerback; Smith could combine with him to form a fantastic duo.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Even before the draft, Robert Quinn was viewed as a risky pick for a variety of reasons. Quinn was suspended for his entire junior campaign, and he also suffered from multiple physical ailments.
Earlier in the 2011 season, Quinn was a healthy scratch for the Rams. He has since improved and actually has five sacks on the year. Quinn is still weak against the run, but he has elite pass-rushing potential.
The Buccaneers actually selected Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn here, but Quinn's upside far exceeds Clayborn's. Though Clayborn hasn't been bad by any stretch of the imagination, he will never be an elite pass-rusher.
Quinn could be.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
In the weeks before the draft, Phil Taylor was often projected to the Kansas City Chiefs. The 6'4", 335-pound Taylor was the ideal nose tackle, and the Chiefs had a huge hole at the position.
With the Browns, Taylor hasn't just been a space eater, however. The big man has displayed great athleticism and is actually playing the attacking under tackle position, where he has racked up four sacks.
This does not mean that Taylor has struggled against the run, though.
At nose tackle, Taylor could easily maintain two gaps while still providing some pass rush. Few players possess Taylor's combination of size and athleticism, and he could be a force in the middle of Kansas City's defensive line.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Though he only saw limited playing time before being placed on Injured Reserve, Gabe Carimi has looked excellent for the Bears. As a prospect, Carimi was primarily viewed as a right tackle, but he has displayed the athleticism to protect the blind side.
Indianapolis' offensive line has been a huge issue, and though first-round pick Anthony Castonzo has been decent, he isn't as good as Carimi. Carimi's biggest strength is his run-blocking ability, and the Colts are in desperate need of help there.
If Peyton Manning is able to make a return, Indianapolis has to ensure his protection. Carimi can help there, but he will also improve the team's run game.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Nick Fairley was widely seen as a top-10 pick before the draft, but he has suffered from a foot injury and hasn't impressed. Though he hasn't been great on the field, Fairley has too much potential to fall much further than this.
The 6'4", 290 pounder's penetrating style is perfect for defensive line coach Jim Washburn's scheme. Philadelphia's defense has been awful in 2011, and though they most desperately need a linebacker, there isn't one worthy of the pick.
If Fairley receives proper coaching, he could develop into one of the game's most active defensive tackles.
And really, any defensive star would be a great addition for the Eagles.
24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
In the real draft, New Orleans selected a different defensive end, Cameron Jordan, with the No. 24 pick. However, Jordan has been a huge disappointment and has done virtually nothing as a starter.
Adrian Clayborn, on the other hand, has been great for the Buccaneers. The 6'3", 287 pounder has five sacks and has been good against the run as well.
Will Smith is a well-above-average defensive end, but he isn't an elite pass-rusher. Cameron isn't much of a pass-rushing threat, and the Saints could use someone more dynamic.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Though he hasn't been a stud, Anthony Castonzo has been solid for the Colts. Castonzo has played left tackle for Indianapolis, but he would handle the right side in Seattle.
First-round pick James Carpenter has looked slow and out of place at right tackle, and Castonzo has been much better at a more difficult position. With Russell Okung manning the left side, the Seahawks would have two bookend tackles.
Castonzo is a smart, talented player with good athleticism. The Boston College alum isn't overly powerful, but he does fine in the run game.
Seattle could also use a quarterback, pass-rusher or offensive weapon, but there aren't any great options available.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
The Ravens may have drafted Torrey Smith in the second round, but his play has been worthy of a much higher pick. The Maryland speedster has been a phenomenal deep threat for Baltimore and is producing at a high level.
Smith has had some problems with drops and isn't a great route runner yet, but his speed and agility make him a deadly weapon. Though the 6'1", 205 pounder has primarily been used to stretch the field, Smith can gain yardage after the catch as well.
Baltimore has plenty of wide receivers, but none of them are elite. Smith is already making plays for the Ravens, and he has not yet reached his potential.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
On the day of the draft, the Falcons completed a controversial trade with the Cleveland Browns in order to acquire Julio Jones. In this scenario, Atlanta doesn't have the option of trading up, so they settle for a wideout similar to Jones.
Like Jones, Greg Little is a big, powerful receiver who gains yards after the catch with ease. Both have suffered from drops and have great upside.
Little isn't quite the deep threat Jones is, but he is the best option available here. Little's yards-after-catch ability is perfect for Atlanta's west coast offense, and he offers Matt Ryan yet another option.
28. New England Patriots: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
With the Raiders, Stefen Wisniewski has played both guard and center at an extremely high level. The 6'3", 315 pounder has actually been one of the 2011 draft's best players, but he doesn't play a position of huge importance.
The Patriots have recently suffered from a myriad of injuries at the center position, and Wisniewski would be a huge upgrade. The Penn State product possesses the intelligence and mean streak that Bill Belichick loves in offensive linemen.
Even with backups at center, New England has a good offensive line. Wisniewski would just make it that much better.
29. Chicago Bears: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
The No. 15 pick of the draft, Mike Pouncey has been good, but not great, for the Dolphins. Pouncey is a good athlete who does a good job pulling and blocking in space.
The 6'5", 303 pounder has not played up to expectations, however. The Bears' offensive line is awful, and though they would like to add a tackle, there isn't one worthy of the pick.
In the future, expect Pouncey to be an above-average player, but he probably won't live up to the hype. A good player is rarely a bad investment, though, and Chicago desperately needs help along the offensive line.
30. New York Jets: Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
Though he plays left end for the Browns, Jabaal Sheard is more than capable of playing linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In fact, because of his small size, Sheard was expected to be drafted by a team that utilizes the 3-4 scheme.
With the Browns, Sheard has gathered 4.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. The Jets are in desperate need of a threat off the edge, and though Sheard is nothing special, he would be a huge help.
Sheard has somewhat limited upside due to his average athletic ability, but he is already on his way to becoming an above-average player. New York's defense is almost perfect except for its pass rush, so Sheard would be addressing a huge need.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
Despite not being drafted until the fifth round, Pernell McPhee has been one of this year's most impressive rookies. Though he plays defensive end in Baltimore's 3-4 defense, McPhee has four sacks on the year in limited playing time.
McPhee is a great fit for Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense because, unlike many 3-4 teams, the Steelers don't require their defensive ends to hold two gaps. This would allow McPhee to attack and make plays in the backfield.
For years, the Steelers have had one of the league's best defensive lines. This unit is starting to age, however, and Pittsburgh needs to address it.
32. Green Bay Packers: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Though the stats indicate otherwise, Justin Houston has been great for the Chiefs. The 6'3", 270 pounder has shown his trademark pass-rushing ability and is playing well against the run.
Green Bay has a star in Clay Matthews at one outside linebacker position, but the other spot requires an upgrade. Because Houston would be lined up opposite a coverage star like Matthews, he could focus more on rushing the passer and stopping the run.
If it weren't for a failed drug test, Houston would have been a second- or perhaps even a first-round draft pick. The talent is certainly there, and in Green Bay, Houston could become a star.