Re-Drafting the 2014 NFL Draft
There’s nothing more fascinating than partaking in a bit of hindsight when it comes to a redraft of a previous NFL draft. In this case, let’s take the most recent draft and reshuffle the deck. It’s easy. We just hop in the DeLorean, and when it gets up to 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some serious…well, you know how it goes.
The rules for this are fairly straightforward. Using the original order from the start of the draft (no in-draft trades accounted for), each team is given a shiny new player.
Is it cogent to judge a draft after a single season? Probably not. But it sure is fun! Based on how things went in 2014 for this crop of now-second-year players, let’s do it all again and see how different this draft could have looked.
1. Houston Texans
Original Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Redo pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Houston Texans appeared to have the perfect pick. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney came into the league as one of the most hyped prospects ever. He was going to be transcendent and redefine the position. However, a lingering injury limited him to just four games during his rookie season.
In the do-over, the Texans take Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Houston quarterbacks were abysmal in 2014, and Bridgewater came on strong as the season progressed and looks like one of the future stars in the league.
2. St. Louis Rams (From Washington)
Original Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Redo pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Some believed Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson was such an athletic freak that he would come into the league and dominate. It took Robinson nearly the entire season to get any traction, but he does look to be a very good left tackle going forward.
However, for this exercise, the pick is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham turned in one of the most spectacular rookie seasons of any wide receiver in NFL history. After missing the first four games of the season, all he did was proceed to catch 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final 12 games.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Redo Pick: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
This is one of those picks that might not please Jacksonville Jaguars fans. I’m sure plenty were comfortable with UCF quarterback Blake Bortles as the pick, and still are going forward. While his rookie season was rather mundane, there is reason for hope.
However, for this redraft, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is the pick. Mack started 16 games for the Oakland Raiders and played better and better as the season progressed. Look for a huge leap in production in 2015.
4. Cleveland Browns
Original Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Redo Pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Oh, what could have been. The Cleveland Browns did everything in their power to throw the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, even if this pick wasn’t their fault. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was supposed to be good. And he may still be. However, he really struggled as a rookie.
This time around, the Browns right the wrongs of last year by selecting Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. With very little talent around him in Oakland, he threw for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns. The sky is the limit for this signal-caller.
5. Oakland Raiders
Original Pick: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Redo Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
This is the first pick on the list where, if possible, the selection would stay the same. I’m sure the Raiders would be fine with taking Mack here again. However, since he's already off the board, the Raiders turn their attention to another defensive star.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year. It is rare enough for an interior defensive lineman to be in contention for such an honor, much less win it. Perhaps most impressive about Donald’s rookie year was that he ended up with nine sacks rushing the passer from the inside.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Original Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Redo Pick: Anthony Barr, EDGE, UCLA
The pick of Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews wasn’t terrible. Matthews had his struggles as a rookie, but he still projects as a solid starter in this league for many years to come. However, perhaps he's not the elite player he was in college.
Instead, the Falcons go for UCLA edge-rusher Anthony Barr. In his first year in the league, Barr showed great potential as an all-around linebacker (70 total tackles, four sacks, three passes defensed), and there’s no doubt he could line up and rush the passer for the Falcons.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Redo Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Hey, we have our first pick where the original is just as good as the redo. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they found themselves a huge, dominating wide receiver with Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, so there’s no reason to change this time around. Evans remains on the board with pick No. 7, so he's the pick once again.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Original Pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Redo Pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The Vikings got a real steal with Barr the first time around. He looks to be a star for many years in the league. Unfortunately, for this exercise Barr is already gone. That forces the Vikings to look elsewhere for help.
Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin is the pick this time. The star lineman had a downright dominant rookie year at right guard for the Dallas Cowboys and would be a welcome addition to the Vikings offensive line.
9. Buffalo Bills
Original Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Redo Pick: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
The Buffalo Bills mortgaged their future to draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. And while a drastic move to get a wide receiver doesn’t seem prudent, Watkins did finish with 65 receptions for 982 yards and six touchdowns.
However, if the draft happened again, LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry makes more sense in Buffalo. Landry was a much more consistent receiving threat, finishing the year with 84 catches for 758 yards and five touchdowns. This one is very close, but Landry really did shine in spots in 2014.
10. Detroit Lions
Original Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Redo Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
I think a lot of people thought North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was going to be great. Unfortunately, one year in, all that potential remains in the shadows. Lions fans are hopeful that Ebron is prepared to take that next step, but chalk his rookie season up as a disappointment.
This time around the Lions go a bit safer with Robinson. As stated earlier, it took Robinson some time to get going in 2014, but he really came on strong as the season progressed and looks like he can be great in the future.
11. Tennessee Titans
Original Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Redo Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Tennessee Titans check in with the second pick where there is no change. The Titans needed a tackle badly in the 2014 draft, and with the way Lewan played down the stretch, there’s no reason to change anything here. Lewan has a bright future ahead of him, and the Titans were wise to select him.
12. New York Giants
Original Pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Redo Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Unfortunately for the New York Giants, if the 2014 draft was redone, their chances of securing Beckham Jr. again are nil. That means New York must look elsewhere to try to mimic that production.
It’s difficult to say if Watkins would have had the type of rookie year Beckham had with Eli Manning as his quarterback. Either way, Watkins is one of the great wide receivers from this class, and an excellent consolation prize.
13. St. Louis Rams
Original Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Redo Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
With defensive tackle Aaron Donald out of play, the St. Louis Rams are forced to go in a radically different direction. Quarterback continues to be a need in St. Louis, so with UCF quarterback Blake Bortles still on the board, he makes for an easy choice here. Obviously, this pick is done with the knowledge that quarterback Sam Bradford was once again lost to injury.
14. Chicago Bears
Original Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Redo Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
It’s not entirely clear how Chicago Bears fans would react if this draft happened again and cornerback Kyle Fuller was the pick. The fact is Fuller is a tremendous talent and has shutdown corner potential. There’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken. There are other players that Chicago could have looked at here, but there's no reason to pass on the top cornerback in the class.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Redo Pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The hope when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Ryan Shazier was that his elite athleticism would ignite the Steelers defense. Unfortunately, an injury delayed Shazier’s development, and his rookie season was a wash.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, linebacker C.J. Mosley knocked out a full 16 starts and racked up an impressive 133 total tackles. The Steelers passed on Mosley for Shazier the first time around, but not here. Mosley looks the part of a Steelers linebacker much more so than Shazier.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Original Pick: Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame
Redo Pick: Joel Bitonio, OG, Nevada
Even though the Dallas Cowboys can’t draft Martin again in this scenario, their philosophy stays the same. Dallas is committed to building their team starting with the line, so that holds true even without Martin.
Nevada’s Joel Bitonio had one of the most impressive bodies of work of any lineman coming out of college. He stepped in and played 16 games at left guard at a very high level for the Cleveland Browns. He can do the same thing for the Cowboys in this redraft.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Original Pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Redo Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Baltimore Ravens would be pretty disappointed if they had to do all this again and couldn’t get Mosley this time around. The Ravens just seem to always have excellent linebackers, and Mosley is poised to be the next one.
Nevertheless, without him available, the Ravens go in a different direction. Cornerback Jason Verrett flashed some impressive coverage skills during his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers. Granted, it was in a limited role, but he appears to be a rising star at the position.
18. New York Jets
Original Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Redo Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
When the New York Jets made their first-round pick of Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, it left Jets fans wondering what to expect. As a rookie, Pryor started 11 games and racked up a respectable 60 total tackles. However, if it could happen all over again, the selection might go a bit differently.
In fact, if the Jets could have taken Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, they’d have one of the best young safeties in the league. Clinton-Dix may have one less start than Pryor, but he ended up with 92 total tackles.
19. Miami Dolphins
Original Pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Redo Pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU
Based on his preseason performance, it looked like the Miami Dolphins got the steal of the first round with Tennessee tackle Ja’Wuan James. However, James struggled once the regular season got started. Although he started all 16 games at tackle, his play was very up and down.
The Dolphins score big this time through with Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The dig on Benjamin coming out of college was that his game was raw, but he hauled in 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns like a five-year veteran.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Original Pick: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Redo Pick: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
There’s no reason for the Arizona Cardinals to second-guess their choice of Washington State safety Deone Bucannon. Arizona needed a player to come in and play a hybrid safety/linebacker role, and Bucannon utilized his excellent football acumen to be that sort of player, racking up 83 tackles in only nine starts. Bucannon is a hammer with a bright future ahead of him.
21. Green Bay Packers
Original Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Redo Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The first time around, the Green Bay Packers scored big with Clinton-Dix. The young safety showed a ton of promise as a rookie, so much so that he is long gone in this redraft. That means the Packers must look elsewhere.
Even with his struggles, it’s hard to imagine Clowney falling out of the first round. The Texans and Packers use similar personnel groupings on defense, so Clowney can be the pick here based on potential alone.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Original Pick: Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
Redo Pick: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Philadelphia Eagles' selection of defensive end Marcus Smith was a real head-scratcher. One year later, and still no one understands what the Eagles can or will do with him.
For the redraft, the Eagles secure their top rookie, wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Philadelphia originally acquired him in the second round, but on the strength of that rookie season (67 receptions, 872 yards, eight touchdowns) almost exclusively out of the slot, the Eagles will make sure they keep their guy.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Original Pick: Dee Ford, EDGE, Auburn
Redo Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
It is probably too soon to judge the Kansas City Chiefs' choice of defensive end Dee Ford. Kansas City drafted him with the 2015 season in mind and had no need for him in 2014; look for an expanded role from him this season.
Nevertheless, when you look at the Chiefs' 2014 season, it was the woeful passing offense that stood out. That’s why this time around it is more about getting a player that can help now, rather than down the line. That means Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is the choice. Who knows, he might have even caught a touchdown.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Original Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Redo Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the hope was that he would become a press-man cornerback and help the Bengals defense right away. That never really happened in 2014, but Dennard is a solid talent and should see an expanded role this season.
However, for this redraft, it is another cornerback, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, that is the pick. He stepped in as the nickel cornerback for the Denver Broncos, earning two starts and accumulating 65 tackles and two interceptions.
25. San Diego Chargers
Original Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Redo Pick: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
I’m sure if they had the chance the San Diego Chargers would be happy getting Verrett back on the roster. However, Verrett has been snatched up this time around, and San Diego goes another direction entirely.
That direction is a wide receiver, and the pick is Clemson wideout Martavis Bryant. He may be a first-round pick here, but Bryant was originally a fourth-round selection. Why such a bump? Because after missing the first six games of the year, Bryant was active and caught 26 passes for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Bryant really excelled as a dominant deep threat.
26. Cleveland Browns (From Indianapolis)
Original Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Redo Pick: Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State
Picking a quarterback earlier in the draft, the Browns don’t even need to consider taking one here—which is fine, because let’s be honest, Johnny Manziel was not the best pick. However, since Cleveland wanted a cornerback and quarterback, we still stick with that plan.
The next-best rookie cornerback from last season is San Jose State's Bene Benwikere. After earning a starting spot in Carolina for the final five games of the season, Benewikere accumulated 25 total tackles and only appears to be improving.
27. New Orleans Saints
Original Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Redo Pick: Telvin Smith, LB, FSU
With Cooks off the board, the New Orleans Saints have to look elsewhere, and that elsewhere is on the defensive side of the football. Without Cooks, FSU linebacker Telvin Smith makes sense. Smith is athletic enough to play in space on the outside and has more than enough explosion to rush the passer off the edge.
28. Carolina Panthers
Original Pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU
Redo Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Carolina Panthers fans everywhere are probably going to moan and groan over this pick. However, with Benjamin off the board, a huge athletic weapon like Ebron makes sense. Perhaps Ebron could parlay all that athletic ability into a better season in the Carolina offense. He’d almost certainly see more targets with quarterback Cam Newton getting him the football.
29. New England Patriots
Original Pick: Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
Redo Pick: Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
I am not one to typically argue with the choices that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick makes. So when it comes to this pick, after taking defensive lineman Dominique Easley the first time around, why not do it again? There really isn’t a guy I’d take over him at this point. Easley flashed some dynamic skills during the season and is poised for a breakout year in 2015.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Original Pick: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Redo Pick: Demarcus Lawrence, LB, Boise State
If you base this exercise on which the writers make the 49ers' selection, there are a few options here. The one guy that isn’t really an option at this point is safety Jimmie Ward. This pick was a reach and not exactly exciting.
So the 49ers instead pull a guy up from the second round and add defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. With all the turnover, Lawrence and his ability to come off the edge would be greatly appreciated.
31. Denver Broncos
Original Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Redo Pick: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
Once again we find a team near the bottom of the round that has lost their original pick. However, do not despair; despite the fact that Roby isn’t an option, the Denver Broncos can still get a great cornerback. That cornerback this time around is E.J. Gaines.
Gaines came in and started 15 games as a rookie with St. Louis, which is impressive on its own. However, he is an excellent coverage player and a willing run defender. Gaines had 70 tackles, 14 passes defended and two interceptions as a rookie.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Original Pick: No Pick
Redo Pick: John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State
In Super Bowl XLIX, there wasn’t a single wide receiver targeted by quarterback Russell Wilson that was drafted. That alone is reason enough for the Seattle Seahawks to use this first-round pick on someone to add a dynamic and vertical element.
The pick here is Pittsburg State University wide receiver John Brown. Even though Brown played for the D-II Gorillas, his blend of speed and shiftiness in the open field is just too good to pass up. Brown went in the third round originally, but 48 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns in a reserve role is enough to warrant a pick here.
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com.