Re-Drafting the 2008 NFL Draft

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 11, 2020

Re-Drafting the 2008 NFL Draft

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    This offseason, Bleacher Report is imagining how every NFL draft this century would go down if teams could jump into Dr. Emmett L. Brown's retrofitted DMC DeLorean and go back in time.

    What if they could all set the flux capacitor for April 26, 2008?

    In our opinion, you'd end up with quarterbacks in the top two spots but none of the next 29.

    Here are the specifics in a re-draft that includes those two signal-callers, five running backs, four wide receivers, two tight ends, seven offensive linemen, six front-seven defenders and five defensive backs.

    Note: There are only 31 selections because the New England Patriots forfeited their original first-round pick as part of their penalty for the Spygate scandal. 

1. Miami Dolphins: QB Matt Ryan, Boston College

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Jake Long

    Where he was actually picked: Third overall by the Falcons

    Matt Ryan has yet to win a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons, so taking him instead of Jake Long wouldn't necessarily have resulted in a championship for the Miami Dolphins in the last 12 years. Still, a team that hasn't had consistently reliable quarterback play in well over a decade would be able to skip the Chad Henne and Ryan Tannehill eras.

    The four-time Pro Bowler and 2016 MVP would have been a building block in Miami. With him on board, the Dolphins likely would have attracted more free agents, and they could have used their 2012 top-10 pick on someone other than Tannehill (Luke Kuechly and Stephon Gilmore were selected directly after him). There's also a good chance they'd have made a playoff run or two in 2013, 2014 or 2016 (Ryan's best year happened to be Miami's only playoff season in the last decade).

    Long wasn't a bust—the former Michigan standout earned four Pro Bowl nods in five seasons in Miami—but the Dolphins obviously drafted him with the intention of soon finding a long-term answer under center. That didn't happen until at least the arrival of Tannehill, who never won a playoff game in Miami.

2. St. Louis Rams: QB Joe Flacco, Delaware

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DE Chris Long

    Where he was actually picked: 18th overall by the Ravens

    Joe Flacco is no Matt Ryan. He's never been an MVP, an All-Pro or even a Pro Bowler. But he was often, at the very least, a quality starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens over the course of the following decade. Throw in his remarkable playoff success, and there's no way the St. Louis Rams could pass on him in the event of a do-over.

    That magic might not have helped the Rams enough when they won just three total games in 2008 and 2009, but they missed the playoffs as a result of a tiebreaker when they had a top-12 scoring defense in 2010, and above-median defenses had them in the mix in 2012 and 2013. Flacco could have put them over the top in those seasons, and you never know what could happen in January.

    This is a guy who threw 11 touchdown passes to zero interceptions and posted a 117.2 passer rating en route to winning the Super Bowl in 2012.

    You gotta gamble on that, especially since Long never lived up to expectations.

3. Atlanta Falcons: DL Calais Campbell, Miami (FL)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted QB Matt Ryan

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Cardinals

    With 88 sacks and five Pro Bowl nods, Calais Campbell might be the most accomplished defensive player in this class. While mourning the loss of Ryan, the Falcons would shore up their defense for a decade-plus to come with a player who would fill a major need immediately.

    Between 2008 and 2015, not a single Falcons player besides John Abraham had eight sacks in a season.

    During that time, they swung and missed with premium draft picks Peria Jerry and Ra'Shede Hageman, Vic Beasley Jr. flamed out after a strong start to his career, and 2017 first-rounder Takkarist McKinley also has yet to come through. But they could have avoided all that with Campbell, who would have eventually teamed up with Grady Jarrett to form a hell of a duo.

    The best part is he's still making a large impact today.

4. Oakland Raiders: WR DeSean Jackson, California

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    Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Darren McFadden

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Eagles

    McFadden became a bust with just one 1,000-yard season over the course of seven years with the Oakland Raiders, who didn't have a winning campaign between this draft and 2015.

    A lack of offensive weapons is a big reason for that. The Raiders didn't have a 1,000-yard receiver from 2008 to 2014, and the team leader in receiving yardage was a tight end in four of those seven seasons. But DeSean Jackson went over 900 yards in six of those seven years, earning three Pro Bowl nods.

    He'd be a perfect fit for the Raiders, and he's had the staying power to make a difference when the team finally became competitive in 2016. Imagine him and Amari Cooper together on that 12-4 squad.

5. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Aqib Talib, Kansas

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    Terry Renna/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Glenn Dorsey

    Where he was actually picked: 20th overall by the Buccaneers

    Dorsey didn't fulfill expectations in five seasons with the Chiefs and was off the team within half a decade. There's no reason to keep him around, and really no reason to bring back superb running back (and original Kansas City third-round pick) Jamaal Charles, seeing as the team won zero playoff games during Charles' run as a regular starter.

    Instead, they'd be smart to roll with cornerback Aqib Talib, whose prime happened to coincide with the arrival of Andy Reid and the emergence of the Chiefs as a perennial playoff contender.

    Talib was one of the sport's top playmaking cornerbacks between 2013 and 2017. That might have helped the Chiefs make deeper runs when they were consistently in the playoffs but couldn't get past the divisional round.

    He was better than Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Terrance Mitchell and every other recent Chiefs corner except Marcus Peters. Those two would have formed a hell of a duo, just as they did when they went to the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018.

6. New York Jets: OT Duane Brown, Virginia Tech

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Vernon Gholston

    Where he was actually picked: 26th overall by the Texans

    We all know Gholston didn't come close to panning out for the New York Jets, but there's no value in drafting another pass-rusher in this spot. However, landing Duane Brown here is a coup, and it'd be worth it for the Jets even with early 2006 pick D'Brickashaw Ferguson on the roster.

    Ferguson was good enough to earn Pro Bowl honors when the Jets went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, but Brown was already becoming a star at that point with the Houston Texans. He could have provided a huge upgrade at right tackle in those competitive early seasons and then taken over on the blind side when Ferguson faded early in the next decade.

    Brown was a first-team All-Pro in 2012 and a second-team All-Pro in 2011 and 2018, and he's been a Pro Bowler four times in the last eight seasons. The Jets really could have used him when they went 10-6 but fell short of the postseason in 2015, and they could really use him to help young quarterback Sam Darnold right now.

7. New England Patriots: RB Jamaal Charles, Texas

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted LB Jerod Mayo 10th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Chiefs

    Mayo was a great player, but he was never a key member of a Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots team. And while we mentioned that Jamaal Charles' prime didn't line up with a competitive window for the Chiefs, his elite production in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 might have been just what the doctor ordered for Pats teams that fell short of the Super Bowl in all four of those campaigns.

    The '09 Patriots got just 3.9 yards per carry out of top back Laurence Maroney, while Charles averaged a wild 5.9 yards per attempt that year in KC. Charles became a first-team All-Pro with an even more ridiculous 6.4 YPC in 2010, while New England got a so-so 4.4 average out of No. 1 back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The '12 Pats relied on Stevan Ridley's 4.4 average while Charles made another Pro Bowl with 5.3 yards per carry, and he was an All-Pro again while Ridley averaged just 4.3 yards per rush in '13.

    It's entirely possible that with Charles, the Patriots win the Super Bowl in at least one of those four seasons.

8. Baltimore Ravens: RB Chris Johnson, East Carolina

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    Marco Garcia/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back and then up again, drafted QB Joe Flacco 18th overall

    Where he was actually picked: 24th overall by the Titans

    Without Flacco in this imaginary timeline, the Baltimore Ravens are a lot less likely to experience the playoff success they had from 2008 to 2014—a stretch that included 10 postseason victories and a championship in 2012.

    But all they can do is draft the best offensive player available from this class. In this case, that's running back Chris Johnson.

    The three-time Pro Bowler was the Offensive Player of the Year in a 2,006-yard 2009 campaign, and he rushed for 1,243 yards the season the Ravens won it all.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: G Josh Sitton, Central Florida

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted LB Keith Rivers

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth round by the Packers

    Rivers lasted just three "meh" seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, who became consistently competitive between 2009 and 2015 but could have used more continuity within the interior offensive line.

    That's exactly what guard Josh Sitton could provide.

    The four-time Pro Bowler missed just two starts as a key member of the Green Bay Packers during that 2009-15 time frame, earning three of four career Pro Bowl nods in the process. Based on Pro Football Reference's approximate value metric (which is "an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year"), he was the second-most valuable guard in the league during that stretch.

    Clint Boling was an OK left guard for a few of those seasons, and Kevin Zeitler became a solid right guard in Cincy, but there wasn't much beyond that, and neither of those players was close to as effective as Sitton.

10. New Orleans Saints: G Carl Nicks, Nebraska

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted DT Sedrick Ellis seventh overall

    Where he was actually picked: Fifth round by the Saints

    While Carl Nicks didn't have the longevity Sitton had at the guard position, the New Orleans Saints would likely be happy to land him with the first-round pick they originally wasted on the so-so Ellis.

    Ellis was a five-year starter in New Orleans, but he never stood out as a difference-maker and wasn't a game-changer when the team won the Super Bowl in 2009. Nicks, though, was a key puzzle piece that year.

    If the Saints' goal is to keep the band together, the two-time Pro Bowl guard is the obvious choice over Ellis or an outsider like Jordy Nelson (Marques Colston and Devery Henderson made up a decent duo) or Ryan Clady (as did Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb).

11. Buffalo Bills: WR Jordy Nelson, Kansas State

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Leodis McKelvin

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Packers

    Nelson wouldn't have to wait long. This draft class's runaway leader in touchdown catches with 72 would be a perfect fit for a Buffalo Bills team that became relatively competitive when Nelson was at his best midway through the 2010s.

    The Bills had a decent duo in Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods for a couple of seasons, but Nelson would have been a reliable upgrade over both, and all three could have worked together with Woods mainly in the slot. Besides, Watkins wasn't there in 2013 or 2017.

    Nelson went over 1,200 yards and scored at least eight touchdowns in all three of his healthy seasons between 2013 and 2016. He was a Pro Bowler when the Bills went 9-7 without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2014.

    That easily beats McKelvin, who started 10-plus games just twice over the course of an eight-year run in Buffalo.

12. Denver Broncos: OT Ryan Clady, Boise State

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Ryan Clady

    Where he was actually picked: 12th overall by the Broncos

    This is an admittedly boring reselection for a Denver Broncos team that didn't actually need Clady when it went to two Super Bowls in the following decade (he missed most of 2013 and all of 2015 because of injuries).

    But the Broncos also made a playoff run in 2011 and won a combined 25 games in 2012 and 2014. Clady was a Pro Bowler in all three of those seasons as well as a first-team All-Pro in 2009 and 2012.

    With nobody left on the board who would have potentially helped Denver get over the top in that 2013 Super Bowl loss, the Broncos are best-served to keep it simple with the Boise State product.

13. Carolina Panthers: Edge Cliff Avril, Purdue

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    Paul Battaglia/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Jonathan Stewart

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Lions

    The Carolina Panthers didn't win a playoff game in any of Stewart's first six seasons. Although he helped them make a Super Bowl in 2015, they fell short when he gained just 28 yards on 13 touches in that loss to Denver.

    They'd be better off risking it without Stewart and giving a shot to a strong edge defender like Cliff Avril, who was never a superstar but registered eight-plus sacks in six seasons and was the only front-seven defender in the league to force 30 fumbles between '08 and 2016.

    The Purdue product's four forced fumbles as a rookie could have helped put a 12-4 Panthers team over the top in support of Julius Peppers. And his nine sacks in 2015 would have led Carolina edge defenders by a 50 percent margin.

14. Chicago Bears: OT Jake Long, Michigan

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Chris Williams

    Where he was actually picked: First overall by the Dolphins

    Passing on running back Matt Forte wouldn't be easy for the Chicago Bears, but the reality is the team made the playoffs just once during Forte's eight-year Chicago tenure.

    That might have had something to do with the fact that the Bears lacked a steady, consistent presence at left tackle, which Jake Long could have given them when they were consistently in the playoff picture between 2008 and 2013.

    Long was a regular starter throughout that stretch for the Dolphins and Rams, earning Pro Bowl nods in each of his first four seasons and a first-team All-Pro honor when Chicago made a playoff run in 2010.

    The Bears used four different primary left tackles in those four campaigns. Long was better than John St. Clair in '08, an aging Orlando Pace in '09, journeyman Frank Omiyale in '10 and the unproven J'Marcus Webb in '11.

15. Detroit Lions: RB Matt Forte, Tulane

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted OT Gosder Cherilus 17th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Bears

    A Chicago rival would be happy to use one of the Bears' top weapons against them, so we'll give Forte to the Detroit Lions. It's not just because they'd love to burn their enemy with a beloved Bear in an alternate timeline, but also because this draft class' touchdown leader had the staying power to contribute to the Lions when they were actually competitive.

    Detroit was no bueno from 2008 to 2010, but it was routinely competitive between 2011 and 2017. Forte compiled more than 1,000 scrimmage yards in the first six of those campaigns, earning two Pro Bowl honors.

    That'd come in handy for the Lions, who didn't have a rusher with even 900 yards in six of those seasons. These were the days of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith and Ameer Abdullah. Forte would have been a gift from the football gods.

16. Arizona Cardinals: RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    Where he was actually picked: 13th overall by the Panthers

    What might have tipped the scales for the Arizona Cardinals when they fell four points short in the 2008 Super Bowl? What about the next year when they won the division again but fell short of the Super Bowl? Actually, they were lacking in the same area in 2014 and 2015 when they went a combined 24-8 but couldn't make it back there.

    In all cases, they could have used more talent at running back.

    Enter Jonathan Stewart, who went over 800 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt despite not starting a game as a rookie. Edgerrin James struggled that year for Arizona, especially when he put up just 33 yards on nine carries in that Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Stewart was also better than Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower in 2009, he was far better than Andre Ellington in 2014, and he would have helped when Chris Johnson went down midway through the 2015 campaign. He wasn't a Hall of Famer, but he was consistently productive for a long stretch. And that's exactly what Arizona needed.

17. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Pierre Garcon, Mount Union

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted OT Branden Albert 15th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Sixth round by the Colts

    You couldn't fault the Chiefs for bringing back Albert, who became their regular left tackle for the next six seasons. But they didn't win a playoff game during the Virginia product's still-disappointing tenure.

    Who might have been able to help the Chiefs experience more success when they became a perennial winner in 2013? How about wide receiver Pierre Garcon? The steady sixth-round surprise out of Mount Union went over 700 yards in eight consecutive seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. That included a year with a league-leading 113 catches and 1,346 yards when the Chiefs went 11-5 but choked in the 2013 playoffs.

    The Chiefs didn't have a wide receiver with 60 catches or 700 yards that season, and that position remained a weak spot until Tyreek Hill emerged much later in the decade.

18. Houston Texans: OT Branden Albert, Virginia

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted OT Duane Brown 26th overall

    Where he was actually picked: 15th overall by the Chiefs

    With Brown off the board and Jake Long and Ryan Clady also unavailable, the Houston Texans turn to the next-best offensive lineman available in Albert.

    If you couldn't win a Super Bowl with Brown, you likely won't with Albert. But the Texans experienced plenty of success from 2011 to 2016—a stretch that included the first three playoff wins in franchise history.

    Albert wasn't a legend, but he was a solid starter through that 2016 season, making two Pro Bowls. The Texans would take that as consolation for the loss of Brown.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1

    Where he was actually picked: 16th overall by the Cardinals

    Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Eagles, there's no replacing DeSean Jackson here. Instead, we'll roll with a defensive playmaker who could have made a major impact both right away and in the long term.

    Future real-life Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might not have filled a major need with Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown on board at cornerback, but he still would earn plenty of opportunities early considering he intercepted 10 passes in his first two NFL seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod.

    While he helped Philly in 2011 and 2012, he made another Pro Bowl and put together a six-interception season after the Eagles let him get away. That's a shame because the Philadelphia secondary was in shambles for much of the next four years. The Eagles probably wish they held on to him. Here, they get a chance to fix that.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Chris Long, Virginia

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Aqib Talib

    Where he was actually picked: Second overall by the Rams

    Chris Long didn't live up to lofty NFL expectations as a No. 2 overall selection, but he wasn't a total bust either. As we sink into the bottom portion of Round 1, a team could wonder if it would have been able to get more out of him early than the St. Louis Rams were able to.

    Take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were competitive in 2008 and 2010 but then not again until 2016. Long wasn't effective enough to make them good in other seasons, but nobody on the roster even hit the seven-sack mark in either of those first two competitive campaigns. Long could have helped, and he eventually became a valued veteran leader on Super Bowl teams in New England and Philadelphia. That could have been helpful to the 9-7 2016 Bucs, who again didn't have a player surpass the seven-sack mark.

21. Washington Redskins: LB Jerod Mayo, Tennessee

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1

    Where he was actually picked: 10th overall by the Patriots

    The Washington Redskins are another team that could have used a steady veteran leader in the years to come, and linebacker Jerod Mayo could have provided that while representing solid value in this spot.

    The Redskins made the playoffs in 2012 and 2015 but were one-and-done in both cases. Mayo, who was a first-team All-Pro with a league-high 174 tackles in 2010, was a Pro Bowler with 147 tackles in 2012 and was still a decent starter through 2015.

    At the very least, he'd have been an upgrade over Perry Riley in support of an aging London Fletcher in that promising 2012 season that went up in flames in January.

22. Dallas Cowboys: WR Danny Amendola, Texas Tech

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Felix Jones

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    Finally, we get a dude who wasn't drafted. This is pretty low for the top undrafted free agent to go off the board in a re-draft, but this rookie class lacked undrafted stars. Still, because Danny Amendola didn't really get a shot until late in his original four-year tenure with the St. Louis Rams, it's possible the Dallas Cowboys might draft him here in hopes that he'd deliver with more playing time early.

    Dallas was competitive in 2008 and 2009 and could have used a reliable pass-catcher like Amendola to push Patrick Crayton in support of Terrell Owens in '08 and Miles Austin in '09. But the Texas Tech product also has staying power. He's had six 500-plus-yard seasons since 2012, including a 678-yard campaign in 2019.

    That longevity makes him a heck of a lot more valuable than Jones, who started just 25 career games and was out of the league by 2014.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Rashard Mendenhall

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Chiefs

    When the Pittsburgh Steelers fell just a score short of a championship in 2010, Mendenhall was their top back. Losing him would hurt, but it's not as though he was ever a game-changer, and he didn't fare particularly well in that loss to the Green Bay Packers.

    Instead, we'll give the Steelers a guy who might have been able to tip the scales that year (they won anyway in 2008, and nobody would have made enough of a difference when the Colts plowed through the AFC in 2009).

    Enter cornerback Brandon Flowers, who intercepted 16 passes in his first five seasons with the Chiefs and would have easily been the best corner on Pittsburgh's roster between 2010 and 2014.

24. Tennessee Titans: RB Justin Forsett, California

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Chris Johnson

    Where he was actually picked: Seventh round by the Seahawks

    There's no replacing Johnson for the Tennessee Titans, but the best running back available might have also had a top-notch career if he wasn't overlooked as a seventh-round pick.

    Justin Forsett didn't get a shot at a regular starting job until his age-29 season in 2014, at which point he made the Pro Bowl with 1,266 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Could the Titans have gotten that out of him when they were competitive in 2008, 2009 and 2011? It's worth finding out in this alternate timeline. Might as well take a chance like that in the bottom 10.

25. Seattle Seahawks: TE Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M

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    DAVID J. PHILLIP/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted edge Lawrence Jackson 28th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Cowboys

    The Seattle Seahawks could have a similar mentality with tight end Martellus Bennett in this spot. There are no former stars remaining on the board, but Jackson didn't pan out (he lasted just two seasons in Seattle), and the talented Bennett showed signs of life when he escaped Jason Witten's shadow with the New York Giants, Bears and Patriots.

    In a five-year span midway through his career, he caught 318 passes for 3,441 yards and 26 touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl nod with Chicago in 2014. He'd be a perfect fit for a Seahawks team that didn't get much out of that position between John Carlson's peak in 2009 and Jimmy Graham's arrival in 2015.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars: C John Sullivan, Notre Dame

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted edge Derrick Harvey eighth overall

    Where he was actually picked: Sixth round by the Vikings

    The trade-up for Harvey was one of the worst draft moves in NFL history, so anything here beats what the Jacksonville Jaguars did in real life. Again, you're not going to get a star this late, but John Sullivan—who in terms of approximate value is the best player available—could have eventually relieved the aging Brad Meester, whose play dropped off at the end of this decade

    Jacksonville spent the next few years lacking continuity at center, and recent starter Brandon Linder hasn't taken off. But the steady Sullivan rocked for the Minnesota Vikings and Rams all the way through the 2018 campaign.

27. San Diego Chargers: LB Wesley Woodyard, Kentucky

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Antoine Cason

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    From the time Wesley Woodyard first got a shot at a regular starting role with the Broncos in 2012 until the conclusion of his 2018 campaign in Tennessee, the undrafted Kentucky product was quietly one of the steadiest off-ball linebackers in the league.

    With hindsight, the San Diego Chargers would be able to give the excellent run defender an earlier opportunity to shine. Regardless, he'd help a linebacker corps that has undergone constant change and has never been as talented inside as it's been on the edges.

28. Dallas Cowboys: LB Jerrell Freeman, Mary Hardin-Baylor

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted CB Mike Jenkins 25th overall

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    This is another worthwhile flier with hindsight. Jerrell Freeman didn't emerge as a strong starter for the Colts until after the undrafted linebacker from something called "Mary Hardin-Baylor" spent three seasons in the CFL.

    He might have needed some of that time in Canada to develop, but it would be worth seeing if he could have made a difference when the Cowboys went 8-8 in three consecutive years early in the decade. Either way, he'd have helped when Dallas was a contender in 2014 and 2016. The linebacker corps was awful in '14 and lacked depth beyond Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens in '16, and Freeman was a standout tackle machine in both Indy and Chicago.

29. San Francisco 49ers: CB Brandon Carr, Grand Valley State

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    ED ZURGA/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Kentwan Balmer

    Where he was actually picked: Fifth round by the Chiefs

    Cornerback Brandon Carr is a super obvious selection here for the San Francisco 49ers, who never even got a start out of Balmer. Not only has San Francisco lacked continuity, consistency and depth at cornerback for much of the last decade, but the wildly durable Carr has also been so solid for so long that he could have helped the 49ers in two separate competitive windows.

    Carr, who has started 192 consecutive games dating back to his rookie season, could have contributed during the Jim Harbaugh era and would have still been an asset when San Francisco made its run to the Super Bowl in 2019. He'd have been as good as starter Tarell Brown in that first stretch, and he was likely better than regular contributor Ahkello Witherspoon last year.

30. Green Bay Packers: TE Dustin Keller, Purdue

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1

    Where he was actually picked: 30th overall by the Jets

    The Green Bay Packers offense is now without Josh Sitton and Jordy Nelson in this make-believe world, but they get decent value in a tough spot for a tight end who could have had a chance to become a star with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback.

    Dustin Keller peaked pretty high with an 815-yard 2011 campaign with the Jets before injuries derailed his career. It's easy to envision he reaches a much higher plateau with Rodgers instead of Mark Sanchez at QB.

    It'd be worth finding out if he could have excelled alongside or in place of Jermichael Finley.

31. New York Giants: S Thomas DeCoud, California

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted S Kenny Phillips

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Falcons

    The New York Giants spent their first two picks in this draft on defensive backs, but there's one available here who quietly made a larger impact than both Phillips and second-round corner Terrell Thomas. Besides, it makes no sense to use the final pick of a re-draft on a player you had anyway.

    So here's Thomas DeCoud free of charge for the Giants, who could have used a dude who had three picks in 2009, four more in 2011 and six when he was a Pro Bowler in 2012. Phillips was injured for much of '09 and wasn't much of a factor beyond '11, and the safety spot next to Antrel Rolle was a problem for several years to come.