Re-Drafting the 2009 NFL Draft

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 14, 2020

Re-Drafting the 2009 NFL Draft

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

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

    What if they could all set the flux capacitor for April 25, 2009?

    Well, you'd end up with more evidence this was one of the worst draft classes in NFL history. 

    Here are the specifics in a re-draft that includes only four players who became first-team All-Pros and only 11 who made more than a single Pro Bowl.

1. Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted QB Matthew Stafford

    Where he was actually picked: First overall by the Lions

    In the 11 seasons since they drafted Matthew Stafford first overall, the Detroit Lions have yet to win a playoff game. But that doesn't mean they would go in a different direction in this spot.

    This draft class is terrible, and Stafford is an above-average starter in his prime who still has a chance to lead the team to glory. 

    The 32-year-old quarterback is coming off by far the highest-rated season of his NFL career—one that was abbreviated by injury but nonetheless was promising. It looks as though he's healthy again now, so there's no reason to give up on Stafford in favor of...um, Malcolm Jenkins? 

2. St. Louis Rams: DB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Jason Smith

    Where he was actually picked: 14th overall by the Saints

    That's right: Malcolm Jenkins is the best this class has to offer to the St. Louis Rams in the No. 2 spot.

    Jenkins continues to be an effective starter and has earned three Pro Bowl nods, but he's never been a No. 2 overall-caliber player. He's never been a first-team All-Pro, and he didn't make that first Pro Bowl until 2015. 

    But that staying power would be particularly appealing to a Rams team that wasn't any good from 2009 through 2016, at which point Jenkins would have been an upgrade over Lamarcus Joyner. They also could have used his Super Bowl experience when they made a championship run in 2018. 

3. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Julian Edelman, Kent State

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DL Tyson Jackson

    Where he was actually picked: Seventh round by the Patriots

    Only three receivers from this class—Mike Wallace, Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin— have more career receiving yards and touchdowns than Julian Edelman.

    All three would also make sense for a Kansas City Chiefs team that was devoid of support for Dwayne Bowe in 2013 and 2014 and lacked top-end talent beyond Tyreek Hill for several years after that. However, the Chiefs had Maclin in 2015 and 2016 and didn't get past the divisional round. Wallace peaked in the early 2010s, and Edelman has greatly outproduced those two and Crabtree over the last seven years. 

    Edelman is an established playoff performer, too, as evidenced by his three Super Bowl rings. His career numbers only fail to stand out because he was hardly a factor in his first four seasons. Since 2013, he's one of only 13 players with at least 500 catches

    That sure beats Jackson, who was a tremendous disappointment in his five seasons with the Chiefs. 

4. Seattle Seahawks: C Max Unger, Oregon

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted edge-rusher Aaron Curry 

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Seahawks 

    We won't get cute here. Alex Mack might be a more accomplished center than Max Unger, so under regular circumstances, he would be the pick for a Seattle Seahawks team always in need of an offensive line boost. 

    But Unger was a Seahawk. He was a first-team All-Pro when Seattle emerged in 2012, he was a Pro Bowler again when it won its first and only Super Bowl the following year, and he was also a key member of the team that went back to the Super Bowl in 2014. 

    No other important members of those Seahawks teams came out of the 2009 draft, so it'd be silly for Seattle to risk tinkering in this spot. 

5. Cleveland Browns: Edge Clay Matthews, USC

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back three times, drafted C Alex Mack 21st overall

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

    Alex Mack had a fantastic seven-year run with the Cleveland Browns, but they didn't sniff the playoffs during that window. It thus makes sense to mix it up and go in a different direction with this pick. 

    Instead, this is a best-player-available selection, and both Clay Matthews and LeSean McCoy make sense. Mack, Matthews and McCoy are the only six-time Pro Bowlers from this class, but Matthews plays a more critical position. 

    The last of his four double-digit-sack seasons came in 2014. The Browns were actually a half-decent 7-9 that year, but only Paul Kruger had more than five sacks. Who knows? Maybe Matthews could have made a difference.

6. Cincinnati Bengals: RB LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Andre Smith 

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Eagles

    LeSean McCoy is a perfect fit for a Cincinnati Bengals squad that was consistently competitive between 2011 and 2015. 

    Cincinnati didn't get much help from backs Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Giovani Bernard in those years. Jeremy Hill had a tremendous rookie campaign in 2014, but he didn't sustain that. 

    McCoy is the only two-time first-team All-Pro from this class, and he achieved those honors during the early 2010s. His 9,267 scrimmage yards between 2011 and 2016 were the most in football

    That makes this an easy call, especially because Smith never lived up to his billing at right tackle. 

7. Oakland Raiders: Edge Michael Bennett, Texas A&M

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    Don't Michael Bennett and the Oakland Raiders feel like a match made in football heaven? And for how long have the Raiders needed talent on the edge?

    Khalil Mack was the only Raiders player to record more than eight sacks in a season between 2011 and 2018. Bennett had five such campaigns during that span. 

    The three-time Pro Bowler was a late bloomer who might have gotten more of an opportunity to succeed early with hindsight on Oakland's side. Regardless, he might have given the Raiders a better chance when they made the playoffs in 2016. 

    At least he'd help them forget about Heyward-Bey, who scored 11 total touchdowns in four seasons in Oakland.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: C Alex Mack, California

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Eugene Monroe 

    Where he was actually picked: 21st overall by the Browns

    Alex Mack has been too good to drop any farther, especially considering the Jacksonville Jaguars originally used this pick on a bust offensive lineman. Mack isn't a tackle like Monroe, but longtime starting center Brad Meester was running out of gas at this point.

    Here, they get a replacement who was recently named to the 2010s All-Decade Team. 

    Could Mack's presence have put the Jaguars over the top when they fell a handful of points short of the Super Bowl in 2017? It's possible. Center Brandon Linder was good that year, but Mack was a second-team All-Pro. 

9. Green Bay Packers: Edge Brian Orakpo, Texas

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DT B.J. Raji 

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

    Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji played significant roles when the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, but the former left after the 2018 season and the latter didn't accomplish nearly as much as fellow front-seven defender Brian Orakpo. 

    Essentially, it's more important that the Packers replace Matthews than re-land Raji. 

    Orakpo was a Pro Bowler with 8.5 sacks during the Packers' Super Bowl season, and he had solid staying power. He recorded a career-high 10.5 sacks while earning his fourth Pro Bowl nod in 2016, and he and Matthews are the only players from this class with more than 60 sacks to their names. 

10. San Francisco 49ers: WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted WR Michael Crabtree 

    Where he was actually picked: 10th overall by the 49ers

    With this pick, the San Francisco 49ers are essentially admitting that they can't land anyone at this point who would have helped put them over the top when they were Super Bowl contenders between 2011 and 2013.

    Instead, they're salvaging their success from that run by at least bringing back wide receiver Michael Crabtree. He was a key member of that 2012 NFC champion 49ers team and is the only member of this class with more than 600 career receptions. 

    Crabtree never became a superstar, but without him, they might not have reached Super Bowl XLVII. He scored three touchdowns during that playoff run, and he remained an effective starter all the way through the 2018 campaign in Baltimore. 

11. Buffalo Bills: TE Jared Cook, South Carolina

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    Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Aaron Maybin

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Titans

    Aaron Maybin was a mega-bust who started only one game and recorded only six sacks in the NFL. While the Buffalo Bills made up for that bad pick by getting great value with cornerback Jairus Byrd in Round 2, that reselection also makes little sense in this spot considering the team's lack of success in the years to come. 

    The Bills might as well go in a new direction, and tight end Jared Cook would make a lot of sense for a team that hasn't gotten much out of that position since this draft. 

    Why Cook over another pass-catcher like Wike Wallace? He was a late bloomer (his two most productive NFL seasons came in 2018 and 2019), which would be ideal for a Bills squad that was allergic to the playoffs before finally making it there twice in the last three years. 

12. Denver Broncos: G Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Knowshon Moreno 

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Chargers

    This is a salvage pick for a Denver Broncos team that probably realizes standout guard Louis Vasquez would have been picked soon after this in the event of a do-over.

    The steady former Charger and Bronco was a first-team All-Pro when Denver won the AFC Championship in 2013 and a key veteran starter when it won the Super Bowl two years later. Why risk losing that?

    Moreno played a big role in 2013, but that was his last season in Denver, and his lone 1,000-yard campaign might not get him re-drafted anyway. And while there are a pair of multiple-time Pro Bowlers left in the secondary (Jairus Byrd and Vontae Davis), those Denver teams were stacked at that position. 

13. Washington Redskins: S Jairus Byrd, Oregon

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    Tom Strickland/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Brian Orakpo

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Bills

    This pick is pretty much a toss-up between Jairus Byrd and Vontae Davis, but the former made an extra Pro Bowl (three versus two), had slightly better career numbers and peaked earlier. 

    That last part isn't always a good thing, but keep in mind that the Washington Redskins had their best shot at a Super Bowl run during Robert Griffin III's magnificent rookie season in 2012. That was their only double-digit-win campaign since 2006, and it was a five-interception, second-team All-Pro year for Byrd in Buffalo. 

    Meanwhile, Davis didn't start playing his best football until he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014 and 2015. 

14. New Orleans Saints: CB Vontae Davis, Illinois

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    Seth Perlman/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Malcolm Jenkins

    Where he was actually picked: 25th overall by the Dolphins

    With Malcolm Jenkins already off the board, the New Orleans Saints won't let Vontae Davis drop any further.

    The Illinois product wasn't a star early in his career with the Miami Dolphins, but he still intercepted four passes as a rookie when New Orleans went to the Super Bowl in 2009. (Jenkins wasn't a huge factor on that Saints team.) 

    He also had staying power, and the Saints could have used him instead of Jairus Byrd when the expensive free-agent acquisition failed to deliver between 2014 and 2016.

    Davis picked off four passes and made the Pro Bowl in both 2014 and 2015. He would have provided a huge upgrade over Keenan Lewis or Patrick Robinson in 2014 or Lewis or Brandon Browner the next year. 

15. Houston Texans: G T.J. Lang, Eastern Michigan

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted LB Brian Cushing

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth round by the Packers

    With this pick, we meet the final position player from this draft class with more than one Pro Bowl nod on his resume. But that isn't the only reason the Houston Texans would reselect guard T.J. Lang here. 

    Brian Cushing had a great nine-year career in Houston, but the Texans failed to make a conference title game during his tenure. They might as well go in a new direction and bolster an offensive line that has lacked continuity and high-end talent for much of the last decade. 

    Lang was a strong starter for seven consecutive seasons in Green Bay and Detroit, making Pro Bowls in 2016 and 2017. The division-winning 2016 Texans team could have used him instead in place of Jeff Allen or Xavier Su'a-Filo. 

16. San Diego Chargers: G Ramon Foster, Tennessee

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Larry English

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    The San Diego Chargers lost Louis Vasquez to a division rival earlier in this re-draft, so it makes sense to replace the steady four-year starter with an undrafted difference-maker in Ramon Foster. 

    The Tennessee product was never an All-Pro or a Pro Bowler, but he started on a Super Bowl team as a sophomore in Pittsburgh and was a durable, reliable starter for the Steelers for nearly a full decade. 

    Considering the sorry state of the Chargers' interior offensive line following the departure of Vasquez, this is a no-brainer. 

17. New York Jets: WR Mike Wallace, Mississippi

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted QB Mark Sanchez fifth overall

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Steelers

    Yes, the New York Jets made back-to-back AFC Championship Games with Mark Sanchez under center. But no, Sanchez did not carry those teams.

    Unsurprisingly, neither the Jets nor Sanchez could sustain that. He lasted only four years as their starter. 

    Going in a new direction wouldn't solve the Jets' quarterback problem, but backup Kellen Clemens probably could have been better than Sanchez with a weapon like Mike Wallace at wide receiver. The class leader in receiving yardage and touchdowns averaged 19.4 yards per catch as a rookie in Pittsburgh and then went over 1,100 yards in each of the next two seasons. 

    Wallace would have been the best weapon in the Jets' passing game by far, and perhaps even a difference-maker in a close 2010 AFC title game loss against the team that drafted him in real life. 

18. Denver Broncos: Edge Connor Barwin, Cincinnati

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Robert Ayers 

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Texans

    The Broncos won division titles but fell short of Super Bowl glory in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Might their fate have been different had they not wasted their second 2009 first-rounder on Robert Ayers, who recorded only 12 sacks in five seasons with the team? 

    Maybe, maybe not. Pickings are slim in the bottom half of a legendarily bad first round.

    However, Connor Barwin had 11.5 sacks in 2011 and was a Pro Bowler with 14.5 in 2014. Von Miller could have used that support, and Barwin's presence might have been huge when Miller missed the Broncos' run to Super Bowl XLVIII because of a season-ending ACL injury. 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G Andy Levitre, Oregon State

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted QB Josh Freeman 17th overall 

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Bills

    Josh Freeman's first few seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a roller-coaster ride, but he was never consistent enough to hold on to the starting gig and lasted only three seasons with the team.

    There's no reason for the Bucs to go down that path again, especially considering the lack of team success during that run (zero playoff appearances). 

    Guard Andy Levitre probably wouldn't change that, but he was at least a strong starter for nearly a full decade in Buffalo, Tennessee and Atlanta.

    Levitre could have helped the Bucs when they went 10-6 in 2010 and again when they were 9-7 six years later. Those were two of his best seasons in terms of approximate value, per Pro Football Reference.

20. Detroit Lions: RB Arian Foster, Tennessee

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    What actually happened: Drafted TE Brandon Pettigrew 

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't 

    Brandon Pettigrew had a pair of 700-plus-yard seasons early in his career, but he never took off for a Detroit Lions team that still hasn't won a playoff game this century. 

    The Lions were routinely competitive between 2011 and 2017 even though they didn't have a rusher with even 900 yards in six of those campaigns. Those were the days of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith and Ameer Abdullah, but Arian Foster could have been the lead dog in many of those campaigns.

    The four-time Pro Bowler was the AFC's leading rusher for the first half of the 2010s. That's none too shabby for someone who wasn't even drafted. 

21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri

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    H. RUMPH JR/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted WR Jeremy Maclin 19th overall

    Where he was actually picked: 19th overall by the Eagles

    This hypothetically means the Philadelphia Eagles are volunteering to again win zero playoff games between this draft and their 2017 Super Bowl season, but you can't take away both LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin.

    The Eagles at least won a pair of division titles and went to the playoffs three times during Maclin's five-year tenure in Philadelphia. The Missouri product went over 750 yards in all five of those campaigns. 

    Selecting Maclin here may feel like they're settling, but the only other real alternative is Percy Harvin, who wasn't as productive as Maclin. At least Eagles fans had a lot of good times watching Maclin and DeSean Jackson work together in that receiving corps. 

22. Minnesota Vikings: WR Percy Harvin, Florida

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    What actually happened: Drafted WR Percy Harvin

    Where he was actually picked: 22nd overall by the Vikings

    The same logic applies here to the Minnesota Vikings, who probably would prefer not to re-draft Percy Harvin but have to consider how shallow the pool has become.

    Besides, the guy was a Pro Bowler with 790 receiving yards and eight combined receiving/return touchdowns as a rookie when the Vikings won the NFC North and made a run to the NFC Championship Game in 2009. 

    If they don't reselect him here, they might not make that run. And he did have a few more productive seasons in Minnesota before the Vikings traded for picks they later used on Xavier Rhodes and Jerick McKinnon.

23. New England Patriots: OT Sebastian Vollmer, Houston

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Patriots

    We'll eventually get back to teams re-drafting somebody whom they didn't originally select, but the New England Patriots can't afford to lose another key piece to a Super Bowl puzzle with Julian Edelman gone. 

    Sebastian Vollmer was a starting offensive tackle in five Patriots playoff victories between 2009 and 2015, including the team's Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks. He wasn't a star, but you won't find any more of those at this point. 

24. Atlanta Falcons: DT Henry Melton, Texas

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    What actually happened: Drafted DT Peria Jerry 

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth round by the Bears

    Peria Jerry started only 29 games and recorded 5.5 sacks across five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who were competitive at this point and remained so through a 13-3 campaign in 2012. 

    In hindsight, Henry Melton could have helped. The Texas product was a Pro Bowler with six sacks in that 2012 season, and he was a high-end starter the year prior as well.

    Melton played only six years in the NFL, but he could have given a huge boost to the Atlanta defensive front during a few strong seasons for the team. 

25. Miami Dolphins: Edge Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech

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    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Vontae Davis

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Bengals

    Since Vontae Davis is off the board, the Miami Dolphins can't bring him back.

    Instead, they'll lock up the best defensive player still available in Michael Johnson, who ranks fourth in this draft class with 44.5 career sacks and remained a starter with the Cincinnati Bengals through the 2018 campaign. 

    Johnson was never a standout player, but he was still an effective pass-rusher when the Dolphins finally made it back to the playoffs in 2016. He could have worked as a secondary edge presence beyond Cameron Wake in that year among others.

26. Baltimore Ravens: DB Glover Quin, New Mexico

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    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted OT Michael Oher 23rd overall

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth round by the Texans

    In this make-believe scenario, the Baltimore Ravens might gamble that Oher would fall out of the first round. He didn't miss a start for them in five years, was a member of their 2012 Super Bowl team and would be a solid pick here, but he did fade quickly and was never able to live up to lofty expectations.

    The Ravens could instead hope he isn't re-drafted and try to upgrade their secondary with defensive back Glover Quin, who's second in this class in interceptions (24). 

    Quin didn't stand out during his four years in Houston, but he flourished when he moved from corner to safety in Detroit. With hindsight, the Ravens could have used him in a multitude of ways when they were competitive between 2009 and 2014, the last of which was a seven-pick Pro Bowl campaign from him.

27. Indianapolis Colts: LB Brian Cushing, USC

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    Ric Francis/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted RB Donald Brown 

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

    Donald Brown never had a 700-yard season and was hardly a factor right off the bat for an Indianapolis Colts team that was in win-now mode ahead of what would be a Super Bowl-losing season in 2009. 

    Instead, they could bolster their chances of winning that Super Bowl in this alternate timeline by grabbing the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year in Brian Cushing. 

    The USC product was a Pro Bowler with four sacks, four interceptions and 133 tackles that season. That's enough for him to sneak into Round 1 even though he lacked consistency for the remainder of his NFL career. 

28. Buffalo Bills: S Patrick Chung, Oregon

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    DON RYAN/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted C Eric Wood

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Patriots

    Again, the Bills have to focus on selecting guys who could have contributed when they finally rejoined the playoff picture late in the 2010s. Jared Cook fit that profile, while Wood was in the tail end of his career when Buffalo made the playoffs in 2017.

    But Patrick Chung was quietly a steady presence throughout that decade, and he remains active following a 12-start campaign in New England last year. 

    The Bills would relish stealing a quality player with longevity from the rival Patriots here, too. Why not see if some of that Super Bowl magic might rub off? 

29. New York Giants: WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted WR Hakeem Nicks 

    Where he was actually picked: 29th overall by the Giants

    The New York Giants might be tempted to try to bolster their roster and hope Hakeem Nicks wouldn't be re-drafted in the final three spots here, but it wouldn't be worth the risk. After all, the North Carolina product played a significant role when the team won the Super Bowl in 2011. 

    Don't overthink this, Giants. You haven't lost anybody from that team thus far in the exercise, and Nicks caught 10 passes for 109 yards in that Super Bowl victory over New England. 

30. Tennessee Titans: OT Demar Dotson, Southern Mississippi

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted WR Kenny Britt 

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    Demar Dotson remains a quality starter more than a decade after the 2009 draft and could have helped the Tennessee Titans at various points along the way. But he specifically could have provided an upgrade over swing tackle Dennis Kelly in relief of an injured Jack Conklin down the stretch in 2018. 

    The Titans missed the playoffs by only one game that year. Perhaps their fate would have been different if Conklin hadn't missed seven games or if they had a slightly better replacement for him. 

    That may be a bit of a stretch, but again, Dotson has been a quality starter in Tampa since 2012. That's worth something when you're down to the 30th pick of a draft that was unbelievably low on talent.

31. Arizona Cardinals: LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

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    What actually happened: Drafted RB Beanie Wells 

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Rams

    James Laurinaitis is the only player remaining from this draft class who had a career approximate value above 50. He never made a Pro Bowl and rarely starred in splash plays, but he didn't miss a start in seven seasons with the Rams and was a steady presence in their linebacking corps. 

    That's all he needs to sneak into the first round in place of Beanie Wells, who spent only one season as a full-time starter for the Arizona Cardinals. 

32. Pittsburgh Steelers: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Ziggy Hood 

    Where he was actually picked: Ninth overall by the Packers

    This is just too perfect.

    Not only did Ziggy Hood fail to make a major impact in his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and not only is B.J. Raji an obvious upgrade, but the Boston College product helped the Packers beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl at the conclusion of his sophomore season. 

    Raji started that game for the Packers. If he switched jerseys and lined up next to Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel, would the Steelers have come out on the winning end of a game they lost by only one score?

    It's worth finding out in this spot.