Re-Drafting the 2011 NFL Draft

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 18, 2020

Re-Drafting the 2011 NFL Draft

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    Stephen Chernin/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 28, 2011?

    In our opinion, you'd end up with the same top selection but chaos beyond that.

    Here are the specifics in a re-draft that includes three quarterbacks, just one running back, five wide receivers, one tight end, six offensive linemen, 12 front-seven defenders, four cornerbacks and zero safeties.

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton, Auburn

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted QB Cam Newton

    Where he was actually picked: First overall by the Panthers

    The Newton era is now over for the Carolina Panthers. By drafting him again, the Panthers are no more likely to capture a championship in this alternate timeline (they could lose Super Bowl 50 by an even larger margin to a Denver Broncos team that is about to re-draft J.J. freakin' Watt). But no quarterbacks in this draft are close to as talented and accomplished as the 2015 MVP.

    Not only is Newton one of two quarterbacks from this class with more than 25,000 passing yards, but he's actually the class's third-leading rusher, and only Mark Ingram II has more rushing touchdowns.

    Making a Super Bowl means something, and Newton meant a lot to a Carolina franchise that won three division titles with the Auburn product at the helm on offense.

2. Denver Broncos: DL J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Von Miller

    Where he was actually picked: 11th overall by the Texans

    Plenty of Broncos fans would probably vote to simply reselect Von Miller. After all, he and Patrick Peterson are the only eight-time Pro Bowlers in this class, and the three-time first-team All-Pro was the MVP of that Super Bowl 50 victory over Carolina.

    But Watt was the league's Defensive Player of the Year that season. Ditto for 2014 and 2012. He's the only member of this class who has been a first-time All-Pro five times.

    Remember, the Broncos reached the Super Bowl without Miller in 2013. They also won their division but fell short in the playoffs when Watt was DPOY in 2012 and 2014.

    It's possible that in this universe, they'd have won an extra Lombardi Trophy last decade.

3. Buffalo Bills: Edge Von Miller, Texas A&M

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    Steve Campbell/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Marcell Dareus

    Where he was actually picked: Second overall by the Broncos

    The Buffalo Bills will gladly re-draft the only member of this class with more than 100 career sacks.

    The key for Miller is he's had more longevity than Newton and Watt. He's registered at least eight sacks and 20 quarterback hits in each of the last three seasons, which would be particularly appealing to a Buffalo team that wasn't really competitive between this draft and the 2017 season.

    But the Bills won at least six games every season from 2011 to 2016. A game-changer like Miller could have helped to push them into the playoffs during that stretch, which Dareus was never able to accomplish.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted WR A.J. Green

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the 49ers

    If you're the Cincinnati Bengals, what's the point of reselecting Green if you don't have a good quarterback to throw to him? And while Dalton was a success story coming out of Round 2, why go down that road again when you won a grand total of zero playoff games during his nine-year run as the team's starting quarterback?

    Instead, let's give the Bengals a quarterback who won four playoff games and started a Super Bowl during his time with the San Francisco 49ers. Could Colin Kaepernick have put the Bengals over the top when they were consistently competitive but kept falling short between 2011 and 2015?

    During that window, Kaepernick and Dalton posted identical 88.4 passer ratings, but Kaepernick had more postseason success (Dalton's playoff numbers are abysmal), and Kap made a much larger impact with his legs (he remains this class' seventh-leading rusher). The Bengals would be silly not to find out what life would have been like with him under center.

5. Arizona Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

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    Sean Gardner/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Patrick Peterson

    Where he was actually picked: Fifth overall by the Cardinals

    The Arizona Cardinals have won just a single playoff game since drafting Peterson fifth overall in 2011, but there's still hope for the eight-time Pro Bowler to be a part of something special in Arizona.

    That's why the Cards should stick with a talented 29-year-old who is expected to play a major role on a playoff contender in 2020, especially now that the DeAndre Hopkins acquisition would make it easier to pass on this class' top remaining offensive player, Julio Jones.

    You could make an argument for Richard Sherman because of his playoff pedigree, but Sherman is more than two years older than Peterson, and his productivity dropped off substantially in 2017 and 2018 before rebounding in 2019. I'd stick with the beloved local star.

6. Cleveland Browns: WR Julio Jones, Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded back and then up, drafted DT Phil Taylor 21st overall

    Where he was actually picked: Sixth overall by the Falcons

    Similar argument here in terms of Jones vs. Sherman for the Cleveland Browns. Sherman wouldn't likely have put Cleveland over the top when he was in his prime because the Browns were so bad then. But the Browns have now emerged as one of the most talented teams in the league, and Jones remains on top of his game.

    Yeah, they don't really need another receiver. But add Jones in an alternate timeline and you can leverage Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry on the trade market.

    Regardless, it would be impossible to turn away from a seven-time Pro Bowler who leads the league in receiving yards since being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the spot that originally belonged to Cleveland in 2011.

7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Richard Sherman, Stanford

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Aldon Smith

    Where he was actually picked: Fifth round by the Seahawks

    This would be poetic considering the villainous role Sherman played in thwarting San Francisco's Super Bowl hopes during the Jim Harbaugh era. The 49ers have him on their roster now anyway, but they really could have used him on their side when they fell short in Super Bowl XLVII and then lost the 2013 NFC Championship Game to Sherman's Seattle Seahawks by a one-score margin.

    Sherman was an elite interception machine in those days, which the 49ers lacked in the secondary. He would have provided a significant upgrade at corner while robbing a rival of its best defensive player.

    While Smith played a huge role on that 2012 Super Bowl team, he has been arrested multiple times for driving under the influence and has faced domestic violence and weapons charges as well. He hasn't played since 2015.

8. Tennessee Titans: CB Chris Harris Jr., Kansas

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted QB Jake Locker

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    Locker, of course, became a megabust. That might bring Dalton into play for the Tennessee Titans, but he hasn't been the same since peaking midway through the 2010s and is now a backup for the Dallas Cowboys. Tennessee didn't make the playoffs between this draft and 2016, so Dalton wouldn't have likely been a big enough difference-maker.

    Maybe Chris Harris Jr. wouldn't have either, but at least the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback has remained effective throughout Tennessee's return to contention the last four years. He'd have provided a hell of an upgrade over Logan Ryan.

9. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith, USC

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Tyron Smith

    Where he was actually picked: Ninth overall by the Cowboys

    The Cowboys likely (and rightly) view themselves as a Super Bowl contender, and Smith is a big puzzle piece. Landing him again in this spot would be a great scenario for them.

    Smith and Jason Kelce are the only offensive linemen from this class with multiple first-team All-Pro nods, but the USC product has made seven Pro Bowls (compared to three for Kelce).

    They could roll with Green, but they have a trio of good receivers. They could go with Dalton, but he's Dak Prescott's backup now anyway. And plenty of accomplished pass-rushers are available, but none are good enough for Dallas to sacrifice its left tackle when it already has Tank Lawrence on the roster.

10. Washington Redskins: WR A.J. Green, Georgia

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted edge Ryan Kerrigan 16th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth overall by the Bengals

    The Washington Redskins didn't have any playoff success during Kerrigan's prime years. While that's not really his fault, it would be foolish to re-draft him and settle for a similar fate. Instead, let's give the Redskins A.J. Green, who is the only player left on the board with more than five Pro Bowls on his resume (he has seven).

    Could he have helped them make runs when they won the NFC East in 2012 and 2015? They didn't have a wide receiver catch 80 passes or hit the 800-yard mark in either of those seasons, while Green caught a combined 183 passes for 2,647 yards and 21 touchdowns in those two campaigns.

    Plus, he could still be helping now.

11. Houston Texans: QB Andy Dalton, TCU

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DL J.J. Watt

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Bengals

    In the pre-Deshaun Watson era, the Houston Texans won the AFC South four times in a six-year span from 2011 to 2016. That might be tough to replicate without Watt, but Dalton could have provided them with more consistent production at quarterback.

    His ceiling was higher than starter Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2014, and he would have provided a clear upgrade over Brian Hoyer in 2015 and Brock Osweiler in 2016.

    You couldn't fault Houston for trying to make up for the loss of Watt with Kerrigan, Cameron Jordan or Justin Houston in this spot, but that likely would put a cap on potential success in this alternate timeline. Instead, why not get better at the sport's most important position?

12. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Cameron Jordan, California

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted QB Christian Ponder

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

    It's obvious we're due for a run on quality pass-rushers, as they keep getting mentioned but not selected. The Minnesota Vikings would change that in the spot originally devoted to disaster quarterback Christian Ponder.

    Jordan, Kerrigan and Houston would all make sense for a Minnesota team that routinely contended over the course of the next decade but could have used someone to team up with Jared Allen early, Everson Griffen later on and Danielle Hunter now.

    Jordan, Kerrigan and Houston all have between 87 and 90 career sacks, either four or five Pro Bowl nods and between 112 and 143 career starts. But Jordan is the youngest of the three, and his top seasons best lined up with Minnesota's.

13. Detroit Lions: Edge Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Nick Fairley

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

    The Detroit Lions drafted Fairley to team up with Ndamukong Suh, but he didn't really pan out in Detroit or elsewhere. Kerrigan is a different player, of course, but he and Suh could have made a great one-two front-seven punch when the Lions made the playoffs in 2011 and 2014.

    The four-time Pro Bowler recorded 7.5 sacks as a rookie and had a career-high 13.5 in that '14 campaign. He was also a Pro Bowler with a league-high 18 tackles for loss when Detroit made it back to the playoffs sans Suh in 2016, and he remains an effective edge defender today.

14. St. Louis Rams: Edge Justin Houston, Georgia

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Robert Quinn

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Chiefs

    That leaves Houston for the St. Louis Rams, which works out fine for a team that didn't get what it probably expected from Quinn in this spot. The original third-round pick out of Georgia was one of the top pass-rushers in the league when St. Louis was average but could have used a jolt between 2012 and 2015, and he remained stellar when the Rams became a contender in Los Angeles later on.

    He could have provided more support for Aaron Donald than Quinn in 2017 or Dante Fowler Jr. in 2018, and he could still be helping out now.

15. Miami Dolphins: C Jason Kelce, Cincinnati

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted C Mike Pouncey

    Where he was actually picked: Sixth round by the Eagles

    No sense in having the Miami Dolphins re-draft Pouncey considering they never came close to winning a playoff game during his admittedly strong seven-year run there. Instead, the Dolphins will grab the final three-time first-team All-Pro in this draft class at the same position.

    Jason Kelce isn't as well-known as Pouncey, but he was a key member of a Super Bowl champion Eagles squad in 2017, he's aging like a good pinot grigio and he hasn't missed a start in five years. That makes him just the type of veteran presence you want to have on a young team that is trying to make a leap.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted QB Blaine Gabbert 10th overall

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

    Gabbert was yet another quarterback train wreck from this draft. While the Jacksonville Jaguars can't fix that position in this spot, they can steal a steady long-term option at left tackle from the divisio-rival Indianapolis Colts.

    That'd give them extra pleasure in adding Anthony Castonzo, who has missed just eight starts the last eight years as a high-quality, reliable blindside protector in the same division. He's not a superstar, but he plays a highly critical position, and he would have been an upgrade over Cam Robinson in key recent seasons for Jacksonville.

17. New England Patriots: OT Nate Solder, Colorado

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Nate Solder

    Where he was actually picked: 17th overall by the Patriots

    Like Castonzo, Nate Solder has been a steady longtime NFL starter at a critical position. Tom Brady's starting left tackle from 2011 to 2017 was a key cog on four New England Patriots Super Bowl teams, two of which won it all.

    Considering all the success the team had during Solder's run there, the Patriots would be silly to go in another direction at this stage in the re-draft.

18. San Diego Chargers: DT Jurrell Casey, USC

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DT Corey Liuget

    Where he was actually picked: Third round by the Titans

    Liuget was a decent starter for seven seasons with the Chargers, but fellow interior defensive lineman Jurrell Casey has been a lot more successful in Tennessee.

    The original third-round pick out of USC has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last five seasons (Liuget has never earned that honor) and he's been a model of durability, missing just seven starts in nine NFL seasons. He beats out Pouncey, who today is a Charger but has missed 22 games in the last four seasons alone.

19. New York Giants: C Mike Pouncey, Florida

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted CB Prince Amukamara

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

    The New York Giants might not want to mess with juju, but Amukamara wasn't a big part of the team that won it all in 2011. Instead, the G-Men would be smart to draft somebody who could have increased their chances of winning between 2012 and now.

    Pouncey fits that bill. The last four-time Pro Bowler from this class would have provided an upgrade over David Baas, Jim Cordle and J.D. Walton early and even Weston Richburg later.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Mark Ingram II, Alabama

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Adrian Clayborn

    Where he was actually picked: 28th overall by the Saints

    Aside from a pair of strong seasons from Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have generally lacked top-end talent at the running back position since this draft. Considering that Clayborn made a very limited impact in Tampa, the Bucs might as well steal a three-time Pro Bowl back from the division-rival New Orleans Saints.

    Ingram could have been particularly useful in 2016 when Tampa Bay was a competitive 9-7 but didn't have a rusher hit the 600-yard mark. Ingram went over 1,000 yards that year and continues to be a force now. That'd come in handy for a team that is in win-now mode but continues to have questions in the backfield.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Doug Baldwin, Stanford

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    Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Traded back, drafted WR Jonathan Baldwin 26th overall after Baltimore's time expired

    Where he was actually picked: He wasn't

    Jonathan Baldwin's two-year, 10-start run with the Kansas City Chiefs didn't get the job done, but another wide receiver with the same surname would have been a perfect fit in the coming years for Kansas City.

    Undrafted former Seahawks star Doug Baldwin didn't have a long NFL career, but he was a key starter when Seattle went to back-to-back Super Bowls early in his career (he scored in both games), he led the NFL with 14 touchdown grabs in 2015 and he made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017.

    This would make too much sense for a team that lacked support for Dwayne Bowe in 2013 and 2014 and lacked top-end talent beyond Tyreek Hill for several years after that.

22. Indianapolis Colts: DL Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Anthony Castonzo

    Where he was actually picked: 31st overall by the Steelers

    As the last multiple first-team All-Pro on the board, Cameron Heyward can't drop any further than this. That's especially true with both Castonzo and Solder gone and no other offensive tackles deserving of this spot.

    The Colts have lacked interior defensive line talent for much of the last decade, and Heyward would solve that. Plus, he'd still be a big contributor. The 31-year-old Ohio State product was a first-team All-Pro in 2019.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: C Rodney Hudson, Florida State

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted G Danny Watkins

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Chiefs

    Watkins made just 18 starts in two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and was out of football soon after that. Instead, Philly can get great value here with another interior offensive lineman in Rodney Hudson, who wouldn't be a bad consolation prize for the lost Jason Kelce.

    The original second-round pick was a late bloomer, but with hindsight, the Eagles would have given him more early opportunities than he got from the Chiefs. He's been a Pro Bowler three of the last four years and was a second-team All-Pro in 2019 with the Oakland Raiders.

24. New Orleans Saints: Edge Robert Quinn, North Carolina

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted edge Cameron Jordan

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

    Next pass-rusher up for the New Orleans Saints, who lost Jordan earlier in the re-draft but get pretty good value for the still-starting-caliber Robert Quinn.

    The last multiple-Pro Bowl edge defender remaining has four seasons of double-digit sacks on his resume, one of which came in Dallas last season.

25. Seattle Seahawks: LB K.J. Wright, Mississippi State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    What actually happened: Drafted OT James Carpenter

    Where he was actually picked: Fourth round by the Seahawks

    This late in a re-draft, it's best to be safe.

    With Sherman and Baldwin already gone, the Seattle Seahawks can't afford to lose another key member of the team that went to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014.

    While linebacker K.J. Wright has never been a star like Sherman or Baldwin, he's started at least 12 games in eight of his nine seasons, he was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and he continues to be a key puzzle piece.

26. Baltimore Ravens: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Time expired, drafted CB Jimmy Smith 27th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Ravens

    The Baltimore Ravens would also be smart to go the safe route with original early-round picks Torrey Smith or Jimmy Smith here, both of whom were on the roster when they won the Super Bowl in 2012. But Jimmy wasn't a big factor that year (he started just two games), while Torrey caught two touchdown passes in a critical playoff victory over the Broncos.

    That gives him an edge over fellow pass-catcher Julius Thomas, who made two Pro Bowls (compared to zero for the Smiths) but was a nonfactor early in his career.

27. Atlanta Falcons: WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded up, drafted WR Julio Jones 6th overall

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Packers

    With Jones gone, all the Falcons can do is take the best wide receiver available. In this case, that's gotta be Randall Cobb, who has gone over 600 yards in six of his nine NFL seasons.

    Both he and Mohamed Sanu are primarily slot receivers, which wouldn't be ideal, but genius offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan would have made it work in that 2016 Super Bowl season, which should be the focus here.

28. New England Patriots: DL Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1

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

    This presents an obvious upgrade opportunity for the Patriots, who traded out of this spot but get great value here for defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.

    The 2015 Pro Bowler was a strong starter in each of his first seven seasons with the Jets, where he was a second-team All-Pro twice. He would have been better than Kyle Love, Shaun Ellis, Joe Vellano and Alan Branch, all of whom were starters at various points up front in New England during that stretch.

29. Chicago Bears: Edge Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Gabe Carimi

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Browns

    Carimi started just 16 games as a member of the Chicago Bears, who could have used support for Julius Peppers up front and could find that in this spot. With that in mind, we debated between Jabaal Sheard and Marcell Dareus. The former remains a strong player, while the latter peaked higher but has missed 21 games the last four years and appears to be fading quickly (he remains a free agent right now).

    Considering the Bears already had Henry Melton inside in those early years and now have Akiem Hicks, we'll give them a quality complementary pass-rusher with longevity and roll with Sheard.

30. New York Jets: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DL Muhammad Wilkerson

    Where he was actually picked: Third overall by the Bills

    That enables the New York Jets to at least replace Wilkerson with Dareus, who was a Pro Bowler in 2013, a first-team All-Pro in 2014 and could still have played a key role in support of a young team the last few years.

    Would he have made a difference? Probably not, but the Jets missed the playoffs by just one game when Dareus was a standout player in '13.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted DL Cameron Heyward

    Where he was actually picked: 27th overall by the Ravens

    There's no replacing Heyward at this point, but the Pittsburgh Steelers can bolster their secondary in this alternate timeline and steal a longtime member of the division-rival Ravens by landing cornerback Jimmy Smith.

    He wasn't a superstar, but Smith could have provided an upgrade over guys like Cortez Allen, William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns midway through the 2010s.

32. Green Bay Packers: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    What actually happened: Drafted OT Derek Sherrod

    Where he was actually picked: Second round by the Vikings

    Jermichael Finley, who was the Green Bay Packers' tight end at the time, had a couple of good years left in him. But since Finley's run ended, Packers tight ends have hit the 500-yard mark in just two seasons. Kyle Rudolph is a two-time Pro Bowler with five campaigns of 490-plus yards at that position.

    In this draft class, only A.J. Green and Julio Jones have caught more touchdown passes. That sure beats Sherrod, who started just one game in his four-year NFL career.

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