Re-Drafting the 2016 NFL Draft
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, 2016?
In our opinion, you'd end up with three quarterbacks in the top four but none for the rest of Round 1.
Here are the specifics in a re-draft that includes three signal-callers, two running backs, four wide receivers, one tight end, seven offensive linemen, nine front-seven defenders and five defensive backs.
Note: There are only 31 selections because the New England Patriots forfeited their first-round pick as part of their penalty for the Deflategate scandal.
(Excludes draft-day trades.)
1. Los Angeles Rams: QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
What actually happened: Drafted QB Jared Goff
Where Dak Prescott was actually picked: Fourth round by the Cowboys
The Los Angeles Rams have already doubled down on Goff by handing him one of the most lucrative contracts in NFL history, and the California product did help the team reach the Super Bowl in 2018. The Rams would likely consider reselecting him in this spot if not for the presence of Prescott and Carson Wentz, both of whom have been significantly more successful.
This is essentially a toss-up because Wentz might have a higher ceiling based on his MVP-caliber 2017 season for the Philadelphia Eagles, but the North Dakota State product has also failed to finish three consecutive campaigns because of injuries.
Prescott, who has never missed a start in his career, gets the slight edge.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
What actually happened: Drafted QB Carson Wentz
Where Wentz was actually picked: Second overall by the Eagles
That leaves Philadelphia with its current franchise quarterback and an easy decision.
The Eagles wouldn't have been positioned to win Super Bowl LII without Wentz's pre-injury heroics that year, and he continues to look like a clear-cut long-term franchise quarterback after throwing for 4,039 yards with just seven interceptions in 16 starts in 2019.
The Eagles wouldn't give any thought to Goff or top-notch options such as Joey Bosa, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Ronnie Stanley or Jalen Ramsey. This is a no-brainer retake.
3. San Diego Chargers: Edge Joey Bosa, Ohio State
What actually happened: Drafted edge Joey Bosa
Where Bosa was actually picked: Third overall by the Chargers
This is less of a no-brainer, but the now-Los Angeles Chargers have little reason to regret taking Bosa third overall. That's especially the case with Prescott unavailable in this exercise and Justin Herbert now on the L.A. roster anyway.
Thomas would be tempting because he's the most productive wide receiver in football, and Stanley could help the offensive line in a major way, but the Chargers are already loaded in the receiving corps, and they at least brought in tackle Bryan Bulaga in the offseason.
It'd be silly to essentially trade Bosa for someone like that. The Ohio State product has registered double-digit sacks and more than 20 quarterback hits in all three of his healthy NFL campaigns, and he's coming off his second career Pro Bowl at age 24.
The Bolts should keep it simple, stupid.
4. Dallas Cowboys: QB Jared Goff, California
What actually happened: Drafted RB Ezekiel Elliott
Where Jared Goff was actually picked: First overall by the Rams
If the Dallas Cowboys weren't positioned to compete now based on the number of highly paid, premium starters on their roster, they might be tempted to take Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue or Chris Jones here and then grab a quarterback in next year's draft. And an argument could be made that they'd be better off with Andy Dalton and one of those three defensive stars than they are with Goff and no other additions.
But Dallas is good enough to make a run in 2020 and, again, Goff played a significant role on a Super Bowl team just 18 months ago. The original top pick hasn't been himself since bombing in Super Bowl LIII, but he's a two-time Pro Bowler with the skill set to bounce back, and he'd be extremely well-supported in Dallas.
It's also hard to trust Dalton, who posted an ugly 84.2 passer rating in his final three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Oh, and for those championing Elliott, running backs are almost never worth a top-five pick these days—and that's especially the case when you don't have your quarterback situation figured out.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
What actually happened: Drafted CB Jalen Ramsey
Where Michael Thomas was actually picked: Second round by the Saints
Thomas can't drop lower, especially now that all of this class's starting quarterbacks are off the board for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They could reselect Ramsey just because the team turned him into two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder, but Thomas is such a game-changing offensive player that he is likely more valuable than that trade return from the Rams.
The two-time first-team All-Pro is coming off a record 149-catch 2019 season. He's caught more passes for more yards than any player in NFL history at the four-year mark.
With him, DJ Chark Jr. and Leonard Fournette in tow, Gardner Minshew II would have every opportunity to succeed under center in Jacksonville.
6. Baltimore Ravens: OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
What actually happened: Drafted OT Ronnie Stanley
Where Stanley was actually picked: Sixth overall by the Ravens
It would be silly for the Baltimore Ravens to stray here.
Stanley protects reigning MVP Lamar Jackson's blind side and was a first-team All-Pro for a 14-win Baltimore team in 2019. The 26-year-old out of Notre Dame was named Pro Football Focus' pass-blocker of the year, and there's little reason to believe he won't continue to dominate throughout the 2020s.
I doubt Baltimore would even bat an eye at Hill, Ramsey, Ngakoue or Jones.
7. San Francisco 49ers: WR Tyreek Hill, West Alabama
What actually happened: Drafted DL DeForest Buckner
Where Tyreek Hill was actually picked: Fifth round by the Chiefs
With Hill a member of the San Francisco 49ers instead of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Niners would probably be the defending champions. They lacked—and continue to lack—an elite No. 1 receiver, and Hill fits that profile after making the Pro Bowl in each of his first four pro seasons.
The speed demon out of West Alabama is already a two-time first-team All-Pro, and he caught nine passes for 105 yards against San Francisco in February's Super Bowl matchup.
This would only mean the alternate-timeline 49ers would have to give up heralded rookie first-rounder Javon Kinlaw, who was selected with the pick the team acquired for Buckner in March (after another trade down). Considering how strong the 49ers already are on defense, that's an easy call.
8. Cleveland Browns: CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
What actually happened: Traded back, drafted WR Corey Coleman 15th overall
Where Jalen Ramsey was actually picked: Fifth overall by the Jaguars
Yeah, the fireworks with Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Kareem Hunt all on the same roster might be problematic. But Ramsey's talent is impossible to ignore if you're a Cleveland Browns team that could use an accomplished veteran to work with youngsters Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams at cornerback.
The jury is still out on both of those guys, and with the offensive line spruced up, it's hard to find a significantly bigger need on the Cleveland roster that is worth addressing here. Ngakoue, Jones or Buckner could make life a lot easier on Garrett up front, but Ramsey and Elliott are the only three-time Pro Bowlers still on board, and Cleveland doesn't need a running back.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi
What actually happened: Traded back, drafted CB Vernon Hargreaves III 11th overall
Where Laremy Tunsil was actually picked: 13th overall by the Dolphins
This is all about Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' obvious goal, which is to win before Brady is eligible for AARP. They could have used Ramsey to bolster the secondary, but with the defensive front stacked with talent and no other defensive backs worthy of the top 10, the only choice is to ramp up protection for the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback.
Tunsil, 25, is younger, more talented and has a higher ceiling than Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith, 27. He made his first Pro Bowl in a breakout 2019 and would form a hell of a duo with highly touted rookie first-round pick Tristan Wirfs.
That would also enable the Buccaneers to trade Smith for help elsewhere. It's an easy call, considering they've already released Hargreaves and don't have a lot of room for Ngakoue, Jones, Buckner or Matt Judon up front.
10. New York Giants: Edge Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland
What actually happened: Drafted CB Eli Apple
Where Yannick Ngakoue was actually picked: Third round by the Jaguars
Jones was a significant difference-maker on a Super Bowl team last year and is one of the NFL's best all-around interior defensive linemen, but the New York Giants need a strong edge-defender way more than they need a defensive tackle.
So they'll pass on him in favor of Ngakoue, who has recorded at least eight sacks in his first four seasons and has the fourth-highest forced-fumble total in football since he came into the league. Not a single current Giant hit the five-sack mark last year, so he'd immediately be the top dog in that pass rush.
This is also a no-brainer, considering that Apple didn't pan out in New York.
11. Chicago Bears: DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State
What actually happened: Traded up, drafted LB Leonard Floyd ninth overall
Where Chris Jones was actually picked: Second round by the Chiefs
This isn't a need pick for the Chicago Bears, who already have Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman up front and Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn on the edge. But Jones is a game-changing player, and Chicago would have trouble passing on that outside the top 10.
The dude had 15.5 sacks as an interior defender in 2018, made the Pro Bowl with 20 quarterback hits despite missing three games in 2019 and was a difference-maker in the Super Bowl. Imagine him alongside Hicks and in front of Mack and Quinn. The Bears would be so tough to deal with on D.
With the top quarterbacks long gone and Floyd no longer a Bear anyway, Chicago would have to go this route.
12. New Orleans Saints: WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
What actually happened: Drafted DT Sheldon Rankins
Where Tyler Boyd was actually picked: Second round by the Bengals
After losing Thomas, it's "best wide receiver available" for the New Orleans Saints. And with Hill also gone, that leaves Boyd.
He and Sterling Shepard are the only other receivers from this class with more than 200 catches and 2,000 yards. But while Shepard has never put together a 900-yard season, Boyd is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. The 25-year-old appears to be rising faster and is two years younger than Shepard.
Nobody can replace Thomas, but this could give Drew Brees and Co. a shot. And Rankins hasn't lived up to expectations anyway.
13. Miami Dolphins: DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon
What actually happened: Drafted OT Laremy Tunsil
Where DeForest Buckner was actually picked: Seventh overall by the 49ers
The Miami Dolphins have rebuilt their roster in impressive fashion, but the jury remains out on second-year interior defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and rookie second-rounder Raekwon Davis. The pass rush is in much better shape with Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah in town, which is why we're rolling with Buckner over Judon in this spot.
The Oregon product was a Pro Bowler with 12 sacks in 2018 and a second-team All-Pro with two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 2019. He could reach superstardom, but he's already a star at a position of need for Miami.
He edges top running backs Elliott and Derrick Henry, mainly because backs have short shelf lives and Miami wasn't good enough to benefit from those guys from 2016 to now.
14. Oakland Raiders: Edge Matt Judon, Grand Valley State
What actually happened: Drafted S Karl Joseph
Where Matt Judon was actually picked: Fifth round by the Ravens
The star backs keep falling, this time thanks to the presence of Josh Jacobs on the now-Las Vegas Raiders. He looked the part as a first-round rookie in 2019, but the same can't be said of 2019 No. 4 overall selection Clelin Ferrell.
Ferrell didn't do much to help an Oakland pass rush that had the NFL's sixth-lowest pressure rate. New arrivals Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski and Carl Nassib should help the defense, but the first two guys are off-ball linebackers and Nassib has never had a seven-sack season. They need another playmaker who can get to the quarterback, and Judon is the best player available who fits that profile.
The 2016 fifth-rounder has improved dramatically during his first four seasons and is coming off a breakout campaign in which he made the Pro Bowl with 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and more quarterback hits (33) than all but three NFL players.
That trajectory makes him a steal with a pick that was originally used on a bust in Joseph.
15. Tennessee Titans: RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
What actually happened: Traded up, drafted OT Jack Conklin eighth overall
Where Derrick Henry was actually picked: Second round by the Titans
The Tennessee Titans essentially chose Henry over Conklin this offseason, so it makes sense to go with their original second-round pick over their original first-rounder here.
Both are standout players, but Henry was the league's leading rusher and one of the top playmakers in football last season. He rushed for an unbelievable 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns in the eight contests leading up to the team's AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs.
Running backs rarely carry teams deep these days, but Henry could be an exception. There's no way Tennessee would pass on him in the middle of this round.
16. Detroit Lions: OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
What actually happened: Drafted LT Taylor Decker
Where Decker was actually picked: 16th overall by the Lions
At this stage, if your original pick has panned out well, it often makes sense to reselect him. That applies to the Titans as well as the Detroit Lions, who have a strong offensive line to protect franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and would be silly to let Decker get away.
He isn't a superstar, but the 26-year-old is reliable, and his premium position clinches it in this spot. The Lions might be compelled by Elliott or a blue-chip defender like Kenny Clark or Justin Simmons, but those guys aren't worth losing your left tackle for.
17. Atlanta Falcons: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
What actually happened: Drafted S Keanu Neal
Where Ezekiel Elliott was actually picked: Fourth overall by the Cowboys
With all due respect to new Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley, the team can't pass up on Elliott, considering Gurley's struggles since he suffered a knee injury in 2018. The team is unlikely to get the backfield punch it needs out of Gurley, but Elliott is one of the NFL's most productive backs.
The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time rushing champion has also caught 131 passes for 987 yards the last two years. He'll be 25 for the 2020 campaign, and he's yet to show obvious signs of decline. He scored 14 touchdowns in 2019 and averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his final five games.
18. Indianapolis Colts: DT Kenny Clark, UCLA
What actually happened: Drafted C Ryan Kelly
Where Kenny Clark was actually picked: 27th overall by the Packers
The Indianapolis Colts lost Buckner to the Dolphins, but Clark isn't a bad consolation prize in this spot. The 2019 Pro Bowler has put together at least four sacks, six quarterback hits and 50 tackles in three consecutive healthy seasons.
Pro Football Focus recently ranked him as the 11th-best sub-25-year-old player in the sport.
The team would likely consider re-drafting Kelly in this spot because he's a top-notch center coming off a Pro Bowl campaign, but the much younger Clark (he's 24, Kelly is 27) is rising a lot faster after a dominant season of his own.
19. Buffalo Bills: S Justin Simmons, Boston College
What actually happened: Drafted edge Shaq Lawson
Where Justin Simmons was actually picked: Third round by the Broncos
The Buffalo Bills have a solid free safety in veteran Micah Hyde, but he'll turn 30 at the end of this season and neither he nor fellow veteran Bills safety Jordan Poyer compares to Simmons.
The Bills are strong enough in most spots to take the best player available, and they'd be smart to do that with Simmons. This represents great value for PFF's highest-graded safety from the 2019 season.
The 26-year-old picked off four passes and recorded 15 passes defensed in a breakout campaign. He looks like a true playmaker on the rise, which gives him an edge over Lawson. Buffalo's original pick failed to live up to expectations there and is already off the roster.
20. New York Jets: G Joe Thuney, North Carolina State
What actually happened: Drafted LB Darron Lee
Where Joe Thuney was actually picked: Third round by the Patriots
The New York Jets are still trying to build up their offensive line in support of 23-year-old quarterback Sam Darnold. This spot gives them a perfect chance to do so while stealing a key player from the AFC East-rival Patriots.
Inexplicably, Thuney has yet to make a Pro Bowl, but the two-time Super Bowl champion was a second-team All-Pro in 2019. He's missed just a few snaps in his four NFL seasons, and PFF's Anthony Treash noted he's been "one of the 10 most valuable guards in each of the past three seasons."
He'd provide a huge upgrade over Alex Lewis opposite veteran Brian Winters at guard in New York.
21. Washington: OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
What actually happened: Traded back, drafted WR Josh Doctson 22nd overall
Where Jack Conklin was actually picked: Eighth overall by the Titans
Washington is also tasked with trying to bolster protection for a young quarterback, especially following the departure of star left tackle Trent Williams. That makes Conklin a perfect pick in place of Doctson, who was a bust in D.C.
Yeah, he's not a left tackle, but the 2016 first-team All-Pro was PFF's sixth-highest-graded right tackle in 2019 despite coming off a torn ACL. Washington oughta draft him here to replace Morgan Moses and then sign free-agent star Jason Peters to work as a bridge on Dwayne Haskins' blind side.
22. Houston Texans: WR Will Fuller V, Notre Dame
What actually happened: Traded up, drafted WR Will Fuller V 21st overall
Where Fuller was actually picked: 21st overall by the Texans
Following the Houston Texans' highly criticized decision to jettison superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, the team can't afford to also lose his presumed replacement in Fuller.
That's the main reason he beats top-notch defenders Xavien Howard, Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith and Cory Littleton. The receiving corps can't take another hit, and Fuller has shown remarkable flashes despite a lack of consistency caused primarily by injuries.
Fuller hasn't played in more than 11 games since his rookie season, but the 26-year-old has averaged 14.5 yards per catch and caught 69.8 percent of the passes thrown his way the past two years. Only four qualified receivers have averaged more yards per target during that span.
23. Minnesota Vikings: CB Xavien Howard, Baylor
What actually happened: Drafted WR Laquon Treadwell
Where Xavien Howard was actually picked: Second round by the Dolphins
The Minnesota Vikings surrendered the sixth-worst opposing completion rate last year, and then they lost their three most active cornerbacks in the offseason. That leaves them with only disappointing 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes and a bunch of unproven players at one of the game's most important positions.
Enter Howard, who intercepted 11 passes in 2017 and 2018 and earned a Pro Bowl honor with a league-high seven picks in the latter year. He's one of the league's top playmakers at that position, while Treadwell has caught two touchdown passes in four NFL campaigns.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
What actually happened: Drafted CB William Jackson III
Where Hunter Henry was actually picked: Second round by the Chargers
Shepard would also be an option here after the Cincinnati Bengals lost Boyd to the Saints in this re-draft, and few would fault them for going with Jackson again, considering the corner's superb 2017 campaign. But Jackson has faded since that season, and the receiving corps still has plenty of depth with A.J. Green returning and Tee Higgins joining the fray.
Instead, with Tyler Eifert gone, we'll give rookie quarterback Joe Burrow another pass-catcher with an elite ceiling, this time at the tight end position. In 2019, Henry experienced his best season in terms of catches (55) and yards (652) despite missing four games with a tibia fracture.
Injuries remain a concern, but the 25-year-old has superstar ability. You can't pass on that in this spot when Drew Sample is projected to be your No. 1 tight end.
In that light, tight end Austin Hooper would also make great sense here after back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, but Henry has shown a little more playmaking ability (he's averaged 2.1 more yards per catch).
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
What actually happened: Drafted CB Artie Burns
Where Cody Whitehair was actually picked: Second round by the Bears
Burns was a bust for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is off the roster, but Pittsburgh can use this spot to address an aging offensive line. One spot in flux is the guard position opposite David DeCastro following Ramon Foster's retirement, but Whitehair, a 2018 Pro Bowler, could help with that.
The steady second-round pick rarely misses a snap and is rarely penalized. And he'd critically provide an alternative to the 31-year-old Stefen Wisniewski. He edges the versatile Graham Glasgow, who hasn't peaked as high as Whitehair did two years ago.
26. Seattle Seahawks: C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
What actually happened: Traded back, drafted OT Germain Ifedi 31st overall
Where Ryan Kelly was actually picked: 18th overall by the Colts
The Seattle Seahawks would likely be tempted by a slew of intriguing front-seven defenders, including Jaylon Smith, D.J. Reader, Littleton, Jack and Deion Jones in this spot, and any would be better than Ifedi, who was unreliable during his four seasons in Seattle.
But instead, the Seahawks have an opportunity to replace departed veteran center Justin Britt with the talented Kelly, who made the Pro Bowl as a 26-year-old in 2019. The original top-20 pick hasn't fully met expectations in Indianapolis, but there's no way he can drop further after a breakout campaign.
There's little doubt he's a better option than B.J. Finney or Joey Hunt.
27. Green Bay Packers: DT D.J. Reader, Clemson
What actually happened: Drafted DT Kenny Clark
Where D.J. Reader was actually picked: Fifth round by the Texans
With Clark off the board, the Green Bay Packers at least can keep something resembling the status quo with Reader, who slid to the fifth round in the real world but has performed like a first-rounder in recent seasons.
He's coming off a breakout campaign that included 13 quarterback hits and 52 tackles, which helped Houston stay afloat without J.J. Watt for much of the year up front. Pro Football Focus named him a second-team All-Pro, so he's right there in Clark's range.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
What actually happened: Traded out of Round 1
Where Jaylon Smith was actually picked: Second round by the Cowboys
At this point, the Chiefs would be reeling. There's no replacing Chris Jones or Hill, especially with Clark, Reader, Boyd and Fuller off the board. They could roll with a decent starter such as Javon Hargrave or Shepard at either defensive tackle or wideout, but instead they might as well go with a player with a higher ceiling at another position of need.
So let's assign Smith to the Chiefs. The linebacker is rising faster than anyone else available here following a breakout 2018 and a Pro Bowl 2019 campaign. The second-round pick was still coming back from a major knee injury early in his career but has since become one of the league's best off-ball linebackers. He'd provide a tremendous immediate upgrade over Damien Wilson or Anthony Hitchens.
29. Arizona Cardinals: S Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State
What actually happened: Drafted DT Robert Nkemdiche
Where Kevin Byard was actually picked: Third round by the Titans
Nkemdiche is already off the Arizona Cardinals roster, and that rebuilding defense could use one more playmaker as the team looks to contend in 2020. With Chandler Jones on the edge, Isaiah Simmons in the middle and Patrick Peterson at cornerback, Byard would be an awesome fit next to Peterson and Budda Baker in that secondary.
The third-rounder hasn't replicated a first-team All-Pro 2017 season in which led the NFL with eight interceptions, but he's picked off nine passes the last two years. That ball-hawking ability would be critical with so much talent elsewhere.
30. Carolina Panthers: LB Cory Littleton, Washington
What actually happened: Drafted DT Vernon Butler
Where Cory Littleton was actually picked: He wasn't
The Carolina Panthers are retooling their defense after Luke Kuechly's retirement. And while Littleton is no Kuechly, he's an underrated option at linebacker.
The 2018 Pro Bowler recorded a team-high 134 tackles in 2019 and has emerged as one of the league's best coverage linebackers. He was a key member of a Super Bowl team with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018, and he has five interceptions, 7.5 sacks, 259 tackles and 22 passes defensed since becoming a full-time starter that year.
He edges fellow linebackers Deion Jones and Jack, neither of whom has been as effective the last couple of years.
31. Denver Broncos: CB James Bradberry, Samford
What actually happened: Traded up, drafted QB Paxton Lynch 26th overall
Where James Bradberry was actually picked: Second round by the Panthers
Jack or Deion Jones would also make sense for the Denver Broncos in the final spot, but there's hope for Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson in that linebacker corps. And so instead, with the pick the team originally wasted on Lynch, we'll bolster the secondary with a solid outside corner in Bradberry.
The 2016 second-round pick isn't a star, but he had three interceptions and 12 passes defensed in 2019, turning that into a contract with the Giants worth $14.5 million per season. He's missed just four starts in four pro campaigns, and the 6'1", 212-pounder has the size and strength to continue to develop into a star.
Statistics vis Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.