A Draft Do-Over for Every NFL Team Over the Past Decade
The NFL draft is a time of great hope for fans of all 32 NFL teams. Whether they are a Super Bowl contender or a bottom-feeder, the event offers an opportunity to drastically improve the roster.
However, that's all it is. An opportunity. And opportunities can be squandered. There's nothing more maddening for fans than to see their favorite franchise misspend a first-round pick on a player who doesn't pan out.
But what if those mistakes could be reversed? What if every NFL team had a chance to look at the last 10 years and replace a bust with a breakout. Trade in a schlub for a stud?
This thought exercise carries caveats. For starters, players can only be "redrafted" once—otherwise Patrick Mahomes would appear here approximately nine times.
Also, there's a balancing act to a thing like this. How it impacts the team in the here and now is important. But we also have to consider that some of these moves could have completely altered the trajectory of some franchises. Given the NFL as we know it the snow-globe treatment.
So dating back to the 2012 draft, let's look at one pick every team wishes it could go back and erase.
And the name on the card it would like to turn in in its stead.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Lamar Jackson (2018)
Josh Rosen is the poster player for what might have been.
To be clear, there was no shortage of support for the UCLA quarterback entering the 2018 draft. Zach Schwartz of The Ringer ranked Rosen as the top signal-caller in the class—and he wasn't alone in that assessment.
Of course, we all know what happened. Rosen was drafted 10th by the Arizona Cardinals, thrown to the wolves on a terrible team, replaced by No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray the following season and has bounced around the league ever since.
Lamar Jackson was the enigma of that year's QB class. Sure, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner had athleticism galore, but could he play quarterback in the pros? One team even reportedly asked Jackson to run receiver drills at the combine.
There was no position switch. Instead, the Baltimore Ravens traded into the first round to draft Jackson at No. 32. In his second season, Jackson set a new record for rushing yards by a quarterback and won MVP honors. The following year, he became the first quarterback ever to post 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.
This do-over really is fascinating. If the Cardinals have Jackson, there's no need to draft Murray the following year. And what do the Ravens do under center?
This is why time travel is dangerous.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Davante Adams (2014)
The Atlanta Falcons have done pretty well in the first round over the past decade. Even the picks who fizzled out (such as Vic Beasley) had at least one big year.
So for the Falcons, we're dipping a little deeper—into the second round in 2014. At No. 37 overall, they picked Ra'Shede Hageman, a big-bodied defensive tackle from Minnesota. He was a non-factor in the pros who tallied four sacks in 16 starts over three seasons before domestic violence charges, which were later dropped, effectively ended his career.
Sixteen picks later, the Green Bay Packers drafted a 6'1", 215-pound wide receiver out of Fresno State named Davante Adams. Adams' career started somewhat slowly, but in his third year he flirted with 1,000 receiving yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
Over his eight seasons in the pros, Adams has topped 1,300 receiving yards three times, accumulated 10 or more touchdowns in five seasons and made the Pro Bowl in each of the past five years.
By the time Atlanta's 2016 Super Bowl run rolled around, Roddy White was gone. Adams would have been a massive upgrade over Mohamed Sanu opposite Julio Jones.
And maybe, just maybe, Super Bowl LI would have ended differently.
Baltimore Ravens: S Tyrann Mathieu (2013)
Former Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was a shrewd talent evaluator who hit on many more early draft picks than he missed on.
But no one's perfect. And in 2013, Newsome whiffed badly on Florida safety Matt Elam. It's not that Elam wasn't regarded as one of the top safety prospects in his class, but after an OK rookie season, his play fell off measurably. He missed his entire third season with an elbow injury. And after barely playing in 2016, he was finished with the Ravens—and the NFL altogether.
In the third round of that same draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected someone who could have made a much bigger impact on the back end of the Ravens defense.
There were reasons Tyrann Mathieu fell in the draft. Some teams were leery of his 5'9", 190-pound size. Others were unsure whether he was better suited to play safety or corner. Others still wanted no part of a player who had been booted off the team at LSU in 2012 for violating team rules and was later arrested and charged with simple possession of marijuana.
What the Cardinals wound up with was an impact player in the secondary. A versatile chess piece capable of playing all over the defensive backfield. A three-time first-team All-Pro (once with Arizona). And a member of the NFL's 2010's All-Decade team.
Buffalo Bills: WR DeAndre Hopkins (2013)
It was tempting to give the Buffalo Bills an opportunity to undo the Sammy Watkins trade. It's not that Watkins hasn't had flashes in the NFL. But he hasn't come anywhere close to justifying what it cost the Bills to trade up for him, and he hasn't been in Buffalo since 2016.
Instead, we'll switch a pick that would have made the Watkins trade unnecessary.
The 2013 draft will go down as one of the weakest classes of the 21st century. The first round was littered with busts. And the quarterback class was even weaker than this year's much-lamented crop. A QB wasn't drafted until No. 16, when the Bills took Florida State's EJ Manuel.
Manuel lasted four miserable years in Buffalo, winning six of 17 starts.
With that said, the first round of the 2013 draft wasn't completely bereft of impact players. At No. 27, the Houston Texans selected Clemson wideout DeAndre Hopkins, coincidentally a college teammate of Watkins. As a rookie, Hopkins posted a 52-catch, 802-yard, two-touchdown line.
What followed was a stretch of productivity as good as any pass-catcher's in the game. Six times in seven year Hopkins eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. In nine years with Houston and Arizona, he has 68 touchdowns. He has been named to five Pro Bowls.
Draft Hopkins, and there's no Watkins trade. Maybe the Bills draft Derek Carr in 2014.
And the whole trajectory of the franchise could have been altered.
Carolina Panthers: DT Chris Jones (2016)
In 2016, the Carolina Panthers were riding high. Fresh off a 15-1 season and a berth in Super Bowl 50, they were looking to win the first championship in franchise history.
When the team's first draft pick rolled around the following spring, the Panthers settled on Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, a 6'4", 330-pound space-eater of a defensive tackle who played four relatively decent years for the team before leaving in free agency.
The tackle the Panthers should have taken came off the board seven picks later.
Since joining the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016, Chris Jones has emerged as one of the more disruptive 3-technique tackles in the NFL. The 6'6" stature that some thought could hamper his ability to play inside hasn't been an issue—he has notched at least 6.5 sacks every season save his rookie year. He's also had at least nine sacks three times (including 2021) and posted a whopping 15.5 sacks in 2018.
Three times in the past decade, the Panthers have drafted a defensive tackle in the first round.
None is as good as Jones.
Chicago Bears: QB Patrick Mahomes (2017)
There's no question that fans of the Chicago Bears would like to erase the name "Kevin White" from the annals of Chicago draftdom. Taking him seventh overall in 2015 was a massive blunder.
But if the Bears only get one do-over, there's zero question what that do-over needs to be.
In 2017, general manager Ryan Pace traded up in Round 1 to grab the franchise quarterback who would finally fill the team's seemingly eternal void at the position.
There was just one small hiccup: Pace picked the wrong quarterback.
Mitchell Trubisky hasn't been terrible in the NFL. He went 11-3 and won the NFC North in his second season and led Chicago to the playoffs twice in four seasons. But there's a reason Trubisky is on his third team in as many years.
And he's no Patrick Mahomes.
It's hard to fathom how much different the NFL would look had Mahomes been Chicago's pick instead of Trubisky. All Mahomes has done in Kansas City is lead the Chiefs to four straight AFC Championship Games, two Super Bowls and a Lombardi Trophy. Mahomes has been named Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP and was the second quarterback in league history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season.
Other than that, he has been OK.
Cincinnati Bengals: OT Orlando Brown Jr. (2018)
The Cincinnati Bengals just dedicated most of free agency to bolstering an offensive line that allowed Joe Burrow to be sacked a staggering 70 times last year, including the playoffs. Part of the reason that overhaul was necessary was bad drafting by the Bengals along the offensive front.
They missed badly on offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi in 2015. A few years later, the team wasted the same pick (No. 21 overall) on Ohio State's Billy Price, who has been a liability at both guard and center.
It's that later draft we're pulling Cincy's do-over from—and it's yet another player being pilfered from the Chiefs.
The Chiefs didn't draft tackle Orlando Brown Jr.—he was acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. But since Baltimore took Brown in the third round in 2018, he has been a mauler in the run game and capable in pass protection. He also has extensive experience playing both tackle spots.
As it turns out, Brown's disastrous showing at the 2018 combine was much ado about nothing.
Cleveland Browns: QB Russell Wilson (2012)
In 2012, the Cleveland Browns were mired in a stretch of bad drafting that is truly staggering to behold. The team actually had two first-round picks that year—and blew them both.
Since the Browns were at least able to pawn running back Trent Richardson off on the Indianapolis Colts and recoup some of their losses, we'll focus instead on pick No. 22 and Brandon Weeden—the quarterback the Browns drafted as a 28-year-old.
That's not a misprint.
Fifty-three picks later, the Seattle Seahawks rolled the dice on a diminutive quarterback who played collegiately at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin.
Over seven seasons in the league, Weeden started 25 games, threw 31 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He made his last start in 2015 and was out of the NFL after 2018.
Conversely, over a decade with the Seattle Seahawks (and now the Denver Broncos), Russell Wilson has thrown for over 37,000 yards and 292 touchdowns. There are five seasons when Wilson threw as many (or more) touchdown passes as Weeden did in his career.
There's also the nine Pro Bowls. The 24 fourth-quarter comebacks. The 32 game-winning drives. The nine postseason victories. The two Super Bowl appearances. And the victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.
That the Browns passed on all that for a 28-year-old rookie rather sums up Cleveland football over the past 20 years.
Dallas Cowboys: LB Darius Leonard (2018)
This is one of the relatively rare occasions when the player on the wrong side of the do-over is actually still on the team.
It's certainly not fair to call the Dallas Cowboys' 2018 first-rounder, Leighton Vander Esch, a "bust" by any stretch. As a rookie, he piled up 140 total tackles and 102 solos on the way to a Pro Bowl nod.
But injuries have taken a toll since. His range isn't what it once was. A player who once looked to have the potential to be great is now average.
Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, is anything but.
In fairness, Leonard has battled injuries of his own. But when he's on the field, he might just be the best off-ball linebacker in the game. In all four of his professional seasons, Leonard has amassed at least 120 total tackles, including a league-leading 163 as a rookie.
Leonard is also no stranger to big plays. He has notched 15 sacks, 11 interceptions and 17 forced fumbles—including a jaw-dropping eight in 2021.
Pairing Leonard and Micah Parsons in the middle of the Dallas defense would be abjectly terrifying for opponents.
Denver Broncos: QB Dak Prescott (2016)
The Denver Broncos hope to have finally filled the hole at quarterback that has plagued the team since the departure of Peyton Manning following Super Bowl 50. But the trade that landed them Russell Wilson came at a high cost that included multiple first-round picks.
But what if the Broncos had filled that void as soon as it opened after the 2015 season, not wandered the QB wilderness for years and kept all those picks?
The team certainly tried. In the 2016 draft, the Broncos traded up to the 26th pick to take Paxton Lynch of Memphis. He was a 6'7", 244-pound kid with quick feet and a strong arm. His skill set looked the part of long-time NFL starter...right up until he saw game action.
Lynch made all of four starts over two seasons in Denver. He was released by the team after two years and never played another meaningful NFL snap.
Dak Prescott's career took a slightly different track. Like, say, the "biggest steal of the 2016 draft" track.
A compensatory fourth-round selection by the Cowboys, Prescott was forced into action when Tony Romo got hurt in the preseason. Since then he topped 3,800 passing yards three times, came up just short of 5,000 passing yards in 2019, threw 143 touchdown passes against just 50 interceptions and posted a passer rating just south of 100.
Detroit Lions: OLB T.J. Watt (2017)
As odd as it sounds, the Detroit Lions have done OK in the first round of drafts over the past decade. There is, however, one player who stands out as expendable.
And another drafted just after him who could have been a game-changer for the Detroit defense.
In 2017, the Lions drafted Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis 21st. He has had his moments, including 95-plus tackles each of his first two years. But as time passed, it became clear that at best Davis is a low-end starter. He's certainly not a star.
T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, most assuredly is.
Last year, Watt piled up a record-tying 22.5 sacks on the way to winning his first Defensive Player of the Year Award. The year before that, Watt notched 15 sacks and was the runner-up to Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams for the award. In five seasons, Watt has already amassed 72 career sacks. He is quite literally on a Hall of Fame pace.
Watt is the best edge-rusher in the league—and the fact he fell all the way to the 30th pick is mind-boggling.
Green Bay Packers: WR Keenan Allen (2013)
Admit it! You thought we were punting Jordan Love, didn't you?
We are going to get Aaron Rodgers some help in the receiving game to help retroactively soothe the pain of the Davante Adams trade.
Datone Jones wasn't a bad player over his four years with the Green Bay Packers. But he wasn't an especially good one, either. He definitely didn't live up to his status as a 2013 first-round pick.
There were actually some draftniks who thought wide receiver Keenan Allen might just sneak into the back of the first round. Instead, the 6'2", 206-pounder fell to the third round before the Chargers snatched him up.
He's been making teams pay for passing on him ever since.
In his nine seasons, Allen has topped 100 catches four times. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards five times, including last year. Allen has earned Pro Bowl accolades after each of the last five seasons.
In addition, he is the perfect receiver for Rodgers because he's as precise a route-runner as any wideout in the game. He would absolutely be in the spot Rodgers expects him to be in.
To say they would be an explosive duo is an understatement. Add Adams to that mix, and maybe the Packers get the recent Super Bowl win that has eluded them.
Houston Texans: DE Maxx Crosby (2019)
The Houston Texans are another team that doesn't leave a lot of do-over possibilities. Thanks in large part to the Laremy Tunsil trade, the Texans have had just one first-round pick in the past four years.
And it's that lone first-rounder in that stretch who's headed out the door.
It was no secret after playing at tiny Alabama State that tackle Tytus Howard was going to be a project coming out of school in 2019. But Howard has struggled to the point that he has been moved inside to guard, and he's been decent at best at that spot.
The Texans also struggled to rush the passer last year, generating just 32 sacks—fifth-fewest in the league. It's that pass rush that gets a jolt in this do-over—courtesy of a player who just got a jolt to his checkbook with a four-year, $94 million extension.
Maxx Crosby wasn't expected to be an impact player when the Raiders drafted him in the fourth round. But according to Pro Football Focus (h/t Hikaru Kudo of Raiders Wire), last season Crosby became just the third player in the past 15 years to generate more than 100 pressures.
The other two were J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Tyler Lockett (2015)
Some of these have been a difficult balancing act. What was the team trying to accomplish? How will the do-over affect that team, both in the past and with the benefit of several years of hindsight?
Then there are the Indianapolis Colts.
In 2015, the Colts were attempting to find a complementary wide receiver who could stretch the field and take some pressure off T.Y. Hilton. With the 29th pick, the team settled on Miami's Phillip Dorsett.
The 29-year-old is still kicking around the NFL, but Dorsett has never had even 550 receiving yards in a season.
Now, the Indianapolis Colts head into 2022 with a big need for a complementary wide receiver who can stretch the field and take some pressure off Michael Pittman Jr.
Enter Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks, who was drafted in the third round in 2015.
Over his seven seasons, Lockett has found the end zone at least 10 times twice. He has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards each of the past three seasons. Last year Lockett averaged a robust 16.1 yards per grab.
He is the guy the Colts hoped to get with Dorsett.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Chandler Jones (2012)
When Justin Blackmon was drafted fifth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012, he was universally regarded as the top wide receiver prospect in the class. He was the perfect blend of size, speed and hands. A two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver.
There wasn't another superstar receiver who came out of the class of 2012 (although T.Y. Hilton had himself quite a career), so rather than go the wideout route here, it's the defense that will benefit from this do-over.
By getting one of the most productive pass-rushers of the past decade.
Since being drafted 21st by the New England Patriots that year, Chandler Jones has made quite the habit of making opposing quarterbacks miserable. A four-time Pro Bowler, Jones has topped 10 sacks seven times, including six times over the past seven years. His 107.5 career sacks rank inside the top 40 in NFL history and rank higher than over a dozen Hall of Famers.
Assuming a few more productive seasons, Jones is a strong candidate for Canton.
Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jonathan Taylor (2020)
Here we go again with one of those danged teams that keep trading first-round picks. And for the most part, the six first-round selections the Kansas City Chiefs have made since 2012 were good ones.
Tackle Eric Fisher was the No. 1 pick in an awful class in 2013, but he evolved into a decent tackle who helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. Edge-rusher Dee Ford and cornerback Marcus Peters were impact defenders who were traded for sizable hauls. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire hit 1,100 total yards as a rookie in 2020.
Then there's Patrick Mahomes, who appears pretty good at football.
It's a good group, with one exception.
The Chiefs drafted the wrong running back two years ago.
This isn't to say Edwards-Helaire is a bad player. But if Jonathan Taylor were wearing red and gold, the Chiefs wouldn't haven't bothered to sign Ronald Jones in free agency. Taylor isn't just an excellent back; he's a game-changer. The former Wisconsin standout paced the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards last year, scored 18 times on the ground and posted eight consecutive games with 100 scrimmage yards and a rushing score.
Even without Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs are a formidable offensive team.
Put Taylor behind Mahomes, and they become a nightmare to defend against.
Las Vegas Raiders: CB Trevon Diggs (2020)
The Las Vegas Raiders have been as busy as any team in the NFL at improving the roster in the offseason, whether it was signing edge-rusher Chandler Jones or trading for star wide receiver Davante Adams.
They also took steps to address a pass defense that was middle-of-the pack last season, trading edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and signing Anthony Averett.
But cornerback remains a potential weak spot after the team released second-year pro Damon Arnette during the season last year and lost veteran Casey Hayward in free agency.
The thing is, Arnette was a reach anyway—a third-round prospect drafted in Round 1. This do-over allows the Raiders to rectify that oversight by acquiring the league's preeminent ball hawk.
Trevon Diggs isn't a flawless cornerback. His love for the big play occasionally hangs him out to dry, and he allowed a whopping 907 yards in coverage and almost 17 yards per catch.
But Diggs also led the league with 11 interceptions, brought two of those picks back for scores, tallied 21 passes defensed and had a passer rating against of just 55.8.
Frankly, if there is one city in the NFL where Diggs' brashness and showmanship would be appreciated even more than in Dallas, it's Las Vegas.
Los Angeles Chargers: OT Terron Armstead (2013)
That the Los Angeles Chargers haven't had more success over the past 10 years is a tad surprising, because the team has made excellent use of its first-round draft capital.
Even the picks that were "misses" weren't all that bad. In 2013, the Bolts used the 11th selection on offensive tackle D.J. Fluker of Alabama. After two years at tackle for the Chargers, Fluker kicked inside to guard, where he played out his rookie contract. From there he went the journeyman route, playing for the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and most recently the Baltimore Ravens in 2020.
However, while Fluker was solid, tackle Terron Armstead has been outstanding. It took the 6'5", 304-pounder some time to get going, but by his second season, Armstead was a full-time starter, and by 2018 Armstead was named to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls.
He must be doing something right—the Miami Dolphins just gave the 30-year-old $75 million over five years to anchor the team's offensive line.
Los Angeles Rams: OLB Khalil Mack (2014)
The Los Angeles Rams don't exactly provide much in the do-over department. Thanks to a flurry of trades in recent years, they haven't had a first-round pick since they took quarterback Jared Goff No. 1 in 2016.
However, there was a pick two years prior that the Rams would unquestionably like a mulligan on. They raised some eyebrows when they drafted hulking Auburn defensive tackle Greg Robinson second overall. He spent six seasons with the Rams, Lions and Browns, making 70 career starts. But he was never more than an average player.
This is also a do-over where the Rams won't attempt to rectify their mistake with another tackle such as Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan. Not when the opportunity exists to assemble a defense that would dominate the league for years.
The Rams actually had two first-rounders that year, using the second on three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
Now imagine the Rams pairing Donald with edge-rusher Khalil Mack.
Over eight seasons with the Raiders and Bears, Mack has amassed 76.5 sacks. He's been named a Pro Bowler six times, earned first-team All-Pro honors three times and was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Donald on the inside and Mack on the outside is nightmare fuel.
Miami Dolphins: QB Justin Herbert (2020)
This one will likely draw the ire of Team Tua.
It's still possible that Tua Tagovailoa will develop into an excellent NFL starter. The Miami Dolphins certainly took steps to help him grow these past two seasons, whether it was drafting his former Alabama teammate in receiver Jaylen Waddle last year or swinging the big trade for Tyreek Hill this offseason.
But there's no way you can objectively say Tagovailoa has been better over his first two seasons than the quarterback who was selected one pick after him in 2020.
Herbert set a new high-water mark for rookie quarterbacks with 31 touchdown passes and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. The former Oregon standout upped his game during his sophomore season. No quarterback in the AFC had more passing yards last year than Herbert's 5,014. No quarterback in the AFC had more touchdown passes last season than Herbert's 38.
With Tagovailoa under center, the new and improved Dolphins are viewed as a potential threat to the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
With Herbert, Miami might be the AFC East favorites.
Minnesota Vikings: S Kevin Byard (2016)
Despite the fact that Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell ran an abysmal 4.65-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2016, the Minnesota Vikings still used their first pick on him. Per the team's website, former NFL Network analyst and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock thought at the time that the Vikes had made a wise decision.
"We all know he ran a 4.65 40 at his pro day," he said. "So, either you believe in him and his game, or you don't. He's a natural hands catcher and will win 50-50 balls. He's also one of the best blocking wide receivers in this draft. He's physical, tough and has great hands. I think the Vikings got a winner."
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call him "the next Dez Bryant."
Over six seasons with Minnesota, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Treadwell hasn't reached 450 receiving yards in a campaign. He has five career touchdowns.
Part of the reason Minnesota reached for Treadwell was this was (in hindsight) a weak class at wide receiver. So rather than repeat that mistake, we're going to turn to the other side of the ball.
The Vikings already had one excellent safety in Harrison Smith. Pairing him with Kevin Byard, who has three seasons with at least five interceptions, 23 career picks and two first-team All-Pro nods, would offer quite the last line of defense in the Twin Cities.
New England Patriots: WR Deebo Samuel (2019)
Under Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have never been shy about trading their first-round picks.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, because some of the first-rounders the team made were, um, yeah.
In fairness, when Arizona State's N'Keal Harry became the final pick of the first round in 2019, it was well-received in many circles. But given what Harry "accomplished" in Foxborough (57 catches for 598 yards and four scores during a stint that was over after three seasons), that feels like a cautionary tale about just how little we really know about prospects until they actually take the field in the pros.
Four picks after Harry, another wide receiver was taken by the San Francisco 49ers—a kid out of South Carolina who caught San Francisco's eye after dazzling at the Senior Bowl. In the three years since, Deebo Samuel has emerged as one of the more dangerous players in the league with a football in his hands. Last year, he topped 1,700 total yards, averaged over 18 yards per catch and found the end zone 14 times.
Samuel is exactly the kind of go-to pass-catcher that the New England offense so badly needs.
New Orleans Saints : CB Jaire Alexander (2018)
The New Orleans Saints wanted UTSA edge-rusher Marcus Davenport enough in 2018 to spend an extra first-round pick to move up and draft him. Last year, it appeared that investment might finally be paying off, as Davenport amassed a career-high nine sacks.
But 21 sacks in four years isn't worth two first-rounders.
Unfortunately, there isn't another edge-rusher who leaps out as a prime replacement candidate. So rather than giving Cameron Jordan help on the defensive line, we're giving the Saints perhaps the best one-two punch at cornerback in the league.
Jaire Alexander has been a fixture in the Green Bay secondary since his rookie season, making 42 starts over his first three years. Two seasons ago, Alexander set career highs in both completion percentage against (51.3 percent) and passer rating against (67.4) on the way to his first Pro Bowl nod.
Alexander's 2021 season was a disappointment (he missed the majority of the year with a shoulder injury), but healthy, he and Marshon Lattimore would form a duo in the secondary that would strike fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
New York Giants: OT Tristan Wirfs (2020)
The New York Giants don't need one do-over. They need six.
Cornerback Eli Apple in 2016. Tight end Evan Engram the following year. Running back Saquon Barkley in 2018. Quarterback Daniel Jones in 2019. Cornerback Deandre Baker that same year. Tackle Andrew Thomas in 2020.
None of those six picks over the past five seasons can definitively be labeled a "hit."
It's tempting to pick Baker or Apple here. Both were absolute flops at cornerback in New York. But the Thomas selection brings with it an advantage of sorts for this exercise. The Georgia standout was the first offensive tackle off the board in 2020. That means that every other player at a position where New York badly needs help is available.
Yes. Tristan Wirfs of Iowa is a right tackle. But he has also been quite possibly the best right tackle in the league from the moment he set foot on an NFL field. As a rookie, Wirfs played 1,073 snaps and surrendered just a single sack, per PFF, on Tampa's march to a championship. Last year, he played 1,182 snaps and surrendered two sacks.
Thomas has surrendered a dozen sacks over his two seasons in the league.
New York Jets: QB Josh Allen (2018)
This might just be the most obvious do-over on the list.
The New York Jets could have drafted Josh Allen in 2018. Instead, they settled on USC's Sam Darnold. Darnold was the safer, more pro-ready prospect. Allen was the big kid with the big arm but accuracy issues—he completed well under 60 percent of his passes at Wyoming.
Still, at the time, Matt Miller wrote for B/R that he saw in Allen everything it takes become a superstar:
"As a developmental prospect, Allen has the traits that make coaches drool. His arm talent, athleticism, football IQ and personality are all ideal. The question every front office will ask is if it can get the most out of him.
Many will make excuses for Allen's struggles (two-year starter at Wyoming, poor supporting cast, etc.), but evaluators are taught to see Allen's strengths, and he has plenty of those."
As it turns out, Miller was right. Four years later, Darnold is an underwhelming starter for the Carolina Panthers after being traded in 2021, while Allen has led Buffalo to the playoffs each of the past three seasons.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Justin Jefferson (2020)
Here you go, Eagles fans. The do-over you have wanted almost from the time the pick was made.
In 2020, Philadelphia drafted TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor No. 21. One selection later, the Vikings chose LSU wideout Justin Jefferson. One player set the (since-broken) NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie with 1,400. Then he went on to pile up 1,616 yards and 10 scores in his second season. Both years he's been named to the Pro Bowl.
The other is Reagor, who has 695 receiving yards for his career.
As Dave Zangaro reported for NBC Sports Philadelphia, even Jefferson feels bad for the flak that Reagor has received for being drafted ahead of him.
"I honestly hate it. I hate it for him," Jefferson said. "I mean, he didn't ask for any of this. He's just being the player that he is. I definitely hate it. I hate it for him. Being compared to me all the time, especially with the success that I'm having and the things he's doing over there. I hate to see it, but I guess it is what it is."
Well, now it officially never happened. Justice has been done.
And Eagles fans can finally leave Reagor alone.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Fred Warner (2018)
Sometimes, hindsight can do more than just remedy a bad draft pick. It can also prevent an even worse pick the following season.
That's the case with the Pittsburgh Steelers and safety Terrell Edmunds in 2018.
Edmunds wasn't a terrible selection. He averaged 85 tackles per season while starting 60 games over four years in Pittsburgh. It's still possible the free agent will re-up with the Steelers and be the team's starting box safety.
But the fact that Edmunds remains on the market says a lot about the impact he didn't make after becoming the 28th pick in 2018.
Meanwhile, all Fred Warner has done is make an impact over the last four seasons in San Francisco. Thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie, the third-rounder from BYU racked up 124 total tackles and quickly emerged as a defensive leader for the Niners. Warner has missed one game in four seasons and averaged 126 stops per year. In 2020, Warner was elected to the Pro Bowl and named a first-team All-Pro.
One year after drafting Edmunds, the Steelers sacrificed their first-rounder and a pair of Day 2 picks to move up and draft Michigan linebacker Devin Bush 10th.
Had Warner been on the roster, that boondoggle never would have happened.
San Francisco 49ers: RB Christian McCaffrey (2017)
This one is admittedly a tad selfish.
There have been other first-round disappointments for the San Francisco 49ers over the past 10 years, whether it was linebacker Reuben Foster in 2017 or guard Joshua Garnett the year before. But by swapping out defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, all but the first two picks in 2017 become available.
Yes, that includes Patrick Mahomes. But he was already snatched up.
What kind of havoc could safety Jamal Adams wreak at the back end of San Fran's defense. How much better would that defense have been with Marshon Lattimore or Tre'Davious White at cornerback?
While those players would all have no doubt improved San Fran, one question blares out in giant glowing letters.
What could Kyle Shanahan do with a healthy Christian McCaffrey?
Shanahan likes to run the ball as much as any coach. He likes to throw to his backs. He used Deebo Samuel in something of a McCaffrey-esque manner last year.
Put McCaffrey (the last player with 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season) in the backfield and Samuel in the slot. Reverse the two. Put both in the backfield and watch opposing defensive play-callers faint.
The possibilities are as endless as they are tantalizing.
Seattle Seahawks: OG Elgton Jenkins (2019)
This was a difficult call for a couple of reasons.
The first is that the Seattle Seahawks have had a habit in recent years of trading first-round picks. In the window available in this piece, the Seahawks have picked in the first round all of five times.
The second is that it's hard to identify what the Seahawks need most given that the team is undergoing a massive rebuild after the Russell Wilson trade.
However, whether you look at this through the lens of what it would have meant for the team in 2019 or for a Seahawks franchise starting over, it's not hard to see the value of swapping out edge-rusher L.J. Collier for Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins.
Collier has been a non-factor for the Seahawks over three seasons. He has three sacks over that span, and all those came in 2020. Meanwhile, Jenkins can play all three interior line spots at a high level and has allowed three sacks total, per PFF—for his career.
The offensive line has been a problem in Seattle for a number of years.
This re-do addresses that in a significant way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Michael Thomas (2016)
This one was rather tough.
Many would expect that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would want a re-do on taking Jameis Winston first overall in 2015. But the reality is, at the time no one really batted an eye at that pick—Winston was the No. 1 quarterback on most boards, and the Buccaneers needed one.
That leads us to the following year and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III at No. 11 overall. Xavien Howard would have been a fine replacement for Hargreaves (and then some), but he (as you will soon see) has been recast elsewhere.
Tampa lost the imaginary coin toss.
However, we know that the fighting Tom Bradys love to hoard pass-catchers, so we'll go with a guy who hopes to rebound in 2022 from a rough couple of seasons.
Michael Thomas didn't play at all in 2021 because of ankle surgery, and his 2020 campaign was all kinds of underwhelming. But as recently as 2019, Thomas set an NFL record with 149 catches and gained over 1,700 yards. Thomas had at least 1,100 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons and is a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Thomas and Mike Evans outside with Chris Godwin (or Russell Gage) in the slot would be a pretty danged good cadre of wide receivers.
Tennessee Titans: OG Jonah Jackson (2020)
There's no doubt which player the Tennessee Titans would most like a do-over on.
After being selected 29th by the Titans in 2020, Georgia tackle Isaiah Wilson was an unmitigated bust. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence that September, and in January 2021, he was arrested on several other charges, including felony fleeing from police.
All told, Wilson played three snaps for the Titans before eventually being traded to the Miami Dolphins.
He hasn't played since.
However, it's a bit more befuddling as to which young player from the 2020 class the Titans should replace him with. Dallas cornerback (and 2021 interceptions leader) Trevon Diggs is tempting. Tennessee ranked 25th in the league in pass defense last year, and Diggs would alleviate some of the pressure on youngster Caleb Farley.
But the interior of the offensive line is an even bigger need—quarterback Ryan Tannehill was dropped 47 times last year, and veteran guard Rodger Saffold left in free agency.
So with hard-nosed coach Mike Vrabel calling the shots, the Titans will instead replace Wilson with Jonah Jackson of the Detroit Lions, a promising young guard coming off his first Pro Bowl.
Washington Commanders: CB Xavien Howard (2016)
The Washington Commanders have had considerable success drafting defensive linemen in recent years, whether it was Jonathan Allen in 2017, Daron Payne the following year, Montez Sweat in 2019 or Chase Young in 2020.
That's quite the hot streak of the defensive front.
However, the organization hasn't enjoyed the same success on offense.
In 2016, the Commanders used the 22nd pick on TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson, a lanky 6'2", 202-pounder who was coming off a 78-catch, 1,326-yard, 14-TD line with the Horned Frogs in 2015. To be fair, there were draftniks who thought Doctson was the No. 1 receiver in his class.
As a rookie, Doctson played in just two games thanks to an Achilles injury. He had six touchdowns the following year but caught just 35 passes and barely cracked 500 receiving yards. Over four years with the Commanders and Minnesota Vikings, Doctson had fewer yards and touchdowns than in that last season at TCU.
On the other hand, at pick No. 38, the Miami Dolphins selected a young cornerback out of Baylor named Xavien Howard. All he's done over his first six pro seasons is emerge as one of the game's best cover men, rack up 27 career interceptions (including a league-leading 10 in 2020) and make three Pro Bowls.