Re-Drafting the 2018 NFL Draft
In the lead-up to the 2018 NFL draft, the hullabaloo was all about one position—quarterback.
With a loaded crop that included five signal-callers who would go on to be first-round picks, the class of 2018 was heralded as the best in recent memory. Some pundits went so far as to compare the class to 1983, when six quarterbacks went in Round 1—three of whom went on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But a funny thing happened on the way to immortality. Games started. Fast-forward just four years, and of the five quarterbacks taken in Round 1, just two will be starting for the team that drafted them in 2018. The only one to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player was the last of the five selected.
It begs the question: What would the first round of that 2018 draft look like had we known then what we know? How would things shake out if we knew who would be stars and who would be busts?
For starters, that first round would feature more off-ball linebackers than quarterbacks. The first non-quarterback taken would be an offensive guard. And that MVP wouldn't be waiting nearly as long to hear his name called in Dallas.
Note: For the purpose of this exercise, trades that took place before the draft (such as the Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes trades) were included. However, trades that took place after the event began (draft-day deals) were not.
1.01: Cleveland Browns
The Pick Then: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Pick Now: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
That the Cleveland Browns had their choice of any quarterback in consecutive classes that included Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen only to settle on Baker Mayfield is just about the most Browns thing ever.
To be fair, Mayfield hasn't been awful—he led the Browns to the postseason two years ago, topping 3,500 passing yards with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions. But he wasn't good enough to prevent the Browns from throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the Houston Texans in an effort to acquire Watson in the offseason.
Allen hasn't enjoyed quite the team success that Mahomes has to date—largely because the Chiefs keep bouncing the Bills from the postseason. He also hasn't earned the individual accolades in Buffalo that Jackson has with the Baltimore Ravens.
But Allen has topped 4,400 passing yards each of the past two seasons, throwing 73 touchdown passes against just 25 picks. He's a threat on the ground, too, having gained over 400 rushing yards in each of his four professional seasons, with 31 more touchdowns on the ground.
1.02: New York Giants
The Pick Then: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Pick Now: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
For a time, it looked like the Giants had made good use of the second overall pick in 2018. Saquon Barkley racked up over 2,000 total yards as a rookie on the way to being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But it's been something of a downhill slide ever since—so much so that the Giants are going back to the well by selecting the only player from the 2018 class who has won the league's highest individual honor.
That came in 2019, when Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was named MVP in his second season with the Baltimore Ravens. All Jackson did that year was set a new high-water mark for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 1,206 while pacing the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and winning 13 of 15 regular-season starts.
Since then, Jackson has become the only quarterback in NFL history to top 1,000 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons, establishing himself as arguably the most dangerous scrambler in NFL history in the process.
With Eli Manning nearing the end in 2018, this would have been a franchise-defining pick in New York, especially given the three up-and-down seasons the team has gotten from Daniel Jones after drafting him sixth overall the following year.
1.03: New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)
The Pick Then: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Pick Now: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
This is a tricky one. The New York Jets obviously made the trade up to No. 3 overall in the weeks leading up to the 2018 draft because the team had its sights set on a quarterback of the future. The problem here is that the two best quarterbacks from the class are gone. So it's either make a massive reach for a so-so passer in Mayfield, or go the "best player available" route and target another position.
It was already something of a shock when Quenton Nelson was drafted sixth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. It's no knock on Nelson—he was widely regarded as one of the top prospects in his class, with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranking him third overall. It's simply that offensive guards are very rarely drafted inside the top 10.
But if ever there was an exception to the rule, it's Nelson. All the 6'5", 330-pound mauler has done is make the Pro Bowl in all four professional seasons, get named a first-team All-Pro three times and emerge as quite possibly the best offensive lineman in the league.
1.04: Cleveland Browns (from Hoston Texans)
The Pick Then: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Pick Now: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Whenever one takes on one of these re-drafts, there will be a few picks that are better off left alone. Picks where the player and team fit together like hand and glove.
The Cleveland Browns and Denzel Ward are one of those picks.
In 2018, Miller called Ward a "lock" to be the first cornerback drafted, writing that, "Ward won't wow you with Patrick Peterson-like size, but he's so fast, fluid and instinctive that NFL scouts can't stay away from his tape."
Sure enough, the Browns made Ward the fourth overall pick, using the extra selection obtained from Houston in the Deshaun Watson trade the year before.
The 5'11", 190-pounder hasn't disappointed. Ward has made the Pro Bowl following two of his four professional seasons, and he has yet to allow a passer rating against of 80 in a season.
This is a prime example of not fixing things that aren't broken.
1.05: Denver Broncos
The Pick Then: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State
The Pick Now: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State
This is a tough one.
From a performance standpoint, edge-rusher Bradley Chubb hasn't lived up to his status as a top-five pick. For pass-rushers there's only one stat that matters: sacks. And over his first four seasons, Chubb has managed just 20.5.
However, there's a reason why the Broncos made Chubb the fifth overall pick. The team badly needed help on the edge opposite Von Miller, who was showing his age at times. Chubb was regarded by most as the best pass-rusher in his class. And little has changed since.
There's also a reason why Denver picked up Chubb's fifth-year option for 2022. In his first season, Chubb led all rookies with 12 sacks. Two years later, he played in 14 games, notching 7.5 sacks and making his first Pro Bowl.
It's one of the more difficult calls of this re-draft, but Chubb has shown enough when healthy for the Broncos to stand pat here and hope the best is yet to come.
1.06: Indianapolis Colts
The Pick Then: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The Pick Now: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
The Indianapolis Colts owe at least part of whatever success the team has enjoyed the past four years to a 2018 draft that general manager Chris Ballard absolutely killed—beginning with the selection of three-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall.
However, in this do-over, Nelson is no longer available. So the Colts are going to use this pick to keep an even bigger value from that draft in town.
After playing collegiately at South Carolina State, Darius Leonard was widely regarded as a Day 2 prospect. Sure enough, the Colts made the 6'2", 234-pounder the fourth pick of the draft's second round.
But it didn't take long for everyone to realize Leonard was a lot more NFL-ready than originally thought. As a rookie, Leonard piled up a staggering 163 total tackles and 111 solos. Both numbers led the league, and Leonard was named Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Since then, Leonard has mostly been a machine. He has never failed to reach 120 total tackles in a season and has shown a penchant for splash plays, whether it's 15 career sacks or 17 forced fumbles—including a league-leading eight in 2021.
1.07: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick Then: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (by Buffalo Bills)
The Pick Now: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
In 2018, the Buffalo Bills sent a pair of second-rounders to Tampa in exchange for a first-round pick swap that netted the team Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. The Buccaneers dropped to No. 12, selecting Washington nose tackle Vita Vea.
Given that both players have been to the Pro Bowl since, it's a deal that worked out OK for both teams, especially when you take into account that cornerback Carlton Davis has become a solid No. 1 cornerback in his own right.
However, that Tampa used both of those Round 2 picks on defensive backs underscores the need the Buccaneers had (and frankly still have) on the back end of the defense after finishing last season 21st in the league against the pass.
So this time around, the Buccaneers will pivot to Jaire Alexander of Louisville, a twitchy athlete with 4.38 speed who has become one of the better young shutdown corners in the league. Alexander hasn't allowed even 55 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed over the past three seasons, and he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020.
1.08: Chicago Bears
The Pick Then: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Pick Now: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This one may be the easiest "no-call" of the entire first round.
Former Bears general manager Ryan Pace's record where first-round picks is concerned isn't especially stellar. This is the GM who traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky in 2017. And then traded up again to draft Justin Fields in 2021.
One is already gone from Chicago. The other may well wish he was soon enough.
However, there's no second-guessing to be done with the team's first pick in 2018. Since the moment he stepped on an NFL playing field, Roquan Smith has looked the part of a top-10 draft pick and elite prospect at his position.
Smith has hit the 100-tackle mark four times in as many years, adding 14 sacks and five interceptions along the way. The rangy 6'1", 232-pounder has yet to make the Pro Bowl, but that snub says a lot more about the flawed selection process for that honor than it does about Smith as a player. He's arguably a top-five off-ball linebacker who is only just now entering the prime of his career.
1.09: San Francisco 49ers
The Pick Then: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Pick Now: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
This was another admittedly tricky call.
The decision to pivot from Mike McGlinchey wasn't that hard a call. The former Notre Dame standout hasn't been a bad player, making 52 starts over four seasons. But he hasn't been an elite offensive lineman, either.
Once the call was made to throw McGlinchey back, it was tempting to select Fred Warner in this spot. In four years, Warner has gone from third-rounder out of BYU to a defensive leader in San Francisco and one of the best off-ball linebackers in the game.
But the Niners went tackle in this spot for a reason—and it so happens there's one on the board who has been selected to the Pro Bowl the last three years in a row.
A miserable combine dropped Orlando Brown all the way into the third round of the 2018 draft. But whether it was on the right side or the left, in Baltimore or Kansas City, Brown has spent most of his NFL career making teams regret their decision to pass on him. Brown has played well over 1,000 snaps each of the past three seasons, and he has never allowed more than four sacks in a year.
1.10: Las Vegas Raiders
The Pick Then: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (by Arizona Cardinals)
The Pick Now: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
This is another spot where this re-draft takes a very different path than the 2018 draft did. Back then, the Arizona Cardinals swung a draft-day trade with the Raiders to move up and take UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. The Raiders pocketed some extra draft capital and then coincidentally drafted the player who had been watching Rosen's backside in college in tackle Kolton Miller.
Rosen was a disaster who lasted just one season in the desert before being shipped to Miami. Miller has been decent for the Raiders—enough so that we may yet hear his name called here.
But with the 10th overall pick, the Raiders are pivoting to a player who has made as big an impact on the field as any safety in the league over the last four years.
Granted, Minkah Fitzpatrick's time with the Miami Dolphins didn't go as planned. But after he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers early in his second season, the lightbulb came on. That year, Fitzpatrick picked off five passes in 14 games with Pittsburgh and made his first Pro Bowl. He backed that feat up with four picks and a second straight first-team All-Pro nod in 2020 before setting a career high in tackles with 124 a year ago.
1.11: Miami Dolphins
The Pick Then: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Pick Now: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Had Minkah Fitzpatrick fallen one more pick here, an argument could be made that the Dolphins should take him again, despite the fact that he didn't last two seasons in Florida after clashing with the staff in Miami.
But he's gone. The Dolphins' sizable hole at the back of the defense still remains. And so it's back-to-back safeties off the board here.
At this time a year ago, Derwin James would probably have fallen further in this draft. The former Florida State standout logged 105 tackles and finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2018, but James played in just five games in 2019 because of a broken foot and missed the entire 2020 season with a torn meniscus in his knee.
However, in 2021 James was finally able to get back out there and stay out there—he played in 15 games, logged 118 total stops and was named a Pro Bowler for the second time.
A versatile defensive back capable of playing anywhere from deep safety to nickel linebacker, James would be a welcome addition to the Dolphins defense.
1.12: Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals)
The Pick Then: Vita Vea, DT, Washington (by Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Pick Now: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
This one should get the comments section riled up.
It's not hard to see why the Buffalo Bills traded up to select Josh Allen in 2018. Buffalo wasn't a bad team in 2017, but Tyrod Taylor had the same limitations as a passer back then as he does now. The Bills needed a quarterback—badly.
So in this draft do-over, despite all that has happened with Baker Mayfield over the past year-plus, the Bills are going to roll the dice that the quarterback we saw lead the Browns to their first postseason win in three decades in 2020 was the "real thing" and not the injury-marred mess who fell out of favor with Cleveland's coaching staff last season.
After all, on some level it's fair to wonder if things might have played out a little differently for Mayfield in Cleveland had there been any kind of continuity within the offensive coaching staff. And if you believe he's a better passer than last year's iteration, he's actually something of a bargain here.
1.13: Washington Commanders
The Pick Then: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Pick Now: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
To be clear, Washington's decision to pick Alabama defensive tackle Daron Payne in 2018 wasn't a bad one. Payne has developed into an excellent run-stuffer, averaging over 55 tackles a season. He has also shown some aptitude as a pass-rusher, logging a respectable 4.5 sacks or more twice in four seasons.
However, while it can be argued that Payne has been a very good player in Washington, the Commanders can grab a great one here instead—at a position of need, to boot.
Fred Warner was one of the bigger steals of the entire 2018 class—a third-round pick who has played like a top-10 selection. In each of his four professional seasons, Warner has amassed at least 118 total tackles. A Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro, Warner is also excellent in coverage, surrendering a passer rating against of less than 90 twice in four seasons.
It's not a stretch to say that Warner would be Washington's best off-ball linebacker since the days of the great London Fletcher.
1.14: Green Bay Packers
The Pick Then: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
The Pick Now: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
In 2018, the Green Bay Packers flipped the 14th overall pick to the New Orleans Saints, picking up an extra first-round selection in 2019 in the process. Green Bay then drafted cornerback Jaire Alexander, while the Saints settled on a small-school edge-rusher with big-time potential in Marcus Davenport.
The former is one of the NFL's premier young corners. The jury is still out on the latter, although he is coming off the best season of his career. But with Alexander off the board here, the Packers will address a pass rush that needed added pop at the time. Only one Green Bay player hit double-digit sacks in 2018—Kyler Fackrell with 10.5.
Enter edge-rusher Harold Landry of Boston College.
Like Davenport, Landry is coming off the best season of his career—a 12-sack effort in Tennessee that earned him his first trip to the Pro Bowl and a five-year, $87.5 million extension from the Titans.
He's the best remaining option at a premium position. And a solid fit in Titletown.
1.15: Arizona Cardinals
The Pick Then: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA (by Las Vegas Raiders)
The Pick Now: Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech
The Arizona Cardinals didn't know it, but in 2018 the team was embarking on a nightmarish voyage. When the dust finally settled on a disastrous 3-13 campaign, head coach Steve Wilks was fired after a single year and rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was toast. The Redbirds used the first pick in 2019 on Kyler Murray and traded Rosen to Miami for a two-day-old ham sandwich.
In Rosen's defense, he was put in an untenable position playing behind an offensive line that allowed 52 sacks—tied for fifth-most in the league. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, the smart play ahead of Murray's arrival is adding the best available offensive lineman.
Wyatt Teller was hardly a highly regarded prospect that year—the 6'4", 314-pounder was drafted late in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills. After one so-so season with the Bills, Teller was shipped to Cleveland.
Once in Cleveland, Teller's career took off. A 28-game starter over the past two seasons, Teller earned Pro Bowl honors last year after allowing four sacks in just over 1,100 snaps.
1.16: Baltimore Ravens
The Pick Then: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech (by Buffalo Bills)
The Pick Now: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Yep that's right. Nick Chubb off the board ahead of Saquon Barkley.
For one year at least, Barkley looked like a brilliant pick by the Giants at No. 2 overall—he was an explosive force who surpassed 2,000 total yards on the way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
But Barkley's numbers dropped precipitously in an injury-shortened 2019 campaign. He barely played in 2020 thanks to a torn ACL. And last year, he just didn't look good, averaging 3.7 yards a carry while barely breaking 850 total yards.
Chubb has had his own injury issues, including at least three missed games the past two years. But the 5'11", 227-pound bruiser has eclipsed 1,000 total yards and scored eight touchdowns in all four NFL seasons, topped 1,000 rushing yards each of the last three and averaged a gaudy 5.3 yards per carry for his career—almost half a yard better per attempt than Derrick Henry.
Chubb would be abjectly terrifying in Baltimore's smashmouth run game.
1.17: Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick Then: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Pick Now: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
In 2018, safety Derwin James led the Chargers in tackles (105). But that's no longer an option in this redo, so with James off to Miami, the Bolts are forced to go in a different direction at No. 17 overall.
It's a direction that isn't that much different than the original.
The inside linebacker position has been a sore spot for the Chargers seemingly from the moment the team moved to La La Land from San Diego. The team has made multiple efforts to remedy the deficiency, but with the exception of the occasional flash from players like Kenneth Murray, the middle of the Los Angeles defense needs a steadying hand.
Tremaine Edmunds hasn't had quite the success that the other high-end off-ball linebackers of his class have. But it's also worth pointing out that the 6'5", 250-pound athletic marvel was the second-youngest player in NFL history to be drafted.
It's that potential that gets Edmunds picked here. Well, that and the four straight seasons with over 100 tackles and two trips to the Pro Bowl.
1.18: Seattle Seahawks
The Pick Then: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (by Green Bay Packers)
The Pick Now: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
In 2018, the Seattle Seahawks traded back before settling on San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny with their first pick of the draft. Penny flashed down the stretch last year, but he's had all kinds of trouble staying on the field over his first four seasons and has never rushed for more than 750 yards in a season.
It's a problem that Saquon Barkley can relate to—since being taken second overall by the Giants in 2018, Barkley has missed time in three of four seasons—21 games overall. He missed almost the entire 2020 season with an ACL tear and didn't look himself a year ago, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
However, when Barkley has been at or near 100 percent, he's looked as dangerous as any back in the NFL with a football in his hands. As the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, Barkley topped 2,000 total yards, averaged five yards a tote, caught 91 passes and found the end zone 15 times. He topped 1,400 total yards and 50 receptions the following season in 13 games.
The talent is worth gambling on here.
1.19: Dallas Cowboys
The Pick Then: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Pick Now: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama
There's at least some temptation here to go with the player the Dallas Cowboys originally drafted. Leighton Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl after piling up 102 solo stops as a rookie. But in the years since, injuries have sapped some of Vander Esch's range.
With the other big names among off-ball linebackers off the board, the Cowboys are going to shift to another area of the defense and fortify the interior of the defensive line.
At 6'3" and 320 pounds, Alabama's Daron Payne is a mauling run-defender who has tallied over 50 tackles in all four of his NFL seasons. Payne has also shown some aptitude at collapsing the pocket, notching a respectable 14.5 sacks over that span.
Payne has the ability to play both 3- and 1-technique tackle, and while Dallas was already stout defensively in 2018 (seventh in yards allowed), Payne would make the team that much more difficult to run on.
1.20: Detroit Lions
The Pick Then: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
The Pick Now: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Here's yet another example of the best course of action being inaction—at least relative to what the Detroit Lions did in 2018.
That year, the Lions were coming off a 9-7 season—the last time Detroit finished with a winning record. The team opened the draft that year by committing to the run game, first with Arkansas center Frank Ragnow and then with running back Kerryon Johnson in Round 2.
The Johnson pick didn't pan out; Johnson flashed while on the field but couldn't stay there. But Ragnow has been an excellent interior lineman almost from the day he arrived in Motown.
Ragnow started all 16 games as a rookie for the Lions, and by his third season the 6'5", 311-pounder capable of playing both guard and center had made his first Pro Bowl.
In four seasons and 49 starts at the professional level, Ragnow has allowed all of six sacks total. The last time he surrendered one was in 2019.
1.21: Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)
The Pick Then: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
The Pick Now: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
In the 2018 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals used the 21st overall pick on Ohio State's Billy Price. The pick was obtained along with offensive tackle Cordy Glenn in an offseason trade. Price had partially torn his pectoral muscle at that year's combine, and as it turns out, that injury more or less defines Price's disappointing professional career to date.
This re-draft gives the Bengals a chance at redemption, which Cincinnati will take advantage of by picking arguably the most talented player left on the board.
Nose tackles don't get a ton of glory. They also don't generally pile up the stats. But numbers don't tell the whole story of the impact Vita Vea has on opposing offenses.
Vea is a 6'4", 347-pound mountain of a defensive lineman who is all but impossible to run through. He single-handedly causes opponents to alter game plans. He's also a better pass-rusher than many realize, with 11.5 sacks over his four NFL seasons.
A 2021 Pro Bowler, Vea represents a major upgrade over Andrew Billings in the middle of the Bengals D-line.
1.22: Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)
The Pick Then: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (by Tennessee Titans)
The Pick Now: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
In the original 2018 draft, the Bills used the 22nd overall pick (obtained the year before in the Patrick Mahomes trade) as leverage in all the moving and shaking that landed them quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
In this do-over, however, Allen came off the board No. 1 overall, no draft-day shenanigans are permitted, and Edmunds has also been selected.
The Bills could go with the player Tennessee selected in this spot. Rashaan Evans isn't a world-beater, but he's a capable professional with two seasons of 95-plus tackles under his belt.
However, there's still better talent available, including a new No. 1 wide receiver to try to help Baker Mayfield acclimate to life in the NFL as a member of the Bills.
Yes, it sounds weird.
Courtland Sutton has had some injury issues in the pros, including a torn ACL that all but wiped out his 2020 season. But when he has been healthy and gotten even competent QB play, Sutton has demonstrated he can be a dangerous downfield threat. In 2019, Sutton caught 72 passes for 1,112 yards and made the Pro Bowl. He has also averaged 15.2 yards a catch over his career.
1.23: New England Patriots
The Pick Then: Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia
The Pick Now: Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
In 2018, Georgia's Isaiah Wynn was one of the most highly regarded offensive line prospects in his class. And in fairness, after losing his entire rookie season to a torn Achilles tendon, the 6'2", 310-pounder has developed into a capable player with 33 total starts.
But Wynn also allowed six sacks in 915 snaps a season ago with New England—five more than Brian O'Neill gave up in 1,140 snaps with the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. As a matter of fact, Wynn allowed more sacks last year than the 6'7", 310-pound O'Neill has given up over his entire professional career.
Yes, Wynn has become the blindside protector for Mac Jones, while O'Neill's snaps have come almost exclusively at right tackle. But just because O'Neill hasn't manned the left side doesn't mean he can't, and with Trent Brown back in Beantown, the Patriots could move Brown to the left side—just as they did in 2018.
1.24: Carolina Panthers
The Pick Then: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
The Pick Now: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
By this point in this 2018 re-draft, the players with Pro Bowl nods on their resumes have dwindled to just a couple. However, there is a wide receiver left on the board who has received that honor.
Instead of drafting that D.J. (Chark), though, the Carolina Panthers are going to stick with the one they originally selected 24th overall.
Over the past few seasons in Charlotte, DJ Moore has been almost robotically consistent—in spite of QB play that has been, um, less than ideal.
In each of the past three years, Moore has topped 65 receptions. In each of the past three years, Moore has amassed between 1,100 and 1,200 receiving yards. And in each of the past three years, Moore has caught four touchdown passes.
Moore may not quite have the ability to take over a game the way that Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill can. But the 6'0", 210-pounder is a rock-solid No. 1 receiver entering the prime of his career who has missed just two games in four seasons.
1.25: Tennessee Titans
The Pick Then: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Pick Now: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
This pick changed hands more than once in 2018 thanks to some draft-day wheeling and dealing, but in this do-over, it sticks with the Tennessee Titans. In that draft, the Titans added off-ball linebacker help in Rashaan Evans before circling back in Round 2 for an edge-rusher in Harold Landry.
It's the edge where the Titans will focus the 25th pick of this re-draft in an effort to prevent a pass-rush slide that saw the Titans fall from fied for fifth in the league in sacks in 2017 to tied for 16th in 2018. But with Landry already long gone, the team has to look elsewhere.
The New Orleans Saints apparently saw something they really liked in Marcus Davenport in 2018. After the small-school star blew up in the predraft process, the Saints flipped their 2019 first-rounder to move up and snare the athletic 6'6", 265-pounder.
For the first three years of his career, that looked to have been an unwise decision—Davenport tallied just 12 sacks over his first three seasons combined. But despite missing six games last year, Davenport turned in his best season as a pro, setting career highs in tackles (39) and sacks (nine).
Still just 25 years old, it's entirely possible the best is yet to come for Davenport.
That potential keeps him inside the first round.
1.26: Atlanta Falcons
The Pick Then: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Pick Now: Josh Sweat, Edge, Florida State
There was a time not that long ago when it appeared that the Atlanta Falcons hit their first pick in 2018 right out of the ballpark. Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley found the end zone 26 times over his first three seasons and caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards in 2020.
But after a lost 2021 season in which he played just five games and a suspension through at least the entire 2022 season for gambling on football games, Ridley's NFL future is suddenly very much in doubt.
What's not in doubt is the fact that Atlanta badly needs to do something about a pass rush that logged fewer sacks as a team (18) in 2021 than T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers had all by himself (22.5).
No. really. It's true. Sad. But True.
Josh Sweat has yet to have a true breakout season. But the best year of his professional career came in 2021—a 45-tackle, 7.5-sack effort that landed Sweat the first Pro Bowl nod of his career and a three-year, $40 million extension.
Not bad for a fourth-round pick.
1.27: New Orleans Saints
The Pick Then: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State (by Seattle Seahawks)
The Pick Now: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Teams that pick at the bottom of the draft stay there year after year by eschewing team needs and targeting the best player available. Rather than jam a square peg into a round hole, they simply add the most talented youngster available.
Of course, picking at the bottom of the round generally signifies a good team that likely doesn't have a glaring weakness. But still—taking the best guy on the board regardless of position works more often than not.
In this 2018 re-draft, the New Orleans Saints get to have their cake and eat it, too. Fill a need with the best available player.
Last year with the Baltimore Ravens, Mark Andrews exploded into the elite tier of players at his position, catching a whopping 107 passes for 1,361 yards and nine scores. It was the second time the two-time Pro Bowler had at least nine touchdowns and the third consecutive year he cleared 55 catches and 700 yards with at least seven scores.
In 2018, the Saints' top tight end was 38-year-old Ben Watson. Outside one Pro Bowl season from Jared Cook, the team hasn't had a difference-maker at the position since Jimmy Graham's heyday.
Andrews would have been a massive get for Drew Brees in the twilight of his career.
1.28: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick Then: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
The Pick Now: Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
The first day of the 2018 draft was a big one for the Edmunds boys. It marked the first time in league history that two brothers were both selected in the first round.
Sadly, while Tremaine Edmunds has lived up to his slot, Terrell Edmunds has not. So while the Pittsburgh Steelers are still fortifying the defensive backfield in this 2018 redo, one of the Edmunds is getting thrown back—in favor of a safety who has been both more productive and more versatile.
Given that he has spent most of his career in Cincinnati as a deep safety, the 6'1", 200-pounder's tackling output to date is that much more impressive. Bates tallied 100-plus total stops in each of his first three seasons and has averaged a robust 102 tackles per season for his career.
But Bates is more than just a big hitter. He has proved to be quite proficient in coverage as well, notching a passer rating against of less than 80 in two of four seasons.
Not only do the Steelers get a sizable bump at safety, but it comes at the expense of their division rivals in Cincinnati.
1.29: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick Then: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Pick Now: DJ Chark, WR, LSU
I saw those eyebrows go up.
Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the team that originally drafted LSU wideout DJ Chark in the second round. And yes, the Jaguars just let Chark walk in free agency, choosing instead to throw $72 million over four years at Christian Kirk.
But that second decision raised quite a few eyebrows of its own. Kirk flashed at times in Arizona, and Chark's 2021 season ended in September with a fractured ankle. But Chark has two things on his professional resume already that Kirk is still searching for: He topped 1,000 receiving yards on his way to the Pro Bowl in 2019.
After making it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2017, the bottom fell out for the Jags the following season—just five wins and a last-place finish in the AFC South. No one on that team had even 725 receiving yards.
An already barren landscape would be almost laughably so if the Jaguars don't draft a receiver here.
1.30: Minnesota Vikings
The Pick Then: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Pick Now: J.C. Jackson, CB, Maryland
The Minnesota Vikings used their first pick in the 2018 draft on a cornerback in Mike Hughes of UCF. It's a pick that didn't really pan out—Hughes started seven games over three seasons in the Twin Cities before landing in Kansas City last year.
In this re-draft, the team gets a much more sizable impact in the defensive backfield—in a player who wasn't drafted at all.
Coming out of Maryland, the scouting report at NFL.com on J.C. Jackson tabbed the 5'10", 201-pounder as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. One NFC director of player personnel said of him, "Nothing special right now, but he'll get better."
That last part has certainly held true. Since going undrafted before signing with the New England Patriots, Jackson has emerged as one of the NFL's better ballhawks. In four seasons, he has racked up over two dozen interceptions, including nine in 2020 and eight (with a whopping 23 passes defended) in 2021.
Jackson was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2021, and back in March, he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.
1.31: New England Patriots
The Pick Then: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The Pick Now: Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State
In the 2018 draft, the New England Patriots were fresh off a stunning loss to the underdog Eagles in the Super Bowl. The team looked to add some variety to an offense that had become increasingly one-dimensional by drafting punishing young running back Sony Michel out of Georgia.
Michel was decent over his three years with the Pats, topping 900 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons and averaging at least 4.5 yards per carry twice. But given that New England traded Michel to the Rams last year, it's safe to assume that if afforded a second bite of the apple, Bill Belichick would likely chomp on a different piece of fruit.
Over four seasons with the Bengals, Sam Hubbard hasn't posted big sack numbers—he's averaging half a dozen per year and has never had nine in a single campaign.
But Hubbard is a hard-nosed edge-setter whose workmanlike attitude would fit in perfectly in New England, and the 6'5", 265-pounder possesses the versatility to play everything from rush linebacker in a three-man front to end and even tackle in sub-packages.
1.32: Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick Then: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (by Baltimore Ravens)
The Pick Now: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The last pick of the first round of the 2018 draft was one of the most talked-about selections of the entire affair, with the Ravens moving up to select Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The last pick of this re-draft should generate some conversation of its own.
It's admittedly a risky choice. Calvin Ridley missed most of the 2021 season because of injury and a leave of absence. He was then suspended for at least the entire 2022 season for gambling on football games while he was out.
His NFL future is all kinds of cloudy.
But were it not for those clouds, a strong argument can be made that Ridley would have been the first wide receiver off the board here. His biggest season (2020) featured an explosion that no other wideout in the class of 2018 has been able to match: 90 receptions, 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns.
When you're the defending Super Bowl champion, you can roll the dice if it means getting an elite talent at a discount.
Ridley could be exactly that kind of bargain.