Our NFL team brands did a re-draft of the 2017 NFL Draft, and things turned out very differently than in real life.
The 2017 NFL Draft started off exactly as expected when the Cleveland Browns selected defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. It seemed like a perfect choice at the time, but if the Browns had it to do all over again, knowing that this class held quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, would they still roll with Garrett?
The same can be said for the Chicago Bears, who shook things up early in 2017 and swapped the No. 3 overall pick, along with No. 67, No. 111, and a 2018 third-round pick with the Niners to move up to No. 2. They used that pick on Mitchell Trubisky.
It’s What if? week here at SB Nation, and our NFL team brands hopped in our respective time machines and traveled back to 2017 to redo the NFL Draft.
The Browns, who were coming off of a one-win season and had been searching for a franchise quarterback basically since the expansion Browns settled in Cleveland in 1999, decided to go with Garrett, widely considered the best player available, in real life. Chris Pokorny at Dawgs By Nature, with the benefit of hindsight and several years of watching multiple failed experiments at quarterback, decided to go with a player who has emerged as one of the league’s most transcendent stars. If Mahomes had been the Browns’ first overall pick in 2017, I bet they would have won more than zero games that season.
There’s no reason to pile on Mitchell Trubisky any more than I already have, but I bet the Bears would be a lot happier if the draft had really shaken out this way. Kyle Posey at Niners Nation went with another exceptional young quarterback, and it’s a move that would have probably changed the path for the Patriots, too. If the Niners had taken Watson, they would have been much less likely to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, who might very well have stayed in New England and would be the starting quarterback this season.
Just because the Bears didn’t make a blockbuster trade to move up one spot in this alternate reality doesn’t mean Lester Wiltfong at Windy City Gridiron wouldn’t shake things up. George Kittle, who had 1,053 yards and five touchdowns for the 49ers last season en route to the Super Bowl, was originally selected by the Niners in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. This is possibly the only move that would have been more surprising at the time than what the Bears actually did — but knowing what we know now about Kittle, it likely would have paid off.
The Jags grabbed Leonard Fournette with this pick, but Ryan Day at Big Cat Country knows that McCaffrey’s versatility and health would have made him a stronger addition than Fournette. McCaffrey had well over 2,000 yards combined rushing and receiving for the Panthers. Fournette had a really strong 2019 as well, with 1,152 yards on the ground and 522 receiving yards, but his three scores pale in comparison to McCaffrey’s 19 touchdowns. The best ability is availability, and McCaffrey has never missed a game to this point in his career. Fournette has missed 12 games in three seasons.
The Titans initially selected wide receiver Corey Davis with this pick, and Jimmy Morris at Music City Miracles went so far as to float a smokescreen that he might switch out Davis for JuJu Smith-Schuster at this spot. Instead, Morris selected Garrett, who’s had 30.5 sacks and six forced fumbles over three seasons with the Browns. Adding Garrett to a team that ranked No. 31 in the league in 2017 with 35 sacks on the season could have changed the Titans’ trajectory in a big way. Imagine having Myles Garrett on last year’s Titans team that finished No. 3 in the league with 56 sacks? That’s terrifying.
If this pick seems familiar to you, it’s because John Butchko at Gang Green Nation decided to not try to fix something that isn’t broken. Since being selected by the Jets No. 6 in the 2017 NFL Draft, Adams has been all over the stat sheet, racking up 273 tackles, 12 sacks, six forced fumbles, and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Gang Green Nation would have been silly to not stick with him — just like it would be silly for the Jets to trade him this offseason.
The real-life Chargers used this pick on wide receiver Mike Williams out of Clemson. Williams went on to miss all but six games of his rookie season. He scored 10 touchdowns in 2018, and started to hit his stride last year, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time as a pro. Michael Peterson at Bolts from the Blue went with White, who has been a force for the Bills since being drafted 27th overall. White earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 after finishing with 58 combined tackles, two forced fumbles, six picks — tying him at the top of the NFL last season — and a sack.
The Panthers obviously took Christian McCaffrey with this pick, but in this redo, McCaffrey’s with the Jags, and Cat Scratch Reader had to go back to the drawing board. Lattimore, who was selected by the Saints with the No. 11 pick, was an explosive playmaker at Ohio State. Our Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles, is going to hate this pick with the fire of a thousand burning suns. The Panthers drafted not one, not two, but three cornerbacks (James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez) in 2016 to fill the void left by Josh Norman. Not a single one remains with the Panthers, and Lattimore would be an upgrade over all of them.
Man, are the Saints ever getting hosed in this re-draft. The Saints originally traded with the Patriots at No. 32 to jump back into the first round and take Ramczyk off the board, solidifying the right edge of the offensive line for the foreseeable future in New Orleans. The Bengals let key linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler leave in free agency after the 2016 season, and the line has never been the same, ending up ranked No. 28 in the league in 2017, No. 27 in 2018, and No. 30 in 2019 by Pro Football Focus. Cincy Jungle grabbed Ramczyk here because he might have been able to help change that.
Buffalo Rumblings would have been perfectly content to grab Tre’Davious White here, but he was already off the board. The Bills still got better with this pick. Watt was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30 in the actual 2017 draft. Watt was the last edge defender taken in the first round, and he has more sacks with 34.5 than any of the players selected before him. He capped off his 14.5-sack 2019 season with his first All-Pro nod, which is unlikely to be his last.
We’ve already seen two of the Saints’ draft picks from 2017 come off the board in this re-do. In real life, the Saints took Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore here, and Canal Street Chronicles still fills that need in the secondary with Humphrey. Humphrey finished last season with seven picks, three forced fumbles, a Pro Bowl bid, and first-team All-Pro honors. Canal Street Chronicles would have preferred we not mess up their excellent real-life 2017 draft haul, but Humphrey really isn’t a downgrade.
Dawgs By Nature already grabbed the best quarterback in the league with the first overall pick, and now they’ve added a quality receiving target for him. Godwin was selected by the Buccaneers in the third round of the 2017 draft in real life, but after his 1,333-yard, nine-touchdown 2019 season, this seems like an appropriate spot for him. Now I’m kind of sad that we don’t actually get to see Mahomes slinging the ball downfield to Godwin.
It was basically robbery when the Saints landed Kamara in the third round back in 2017, though we didn’t know it at the time. The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year is about as effective as a receiver as he is on the ground. In 2017, his least productive season so far, he still had 797 rushing yards, 533 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. Revenge of the Birds noted that this choice was driven in part by the fact that David Johnson got injured in Week 1 of the 2017 season, and Kamara would have made a world of difference for Arizona.
Another Alabama product comes off the board at No. 14, sending Eddie Jackson to the Eagles courtesy of Bleeding Green Nation. Jackson slipped into the fourth round of the actual draft before being snapped up by the Bears, in part because he wasn’t able to perform at the Combine due to a broken leg he suffered during the October of his final college season. The two-time Pro Bowler also earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2018 after contributing one sack, two forced fumbles, and six picks.
In the real 2017 draft, Golladay fell into the third round before being selected by the Lions. His rookie season was less productive because he missed time for a strained hamstring, but he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, scoring 11 touchdowns for Detroit in 2019. Stampede Blue gets a playmaker who would have come in handy that season with Jacoby Brissett taking over for Andrew Luck, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury he suffered prior to the season.
Smith-Schuster was selected in the second round by the Steelers in 2017, but Baltimore Beatdown knows all too well from watching the Ravens go up against him twice a year that he has first-round caliber talent. Schuster, who was just 19 years old when he was drafted, is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 2,500 receiving yards. Assuming everything else remained the same for the Ravens, we could have had the joy of watching Lamar Jackson throwing to Smith-Schuster over the last two seasons and for years to come.
Hogs Haven stuck with the team’s original 2017 choice, Jonathan Allen, and for good reason. Allen was considered the second-best defensive tackle in the 2017 draft, and he has 15 sacks over three seasons in Washington. Running back was a pressing need for Washington in the 2017 offseason, and Leonard Fournette and Aaron Jones were still on the board, but Allen’s been a good fit for Washington’s defense, so why shake things up?
Music City Miracles follows in Hogs Haven’s footsteps by also sticking with the pick the Titans made back in 2017 at this spot, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. The Titans lost starting corners Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty during the offseason, so Jackson filled an immediate need, assuming he’d win the competition for one of those starting roles (which he did). Jackson brings a variety of skills to the Titans’ backfield. He’s managed three sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and a whopping 33 pass breakups over his three seasons in Tennessee.
Heading into this draft, Bucs Nation thought the team’s biggest need was at safety. Budda Baker and Malik Hooker are still on the board, but a glance at the Bucs’ depth chart and run game rankings over the past three seasons reveals that this was a wise choice by Bucs Nation. Doug Martin was solid early in his career, but started to decline after rushing for over 1,400 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. Cook, who was injured in his rookie season, had 615 yards and two touchdowns in 2018 before really hitting his stride in 2019. The Bucs, who finished the 2019 season ranked No. 24 in the league with 1,521 yards, could have used Cook’s 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019.
The Broncos originally went with tackle Garrett Bolles out of Utah with this pick, but Baker’s made enough of an impression in his short career to earn two Pro Bowl nods and first-team All-Pro honors in his rookie season, so it makes sense for Mile High Report to snag him. Baker is a tackling machine, and he has 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and 14 pass breakups over his three years with the Arizona Cardinals.
Kupp fell to the third round before being selected by the Rams in 2017, but Pride of Detroit would change that if they could. Kupp had 869 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season despite starting 2017 buried behind Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Tavon Austin on the depth chart. He was sidelined for half of 2018 with a torn ACL, and had a career season in Los Angeles in 2019 with 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns. In real life, the Lions took Jarrad Davis at this spot, filling what Pride of Detroit identified at the time as the team’s biggest need, but Kupp is a smart move here, especially after Stampede Blue snatched up Kenny Golladay earlier in this re-draft.
The Dolphins used this pick on DE Charles Harris, who they traded to the Falcons this offseason for a seventh-round pick. Harris was expected to be a dominant pass rusher coming out of Missouri, but underwhelmed with 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, and two pass breakups in three seasons. Hooker has been slowed down a bit by injuries, and the Colts declined to pick up his fifth-year option. But No. 22 is a more reasonable draft position for him in retrospect, and The Phinsider thinks he would be more of an impact player at this spot for the Dolphins than Harris was.
The Giants grabbed Evan Engram with this pick, and he’s put together three respectable enough seasons for a tight end. But the Giants finished 2017 ranked 27 out of 32 teams for the offensive line performance, per Pro Football Focus. Moton was originally selected by the Panthers in the second round of the 2017 draft, and he didn’t play in his rookie season, but moved into a starting role in 2018 and has been a key performer ever since. Big Blue View and Eli Manning alike would have loved this pick.
The Raiders went with Ohio State’s Gareon Conley here in 2017, and considering that the team traded him away to the Texans during the 2019 season, I’m sure Las Vegas wouldn’t mind having that pick back to follow Silver & Black Pride’s lead here. Williams actually landed with the Chargers, and underwhelmed in his rookie season after missing the first six games with a back injury. He’s hit his stride since, with 664 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018 and 1,001 yards and two touchdowns in 2019. I wonder what the perception of Derek Carr would be now if he’d had a talent like Williams to throw to over the past couple of seasons.
In the actual draft, Houston had shipped this pick off to the Browns, who used it on versatile defensive back Jabrill Peppers out of Michigan. Houston was coming off of a season of exceptional play from cornerback A.J. Bouye in particular, but Bouye became a free agent after the season. Houston had a ton of needs at the time, not the least of which was the quarterback position, but King would have been a natural replacement for Houston, so it’s a good pick from Battle Red Blog. King fell all the way to the fifth round of the 2017 draft, but he has 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions over three seasons with the Chargers.
This is quite a promotion for Jones, who was actually selected in the sixth round of the 2017 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. In reality, the Seahawks shipped this pick off to the Falcons, who used it to select defensive end Takkarist McKinley out of UCLA. Jones doesn’t jump off the stat sheet with two sacks in five years, but Field Gulls has obviously noticed that he’s quietly productive and a thumper against the run when they face the Niners twice each season. Jones is the player Niners Nation expects to have a breakout season in 2020.
It seems like every team is either re-drafting someone who was drafted long after the first round ended, or sticking with their original picks. The Chiefs shore up their secondary by snatching Shaquill Griffin off the board before the Seahawks can snap him up in the third round, which is what they did originally. Griffin has outplayed that draft status with the Seahawks, with 186 combined tackles, one sack, and three picks over the past three seasons and locking up a 2019 Pro Bowl bid. Now I hope that the Chiefs take his brother, Shaquem, if we redo the 2018 draft.
This pick was originally spent on DE Taco Charlton out of Michigan. The team and fans alike were reportedly concerned about his development, and Charlton was unceremoniously released after the second game of the 2019 season to clear a roster spot for Robert Quinn to return from injury. Instead of letting history repeat itself, Blogging the Boys went with yet another Saints player with this one, grabbing Marcus Williams out of Utah. Williams had four interceptions last season, which would have been a boost to the Cowboys, who had just seven across the entire team.
This one is a no-brainer for Acme Packing Co. Jones, the team’s selection at this spot in real life, has been a boost to the Packers offense. He’s continued to improve each season, finishing 2019 with 1,084 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns, which tied him for the most in the NFL last season. In reality, they traded this one away to the Browns, who used it to select tight end David Njoku, and the Packers grabbed Jones in the fifth round, but he’s far outplayed what his potential was expected to be.
Two current Steelers players, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt, are already off the board, but the Steelers land a talented tight end in Howard. Howard has consistently put up respectable numbers for a tight end with the Buccaneers, with career highs of 565 yards (2018) and six touchdowns (2017). Vance McDonald is on top of the Steelers’ depth chart now, and he’s been all right, but not as productive as Howard, which likely made him appealing to Behind the Steel Curtain.
The Falcons traded up in real life, swapping picks with the Seahawks to draft defensive end Takk McKinley. As much as I hate to think about missing out on McKinley’s absolutely delightful reaction to being drafted, The Falcoholic fills a real need here with Dawkins. Ryan Schraeder was the starting right tackle in 2017 and 2018, but his play started to decline over that time, and having Dawkins to take over as the heir apparent after some time learning behind the veteran Schraeder would have helped the line play more cohesively. This pick was swapped with the Seahawks, who then dealt it to the 49ers, who selected Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.
The Saints used the No. 32 pick on Ryan Ramczyk in 2017, but Ramczyk came off of the board early in this re-draft. Instead, they give Drew Brees a quality receiving tight end. Engram has averaged about 589 yards and four touchdowns each season for the Giants, who selected him with the No. 23 pick in 2017.
What would you do differently with the 2017 NFL Draft? Let us know in the comments.