Now that the 2017 regular season is behind us, it’s about time to reflect upon which rookies broke out, and which are being labeled as early busts. The Cleveland Browns passed on quarterback Deshaun Watson, while the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints found themselves a few hidden gems in their respective backfields. Here is the 2017 NFL Redraft:
1. Cleveland Browns Select: QB Deshaun Watson (Actual Pick: DE Myles Garrett)
If the Cleveland Browns could go back in time, there is no doubt in my mind that the front office would pull the trigger and select Deshaun Watson with the first overall pick. In eight less games in 2017, Watson threw for 8 more touchdowns, and 12 less interceptions than Deshone Kizer. By revolving the franchise around Watson, the Browns could have bet on arguably the safest pick in the entire draft.
2. San Francisco 49ers Select: CB Marshon Lattimore (Actual Pick: DE Solomon Thomas)
The young cornerback has easily been labeled as the most impressive rookie on the defensive side on the ball, and the San Francisco 49ers could have really used him in the bigger picture. By the end of the 2017 regular season, Lattimore winded up leading all rookies with 5 interceptions, and he could very well be described as a “top tier” defensive back for years to come.
3. Chicago Bears Select: DE Myles Garrett (Actual Pick: QB Mitchell Trubisky)
Even after missing a few games this past season with the Cleveland Browns, I still find Myles Garrett to be the top defensive lineman in this particular draft class. Although Chicago ranked seventh in the NFL in total sacks in 2017, by adding Garrett to their defensive front, this defense could have became a serious threat to opposing offenses.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars Select: RB Leonard Fournette (Actual Pick: RB Leonard Fournette)
The Jacksonville Jaguars took a massive risk by drafting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, but it paid off. The running back played a large role in clinching a playoff birth for the Jaguars in 2017, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about Jacksonville’s strategy with this particular pick.
5. Tennessee Titans Select: S Jamal Adams (Actual Pick: WR Corey Davis)
It’s fair to say Corey Davis hasn’t panned out quite yet, as I have the wide receiver dropping towards the end of the first round. Instead, Tennessee should have invested in Jamal Adams, who finished third among rookies when it came to tackles (83). Granted, the Titans found their way back into the postseason, but Adams would have been a much smarter decision at this point in the draft.
6. New York Jets Select: RB Alvin Kamara (Actual Pick: S Jamal Adams)
Kamara, who was drafted within the third round (#67 overall), turned out to be a breakout player in 2017. Named to the AP All-Pro second team for his accomplishments, the Jets would have been more than enthusiastic with this selection. The Saints emerging star was targeted the third-most times among all running backs, and was only behind Christian McCaffrey and Le’Veon Bell in that particular category.
7. Los Angeles Chargers Select: OT Ryan Ramczyk (Actual Pick: WR Mike Williams)
Rated as the top offensive lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chargers could have been sneaky and selected Ramczyk with their early draft pick. The offensive line may have only surrendered 18 total sacks this past season, but their offensive line is currently hindered with injuries and short-term resolutions. The hypothetical addition of Ramczyk wouldn’t have been a game-changing addition, but it would have made the Chargers offense a little more attractive.
8. Carolina Panthers Select: RB Christian McCaffrey (Actual Pick: RB Christian McCaffrey)
Not many analysts were “all in” on McCaffrey as a potential NFL workhorse, but he has done his fair share and more in 2017. He threw up over 1,000+ total yards in his rookie campaign, and topped it off with 7 total touchdowns as well. The offense of Carolina finished fourth in the league in rushing, as McCaffrey gave this roster a breath of fresh air.
9. Cincinnati Bengals Select: CB Tre’Davious White (Actual Pick: WR John Ross)
Behind Lattimore, cornerback Tre’Davious White would be the next man up in terms of interception leaders among rookies. The Buffalo Bills may have selected White at #10, but the Bengals should have opened their eyes and stolen him at #9.
10. Buffalo Bills Select: DL Solomon Thomas (Actual Pick: QB Patrick Mahomes III via Trade)
Despite a stout defensive performance in the AFC Wild Card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Buffalo Bills lacked a sense of a pass-rush throughout this past season. Ranked 29th in total sacks, if Tre’Davious White was off the board at this stage, Thomas would likely be the answer, simply for the potential he holds for future seasons.
11. New Orleans Saints Select: LB Zach Cunningham (Actual Pick: CB Marshon Lattimore)
The Saints found an absolute gem in Marshon Lattimore, but if this was a redraft, Cunningham would be the go-to guy. Behind Jarrad Davis, Cunningham finished as the leader among rookies in terms of tackles (90). The Saints defensive unit ranked 25th in the NFL with 960 total tackles, so Cunningham would have been quite the upgrade from current placeholder, Manti Te’o.
12. Cleveland Browns Select: RB Kareem Hunt (Actual Pick: S Jabrill Peppers)
After hypothetically drafting Deshaun Watson, why not add to the backfield and snag Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt? Even compared to a combination of Duke Johnson Jr. and Isaiah Crowell, Hunt still finished with 126 more rushing yards. The Browns haven’t found a 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010, so Cleveland really should have considered bolstering their offense.
13. Arizona Cardinals Select: S Malik Hooker (Actual Pick: LB Haason Reddick)
Instead of Budda Baker, I believe the Cardinals should have invested in SS Malik Hooker. In just seven regular season games, Hooker was able to reel in three interceptions for the Colts, which was only two behind the rookie leader, Mashon Lattimore (5). The Cardinals defense struggled to stop offenses within the red zone, so look for the front office to improve upon that in the offseason.
14. Philadelphia Eagles Select: RB Dalvin Cook (Actual Pick: DE Derek Barnett)
Many disregard Dalvin Cook, but don’t forget about his hot start before the unfortunate injury. With almost five yards per carry, Cook was on track to becoming a breakout star for the Minnesota Vikings. With Cook placed within Philadelphia, there would have been no need to trade for Jay Ajayi, or hand the ball off to Blount 173 times in the regular season.
15. Indianapolis Colts Select: DE Takkarist McKinley (Actual Pick: S Malik Hooker)
I actually find McKinley to be severely underrated as a pass-rusher, considering his 6 sacks placed him in third among rookies. The Colts as a whole reeled in 25 total sacks during this past season, with Jabaal Sheard leading at 5.5. One thing is for sure, and it’s that the Colts have a lot of holes in their roster. With McKinley, Indianapolis would have been one step closer towards eventual success.
16. Baltimore Ravens Select: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Actual Pick: CB Marlon Humphrey)
Among Ravens wide receivers with 40+ receptions in 2017, the youngest happens to be Jeremy Maclin, who is currently sitting at 29-years old. The offensive unit for Baltimore finished near the bottom of the league when it comes to passing yards and yards per game, so perhaps adding a weapon in JuJu Smith-Schuster could have been beneficial. His 917 receiving yards were 169 more than Mike Wallace (Ravens leader among wideouts), and his speed from the slot position would have most likely catapulted Baltimore into the postseason.
17. Washington Redskins Select: WR Cooper Kupp (Actual Pick: DE Jonathan Allen)
With Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor Sr. struggling, should the Redskins have invested in Rams receiver Cooper Kupp? After losing a multitude of offensive weapons in the last few years, Washington could have used the receiver who ranked #1 in receptions among rookies in 2017. The franchise struggled offensively this past season, and the addition of Jonathan Allen wasn’t an immediate benefit for them.
18. Tennessee Titans Select: CB Adoree’ Jackson (Actual Pick: Adoree’ Jackson)
If I were the Titans, I would stick with Adoree’ Jackson within the first round. With 70 tackles on the year, Jackson would be the best avaliable player for Tennessee at this point. His respectable statistics as a whole prove him worthy of a selection at this stage in the draft, as Jackson ranked ninth in rookies in terms of tackles (70), and lead the rookie class in forced fumbles (3)
19. Tampa Bay Bucaneers Select: TE Evan Engram (Actual Pick: TE O.J. Howard)
The Buccaneers 20.9 points per game during the regular season were crippling to say the least, as the team went on to finish with a record of 5-11. Engram put up almost triple the amount of receptions as O.J. Howard (64 to 26), as the tight end went on to become really the only bright spot for the Giants in 2017. Would Engram have helped open up the run game a bit more? It seems likely, but Tampa Bay has a lot to concern themselves with during the 2018 offseason.
20. Denver Broncos Select: OT Garett Bolles (Actual Pick: T Garett Bolles)
After allowing the third-most sacks in 2017, this seems somewhat obvious for Denver. The Broncos made the right choice in 2017, but they need to continue to build open their offensive line. Rumor has it that Denver may attempt to draft a quarterback in 2018, but in order to have success at that position, you need a strong offensive front.
21. Detroit Lions Select: LB Jarrad Davis (Actual Pick: LB Jarrad Davis)
The Lions made the best decision possible with this pick, as Davis’ 96 tackles in the regular season was the most among rookies. In fact, the only individual with more tackles in 2017 for Detroit happened to be Tahir Whitehead (110). It seems as though the Lions are going through some changes in the coaching department, so be on the lookout for whether Davis continues to develop.
22. Miami Dolphins Select: LB Reuben Foster (Actual Pick: LB Charles Harris)
This one was tough between Foster and Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt, but I have higher hopes for Foster at the end of the day. Current linebacker Chase Allen was underwhelming in his rookie campaign for Miami, so plugging in Foster here would be the smarter option in the long run.
23. New York Giants Select: OT Cam Robinson (Actual Pick: TE Evan Engram)
Although the Giants ranked 21st in sacks allowed in 2017, bolstering their offensive line some more couldn’t hurt them. A vast majority of the offensive line for the Giants isn’t signed past the 2018 season, and a young piece involving Cam Robinson would seemingly be viewed as the right fit. As the defensive lines for the Eagles and Cowboys only get stronger, New York will need to pay more attention to protecting their quarterback for years to come.
24. Oakland Raiders Select: CB Marlon Humphrey (Actual Pick: CB Gareon Conley)
This may come as a surprise to many, especially considering Humphrey only started five games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2017. When he was on the field, I was thoroughly impressed with the Alabama native, as he secured 2 interceptions in his time to shine. The Raiders were forced to miss a vast majority of 2017 without their selection, Gareon Conley. Had they elected to take Humphrey instead, I bet his stats from the previous season would have seen an incline.
25. Houston Texans Select: QB Patrick Mahomes III (Actual Pick: QB Deshaun Watson via Trade)
Since Watson is clearly off the board at this stage, what about Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes III? He has a very small sample size to offer, but based on my projections, Mahomes III is the best avaliable quarterback on the board (yes, ahead of Deshone Kizer). This is an extreme stretch, but the Texans were unlikely to select anyone other than a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft.
26. Seattle Seahawks Select: DE Derek Barnett (Actual Pick: Traded Out of First Round)
The Seattle Seahawks had an elite defensive front in 2017, but the addition of Barnett would have only helped their case into a hypothetical postseason run. The Eagles right defensive end is currently playing behind Vinny Curry, but has been explosive for the most part when given the chance. The Seahawks defense is slowly falling apart, so perhaps selecting Barnett would have been beneficial in the long run?
27. Kansas City Chiefs Select: S Marcus Maye (Actual Pick: CB Tre’Davious White)
Marucs Maye, a second round pick for the New York Jets, is actually one of the most underrated players from the 2017 Draft. Ranked fourth among rookies in tackles, Maye also reeled in an additional two interceptions during the regular season. The Chiefs current secondary could use some revamping, and upgrading from Ron Parker to Marcus Maye would have been a step in the right direction.
28. Dallas Cowboys Select: WR Corey Davis (Actual Pick: DE Taco Charlton)
The Cowboys have plenty of holes on defense, but what about selecting a wide receiver? In theory, Dallas would now be eligible to release Dez Bryant, and perhaps investing in younger and more reliable options should be the route taken. While Davis has been battling injuries of his own, the Cowboys need to find a change of scenery when it comes to their offensive mindset.
29. Green Bay Packers Select: RB Joe Mixon (Actual Pick: Traded Out of First Round)
Imagine Aaron Rodgers having a reliable running back..shocking, right? Green Bay hasn’t contained a 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy in 2014, and back then, the Packers were one step away from reaching the Super Bowl. The rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals has been forced to split time with both Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, but his 626 yards are more than anyone in the current Packers backfield.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers Select: TE O.J. Howard (Actual Pick: LB T.J. Watt)
The contract of Jesse James is nearing the end, and let’s be honest, Vance McDonald will never emerge as a reliable option for Pittsburgh. The Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard has proven to spark an offense at times, and the Steelers are notorious for surrounding Ben Roethlisberger with as many weapons as possible.
31. Atlanta Falcons Select: CB Shaquill Griffin (Actual Pick: Takkarist McKinley)
Due to the injury to Richard Sherman, cornerback Shaquill Griffin earned a lot more playing time than expected for the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons were ranked 12th in passing yards allowed per game, and with an already-elite offense on their hands, Griffin would be the best overall option at this stage in the draft.
32. New Orleans Saints Select: CB Chidobe Awuzie (Actual Pick: T Ryan Ramczyk)
The Saints came away with the best draft in 2017, but selecting Dallas Cowboys’ Chidobe Awuzie would prove to be a massive benefit. With Lattimore off the board previously, Awuzie would be the best option in terms of finding a starting defensive back. After already drafting Zach Cunningham earlier in the round (see above), New Orleans would still be set up for loads of success.