2019 NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back to draft season. This is always one of the busiest times of year for The Aftermath. This year, it was so busy, we actually had to conduct our mock draft in our group chat rather than via video chat. I will acknowledge that I took the longest to make a pick, waiting nearly 24 hours to make a pick for the Broncos.

Some things that need to be said right now, this is what we would do if we drafting for these teams, not what we think will happen. Sometimes those things overlap, but being right is not the ultimate goal. On top of that, we do not allow trades. It creates way too much chaos in these mock drafts. We will discuss places we see teams likely trading though to help you predict all the draft night madness.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Cardinals seem intent on drafting a quarterback and Kyler Murray here is the most NFL ready in this draft, plus there are rumors of him being their favorite choice. Part of me thinks the rumors are a smokescreen, but the pick makes too much sense not to make it with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury in town.

49ers Logo2. San Francisco 49ers – Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
While many might expect Nick Bosa here, I’m staking my claim in a player with more upside an no injury history. Quinnen Williams dominated during his time at Alabama and as just a redshirt sophomore, he still has not reached his full potential. San Francisco finds the new anchor for the interior of its defensive line.

Jets logo3. New York Jets – Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State
The Jets would be absolutely ecstatic to see Nick Bosa available at the third pick as arguably the best player in the draft, at arguably their biggest position of need. If he’s there, New York take him in a heartbeat. If not, don’t be shocked if they trade back with a team in search of a quarterback to recoup some picks they traded last year for Sam Darnold, when they were the ones hunting a franchise signal caller.

Raiders logo4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky
The Raiders have set themselves up well for this draft with three draft picks in the first round. With their top four pick, they should be going with the best player available. Luckily, the best player available is a pass rusher that is the perfect replacement for Khalil Mack.

Buccaneers logo5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin White, LB, LSU
Devin White can cover ground and make hard tackles for a Buccaneers defensive line which was too leaky last year. He test really well at the combine after a great career at LSU. Expect him to fill in well for a team that lost Kwon Alexander this offseason.

Giants Logo6. New York Giants – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
I’m not buying the smokescreen. The Giants desperately need a quarterback to take over for Eli Manning. Dwayne Haskins could use a season of learning under a veteran after just one season as the starter at Ohio State. He has the strong arm and pocket presence needed to succeed in New York.

Jaguars logo7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Juwuan Taylor, OT, Florida
Jacksonville could go a few directions here, but Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants by having a solid front on both sides of the ball. Juwuan Taylor, alongside Jonah Williams, is arguably the best tackle in the draft. Look for the former Gator to stay in the Sunshine State to protect Nick Foles and his new contract.

Lions Logo8. Detroit Lions – Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
There is a very good chance the Lions will lose Ezekiel Ansah, so they are in need of pass rusher. Honestly, they were in need of a pass rusher even without the potential loss of Ansah. They can get a bit a steal in Montez Sweat if you look past the possible heart condition.

Bills logo9. Buffalo Bills – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Bills will likely have a couple of viable options at the No. 9 pick and their defensive line could use some help. I went with Rashan Gary because of his versatility; hopefully he can plug more than one hole for them when needed.

Denver_Broncos10. Denver Broncos – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
While there will certainly be calls to take a quarterback here. reaching for Drew Lock or Daniel Jones would be a mistake. Denver needs a new offensive weapon with Demariyus Thomas gone and Emmanuel Sanders injured. T.J. Hockenson is a complete tight end capable of opening holes for Phillip Lindsay and helping Joe Flacco acclimate to the altitude.

Bengals Logo11. Cincinnati Bengals – Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
This pick could just as easily be Devin Bush, with the Bengals desperately needing a speedy linebacker patrolling the field. But Ed Oliver has top 10 potential and could be one of the best athletes in this draft who can get after the quarterback from the inside. The Bengals have a lot of holes, so they’ll take a top talent here.

Packers logo12. Green Bay Packers – Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State
The Packers need help on their defense in multiple position areas. However, with the loss of Clay Mathews, the position with the most immediate need on defense is pass rush. Thus, drafting Brian Burns will allow Green Bay to get a piece to build around for years to come.

Dolphins logo13. Miami Dolphins – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
The Dolphins offensive line might as well be made of cardboard, just ask Ryan Tannehill, with needs at center, tackle, and guard. I assume they will go for the best available offensive lineman with this pick and in our mock it was Jonah Williams. He could start at right tackle or right guard this season.

Falcons logo14. Atlanta Falcons – Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
The Falcons have a number of needs, mostly on defense. With the number of injuries this team suffered last season, drafting a player with a major knee injury might seem like a questionable move. The consensus on Jeffrey Simmons is that, despite a video from high school of him punching a woman in a fight and a major injury, he is a top-five talent. Simmons potential impact on the field is massive. Atlanta will not tolerate anything from him off the field, nor should they.

Washington made up logo15. Washington – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
There’s a lot of uncertainty in Washington at the QB position right now. Alex Smith may never play again after that gruesome knee injury that reminded many spectators of Joe Theismann. Bringing in Case Keenum may be a short-term solution, but Drew Lock is the long-term one. He at one point was considered the top passer in this draft. Plus, he could learn a lot from a guy like Keenum, who transitioned from an Air Raid-style offense in college to a respectable pro career, something Lock may need to do in a hurry to keep Washington afloat.

Panthers logo16. Carolina Panthers – Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
For the past few years, the Panthers have not been able to field an adequate pass protection. The injuries have been piling up for Cam Newton, and is probably a correlation. That is why drafting Cody Ford will help the team’s franchise player in the best way possible. He blocked for a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray in college and should be able to do it again for Newton.

Giants Logo17. New York Giants (via Cleveland) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Assuming the Giants draft a quarterback with their No. 6 pick, I think they will kick off the run on corners with the pick they landed in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. I like Byron Murphy’s ball hawking ability. He might be able to generate some turns for a struggling secondary now without Landon Collins.

Vikings logo18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradberry, C, NC State
Signing Kirk Cousins didn’t push the Vikings into Super Bowl contention like they thought. That was mainly because of the poor play of the offensive line. Garrett Bradberry will immediately improve the interior of this line. If there is someone else they like better, don’t be surprised if Minnesota moves up to get him.

Titans logo19. Tennessee Titans – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Titans have a big decision coming up after the season on the future of Marcus Mariota, so they need to find him help in the first round either in the form of a protector or a target. There are some good linemen left in this draft, but D.K. Metcalf is an absolute athletic freak that you rarely see in football. A big, fast and strong matchup nightmare could be a great complement for a shifty, possession-style route-runner like Corey Davis, giving Mariota multiple options at multiple levels of the field.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Greedy Williams has fallen a bit in this draft, which is lucky for the Steelers. Joe Haden is not getting any younger, and they have been in need of a second corner back anyway. Signing Steven Nelson to a big contract does not exactly solve their secondary issues. If Williams can improve as a tackler, he will be an absolute steal.

Seahawks logo21. Seattle Seahawks – DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
Remember the days of the Legion of Boom? Those linebackers were able to stop the run so easily because they had a great secondary covering the passing game. Seattle has lost that coverage in recent years. Drafting a well-rounded corner like DeAndre Baker might help them return to those days.

Ravens logo22. Baltimore Ravens – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
It is pretty unlikely falls this far, but Baltimore would be ecstatic if Devin Bush is still on the board. With C.J. Mosley now in New York, the Ravens need someone to wreak havoc in the middle of their defense. Bush seems like a very good fit to do just that.

Texans logo23. Houston Texans – Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Houston had a great run last season thanks to Deshaun Watson returning from his ACL tear in the similarly spectacular form that caught the whole league’s eye during the start of his rookie season. But if the Texans are to stay on top of the AFC South, the Swiss cheese known as their offensive line won’t cut it. Bringing in Chris Lindstrom, a big body from a school with a long pedigree of great pro-linemen in Boston College. He could immediately help keep the Texans in contention again next season.

Raiders logo24. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago) – Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
With the second of their three first round picks, the Raiders can continue to rebuild their defense. The cornerback position has been a weakness of the Raiders for almost the entire decade. By picking Justin Layne, an underrated product with tons of college production, they can end the cycle and bolster the secondary. Between Josh Allen rushing the passer and Layne helping on the back end, we should see huge improvements from Oakland’s defense.

Eagles Logo25. Philadelphia Eagles – Andre Dillard, OL, Washington State
The Eagles really need more help on defense, but at the 25th pick Andre Dillard was a steal.  Philly is an offensively minded team and their offensive line will soon be aging out, so spending a late first round pick is well worth the future investment. With Carson Wentz’s injury history, keeping him clean should be a major priority.

Colts logo26. Indianapolis Colts – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
His college teammate has gotten a lot of love during the pre-draft process for his performance at the combine, but AJ Brown is actually a much more pro-ready prospect. He is a savvy route runner with good hands. He would complement T.Y. Hilton well in this Colts offense and give Andrew Luck a proven playmaker. Instant impact is important for an Indy with an eye on a championship.

Raiders logo27. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With my other drafters taking the liberty of upgrading the Raiders defense with their first two picks, perhaps the Raiders can use their third to keep giving David Carr every chance to succeed. Did you know that Noah Fant, a 6’4”, 249 lbs TE, ran a 4.51 at the combine? Now, recall the Raiders recently acquired the receiving services of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. This might just be a quick turnaround for the Oakland offense.

Chargers logo28. Los Angeles Chargers – Kaleb McGary, OL, Washington
The Chargers have one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Nevertheless, Phillip Rivers is what will guide them to a Super Bowl, and keeping him upright should be Los Angeles’ number one priority. Adding Kaleb McGary can help Rivers extend his career and utilize Melvin Gordon even more effectively.

Seahawks logo29. Seattle Seahawks (via Kansas City) – Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Clemson
The Seahawks find themselves back on the clock after trading away Frank Clark. His departure creates a need for a pass rusher, and there are plenty of those in this year’s draft. Clelin Ferrell comes from a good program and should adjust to the NFL well. Pairing him with DeAndre Baker gives Seattle a solid draft haul to bolster the defense.

Packers logo30. Green Bay Packers – Marquis Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Let’s say we give the most talented passer in the league an electric, game-breaking new toy to play with. That is what would be happening here. Marquis “Hollywood” Brown is the cousin of new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown and the guy who reeled in passes from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray the past two years. His speed is unreal. Brown has the versatility to play in the slot or outside, giving new head coach Matt Fleur a fun chess piece to move around.

Los Angeles Rams logo31. Los Angeles Rams – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
An unsung factor that helped propel the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance this season was their strong depth at several positions. Tackle and linebacker are minor needs, but one of the best players in this draft slipped to the end of the first round in our draft. The Rams can use their depth to their advantage to take the best player available, so they can take a polished interior pass rusher in Wilkins to slot right alongside Aaron Donald, giving him plenty of one-on-ones. Rich keep getting richer.

Patriots Logo32. New England Patriots – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
If I was allowed to for this draft, I would have traded this pick like Bill Belichick probably would. Alas, trades are not allowed, so the Patriots finally land their quarterback of the future, who can replace Tom Brady whenever it is he actually decides to retire. Rumor has it Daniel Jones could go sooner, but if he sticks around, New England would be wise to grab and groom him.

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2014 NFL Redraft

They say you need five years to truly evaluate a draft class. Well here we are now five years removed from the 2014 NFL draft. This was a loaded draft class with tons of talent coming off the board in the first round. There were a couple sleepers (Telvin Smith, Charles Leno, Malcolm Butler). This might be one of the best drafts for defensive linemen and wide receivers ever.

I have wiped out all draft day trades as well because these players are no longer prospects, but proven performers. For example, there is no way the Browns trade down with the chance to add Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 4. Check out what each team would do now if they could redo the 2014 first round.

Editor’s Note: If you are looking for other NFL redrafts, here is 2012 and 2013.

Texans logo1. Houston Texans
Original pick: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina
New selection: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Fast forward five years and Khalil Mack might be the most dynamic defensive player in the NFL (not named Aaron Donald). While I did consider Donald here, Donald fits best in a 4-3 front and the Texans are a 3-4 team. It’s not that Mack comes without merits either. He is only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at two different positions. Him lining up opposite J.J. Watt would be terrifying for any quarterback.

Rams logo2. St. Louis Rams
Original pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
New selection: Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh

The Rams earned the steal of this draft by taking it’s most dominant player 13th overall. That won’t happen here, but only because St. Louis (they hadn’t moved yet) adds the two-time defensive player of the year here instead. In addition to being a great run defender, Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks in 2018. The Rams do not reach a Super Bowl without him. While I have wiped out all draft day trades, St. Louis got the pick before the draft as part of the Robert Griffin III trade.

Jaguars logo3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
New selection: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

Needless to say, Blake Bortles did not work out in Jacksonville. He had his moments, leading the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC Championship Game, but overall, his tenure was frustrating. Instead, the Jags front office snags one of the hottest young passers in the league by drafting the one-time heir apparent to Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo only has 10 career starts at this point, but he has flashed great potential in those games.

Browns logo4. Cleveland Browns (traded to Buffalo)
Original pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
New selection: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

It’s funny how these things work out. The Browns originally traded down here, but with Odell Beckham Jr. on the board, Cleveland cannot pass that up. OBJ is one of the most talented players in the NFL. Adding a dynamic playmaker drastically change the Browns’ fortunes. Keep in mind this team still had Josh Gordon. It doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball to him, they would look better playing with this guy.

Raiders logo5. Oakland Raiders
Original pick: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
New selection: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina

Jon Gruden said it best, it’s hard to find good pass rushers. Maybe the Raiders would have actually paid Jadeveon Clowney instead of shipping him out like they did Khalil Mack. Clowney is actually an elite run defender and an above average pass rusher, but his nine sacks in 2018 would have been most on Oakland, by five! At number five, Clowney is the best player available and fills a crucial need.

Falcons logo6. Atlanta Falcons
Original pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
New selection: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

If it ain’t broke. Jake Matthews has started 79 of a possible 80 games over the past five years. He was rightly rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2018. Keeping Matt Ryan clean and giving him time to find his big downfield targets is still crucial. Matthews is easily the best tackle to come out of this draft. His consistency makes it hard for the Falcons to pass on him in a redraft.

Buccaneers logo7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
New selection: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Another repeat pick as Tampa Bay lands Mike Evans once again. Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the Buccaneers offense over the past five years, Evans has been the one constant. He has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his five seasons and has 40 career touchdowns. There is a chance he will be even more effective under new head coach Bruce Arians.

Vikings logo8. Minnesota Vikings (traded to Browns)
Original pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
New selection: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

At first glance this might look like a different selection, but Minnesota still lands the same guy. There is some debate about whether or not the Vikings properly use Anthony Barr, but his willingness to take less money to return signifies his belief in the team’s approach. He is versatile and consistent. His athleticism makes him a tough player to gameplan for. No reason to change the pick.

Bills logo9. Buffalo Bills (traded to Browns then Vikings)
Original pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
New selection: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

Buffalo did not get what it was looking for with Sammy Watkins. Instead, the Bills opt to add Fresno State standout Davante Adams. Adams is one of the most underrated receivers in the league, featuring as Aaron Rodgers’ top target for the Packers. It might take the Bills a few years to find a solution at quarterback, but a player capable of putting up 35 receiving touchdowns over the past three years would help with any young passers’ development.

Lions Logo10. Detroit Lions
Original pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
New selection: DeMarcus Lawrence, DL, Boise State

This might seem like a bit of an odd pick considering the Lions took Ezekiel Ansah the year before in the top five. However, outside of Ansah, Detroit has lacked in the defensive playmakers department for the last few years. Landing another top pass rusher would make the Lions defense a lot scarier, potentially hiding some deficiencies in the pass defense. Lawrence has racked up 25 sacks over the past two seasons. He and Ansah would create a scary tandem.

Titans logo11. Tennessee Titans
Original pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
New selection: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The Titans join the rest of the crew electing to stick with their original pick. Taylor Lewan is the epitome of the style of play Tennessee employs. He is tough and gritty. His three straight Pro Bowl appearances are a testament to how well he fits the Titans’ system. Top end offensive line can be expensive to find in free agency, so landing it in the draft is key.

Giants Logo12. New York Giants
Original pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
New selection: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

With their preferred selection off the board already, the Giants will opt to bolster their defense instead. New York has needed a true middle linebacker for a long time, constantly taking flyers on veterans or castoffs from other teams. Instead, they lock of the position for five years by taking C.J. Mosley. He would provide some much-needed stability up the middle of the Big Blue defense.

Rams logo13. St. Louis Rams
Original pick: Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh
New selection: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Obviously, Aaron Donald is gone by this point. The Rams had wanted to sure up the offensive line at No. 2 originally, taking Greg Robinson. He never really panned out, so instead St. Louis grabs the best interior lineman in the draft in Zack Martin. He has been a Pro Bowler in each of his five seasons and only missed two starts in career. Not buying the Pro Bowl selections? He is also a three-time All-Pro. If guard was a more valuable position in the league, he would be a top-five pick.

Bears logo14. Chicago Bears
Original pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
New selection: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

There was definitely some uncertainty about Kyle Fuller’s credentials as a top corner heading into 2018. Then he led the league in interceptions and pass deflections, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance and All-Pro selection in the process. The spike in interceptions is probably due to the increased pass rush (Khalil Mack) the Bears had this season. However, he actually had fewer pass breakups in 2018 than he did in 2017. He has developed into a talented shutdown corner.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
New pick: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU

Had Ryan Shazier not suffered his horrific injury in 2017, he would likely be the pick here again. Instead, Pittsburgh opts to pair Antonio Brown with Jarvis Landry. For years, the Steelers tried to find a suitable running mate for Brown before landing on JuJu Smith Schuster. An offense featuring Brown, Landry and Le’Veon Bell could have been enough for the Steelers to reach another Super Bowl. Now, none of those players wear black and yellow. Oh what could have been.

Cowboys logo16. Dallas Cowboys
Original pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
New selection: Trai Turner, OL, LSU

With Zack Martin off the board, Dallas opts for the next best interior lineman remaining in Trai Turner. While certainly less heralded than Martin, Turner is a beast in his own right. He has featured in four-straight Pro Bowls for keeping Cam Newton upright and powering the Panthers run game. Keeping Tony Romo clean was the priority at this point and that would not change when Dak Prescott came to town.

Ravens logo17. Baltimore Ravens
Original pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
New selection: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State

While the Jaguars run to the AFC Championship in 2017 probably seemed like a fluke, it was actually due to some very savvy drafting. Telvin Smith, who was a 5th rounder taken by Jacksonville in 2014, was one of the breakout stars for that Jaguars defense. He had a less impressive 2018, but with C.J. Mosley off the board, Baltimore would need a sure tackler to provide some playmaking on the defensive side of the ball. Smith certainly fits the bill.

Jets logo18. New York Jets
Original pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
New selection: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn

The Jets struck out on the “Louisville Slugger.” New York traded Calvin Pryor prior to the 2017 season after just three years with the team. Instead, the Jets will finally fill a long-standing void in their defense by drafting Dee Ford. He missed extended time in 2017, but reached double-digit sacks in both 2016 and 2018. New York has had one player reach double-digit sacks since 2013 (Muhammad Wilkerson in 2015). This fills a huge need.

Dolphins logo19. Miami Dolphins
Original pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
New selection: Charles Leno, OT, Boise State

Meet the biggest riser in this redraft. Charles Leno has been a stalwart for the Bears offensive line over the past four seasons. He hasn’t missed a start in the past three years and reached the Pro Bowl in 2018. The Dolphins hoped Ju’waun James could develop into their starting left tackle, but he is now the starting right tackle in Denver. Leno would anchor the left side of the line for Miami and maybe even keep Ryan Tannehill healthy.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)20. Arizona Cardinals (traded to Saints)
Original pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
New selection: LaMarcus Joyner, S, Florida State

Arizona traded back and eventually picked up Deone Bucannon. He never really caught on, so the Cardinals opt for a player the rival Rams eventually selected. LaMarcus Joyner displayed a decent amount of versatility for St. Louis before being traded to Oakland. He would have made a very fun running mate for Tyrann Mathieu and completed a dominant secondary in Arizona also featuring Patrick Peterson.

Packers logo21. Green Bay Packers
Original pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
New selection: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

It’s tough to know what to make of Brandin Cooks. On one hand, Cooks was a key contributor during his three seasons in New Orleans. On the other, he was traded after the 2016 season to New England. They did land a 1st round pick in that deal. The Patriots then sent Cooks to the Rams, again for a 1st rounder. Green Bay opted to add Davante Adams in the second round, so receiver was a clear position they hoped to fill. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was shipped out for a fourth round pick this season. Even if the Packers traded Cooks, they would get a better return on their investment.

Eagles Logo22. Philadelphia Eagles (traded to Browns)
Original pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
New selection: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa

The Eagles originally drafted Marcus Smith, who never started a game for Philly before being shipped off to Seattle. Instead, Chip Kelly (yes he was the head coach at the time) selects current Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey. In his two full seasons as a starter, Kirksey racked up 281 tackles, including 17 for loss. He missed half of the 2018 season with an injury, but when healthy, he is an important cog for an underrated Browns front seven. With a talented offense already in place, bolstering the defense could have made the Kelly years a little more bearable.

Chiefs Logo23. Kansas City Chiefs
Original pick: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn
New pick: Malcom Butler, CB, West Alabama

Say what you want about Malcom Butler, he is still a solid NFL corner. He likely won’t reach the level he played at during his short stint as a starter in New England, but the Chiefs wouldn’t need him to. The thing that prevented Kansas City from reaching the Super Bowl this season was its pass defense. Butler would slot in well as No. 2 corner for Kansas City going forward.

Bengals Logo24. Cincinnati Bengals
Original pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
New selection: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada

The Bengals have had a bit of tendency for missing on 1st round corners. With Malcolm Butler and Kyle Fuller gone, Cincy opts to bolster its offensive line, which has struggled in recent years. Joel Bitonio might not be a household name, most guards aren’t, but Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 5 guard in the league last season. Protecting Andy Dalton and opening holes for Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and now Joe Mixon could have pushed the Bengals further during their playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.

Chargers logo25. San Diego Chargers
Original pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
New selection: Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State

Jason Verrett is supremely talented. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2015, but injuries limited him to just 23 games in five seasons with the Chargers. He joined the 49ers this offseason. Instead, San Diego (who hadn’t relocated yet) adds Devonta Freeman to help take some pressure of Philip Rivers. Melvin Gordon didn’t get to town until two years later and the Chargers could use an upgrade over the often injured Ryan Matthews, who was off the team after 2014 anyway. Freeman missed most of the 2018 season with injury himself, but from 2015 to 2017, he racked up 3,000 yards rushing and 29 rushing touchdowns. He also caught at least 30 passes in his first four seasons, including 74 in 2016. Freeman would be a welcome addition to a high-powered San Diego offense.

Browns logo26. Cleveland Browns (traded to Eagles)
Original pick: Marcus Smith, LB Louisville
New selection: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

I don’t need to go over how poorly Johnny Manziel worked out. While the Browns seem to finally have found their savior in Baker Mayfield, Cleveland desperately needed a quarterback in 2014. Derek Carr is the best one available. He has a somewhat uneven career, but he would be a massive upgrade over anyone the Browns started from 2014 to 2017. His career interception percentage (1.9) is lower than Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Joe Flacco. It’s on par with Russell Wilson. Carr can take care of the ball and put up solid numbers, often times without much of a supporting cast.

Saints logo27. New Orleans Saints (traded to Cardinals)
Original pick: Deone Bucannon, DB, Washington State
New selection: Brandon Linder, OL, Miami

While the Saints definitely had a clear need at receiver, trading up to draft Brandin Cooks, New Orleans also desperately needed a center. The team sent Jimmy Graham to Seattle in exchange for Max Unger as a result. Brandon Linder just so happens to be the No. 5 center in the league in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus. His addition fills an important need and allows the Saints to keep Graham. Linder also has some versatility as a guard, making him even more of a value pick for New Orleans.

Panthers logo28. Carolina Panthers
Original pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
New selection: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

This was quite a drop for Sammy Watkins from fourth overall to 28th. However, Watkins is the type of player the Panthers hoped they were getting when they took Kelvin Benjamin. He has the size and speed to stretch the field. Watkins is far from a great receiver, but considering he had over 2,000 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns during his first two seasons, he had a lot of potential. Playing with Cam Newton might have done more to keep that fast start going than playing with the all-star cast of Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton in Buffalo.

Patriots Logo29. New England Patriots
Original pick: Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
New selection: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State

Pretty much every 1st round pick feels a little bit like a luxury pick for the Patriots, but with Dan Connelly turning 32 during the 2014 season, New England looks to build its offensive line depth. Gabe Jackson has been a solid starter for the Raiders for the past five seasons. He might not be a huge need, but given that Dominique Easley never panned out, Jackson provides a lot more value for a Patriots team that seems to have offensive line turnover every year.

49ers Logo30. San Francisco 49ers
Original pick: Jimmie Ward, DB, NIU
New selection: Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky

Injuries and inconsistency prevented Jimmie Ward from ever truly catching on. The 49ers have been trying to find a middle linebacker for years on top of that, Avery Williamson struggles at times in pass coverage, but he is a thumper of a tackler. Pro Football Focus ranked him as a top-20 linebacker in 2018 with the Jets. He would fill a void for the 49ers and prevent future draft mistakes such as Ramon Foster.

Denver_Broncos31. Denver Broncos
Original pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
New selection: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

I strongly considered picking Teddy Bridgewater here given Peyton Manning being in the twilight of his career. Denver still had a mostly unproven Brock Osweiler on the roster, whom the team had spent a second round pick on in 2012. He never turned into the starter, but I can’t see the Broncos investing a 1st round pick in a quarterback so soon after and with Manning coming off the best statistical season in NFL history. As a result, Denver sticks with Bradley Roby, who, despite his one-contract tenure, played a pivotal role in 2016’s Super Bowl run. Roby was the nickel corner for that dominant Denver defense. While he may now be in Houston, his role for those five years is something the Broncos would sign up for again.

Seahawks logo32. Seattle Seahawks (traded to Vikings)
Original pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
New pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

The defending champs traded out of the 1st round and allowed Minnesota to swoop in for Teddy Bridgewater. There is a chance the Seahawks would drop out again, but Ju’waun James fills a need for Seattle. They selected Justin Britt at the end of the second round to start at right tackle. James would have been a much better option and hopefully helped avoid the steady deterioration of that Seahawks line that took place over the next few seasons. Since 2014, the Seattle has ranked in the top 10 in sacks allowed every season. Some of that is based on how Russell Wilson plays, but a lot of it is a total inability to protect him. Starting James at right tackle from day one would provide some stability on that side of the line.

Fixing the NBA season

Alright, let’s be honest. The NBA regular season was more entertaining than I expected with the Bucks taking a huge next step and the Nuggets coming out of nowhere. I definitely stand corrected on my initial take that the season was not worth watching.

That being said, there are still some major issues with the NBA regular season. It doesn’t really mean much. Between the 82 games and excessive number of playoff teams with 7 game series in the postseason, it really diminishes the value of performing well in the regular season.

Last year offers a clear example of this issue. The Rockets and Raptors earned one seeds in each conference. The Cavs entered as the 4 seed and still made it to the finals. It took 7-game series for Golden State and Cleveland in the conference finals, but the two best teams still made it through to the finals (well the two best teams that could, the Rockets and Warriors were the best two teams in the league overall).

In short, the regular season is too long. 82 games is unnecessary to determine who the best teams are. 16 teams is too many for the playoffs and history shows how little success those bottom seeds have in the postseason. The reason for the limited success is the format of a 7-game series in every round. Let’s fix that and set the league up to be even more entertaining in the future.

Cutting down regular season to 60 games

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver is considering the idea of altering the league schedule and game rules. (Wikimedia Commons)

This has been a complaint for quite a long time. The NBA regular season is far too long to hold fans interest the whole way. There are highlights to the schedule, but 16 divisional games and 62 games in the conference. It is completely unnecessary to have that many matchups between conference foes is excessive. The solution is to cut down on the regular season. Before you call me crazy, this is very possible. Adam Silver is considering shortening the season and games.

82 is an arbitrary number. 60 might sound like another random number, but it actually works really well for scheduling purposes. With 30 teams in the NBA, each team will play two games against each of the other 29 teams (English Premier League style). That only adds up to 58 games, so then each team will play against the two teams that finished in the same divisional position as them in their conference, which is exactly what the NFL does.

What does this accomplish? This almost entirely eliminates strength of schedule, which doesn’t really have much use in the NBA. It is great to see in college basketball, but not needed in the pros. A 60-game schedule also creates more incentive to win every game.

Take a look in recent years at how many teams rest their top players (now frequently dubbed Load Management to avoid league fines). Just 7 players started all 82 games this season. That speaks volumes about the length of the season. Tons of teams chose to rest their stars players throughout the regular season to maximize effort and health in the playoffs. That also underlines the issues of general wear and tear NBA players deal with. Even if players are not resting, we see so many players missing games or strings of games due to minor injuries. Blake Griffin missed a win-and-in final game of the season due to knee soreness, likely due to overuse.

There is some evidence that shorter seasons might really help keep top players on the court for more games. The 2011-12 season was shortened to 66 games due to a lockout. 15 players started in all 66 games that season. That is not a huge uptick, especially looking at the next season, which had the same number of players starting every game in an 82-game season. You have to wonder though if the previous season being shorter, possibly reduced the overall wear and tear on players. In the 2013-14, the number of players dipped back down to just 12. It has continued to drop since then, bottoming out in the 2016-17 season when only five players started every game.

Go back further to the lockout season of 1998-99 and we start to see some significant differences. 39 players started all 50 games in that regular season. The following year, back to a 82-game slate, 27 players started every game. It went down to just 20 by the 2000-01 season. There is no denying this trend, and a shorter season is likely the best way to maximize the number of top players appearing in every game. The NBA is a star-driven league and the best version of the product is when more stars are on the court.

Reducing the number of playoff teams to 12

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks blew out the Pistons 121-86 in Game 1 of their 1st round series. (Wikimedia Commons)

For some odd reason, the NBA has more than half the league reach the postseason. It really doesn’t make any sense. The lower-seeded teams almost never make a run to the Finals. It is rare for the bottom two seeds in each conference to even advance to the second round.

It has been seven years since a seven or eight-seed won a playoff series. Since the NBA moved to a seven-game series in the first round back in 2003, there have only been four times where the one or two seed failed to reach the second round. That means the higher seed in those series won 93.3 percent of the time. I get there is always a chance for an upset, but after watching Game 1 of the Bucks-Pistons series, I am pretty sure it isn’t worth it.

For a frame of reference, the NHL has the exact same set up, with 16 teams qualifying for the postseason, eight from each conference. They play seven games in each series. In the same time frame, the last 15 years, a bottom-two seed advanced to the next round 17 times (I considered the “wild cards” the NHL now uses 7 and 8 seeds.) Comparatively, NHL 7 and 8 seeds pulled off the upset 28.3 percent of the time, while NBA 7 and 8 seeds made it out of the first round just 6.6 percent of the time. NHL teams have a fighting chance. The NBA feels like a forgone conclusion.

With that in mind, it’s time to reformat the playoffs. Moving to a 12-team setup means the top-two seeds in each conference would receive a first-round bye. To avoid making that too much of a competitive advantage for the top-seeds, the first round should be cut to just three-game series once again. The NBA actually did this back before it expanded to 16 teams. The higher seed still has home-court advantage, hosting the first and third games. At most, this would give the top seeds a week off to get healthy, somewhat like the NFL giving it’s top two seeds in each conference a first-round bye.

This adds further incentive to the regular season, with earning a top-two seed now a priority for each team. It also would mean we trim the mediocre teams making the playoffs from the picture. Ideally, this should reduce the overall wear and tear on players as well.

Suddenly, the playoffs are much more competitive and intriguing from the start. A best-of-three series this season between the 76ers and Nets would be amazingly intense. As would Celtics-Pacers and Blazers-Thunder. The margin for error is shaved down immensely and provides an exciting introduction to the postseason, rather than the lackluster games we’ve seen so far (although that Raptors-Magic finish was pretty sweet).

After the initial three-game series, the ensuing rounds would all be best-of-seven affairs. Once we work our way down to the final 8 teams in the league, it is worth it to watch some extra basketball and see the drama unfold over a long series.

Change draft lottery odds

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Instead of playing a brutal 1st-round playoff series, the bottom seeds in each conference could have a chance to draft one of Duke’s incredible freshmen. (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the biggest issues the NBA has had to fight is teams tanking in order to secure a better draft pick. The league has the draft lottery in place to limit the incentive to lose. It even made some tweaks recently to dissuade teams even further by giving the teams with the worst three records the same odds of landing the top pick.

However, under my proposed system, there would be 18 teams in the lottery as opposed to the previous 14. That is going to require different odds to land the top pick.

The new odds would be as follows:
3 worst records – 11 percent
4th-worst record – 9 percent
5th-worst record – 8 percent
6th-worst record – 7 percent
7th, 8th, 9th-worst record – 6 percent
10th-worst record – 5 percent
11th, 12th, 13th, 14th-worst record – 3 percent
15th, 16th, 17th, 18th-worst record – 2 percent

A new lottery system would hopefully increase parity in the league by reducing the temptation to tank. It could also lead to significant playoff turnover from year-to-year if teams who came close to qualifying for the playoffs land a top-tier college player. Imagine what the expectations would be for the Clippers if they added Zion or Ja Morant.

These new odds also increase the chance for the teams who just missed the playoffs to land the top pick. In this scenario, the Spurs, represented as the last team to miss the postseason cutoff, would have a two percent chance to land Zion Williamson. The Charlotte Hornets, who were actually the last team to miss the postseason this year, only have a 0.5 percent chance. It is small, but this change is significant. That’s the difference between having 200-1 odds and 50-1 odds.

It might be a little tricky then for the teams truly lacking talent to build their way back up, but it would require shrewd drafting and smart team building, overall increasing the competitive landscape of the league.

Looking ahead

Obviously, these would be some drastic changes for the league to undertake all in one year. It would probably need to be spread out over time.

There are some obvious financial issues that would come up as well. Fewer games being played each season likely means less lucrative television contracts. However, producing a better night-to-night product could replace some of the value lost in terms of volume of games to sell. Additionally, Silver is rumored to be interested in adding some sort of midseason tournament as well, which could potentially offer another incentive for television deals.

The only thing that seems clear is that change is on the horizon for the NBA. Silver has proven to be one of the most open-minded and progressive commissioners in sports history, willing to push the envelope on what is accepted and use other sports as an inspiration for change. With the league looking to embrace the future, there is no doubt resetting the competitive format is the place to start.