It’s draft week! We are only a few days away from the 2020 NFL draft. To kick us off in the run up to this week’s main event, we will go back five years and rewrite some draft history.
They say it takes five years to properly evaluate a draft class. Going back five years brings us to a loaded draft class with some notable mistakes going early. In 2015, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went first and second overall respectively. Tampa Bay let Winston walk after completing the first 30-touchdown, 30-interception season in NFL history. Tennessee benched Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. The former Oregon star inked a deal with Las Vegas to back up Derek Carr. Needless to say, they probably weren’t worth the first two picks in the draft.
However, there aren’t clear replacements for them in this draft class. If you consult the list of quarterbacks drafted in 2015, you will find a list of career backups and spot starters. After Mariota went second overall, the next quarterback off the board was Garrett Grayson to the Saints at 75th overall. Sean Mannion, Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley and Trevor Siemian round out the rest of the position group in this class. Those five haven’t exactly set the world on fire.
Instead, this draft class is chock full of edge rushers and defensive linemen. There is plenty of talent, just not at the quarterback position, which makes this redraft really interesting to tackle.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Redraft pick: Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU
Rather than tab a streaky passer, Tampa grabs an underrated stud to pair with then defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Hunter far and away leads this draft class in sacks with 54.5 in his career. Frank Clark is the next closest with 43. He has grown as a pass rusher and now has 14.5 sacks in each of his past two seasons, which has translated to a pair of Pro Bowl appearances. Hunter is the real deal and would give the Buccaneers a crucial building block in their front seven.
2. Tennessee Titans
Original pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Redraft pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
There is only one player in the 2015 draft class to reach four Pro Bowls in their first five seasons. That would be Cooper. After staring early in his career with the Raiders, he has become one of the game’s top receivers for the Cowboys. He leads the 2015 class in receiving yards and touchdowns, which is impressive when you consider it consists of Stefon Diggs and Tyler Lockett as well. While Tennessee needed a quarterback, with only Zach Mettenberger on the roster, adding a playmaker like Cooper would make life a lot easier for whoever would take over under center.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original pick: Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida
Redraft pick: Frank Clark, EDGE, Michigan
Fowler never lived up to his potential in Jacksonville, which led to them shipping him off to the Rams less than three years into his tenure. The Florida product posted a career-high 11.5 sacks and landed himself a deal with the Falcons, but he is ninth in this draft class for career sacks. Clark on the other hand has become a dominant force as pass rusher, culminating in winning a Super Bowl with the Chiefs this year. He burst onto the scene in his second season with 10 sacks and has posted at least nine in every season since. Clark might have ended up clashing with some of the high profile Jaguars brass, but he would also have been a much more productive pick.
One last note, the Rams acquired Fowler for third and fifth round picks. The Chiefs landed Clark for a first, future second and third-round pick swap. If nothing else, the trade value for the Jaguars would have been much higher.
4. Oakland Raiders
Original pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Redraft pick: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
With Cooper already off the board, Oakland opts for the next-best receiver available. Diggs has quite the resume himself, if not quite as polished as Cooper’s. He ranks second in receiving yards and touchdowns, trailing only the current Cowboys star. However, he has more receptions through five years than Cooper despite playing seven fewer games. Diggs can be downright explosive and would fill the roll of then second-year quarterback’s Derek Carr’s favorite target.
Original pick: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Redraft pick: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Finally someone makes the same pick again. If after five years, a player is important enough to franchise tag with the intention of keeping him around, he is usually worth a top-five pick. Washington has struggled to find consistency in its secondary and run game, but Scherff has been a constant for them. He became a day-one starter and has three Pro Bowl appearances to show for his efforts. He is one of the best interior linemen in the league today.
6. New York Jets
Original pick: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
Redraft pick: Preston Smith, EDGE, Mississippi State
The Jets hoped Williams would develop into a premier pass rusher. After trading him to the Giants, I think it is fair to say he felt short of his lofty expectations. Snagging Preston Smith over draftmate and 2019 Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith might seem a bit controversial, but Preston actually has more career sacks (36.5 to 32) and a bit more consistency to lean on. The former Mississippi State edge rusher would represent the option New York has had to get after opposing quarterbacks since Sean Ellis left. Maybe he could have helped chase Tom Brady from the division a few years earlier.
7. Chicago Bears
Original pick: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Redraft pick: Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Bears fans, I will spare you by not even bothering to list White’s career stats here. Instead, imagine the prospect of Jay Cutler and maybe eventually someone other than Mitch Trubisky throwing passes to Lockett instead. The current Seahawks receiver turned in his best season as a pro in 2019, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving. He has become Russell Wilson’s security blanket and would a much more reliable option for a regularly anemic Bears passing game.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Original pick: Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson
Redraft pick: Za’Darius Smith, EDGE, Kentucky
Believe it or not, Beasley actually has more career sacks than Smith. The reason the Falcons pass on him though is that 41.3 percent of his career sacks came in one season. Beasley’s 2016 campaign is a frustrating anomaly. Atlanta thought they had found a star pass rusher, only for Beasley to never top eight sacks over his next three seasons. Smith on the other hand is definitely on the way up in his NFL career. In his first season as a full-time starter, he posted 13.5 sacks and recorded a staggering 37 quarterback hits. Perhaps it was just a one-season spike, but his pass rush win rate of 23% (7th in 2019) makes these numbers feel very sustainable.
9. New York Giants
Original pick: Ereck Flowers, OL, Miami
Redraft pick: Trent Brown, OL, Oregon State
Flowers turned out to be a bust in New York, but has turned himself into a serviceable interior lineman elsewhere. Meanwhile, Brown goes from seventh-round flier to top-10 pick in this redraft. He has had some issues with injuries, but he has turned into a top-end tackle. His 2018 season with New England flashed his immense potential. He is the only offensive tackle from this class to reach a Pro Bowl as well (Brandon Scherff and Andrus Peat have made it as guards). If he could stay healthy, he would solve a lot of problems that plagued the Giants in Eli Manning’s final five seasons.
10. St. Louis Rams
Original pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Redraft pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
I thought long and hard about this pick. Rams fans are probably not happy to see Gurley taken again. However, I will maintain that the mistake the then-St. Louis front office made was not drafting Gurley, but handing him a monster contract. There are only two players from the 2015 class to be named first-team All-Pro twice. Gurley is one of them. The other is Marcus Peters (reminder, the Rams once had both of them). Obviously Jeff Fisher’s usage of Gurley did not help things. In a perfect world, St. Louis would monitor his touches and play the long game. It would be hard to pass on him. After all, he has 22 more touchdowns than any other non-quarterback in this draft.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Original pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Redraft pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
In terms of talent, no corner in this draft class matches Peters. Waynes never really lived up to the expectations, but still cashed in on a solid second contract with the Bengals. Peters no doubt has a vibrant personality that can lead to him drawing some frustrating penalties, but when he is locked in, he is a shutdown corner. He showed that after being traded to Baltimore this season. He has 13 more interceptions than anyone else in this draft class and has a knack for making big plays. If the Vikings could get him to dial in and put the nonsense aside, they would have an all-world corner.
12. Cleveland Browns
Original pick: Danny Shelton, DL, Washington
Redraft pick: Grady Jarrett, DL, Clemson
Shelton has turned into a decent player bouncing around the NFL, but never really lived up to the billing. Instead, Cleveland could grab a top-end interior rusher in Jarrett. He holds the edge over Arik Armstead for most sacks by an interior lineman in the 2015 class. He posted the second-best pass rush win rate by a defensive tackle in 2019 as well, trailing only Aaron Donald. Jarrett has also been available, missing just three games in five years. He has been a fixture in the middle of the Falcons defense for the past three years now and was handsomely rewarded with a four-year, $68 million extension in the 2019 offseason. He would be well worth the investment for the Browns.
13. New Orleans Saints
Original pick: Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford
Redraft pick: Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford
While an Dante Fowler was tempting here, Peat felt like a solid choice for the Saints five years later. He had a rocky 2019 season, missing six games due to injuries. However, New Orleans still believes in him. They locked him to a five-year deal that makes him sixth-highest paid guard in the league, on average. When he is healthy, Peat has been one of the better interior offensive linemen in football, but he has never started all 16 games in a season. The Saints are clearly counting on him to stay healthy over the next few years, but there is a bit of doubt there given his track record.
14. Miami Dolphins
Original pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Redraft pick: Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida
Dolphins fans might be interested in seeing Parker go here again after watching him grown up in his fifth NFL season. However, his injury history and otherwise lack of production make it hard for me to get behind that. While Fowler certainly carries some injury concerns of his own, his talent for disruption makes it worth keeping him in the state. Miami has missed on a number of pass rushers around this time, notably Ndamukong Suh and Charles Harris. Fowler’s potential might have taken a few years to fully appear, but his 11.5 sack showing in 2019 seems like a sign of things to come.
15. San Francisco 49ers
Original pick: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Redraft pick: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
The 49ers traded down and still landed Armstead on draft night in 2015. While it might have taken a few years to for him to settle in, Armstead flashed his potential with a 10-sack season in 2019. He has the second most sacks of any interior lineman in this class and has the versatility to line up all over the defensive line. While injuries are still likely a concern to resurface. He has started every game over the past two seasons. Expect Armstead to keep climbing as well.
16. Houston Texans
Original pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Redraft pick: Byron Jones, CB, UConn
Johnson has started just nine games over the past four seasons. Meanwhile, Byron Jones just cashed in to join the Dolphins on a massive deal. I think it’s fair to say the Texans probably wish they had taken Jones, who went 11 selections later to their in-state rival. Jones does not have gaudy numbers, read as only two career interceptions, but he does well in coverage and is a sure tackler. He would represent a reliable upgrade in a Houston secondary that has struggled to get it right in recent years.
17. San Diego Chargers
Original pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Redraft pick: Mitch Morse, OL, Missouri
Gordon’s time with the Chargers did not end amicably with the former Wisconsin running back signing with the division rival Broncos. Gordon was not consistent enough at a position the league is continually devaluing. Adding Morse would give them somebody to stabilize what has been a mess of an offensive line for years now. For the record, the Chargers have had a different starting center each of the past five seasons. Morse had some injuries problems, but started all 16 games for Buffalo this season. He is a solid run blocker and holds up well enough in pass protection.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Original pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Redraft pick: Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Kansas City never really found anyone to replace Derrick Johnson when he retired. They also started Josh Mauga alongside him in 2015. Kendricks has turned into one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL. He excels in coverage and has the speed to go sideline to sideline. He allowed just 53.3 percent of passes to be completed when he was the primary defender in 2019, which is better than a lot of corners. He would be the perfect replacement for Johnson when he hung up his cleats and could have enjoy a few seasons learning from him before that day came.
19. Cleveland Browns via Buffalo Bills
Original pick: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
Redraft pick: David Andrews, OL, Georgia
The Browns had the right idea in locking down the interior of their line. Unfortunately, Erving never turned into the starting center they hoped for. Andrews on the other hand signed as an undrafted free agent and took over the starting job that season. He missed all of 2019 due to a blood clot in his lung, but he is expected to make a full recovery. Andrews dominated in the 2018 playoffs en route to another Patriots Super Bowl. He would have been a massive upgrade for Cleveland and provided a lot of stability at the position.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Original pick: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Redraft pick: Adrian Amos, S, Penn State
There is no question the Eagles have been eager to find talent at wide receiver for several years now. Agholor did not pan out for this team though and ended up being a miss for the team. In this version of the 2015 draft, Philly selects a local kid ready to start from the moment he reached training camp. Amos had four really good seasons in Chicago, who inexplicably let him walk over to the division-rival Packers. The Eagles started converted corner Walter Thurmond at safety in 2015. That was his last season in the NFL.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Original pick: Cedric Ogbuehi, OL, Texas A&M
Redraft pick: Ali Marpet, OL, Hobart
On the whole, this turned out to be a pretty disappointing offensive tackle class. Ogbeuhi never caught on and would eventually lose his starting job in 2018. His lack of development led to him joining the Jaguars as a free agent that offseason. Meanwhile, Marpet has turned into a versatile starting-caliber lineman. He has started at both guard positions and center in his career. He is far from an elite player, but he is a solid building block on the offensive line.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
Redraft pick: Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
After being consistently average for four years with the Steelers, Dupree finally broke out in 2019. He had 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. While it may have taken a while for Dupree to finally match his potential, he is still worth the pick here because of his consistent contribution. He produced between four and six sacks each of his first four seasons. That’s not setting the world on fire, but it is still decent production. If Dupree can produce another season like the one he just had, Pittsburgh will have no problem handing him an extension to stick around.
23. Detroit Lions
Original pick: Laken Tomlinson, OL, Duke
Redraft pick: David Johnson, RB, Northern Arizona
Back in 2015, the Lions traded down and tabbed Tomlinson in an effort to beef up their offensive line. The former Duke lineman last just two years in Detroit, but has bounced back with the 49ers. Rather than trade down, the Lions could land their most promising running back since Barry Sanders by taking Johnson. He has struggled quite a bit with injuries and had a rough 2019 season. Prior to that, he was one of the best players in the league. His ability as a receiver out of the backfield would have been huge for Matthew Stafford. On a team with Calvin Johnson, there is a good chance David Johnson would have had plenty of running room as well.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Original pick: D.J. Humphries, OL, Florida
Redraft pick: Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson
Even though the Cardinals locked up Humphries to a big contract, I’m not sure he was worth a first round pick. He draws a ton of penalties and has struggled with injuries. Instead, the Cardinals pickup the talented, but inconsistent Beasley. Arizona definitely needed another pass rusher to add to the mix. 35-year old Dwight Freeney led the team in sacks that year with eight. Beasley has shown an ability to be productive in spurts. He might have been able to learn a thing or two from a veteran like Freeney as well before taking on a bigger role.
25. Carolina Panthers
Original pick: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Redraft pick: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson didn’t really have a position coming out of college. He had played some running back at Washington and was viewed as being a hybrid linebacker/safety type because of his size. He developed into a solid off-ball linebacker who has enough speed to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. I strongly debated going with Benardrick McKinney here, who fits the more prototypical middle linebacker role. However, I think Thompson was a great pairing with Luke Keuchley and the Panthers would be happy to bring him again if given a second chance.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Original pick: Breshaud Perriman, WR, UCF
Redraft pick: Bernardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
Perriman just signed with his third NFL team in his five-year career. He flashed a bit of the potential the Ravens saw in him when they drafted him in 2015, but there is no way the front office would choose him again. Instead, they solidify their linebacking core by grabbing a thumping tackler in McKinney. Only Eric Kendricks has more solo tackles by linebackers in this class. McKinney has been a stalwart for the Texans over the past five seasons and would have slotted in really nicely next to C.J. Mosley. He would have taken over Daryl Smith’s job when Smith left the team after the 2015 season.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Original pick: Byron Jones, CB, UConn
Redraft pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
With Jones off the board way before this, Dallas opts to bolster its secondary in a different form. Keep in mind that Jones actually spent his first two seasons at safety, so Collins could fill the same position. Now Collins is more of a box safety. Somebody who plays around the line of scrimmage and attacks downhill. He actually leads this draft class by a wide margin with 407 tackles in his career. Collins can hold up well enough in coverage for the Cowboys to get the necessary value out of this pick.
28. Denver Broncos
Original pick: Shane Ray, EDGE, Missouri
Redraft pick: Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech
Back in 2015, Denver traded up to grab in hopes that he could be DeMarcus Ware’s successor. That never happened. The Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl that year in Peyton Manning’s final season largely thanks to that defense regardless. One of the biggest issues exposed for Denver that season was it’s porous offensive line. Mason ended up sliding to the fifth round, but became an immediate starter for the Patriots. He is a solid guard with the size and power to play the position. He has lapses at times in protection, but he would be a massive upgrade for a Broncos line that really struggled that season and beyond.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Original pick: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
Redraft pick: Darren Waller, TE, Georgia Tech
Back to back Yellow Jackets coming off the board here. It is important to note that Waller was drafted as a receiver actually and it took him a few years to find his way into his role. He also struggled with substance abuse and missed 20 games due to suspension, including the entire 2017 season. He finally broke out in 2019 with the Raiders. While that doesn’t usually scream first round pick, the Colts essentially got the same amount of production out of Dorsett. They ended up trading him to the Patriots in exchange for Jacoby Brissett. Indy has struggled to find reliable pass catchers in recent years and seem to need a tight end more than ever now. Based on his eventual breakout, I could see the Colts taking a flier on him.
30. Green Bay Packers
Original pick: Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State
Redraft pick: Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Randall had a fairly productive career with the Packers, but they were more than happy to trade him to Cleveland in exchange for a backup quarterback. Instead, Green Bay can grab a quick linebacker who would’ve been a nice depth option and eventual starter. Hicks has missed a lot of NFL games due to injury, but over the past two seasons he has stayed fairly healthy and been one of the best tacklers in football. He nearly led the league in tackles in 2019. For a Packers team that has been looking for some linebacking help for years, Hicks would be worth developing.
31. New Orleans Saints
Original pick: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Redraft pick: Kwon Alexander, LB, LSU
Swapping out an under-performing linebacker in Anthony for an oft-injured one in Alexander is a bit questionable, but when healthy, Alexander is one of the best linebackers in the league. He has only played in 54 of a possible 80 games in his NFL career, but he trails Bernardrick McKinney by only two career tackles. McKinney has played in 22 more NFL contests. Alexander’s upside and playmaking ability are worth investing in here, even if he is not always available.
32. New England Patriots
Original pick: Malcolm Brown, DL, Texas
Redraft pick: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
If there is anyone in football who could have found a way to maximize Williams’ skillset and capitalize on his versatility, it would definitely be Bill Belichick. Williams actually generates a lot of pressure, even if those plays don’t always result in sacks. He leads this whole class of talented rushes with 101 career quarterback hits. In a Patriots defense that is always looking for reliable, tough players along the line, Williams would fit right in and likely excel.