Is this premature? Absolutely. Am I going to do it anyway? You bet.
We haven’t seen quarterback drama like this in New England since at least 2017 when the team traded Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. At that point, the Patriots still had Tom Brady. Mac Jones seemed to be Brady’s heir after the Pats spent a first round pick on him in 2021. New England reached the playoffs and Jones was in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
Oh how things have changed.
Jones opened the season as the unquestioned starter, but suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 that forced him to miss the next three games. Brian Hoyer was supposed to be his short-term replacement, but then the veteran quarterback suffered a concussion during his first start against the Packers.
Enter Bailey Zappe.
The rookie fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky was a bit of a surprise pick by the franchise in this draft, but most viewed him as a developmental prospect who could be a quality backup long term. That has not been the case so far. Zappe nearly upset the Packers in Week 4 coming in to replace Hoyer. He led the Patriots to back-to-back wins over the Lions and Browns, completing 41 of 55 passes for 497 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Needless to say, fans in New England were ready for Zappe Hour and The Zappening and everything in between. However, Mac Jones was cleared to return for Monday Night Football against the Bears and got the start. Jones didn’t last long though. He attempted just six passes, amassing 13 yards, and was pulled after throwing an interception. Zappe got the offense moving, scoring a pair of touchdowns to take a 14-10 lead. Things went off the rails from there. Chicago went on to win 33-14.
Zappe clearly provided a spark, but it fizzled and it left New England in a tricky spot at quarterback. Belichick dodged questions about who his starting quarterback would be going forward. He said Jones was taken out of the game because he wasn’t healthy. If that was really the case, then why was Jones out there in the first place? This whole situation is a bit bizarre and really casts a shadow over his future with the team.
It certainly appears that Belichick is no longer 100% committed to Jones. He has been underwhelming this season, with just three touchdowns to six interceptions. His passer rating and completion percentage are also down from a year ago.
As I already noted, this is definitely a bit early to talk about Jones no longer being with the Patriots. This would be very early to move on from a first-round pick at quarterback after just two seasons, especially without a change in the front office. Still, stranger things have happened. If Jones does become available, there are a few teams that will definitely be interested.
Indianapolis Colts The Colts have been searching for a quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. Matt Ryan was the team’s fourth opening day starter in as many years. This team has been searching for a long-term solution, but has only had stop-gap answers. Acquiring Jones could potentially end the carousel at the position.
Now, I can understand why Indianapolis might be hesitant to make this move. The Colts brought in Carson Wentz hoping a change of scenery would bring out the best in a player that looked like an MVP before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2017. That obviously didn’t work out as the Colts shipped him out to Washington after just one season.
The difference here is that Jones is still on his rookie deal. Wentz had already signed a mega extension with a ton of money guaranteed. It makes acquiring Jones a much lower-risk move by comparison. Frank Reich is on the hot seat. I’m not sure he will get another chance with this team, but Chris Ballard has put together a pretty good roster outside of the quarterback spot. Jones could give him a consistent, accurate passer to operate a run-focused offense centered around Jonathan Taylor.
New Orleans Saints The Jameis Winston experiment in New Orleans has not gone according to plan. His play has been inconsistent, but more importantly, his health has kept him off the field. An ACL injury cost him the remainder of the 2021 season. Now, he is dealing with multiple fractures in his back and a lingering ankle injury. Andy Dalton has fared well in relief, but I can’t imagine that the Saints really believe he could be the long-term answer at quarterback.
Jones has a similar playstyle to Drew Brees and while Sean Payton is no longer the head coach, this is still largely the same staff. Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael had a lot of success with an incredibly accurate quarterback who lacked elite mobility and arm strength. New Orleans has already sunk a lot of draft capital into this team, so I would not be shocked to see them go all in by acquiring an upgrade at quarterback.
Washington Commanders I already talked about Carson Wentz and how he struggled in Indianapolis. Things have not been much better since he joined the Commanders. His protection was terrible before he suffered a thumb injury that landed him on injured reserve. According to Spotrac, Washington can move on from Wentz this offseason with minimal dead. Releasing him would free up $27 million in cap space. Needless to say, Wentz’s future in D.C. doesn’t look great. I think it is also safe to assume that Washington does not believe in Taylor Heinicke long term. They went out and acquired Wentz despite having Heinicke still on the roster. It feels like this team is poised to look elsewhere this offseason when it comes to the quarterback position.
Jones would certainly need better protection if he were to thrive in Washington, but $27 million would give the Commanders a decent amount to invest in their offensive line. Terry McLaurin would unquestionably be the best receiver Jones has ever worked with and it would be a reunion with his former teammate Brian Robinson. This is another tricky spot with Ron Rivera on the hot seat, but adding a young quarterback on a rookie deal could buy him a bit more time to turn things around in Washington.
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While the focus in the days leading up to the NFL draft is undoubtedly that year’s picks and prospects, it is both fun and somewhat freeing to look back at an older draft class. It provides a nice break from prospect debates and allows you to wonder what would happen if the teams were given a chance to do the draft over again. It is also a good reminder of how past drafts could impact the decisions being made now based on the lessons we have learned over the years.
I’ve long said that you need five years to properly evaluate a draft class. Players can of course continue to develop and grow in the years that follow, but there is a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions. Any sooner, and you could end up with some player evaluations that are incomplete. Now that several of these prospects are in their late 20s and on (at least) their second contract, the picture becomes much clearer.
What a wild five years it has been for this 2016 group. This is one of the most interesting draft classes to re-examine because there are a pair of controversial quarterbacks amid a ton of talented players. Looking back, there is no question Dak Prescott should have been the first player selected, but where does that leave Carson Wentz and Jared Goff? Plus, how early should running backs like Ezekiel Elliott or Derrick Henry go given the shifting NFL landscape? These are the questions that make this exercise so fun and worthwhile.
A few housekeeping things here to help make sense of how I run this redraft. I undid any draft day trades that took place. The Rams and Eagles both moved up prior to the draft, so those deals will stay in place, but I have a feeling most teams would be uninterested in trading down if they knew how a player was going to perform and develop over the next five years. Additionally, I still heavily weighed positional value when making these selections. While Derrick Henry has been a much better player than Carson Wentz, Wentz’ positional value is astronomically higher than Henry’s. This is still about drafting the best players to build your roster, not playing fantasy football.
With all of that in mind, let’s dive into this 2016 NFL redraft.
1.St. Louis Rams Original pick: Jared Goff, QB, Cal Redraft selection: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State This is one that I’m sure the Rams wish they could do over. After trading Jared Goff away to acquire Matt Stafford in a deal that involved the Rams also having to part with two first-round picks, it is safe to say Goff’s time with the organization did not end well. There were some highs, as Los Angeles reached the Super Bowl in 2019. Goff can still be successful in the NFL, but Dak Prescott has become one of the premier passers in the league. He was off to an unbelievable start in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury. Both have played in 69 career games, and while Goff actually has more passing yards, Prescott has been the better quarterback overall.
2. Philadelphia Eagles Original pick: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State Redraft selection: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State I really struggled with this pick. On one hand, Carson Wentz got his career off to a blistering start. He was on track to win MVP in 2017 before tearing his ACL. He has never been the same since and the Eagles have done a terrible job protecting him. The problem is, Philly’s other options at quarterback were Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Maybe Bradford could have gotten the Eagles back to the playoffs, but Philadelphia likely never wins a Super Bowl without Wentz. In the end, the Eagles still moved him for some solid draft capital and wound up trading Bradford for a first-round pick as well. I think it’s worth it to win the Lombardi even if you have to spend some time rebuilding in the years that follow.
3. San Diego Chargers Original pick: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State Redraft selection: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State There is nothing that Joey Bosa has done that makes him unworthy of going here again, but the list of corners that you trade two first-round picks for is very short. The Chargers already had Casey Hayward, but pairing him with Jalen Ramsey would have given them one of the best tandems in the NFL. He might not be a ballhawk, but Ramsey is a true lockdown corner and that provides so much value for a defense. This really comes down to preference, but if I get to choose between two top corners (Ramsey and Hayward) or two top edge rushers (Bosa and Melvin Ingram), I’m picking the corners every time. I mocked Ramsey to the Chargers back in 2016 and I am standing by that five years later.
4. Dallas Cowboys Original pick: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Redraft selection: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State Joey Bosa’s fall is a short one. I think this would have been the pick for Dallas back in 2016 had Bosa still been on the board. He has been one of the best pass rushers in the league since the moment he was drafted. He posted 10.5 sacks as a rookie and leads the entire class with 47.5 in his career despite playing 15 fewer games than Yannick Ngakoue, who is second among 2016 draftees. Ezekiel Elliott has obviously had some great moments in his Cowboys career, but the value of a top-five running back simply does not compare to that of a top-five pass rusher.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars Original pick: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State Redraft selection: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. The Ravens really like Ronnie Stanley. So much so that they recently traded Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs after he made the Pro Bowl while filling in for an injured Stanley. I can’t say I blame Baltimore one bit. When healthy, Stanley has been a top-five left tackle over the past few seasons. For Jacksonville to snag him before he even gets to Baltimore is tough for Ravens fans to see, but it is the right move for the Jaguars. The team started Kelvin Beachum at left tackle in 2016. Stanley is a massive upgrade for a team that has seen its offensive line deteriorate in recent years.
6. Baltimore Ravens Original pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame Redraft selection: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State As I already mentioned, the Ravens will be incredibly disappointed to see Stanley taken one pick before they were up, but Michael Thomas is an excellent consolation prize. While Lamar Jackson was not on the scene yet, Thomas is exactly the type of receiver the team has been looking to pair their MVP quarterback with. He has good hands, an impressive catch radius and a knack for making big plays. 37-year-old Steve Smith and 30-year-old Mike Wallace were Baltimore’s top two receivers in 2016. Thomas would have provided some much needed youth at the position while setting the Ravens up for future success.
7. San Francisco 49ers Original pick: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon Redraft selection: Tyreek Hill, WR, West Alabama There is a real argument to be made for the 49ers to stick with their original pick from 2016. DeForest Buckner is a dominant interior defender with 38 career sacks and an All-Pro selection to his name. However, few players change how a defense lines up on every play like Tyreek Hill does. His speed and playmaking ability are truly in a class of their own. The opportunity for him to (eventually) play in Kyle Shannahan’s offense would be unfair. Even Chip Kelly, who ran San Francisco into the ground in 2016, might have been able to utilize him semi-effectively. Considering that this team had Jeremy Kerley, Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton as its starting wideouts that year, Hill would be a welcome addition to the Niners’ offense.
8. Cleveland Browns Original pick: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor Redraft selection: Jared Goff, QB, Cal On draft day in 2016, the Browns traded down from No. 8 to No. 15 and selected Corey Coleman. He turned out to be a bust and Cleveland finished the year 1-15 with Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III, Kevin Hogan and Josh McCown playing quarterback. That is an awful quarterback room. While Jared Goff has his fair share of critics, he would be an improvement over any of those other players, then and now. There are physical limitations to Goff’s game, but when put in the right system, he is an above average starter. I actually think that Goff would be a good fit to run the 2021 Browns, but that framework was a long ways off in 2016. It is easy to point to the Browns eventually drafting Baker Mayfield in 2018 as a reason not to take Goff in 2016, but those 2016 and 2017 Browns would have greatly benefited from having even league average quarterback play. If Goff failed quickly in Cleveland, the Browns still would have had a chance to grab Mayfield by the time 2018 rolled around.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Original pick: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida Redraft selection: Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor Tampa desperately needed a No. 1 corner capable of generating turnovers back in 2016. It turns out, they drafted the wrong player to fill that roll. Vernon Hargreaves has bounced around the league. The Bucs actually traded down two spots with the Bears on draft night and watched as the Giants took another corner who ultimately did not pan out. Meanwhile, Xavien Howard has developed into an All-Pro caliber corner. Since 2017, he has the most interceptions in the NFL with 22. Miami got one of the steals of the draft by landing him in the second round. There is no way he last that long this time around.
10. New York Giants Original pick: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State Redraft selection: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State Back in 2016, Tennessee moved up to grab Jack Conklin ahead of New York. It turned out to be a really smart move as Conklin has grown into one of the best right tackles in the NFL. The Giants struck out, reaching for Eli Apple after seeing their preferred player come off the board. With no trades in this redraft, New York gets Conklin to solidify Eli Manning’s protection. He would have been a welcome upgrade over Bobby Hart on the right side of that Giants offensive line.
11. Chicago Bears Original pick: Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Georgia Redraft selection: Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Maryland Leonard Floyd has turned into a solid pass rusher, racking up 29 sacks in his career. However, he also has three years with fewer than 4.5 sacks in his five NFL seasons. It’s hard to justify taking that sort of player again at this point in the draft, especially with Yannick Ngakoue on the board. Only Joey Bosa has more sacks than Ngakoue in this draft class. Unlike Floyd, he has been consistently productive as well. In each of his five seasons, Ngakoue has recorded at least eight sacks. Swapping out Floyd for Ngakoue probably means the Bears never trade two acquiring Khalil Mack, which definitely limited the front office’s ability to build out the rest of the roster.
12. New Orleans Saints Original pick: Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville Redraft selection: Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State Outside of Aaron Donald, there might not be a better interior pass rusher in the NFL than Chris Jones. He has 40.5 career sacks, including 33 over the past three seasons. His presence has fundamentally changed how the Chiefs defense has operated in recent years. Jones would offer a massive upgrade over Sheldon Rankins, who has not been able to replicate his eight-sack season from 2018. Jones playing alongside Cameron Jordan would be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.
13. Miami Dolphins Original pick: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss Redraft selection: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss How do you evaluate Laremy Tunsil’s time in Miami? He was a solid starting left tackle in 2017 and 2018 after spending his rookie season at left guard. Then, he was sent to Houston in a mega trade that netted the Dolphins two first-round picks and a second-round selection in 2021. That’s a pretty incredible haul. Tunsil has continued to excel in Houston, reaching back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020, but he probably still wasn’t worth multiple first rounders. Either way, it put the Dolphins in a great position and I don’t think Miami would mind doing that all over again given the current status of the team following that move.
14. Oakland Raiders Original pick:Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia Redraft selection: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon While Oakland certainly had a need at safety, it is clear Karl Joseph was not worth a first-round pick. Plus, with DeForest Buckner still on the board, this pick should be a no-brainer. The Raiders were trotting out Dan Williams and Stacy McGee as their starting tackles in 2016. Buckner’s slide in this redraft is not indicative of how he has performed in the NFL. He has become one of the NFL’s premier interior lineman, especially as a pass rusher. Only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones have more sacks among interior lineman over the past three seasons. Buckner is strong against the run as well. There is no question he would have elevated the front four for the Raiders. Not to mention that pairing him with Khalil Mack would have been incredible to watch.
15. Tennessee Titans Original pick: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State Redraft selection: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama Looking back, Tennessee crushed the 2016 draft. They traded up to draft Jack Conklin, then grabbed Derrick Henry and Kevin Byard in the second and third rounds. With Conklin off the board, I think Henry is the logical pick here. His career got off to a bit of a slow start, but no running back has become more essential to a team’s offensive identity than Henry in Tennessee. He has led the NFL in rushing each of the past two seasons and has seven more rushing touchdowns than any other player since 2018. He might not offer much as a pass catcher, but his value as a runner is so high, it almost doesn’t matter. You could argue Ezekiel Elliott is the better player, but I don’t think anyone fits the Titans’ power run scheme better than Henry.
16. Detroit Lions Original pick: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State Redraft selection: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Time for a mini run on running backs. Taylor Decker has been a good, but not great offensive tackle for Detroit since he entered the league in 2016. That certainly carries a lot of value, but Ezekiel Elliott is a game-changing running back with his ability to make plays between the tackles and in the passing game. Zeke has roughly 1,800 more yards from scrimmage than Derrick Henry as well. Elliott’s biggest issue has been fumbling with 21 in his career. Still, he would undoubtedly be the best running back the Lions have had since Barry Sanders. An offense featuring Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott would be really exciting and difficult to stop.
17. Atlanta Falcons Original pick: Keanu Neal, S, Florida Redraft selection: Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee State Keanu Neal is far from a bust, but the best ability is availability and that is something Neal has struggled with quite a bit. He played in just four games across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He returned in 2020 and looked like a quality starter again. However, healthy or not, Neal is not at the same level as Kevin Byard. One of the most overlooked players year in and year out, Byard burst onto the scene with a league-leading eight interceptions in 2017. It earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods. He has not slowed down either. Only Xavien Howard has more interceptions from this draft class. Slotting him into this Falcons secondary would be a huge stabilizing factor.
18. Indianapolis Colts Original pick: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama Redraft selection: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama Another pick that stays the same five years later, Ryan Kelly has been a rock in the center of the Colts defense. You might not hear about him much, but for interior offensive linemen, that’s a good thing. He was the first of the building blocks Indianapolis put into place to rebuild their offensive line. He might not be the most crucial piece of the puzzle, but the Colts would be much worse off without him.
19. Buffalo Bills Original pick: Shaq Lawson, EDGE, Clemson Redraft selection: Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Georgia Buffalo was searching for a lean outside linebacker to rush the passer with this pick, but Shaq Lawson never really caught on in the NFL. His production and playtime makes him a situational rusher. Not what you are looking for in a first-round selection. Meanwhile, Leonard Floyd has turned into a three-down option at the position with better sack production. He took a big step in 2020, reaching double-digit sack numbers for the first time in his career. He might not be an elite edge rusher, but certainly a good addition to this Bills defense.
20. New York Jets Original pick: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State Redraft selection: Joe Thuney, G, North Carolina State Darron Lee only lasted three years in New York before being traded to Kansas City for a mid-round pick. Despite all his athleticism, he never really developed into a reliable starter. If given a second chance, the Jets would likely bolster their offensive line. Joe Thuney is a player I think the Jets should have signed this offseason after an impressive five-year run with the Patriots. Building a solid offensive line for Ryan Fitzpatrick and eventually Sam Darnold likely would have changed the outlook of this franchise.
21. Washington Original pick: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU Redraft selection: Justin Simmons, S, Boston College This turned out to be a very disappointing wide receiver class. Josh Doctson was one of several first-round receivers to flop at the next level. At least Washington moved down a spot to draft him? Yeah, that doesn’t make anyone feel much better about it. While the need is still high for Washington, there just is not a player worth selecting here. Justin Simmons on the other hand has developed into a top safety. He has a ton of interceptions, including a career-high five in 2020. Washington was working with the duo of Donte Whitner and Duke Ihenacho in 2016 at safety. Simmons would offer a healthy dose of stability that neither of those guys could bring to the table.
22. Houston Texans Original pick: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame Redraft selection: Matt Judon, EDGE, Grand Valley State This was a tough decision. There are plenty who will argue that Will Fuller should be the pick again. He has explosive field-stretching ability and is coming off an exciting 2020 season. However, he has missed 27 games already in his career. He is actually fifth among receivers from this draft class alone, trailing Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Tyler Boyd and Sterling Shepard. Fuller is third in receiving touchdowns, but there is a big gap between him and Thomas, who is second. In the end, I think Houston would benefit from tabbing Matt Judon instead. He is a versatile pass rusher who would slot in nicely across from Whitney Mercilus. A front seven featuring those two, J.J. Watt (when healthy) and Jadeveon Clowney would be a scary one for the rest of the AFC South.
23. Minnesota Vikings Original pick: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss Redraft selection: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State For years, the Vikings have been attempting to build a good offensive line. In recent years, they have spent premium picks on Garrett Bradberry and Brian O’Neill. They could very well select another offensive lineman in the 2021 draft. Taking Taylor Decker back in 2016 was not an option, but in this scenario, he falls to them and gives them a quality left tackle to build around. He has never been flashy or in the All-Pro conversation, but Decker has done a good job protecting Matt Stafford’s blindside. On the other hand, Laquon Treadwell was a bust and Minnesota already had Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs on the roster. This just makes way more sense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals Original pick: William Jackson III, CB, Houston Redraft selection: James Bradberry, CB, Samford William Jackson turned out to be a solid selection for the Bengals, but it took him a few years to really get up to speed in the NFL. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle and did not become the full-time starter until 2018. Conversely, James Bradberry was a Day 1 starter in Carolina and continued to progress throughout his career, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2020. He is disruptive and consistent on the outside and fills a huge need for the Bengals.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers Original pick: Artie Burns, CB, Miami Redraft selection: William Jackson, CB, Houston William Jackson weathers a very short drop and stays in the division. I just finished knocking him for taking a few years to get up to speed, but he has been a very reliable starter over the past three years. He might not be a lockdown, elite corner, but quality cover players are hard to come by. Even if he wouldn’t end up being an impact starter out of the gate, he would be a better option than Artie Burns. Burns got off to a decent start, but lost his job in 2018 and left Pittsburgh after the 2019 season.
26. Seattle Seahawks Original pick: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M Redraft selection: Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA Germain Ifedi has carved out a solid career for himself as a guard in the NFL. That was not quite what the Seahawks were looking for when they selected him after trading back to No. 32 in the 2016 draft. There are not many offensive tackles worth taking in this spot, so Seattle turns to the defensive side of the line and grabs Kenny Clark. Defensive tackle was definitely a need for the team as well as they went on to take Jarran Reed in the second round. Clark fills a huge role as a run stuffer on the Packers defense. He earned the starting job in 2017 and really came into his own in 2019, making his first Pro Bowl appearance. Clark is a solid pass rusher as well, with 18.5 sacks in his career, but he makes his money stopping the run. Seattle was anywhere from middle of the pack to mediocre in run defense from 2017 to 2019. Clark would’ve helped them prevent that lull.
27. Green Bay Packers Original pick: Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA Redraft selection: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA Green Bay misses out on Clark by one pick here, but instead grabs one of his college teammates. The word on Myles Jack coming out of school was that he had first-round potential, but knee injuries were going to cause him to drop. He went early in the second round on draft day back in 2016, but the Packers will not let him reach the end of round one here. While the Packers have found success mostly ignoring the position in recent years, I still stand by the idea that Clay Matthews would have been much more productive during his final seasons with the Packers if Green Bay had a true middle linebacker. Jack has the range to make plays from sideline to sideline and the instincts to make big plays in crucial moments.
28. Kansas City Chiefs Original pick: Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State Redraft selection: Deion Jones, LB, LSU Kansas City made out like bandits in 2016, trading down into the early second round and stealing Chris Jones. Jones has been off the board for a while in this redraft, but there are still players worthy of consideration here. Deion Jones feels like a great fit for the Chiefs. He could operate in space and thrive as a coverage linebacker on a team that desperately needed one next to an aging Derrick Johnson. Jones would fit even better come 2019 when Steve Spagnuolo came to town. His 11 career interceptions are the most by any linebacker and tied with Jalen Ramsey and James Bradberry for fourth most in this class.
29. Arizona Cardinals Original pick: Robert Nkemdichie, DL, Ole Miss Redraft selection: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame Robert Nkemdichie did not work out in Arizona, or anywhere in the NFL for that matter. He only appeared in 29 career games, four more than the 49ers bust Joshua Garnett, who went the pick before Nkemdichie in 2016. Neither belonged in the first round. Jaylon Smith probably did. He, like Myles Jack, fell because of a knee injury. Smith missed the entire pre-draft process while rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in January at the Fiesta Bowl. He has struggled at times in the NFl, but his physical ability shines through sometimes. He has the speed and quickness to run sideline to sideline with mobile quarterbacks. He had a rocky 2021 season, but he has shown enough since his debut in 2017 to warrant a late-selection here.
30. Carolina Panthers Original pick: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech Redraft selection: Matthew Ioannidis, DL, Temple This might come as a bit of a surprise, but Matt Ioannidis is quietly one of the better interior pass rushers in the NFL. He has 22 sacks in his NFL career despite missing 13 games in 2020 due to injury. When healthy, he plays an important role on Washington’s defensive line. He would not fill exactly the same role the Panthers were looking for when they drafted Vernon Butler. Butler was about 20 pounds heavier and much more athletic. However, he only lasted three seasons in Carolina before leaving for Buffalo in free agency.
31. Denver Broncos Original pick: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis Redraft selection: Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State Spoiler alert: Paxton Lynch was not a good NFL quarterback. The former Memphis star struggled to adapt to the speed on defenses and ultimately finished with four career touchdowns and less than 800 total passing yards. In other words, he was a bust. While Denver needed to find its quarterback of the future, it also needed an offensive line. Peyton Manning limped to the Super Bowl after being battered all year behind the Broncos’ leaky pass protection. Cody Whitehair would not have solved every issue, but he would have been a really good start. He has been a starter since Day 1 in Chicago, missing just two games in his NFL career. He earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2018. Either he or Matt Paradis could kick to guard and give the Broncos a really strong interior of its offensive line.
32. Cleveland Browns Original pick: Emmanuel Ogbah, EDGE, Oklahoma State Redraft selection: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame The Patriots had to forfeit their first-round pick because of one of their many scandals, so we will add the Browns first pick of the second round as a bonus here. Emmanuel Ogbah has actually developed into a solid situational pass rusher, tallying 27 career sacks, including nine in 2020. Cleveland misused him though, as they did many players in the Hue Jackson era, and he found much more success playing elsewhere. Will Fuller could give the Browns the type of receiver they were looking for when they took Corey Coleman. Fuller entered the league as a straight line burner, but has developed into a solid No. 2 option. His injury history and recent suspension definitely hurt his value, but he would still be a good target for Jared Goff, whom the Browns took in the first round in this scenario.
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Week 6 was a really weird one for fantasy football. Three of the top five fantasy quarterbacks were Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill and Carson Wentz. Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo all finished in the top 10 in scoring as well after posting duds in Week 5.
Kenyan Drake, D’Andre Swift, Ronald Jones II and Miles Gaskin were among the top-seven scoring running backs. Those seven backs were also the only ones to finish with more than 15 fantasy points in PPR scoring.
For wide receivers, Justin Jefferson leads all scorers, Julio Jones scored two touchdowns after failing to find the end zone up to that point and Christian Kirk was the fourth-best scorer with just two catches.
If that wasn’t weird enough, three of the top five tight ends for the week were on fewer than 10 percent of ESPN rosters.
Bottom line: the NFL is difficult to predict and working the waiver wire is important in fantasy football. Let’s get to my favorite players to target this week.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR Somehow, Bridgewater has entered into QB1 consideration. He struggled against a top-tier Bears defense, but before that, he turned in two 20-plus point outings. For the third time this season, he also rushed for more than 25 yards. Now, he gets to face a Saints defense allowing the 3rd-most points to opposing quarterbacks. If you are looking for a bye-week fill-in, Bridgewater is one of the best options available.
Kyle Allen, QB, WAS Allen still feels like a placeholder in Washington. As long as he is the starter though, he has some fantasy value. Especially going up against a Cowboys defense that cannot seem to stop a nosebleed, much less the opposing quarterback. I wouldn’t consider him a top-tier option, but given what Kyler Murray just did to this defense, I think Allen could be a fill-in for a bye week.
Carson Wentz, QB, PHI He might be facing a tough matchup with a steadily improving Giants’ defense, but Wentz had an even worse matchup against the Ravens. He has worked magic over the past four weeks with essentially no supporting cast. It is hard to know when that magic might run out. Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders will both be out for a bit. On a short week, it might be really tough for Wentz to get this offense up to speed. If Lane Johnson returns, that should help get things back on track. Wentz is still a fringe starting option in fantasy.
Boston Scott, RB, PHI With the aforementioned injury to Miles Sanders, Boston Scott suddenly is in line for a huge uptick in usage. He faces a Giants’ defense that has struggled to stop the run so far, ranking 22nd in fantasy point allowed to opposing running backs. Scott has not produced much, but he could be considered as a flex option.
J.D. McKissic, RB, WAS Washington has struggled to run the ball this year, but McKissic is carving out a role as a receiver in this offense. He has registered at least six receptions in his past three games. Facing a Dallas defense that has struggled to contain opposing running backs. He also earned eight carries in Week 6. 14 total touches is more than a good enough reason to add him to your roster, even if it is just as depth at the position.
Lamical Perine, RB, NYJ With Le’Veon Bell now in Kansas City, I expect Perine to continue to carve out a larger role in this Jets’ offense. It is not a unit I would recommend investing in heavily, but if you are in need of some running back depth with potential upside, Perine is a decent option. He faces a decent Bills defense in Week 7, but he has the potential to take over the starting job from Frank Gore as the season wears on.
Brian Hill, RB, ATL Perhaps it was a product of having a huge lead against the Vikings, but the Falcons relied on Brian Hill a lot more in the win. He finished with 10 carries and caught a pair of passes out of the backfield. A fumble marred his day and he was not overly effective running the ball, but the usage is encouraging. I wouldn’t place a high priority on him, but with a shakeup to the coaching staff, Hill could continue to see touches if Gurley continues to be ineffective.
Keelan Cole Sr., WR, JAX Cole benefits from being part of an offense that has to throw the ball a lot because Jacksonville is almost always trailing. Garbage-time fantasy points still count just the same. He had a huge Week 6 against Detroit, and while it is unlikely you can count on him to replicate that, Gardner Minshew is looking his way enough for Cole to stay fantasy relevant. He has earned at least five targets in every game this season, including a season-high of nine on Sunday. If you are looking for some wide receiver depth, Cole is a worthwhile option.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, KC With Sammy Watkins out against his former team, Robinson stepped up to fill the void. He hauled in five catches for 69 yards facing a solid Bills defense. Robinson goes up against a Broncos defense that struggled to contain opposing receivers prior to their Week 5 bye. With Watkins likely out again in Week 7 and the Jets on the horizon for Week 8, Robinson could be a flex option for the next couple of weeks if you are hurting at receiver.
Christian Kirk, WR, ARI I don’t usually put players who hauled in just two catches on this list. However, one of Kirk’s catches went for 80 yards and both resulted in touchdowns. I’m also not buying that Kyler Murray is going to finish too many games this season with nine completed passes. If you are looking for a boom-or-bust flex option this week, look no further than Kirk. He faces the best fantasy matchup he could in a Seahawks defense giving up 23.2 more points to opposing receivers than the league average.
Mike Williams, WR, LAC Keenan Allen is questionable heading into Week 7’s meeting with the Jaguars. Even if Allen does suit up, I would be interested in grabbing Williams. After Allen exited against the Saints, Williams posted monster numbers. Now he gets a Jaguars secondary that has given up a ton of points to opposing receivers in recent weeks. If Allen starts, consider Williams a flex play. If Allen sits, bump Williams into the WR2.
Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL Finding fantasy tight ends is really difficult right now. While Schultz is far from a fantasy star, he is a serviceable option for managers in need of a bye-week fill-in. Outside of a Week 5 dud vs. the Giants, he has caught at least four passes in each game since he took over as the starter. Even with the change at quarterback, it is clear Andy Dalton trust him enough to look his direction. Facing a Washington defense that has surrendered the fifth-most points to opposing tight ends, I would feel comfortable starting Schultz this week.
Anthony Firkser, TE, TEN Frisker’s value is totally contingent on the health of Jonnu Smith. Before Week 6, the 25-year-old had accounted for just six points in PPR scoring. When Smith went down against Houston, Firkser racked up 25 fantasy points. Ryan Tannehill loves throwing to his tight ends. He might not have a great matchup against a talented Steelers defense, but if Firkser is starting, he has plenty of fantasy value to include him in your lineup.
Trey Burton, TE, IND Since returning from IR in Week 4, Burton has seen at least five targets in each of the Colts’ past three games. He took it to another level in Week 6 with two touchdowns. He is not going to challenge the George Kittles or Travis Kelces of the world, but Burton is some really smart depth to add at the position with the potential to be a starter down the line. He is on a bye in Week 7, but that shouldn’t stop you from stashing him on your bench.
Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI Here is another tight end where you might want to get ahead of the curve. Goedert has yet to be activated from the IR, but he eligible to be starting this week. With Zach Ertz out for three-to-four weeks, Goedert could be a premier starting option as soon as this week, if not, in Week 8 against the Cowboys. If you are willing to gamble on his upside, Goedert is worth stashing on your bench or possibly in an IR spot on your roster if you league has any.
So I was right! I was just about six months early.
Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns this afternoon, joining the laundry list of quarterback to play for Cleveland over the last 15 years. While the internet might have had some fun with this, signing Griffin makes a lot of sense for the Browns.
It’s not like the Browns have many better options on their roster right now. Josh McCown is 36 going on 70 and that Manziel guy is now a free agent with some legal trouble. The only other guy on the roster is Austin Davis, whose 13 career NFL starts have left a lot to be desired.
So instead, the Browns are taking a gamble on the former Heisman trophy winner. And there is really no harm in that. Cleveland will likely draft a quarterback with the second overall pick and all signs point to it being Carson Wentz.
Wentz has looked solid during the pre-draft process and he is seemingly pro ready. However, the Browns know better than anyone else on planet Earth that forcing quarterbacks to play in the NFL before they are ready can be catastrophic.
Griffin’s contract is reportedly for two years and maxes out at $15 million. Paying about $7.5 million per year for a short term starting quarterback isn’t a bad deal and because the deal is short, the Browns are not really committed to Griffin. He essentially has a two-year window to show if he can still play in the league. If the answer is no, then start Wentz in 2017.
The reality is that the Browns need someone to play quarterback and they are taking a low-risk high-reward gamble on RGIII. And this is not Denver where they are likely just a quarterback away from a deep playoff run. Cleveland would miss the playoffs this year with Russell Wilson under center. There just isn’t enough talent. Getting Griffin gives the Browns a stopgap while they continue to try to improve in other areas of the roster and groom a future starter.
Imagine for just a second if Griffin somehow reverts to his 2012, rookie of the year form during the next two seasons with the Browns. First of all, Griffin would then have suitors around the league after his contract is over and Cleveland would have the happy situation of having two starting quarterbacks.
In the best case scenario, Griffin proves to be a stud and the Browns ship him off to Denver or Philadelphia after his first season for some draft picks. Worst case scenario is that Griffin flounders again, or even more likely gets hurt, and Cleveland turns the keys over to Wentz at the start of his second year.
All in all, I think this is a great deal for both sides. Cleveland gets a two-year rental at quarterback and Griffin gets one last shot to prove he can still play in this league.