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.

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The Collapse of the Oakland Raiders

In 2016, the Oakland Raiders were finally back. After 14 years without a winning record, the Silver and Black went 12-4 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since losing to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. This was a team on the rise. They had a young stud at quarterback. They had a defensive player of the year. They had a brash coach who was unafraid to gamble with the game on the line. It seemed like the Raiders were once again in the mix to compete for a championship.

DeAndre Washington, Derek Carr
Carr is already fourth in franchise history for passing yardage and touchdowns in just his fifth season. (Wikimedia Commons)

That 2016 season ended in bitter disappointment. Third-year quarterback Derek Carr suffered a season-ending injury in week 16. The Raiders lost their final regular season game with rookie Connor Cook under center. That loss cost Oakland the division and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Instead, the Raiders had to travel to Houston to play against the vaunted Texans defense in the Wild Card round. Cook struggled mightily in the game and the Raiders lost 27-14, ending their season.

Many felt that had Carr stayed healthy, that team could have made a deep run in the postseason. After all, Oakland had seven Pro Bowlers and three players named to the AP All-Pro team. Still, despite the abrupt end to the season, it seemed like the Raiders were poised for another great season in 2017.

That great season never came. Oakland struggled through the 2017 season, facing a much tougher schedule. The 2016 Raiders had the 15th hardest schedule in the league. The 2017 Raiders had the fourth. Injuries limited the team as offensive tackle Donald Penn finished the season on IR. So did Oakland’s first two picks in the 2017 draft. Oakland still had bright spots. Khalil Mack dominated, becoming the first player ever to be named first-team All-Pro at two different positions in the same season.

However, in addition to the tougher schedule, there are some easy things to point to as the reason for regression. The offense fell off a cliff. The Raiders gained 50 fewer yards of offense per game and scored eight fewer points per contest. Not exactly a recipe for success. Oakland also went from the top team in turnover ratio in 2016 to tied for 29th in 2017. That was a swing over 30 possessions, roughly two per game. That could help explain some of the scoring and yardage difference.

After a 6-6 start, the Raiders finished the season on a four-game losing streak. That cost Jack Del Rio his job as the head coach. Little did we know, he would be the first of many crucial pieces to leave Oakland.

jon_gruden2
Gruden is 101-88 in his career as a head coach, including the playoffs. (Wikimedia Commons)

It ended up being a tumultuous offseason for the Raiders. During the 2017 season, the team announced it would be moving to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. The fan base was already unsettled as a result. Then the Raiders signed Jon Gruden to a massive deal, reportedly worth about $100 million over 10 years.

Here’s the thing, Gruden hasn’t coached a football team in 10 years. His last gig was as the Buccaneers coach from 2002 to 2008. He did win a Super Bowl during that first season, beating none other than the Oakland Raiders.

The move made a lot of sense from the story perspective. Gruden had been the head coach of the Raiders 1998 to 2001, only to be forced out by former Raiders owner Al Davis. Gruden has said he feels like there is a lot that he would like to do to finish his legacy in Oakland.

When you pay a coach that much money though, it makes it really difficult to explain to your players that you can’t pay them. The team elected to extend Derek Carr’s contract with a lucrative deal that was the richest in NFL history for a short period of time. It seemed like the logical move, until the consequences quickly followed.

khalil_mack
Mack signed a six-year $141-million contract, the richest for a defense player in NFL history, after joining the Bears. (Wikimedia Commons) 

Khalil Mack is one of the best defensive players in NFL history, yet the Raiders did not pay him. Mack held out all summer long in hopes of landing a new contract. It never came, at least not from Oakland. Just before the start of the season, Gruden shipped Mack to Chicago for a package of draft picks. Mack has been a beast through the first four weeks of the NFL season. He is tied for second in the league with five sacks. He also leads the league with four forced fumbles alongside J.J. Watt, and has an interception.

The loss of Mack leaves the Raiders seemingly in a rebuild mode. Oakland has started the season 1-3 and shows no signs of turning it around. It needed overtime and a bit of assistance from the officials to pull off the victory and avoid what would have been a truly terrible start to 2018. The Raiders have scored the fifth fewest points this season. Apparently, Gruden does not really know how to rebuild either.

Thinking about it, it’s not too shocking considering this is a franchise known for the mantra “Just Win Baby.” The Raiders were never good at rebuilding. They struggled to do so for the aforementioned 14 years without a winning record. Oakland failed to draft well or attract free agents to help turn the franchise around. The environment for this Raiders franchise has been toxic for years. Even when it did bring in top-tier talent, like Randy Moss or Charles Woodson for the second time, it couldn’t convert that into true success. Looking at this Raiders team now, one that is going to require a ton of roster turnover and a general talent overhaul, Gruden has not positioned himself to rebuild in the coming years.

Oakland has the oldest roster in the NFL. The Raiders on average are 27.32 years old, according to Spotrac. The next youngest team is the Atlanta Falcons at 27. Oakland is more than a full year older than the league average. It also has the most players signed over the age of 30. Gruden has built a team ready to win this season, but it will come nowhere close to even making it to the playoffs. Gruden is also burying Marquel Lee and Karl Joseph, young players with bright futures, on the depth chart.

At this point just two years ago. The Raiders were 3-1 and seemed like a team destined to compete for the next several years. Today, this team is years away from competing. Gruden has one hell of a task ahead of him and this organization has some explaining to do as to how quickly it let the team fall into turmoil.