Redrafting the 2017 NFL Draft

By NATHAN COOPER AND JOHN TODD

It’s good to look back after three seasons to assess a team’s draft class to see if their players are helping the team or if they were busts. We attempted to redo the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to re-select players with three years of additional knowledge.

In most cases, we tried to take into account the position of the player they actually took and what their team needs were, but most importantly who the best players in the Draft were. Here’s what we came up with:

Selections

#1 – Cleveland Browns: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

Actual Selection: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Mahomes was actually picked #10

Patrick Mahomes is a no-brainer. The Super Bowl LIV Champion has already won a Super Bowl MVP, NFL MVP, and been named First-Team All-Pro in his short career. In 2019, he ranked in the top six among qualifying quarterbacks in EPA, Total Points, Positive % and IQR. That all comes off a 2018 season in which he ranked either No. 1 or 2 in each of those metrics. -Nathan

#2 – Chicago Bears: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Actual Selection: QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

Watson was actually picked #12

The Bears have been much maligned for not only taking Mitchell Trubisky over Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, but trading up one pick to do so. Trubisky has ranked 30th, 28th and 28th in Passing Total Points over his three seasons in Chicago, and his one playoff appearance in 2018 came on the backs of the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense in EPA.

Watson was great before tearing his ACL halfway through his rookie campaign, but two healthy seasons later with two playoff appearances and a shootout 2019 Divisional Round loss to the No. 1 pick in this re-draft under his belt, the Texans and Chiefs are set up for success while the Bears find themselves back in the QB market. In this exercise, they don’t make the same mistake. -John

#3 – San Francisco 49ers: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Actual Selection: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Garrett was actually picked # 1

Though not the No. 1 pick, Myles Garrett still finds himself in the top 3. He’s accumulated over 30 sacks in three seasons and ranked 2nd in Sack % and 22nd in Pressure % during the 2019 season. The Niners clearly wanted help off the edge to generate pressure on the quarterback. A Garrett-Bosa pairing coming off the edges in Super Bowl LIV may have changed the outcome with the Lombardi Trophy headed back to San Francisco instead of Kansas City. -Nathan

#4 – Jacksonville Jaguars: LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Actual Selection: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

Watt was actually picked #30

The Jaguars were looking to bolster their offense in 2017 with the selection of Leonard Fournette, a dominant college running back. While his addition helped lead the Jaguars on a strong playoff run his rookie year, he hasn’t lived up to his top-five pick value. T.J. Watt finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2019 and was the No. 1 ranked edge defender in Total Points, 1st against the pass and 5th against the run.

Adding Watt to the Jaguars dominant defense of 2017 (NFL-best in EPA and Positive%) would be the definition of strengthening a strength, but he could also have been the lone cog to remain after its recent purge of stars. -John

#5 – Tennessee Titans: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

Actual Selection: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Smith-Schuster was actually picked #62

The Titans were hungry for receiver help in 2017, but instead of taking Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, they instead go with JuJu Smith-Schuster in our redraft. Though his production was way down in 2019 due to an injured Ben Roethlisberger and a carousel of quarterbacks, he had very productive seasons his first 2 years in the league. In 2018, a season in which he ranked 5th in receiving yards, 6th in Total Points, and 16th in EPA among all pass catchers. -Nathan

#6 – New York Jets: S Jamal Adams, LSU

Actual Selection: S Jamal Adams, LSU

The first of these re-draft selections to remain the same, Jamal Adams has been everything the Jets had hoped when they drafted him sixth overall in 2017. He was named to the All-Rookie team that year, then was a 2nd Team All-Pro in 2018 and a 1st Team All-Pro last year. He’s finished 3rd and 5th in Total Points among all safeties the past two seasons, with elite marks against both the run and pass. -John

#7 – Los Angeles Chargers: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU

Actual Selection: WR Mike Williams, Clemson

White was actually picked #27

With it seeming to be too early for a receiver and Smith-Schuster already off the board, the Chargers could dip into the defensive side of the ball to select Tre’Davious White. Among CBs seeing at least 50 passes thrown their way in 2019, White led the league in Total Points with 45. He also ranked 3rd in QBR Against (31.8) and 6th in yards per attempt (5.9). White is proving to be one of the league’s top shutdown corners, and a Chargers secondary that included White with Casey Hayward, Derwin James, and Nasir Adderley would look pretty daunting to opposing quarterbacks. -Nathan

#8 – Carolina Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Actual Selection: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Another pick that the selecting team would happily do over again. While the running back position has been devalued in the modern NFL and spending a premium draft pick on one is often met with criticism, Christian McCaffrey has become the prototype of what the league is looking for in the backfield. He put up only the third 1,000/1,000-yard rushing and receiving season in NFL history in 2019, despite having his total Air Yards be less than 0. In other words, he manufactured all of his receiving yards (and then some) after the catch. He is a three-down back in its truest form and has also proven to be supremely durable, compiling over 1,000 touches without missing a game so far in his career. -John

#9 – Cincinnati Bengals: RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

Actual Selection: WR John Ross, Washington

Kamara was actually picked #67

John Ross has been a bust. The Bengals instead choose Alvin Kamara, who’s been one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL over the past couple of years. Among running backs with over 100 attempts, in 2019, Kamara ranked 3rd in Positive % and 5th in Broken Tackle % as a rusher, and was 3rd in receptions, 3rd in First Downs, 4th in Broken Tackles among RBs as a receiver. Since coming into the league in 2017, he ranks 11th in the NFL with 243 receptions. Kamara instantly makes the Bengals offense more dynamic in both the run and pass game. -Nathan

#10 – Kansas City Chiefs: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

Actual Selection: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

Lattimore was actually picked #11

With Patrick Mahomes not available for the Chiefs this time around, they take a player who was taken one pick later in 2017 and keep rolling with Alex Smith at quarterback. Marshon Lattimore was the Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Saints after collecting five interceptions, and has proven to be one of the top corners in this class on a perennial contender. He was targeted the 10th-most times in the NFL last year while allowing a completion percentage below 50%. -John

#11 – New Orleans Saints: TE George Kittle, Iowa

Actual Selection: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

Kittle was actually picked #146

George Kittle is a steal at this point. He fills the void left by Jimmy Graham a few years prior giving Drew Brees another offensive weapon. In 2018-19 combined, he recorded 173 receptions, 2,430 yards, and 10 touchdowns. In 2019, he led all tight ends in receiving Total Points with 47. Not only has he made a large impact as a receiver, but also as a blocker, as he tied for the least amount of blown blocks in 2019. -Nathan

#12 – Houston Texans: T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Actual Selection: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Ramczyk was actually picked #32

Sensing a trend? Three of the first 12 picks in this re-draft were originally taken by the New Orleans Saints. Ryan Ramczyk was the second of their two first-round picks (Lattimore) and they clearly hit on both. Ramczyk has been a dominant presence on the Total Points leaderboards in his career, ranking 2nd, 9th, and 4th at his position in his three seasons. He’s allowed three or fewer sacks on nearly 500-plus pass protection snaps each of those years, as well. -John

#13 – Arizona Cardinals: S Eddie Jackson, Alabama

Actual Selection: LB Haason Reddick, Temple

Jackson was actually picked #112

The Cardinals were looking for back-end help throughout this draft and instead of going linebacker with their first pick, they instead select Eddie Jackson in the first round. He’s already recorded 10 interceptions as a safety, in his first three years in the league and has been named to the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons. His 2018 campaign was one in which he racked up over 50 tackles and 6 interceptions, helping him to be named as a First Team All-Pro. -Nathan

#14 – Philadelphia Eagles: WR Chris Godwin, Penn State

Actual Selection: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Godwin was actually picked #84

The Eagles have brought in some decent weapons in recent years to supplement Zach Ertz at tight end, such as Alshon Jeffrey, Desean Jackson, and others, but injuries to the receiving corps and Carson Wentz have hindered the passing game. This culminated in a 2019 season in which Wentz became the first QB to ever throw for 4,000 yards without a 500-yard receiver. Coincidentally, this was also the year Chris Godwin broke out into a superstar, ranking 3rd in total receiving yards and No. 1 in yards after catch among receivers. -John

#15 – Indianapolis Colts: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

Actual Selection: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Humphrey was actually picked #16

The Colts original pick of Malik Hooker has been good since he finally recovered from early injuries, but with Marlon Humphrey still on the board, they go that route this time. In 2019, Humphrey ranked 5th in Yards Per Attempt among CB’s with at least 30 targets. He also possessed a Completion %, Deserved Catch %, and QBR Against that all ranked in the top 25. Those numbers helped earn him a Pro Bowl spot and be named 1st Team All-Pro in 2019. -Nathan

#16 – Baltimore Ravens: WR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois

Actual Selection: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

Golladay was actually picked #96

Humphrey, the Ravens actual pick, goes one spot ahead of here, so Baltimore pivots to the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens have been looking for a big play receiver for a number of years, and in this re-draft they get one in Kenny Golladay. Golladay led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2019 and put up the 5th-most Air Yards of all players. He fits well in reality with the big arm of Matthew Stafford, and would have done so with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson, a role that 2019 draft pick Marquise Brown has now filled. -John

#17 – Washington Redskins: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Actual Selection: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Another spot in the first round where the team drafting is satisfied with the pick they made three years ago. Jonathan Allen has been a solid contributor on the defensive line for the Redskins. In 2019, among DL with at least 25 solo tackles, he ranked 4th in total tackles with 69 while also having the 5th-lowest Missed Tackle Rate. He’s also amassed 15 sacks in his first three seasons in Washington. They’re happy with their selection. -Nathan

#18 – Tennessee Titans: CB Desmond King, Iowa

Actual Selection: CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC

King was actually picked #151

Adoree’ Jackson hasn’t been a bad pick for the Titans, but in this re-draft Tennessee again stays with the same position and finds a possible slight upgrade in the Chargers’ Desmond King. He was a 1st Team All-Pro DB in 2018 and a 2nd Team punt returner, another role Jackson currently fills for the Titans. He took a bit of a step back last season, but with the prevalence of 11 personnel in today’s game, slot cornerbacks are as important as any defensive position, having to defend two-way go’s and operate through traffic. King has played nearly 94% of his snaps in the slot the past two seasons. -John

#19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T Dion Dawkins, Temple

Actual Selection: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Dawkins was actually picked #63

Dion Dawkins has been one of the few offensive linemen that have made some sort of positive impact from this draft class. The Buccaneers have desperately been looking for offensive line help over the past few years, and decide to go with Dawkins in the first round. Dawkins has surely been a little streaky at times, but has solidified himself as a starter on the Bills offensive line. He would replace current Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith who has consistently possessed one of the top blown block rates since coming into the league in 2015, most notably with 42 blown blocks in 2017. -Nathan

#20 – Denver Broncos: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

Actual Selection: T Garett Bolles, Utah

Cook was actually picked #41

To say Garett Bolles hasn’t lived up to his draft slot is putting it mildly. The Broncos have taken and missed shots on multiple different running backs the past few years. It wasn’t until they hit on Phillip Lindsay after the 2018 draft ended that they found a consistent contributor. In Dalvin Cook, Denver gets a dynamic ball carrier who has dealt with some injuries and may be best served leading a committee to stay fresh. His Rushing Total Points/1,000 rates through his first two injury-shortened seasons were each top-3 in the NFL. -John

#21 – Detroit Lions: LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

Actual Selection: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida

Cunningham was actually picked #57

I liked Zach Cunningham coming into the 2017 Draft and thought that’s who the Lions should’ve taken instead of Jarrad Davis. In this re-draft, the Lions make it happen. Cunningham is an athletic sideline-to-sideline presence that can play all three downs against both the run and pass game. He’s racked up over 330 tackles so far in his career, with at least 100 tackles each of the last two seasons, including 143 in 2019. He also led linebackers and ranked 3rd among all defensive players in Run Defense Points Saved last season.

#22 – Miami Dolphins: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Actual Selection: DE Charles Harris, Missouri

Hooker was actually picked #15

Original No. 22 overall pick Charles Harris has amassed 3.5 sacks so far in his career. Malik Hooker goes a few spots after his initial draft slot, but after a slowed start due to injury, he’s made an impact each season of his career. As he was projected to, Hooker roams the deep middle of Indianapolis’ defense and has come up with multiple interceptions as an over-the-top defender every year. He would have fit nicely behind Reshad Jones, Xavien Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick, if only for a short time. -John

#23 – New York Giants: WR Mike Williams, Clemson

Actual Selection: TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss

Williams was actually picked #7

The Giants have had a tough time finding playmakers on the outside. Though original pick Evan Engram has shown flashes, Mike Williams seems to be a better candidate to give the Giants what they are looking for at receiver to stretch the field now that he fell to this spot in the re-draft. After an injury-filled rookie season in which he only played 10 games and caught 11 passes, Williams has burst onto the scene in 2018 and 2019. His 2018 season included 43 catches and 10 touchdowns, while he grabbed 49 passes for over 1,000 yards in 2019. -Nathan

#24 – Oakland Raiders: S Budda Baker, Washington

Actual Selection: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State

Baker was actually picked #36

Despite knocks for his size coming out in 2017, Budda Baker has outplayed his draft position and proven to be an impact safety at multiple levels of the defense. He was named a 1st Team All-Pro performer for his work on special teams his rookie season, and has worn numerous hats throughout his career.

Over the past two seasons, he has taken 48% of his snaps from a slot corner position, 35% from a safety alignment, and 15% in the box. He finished 4th in the NFL in total tackles in 2019, the only non-linebacker in the top 10. Not bad for a sub 5’10” DB. -John

#25 – Cleveland Browns: DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Actual Selection: S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

McKinley was actually picked #26

In this re-draft, Takk McKinley goes one spot ahead of where he was originally drafted. He’s been a solid player for the Falcons, proving to be a specialist rushing the passer. He played all 16 games his rookie season, and while he didn’t start any, he’s progressed into a starting role having started 13 of 14 games played in 2019. He followed up seasons of 6 and 7 sacks, with a 3.5 sack campaign in 2019, but was a top 25 player in pressure rate among all defensive linemen. -Nathan

#26 – Atlanta Falcons: CB Shaquill Griffin, UCF

Actual Selection: DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Griffin was actually picked #90

McKinley has been a decent player for the Falcons, but he goes just ahead of this spot in our re-draft. Shaquill Griffin has fit in perfectly in the Seahawks’ Cover 3 scheme as their left cornerback. Seattle initially traded out of this spot for the Falcons to move up and take McKinley, so if they had the chance again, they may have stayed put and just taken Griffin here themselves. The Falcons have had multiple injuries to their secondary in recent years, though, and he could help with Atlanta’s recent loss of Desmond Trufant. Griffin’s 13 passes defensed in 2019 were good for 4th in the NFL. -John

#27 – Buffalo Bills: LB Haason Reddick, Temple

Actual Selection: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU

Reddick was actually picked #13

While Hasson Reddick hasn’t played up to his original draft position, having been selected 13th overall, he’s been a decent contributor for the Cardinals. At  No. 27, the Bills, who have desperately been looking for off-ball linebacker help, take Reddick to fill that void. Reddick has played in all 48 games for the Cardinals, and after his rookie season in which he had to make the switch from edge rusher, which he played in college, to off-ball linebacker, he’s amassed over 150 tackles the past two seasons and now seems to be more comfortable in his role. -Nathan

#28 – Dallas Cowboys: WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington

Actual Selection: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan

Kupp was actually picked #69

Dallas has been searching for more weapons for Dak Prescott since he took over the position, and Cooper Kupp would have been a great fit at this spot. The 2017 draft was nearing the tail end of Dez Bryant’s tenure and a year before the team traded a first round pick for Amari Cooper. 

Somewhat understatedly, Kupp has proven to be at the very least an elite No. 2 option in the NFL. But in his return from a late season torn ACL, his 2019 catches, yards and touchdowns were all higher than his Rams teammate Robert Woods, and Amari Cooper only bested him in yards by 28, maybe suggesting he’d be more of the 1A to their 1Bs. A “Cooper-Kupp” pairing would make for a top tier receiving tandem. -John

#29 – Cleveland Browns: RB Aaron Jones, UTEP

Actual Selection: TE David Njoku, Miami FL

Jones was actually picked #182

The Browns were looking for playmakers at every position in 2017. With the last of their three picks in the first round, they turn to UTEP RB Aaron Jones. Jones has clearly outplayed his draft position and it’s easy to see why. After putting up a pedestrian 448 yards and 4 touchdowns on 81 carries as a depth player his rookie season, he’s since seen his playing time and numbers increase and vault him into the clear-cut starter. 

In 2018, he rushed for 728 yards and 8 touchdowns before totaling over 1,000 yards and tied for a league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns this past season. He also added 49 receptions for nearly 500 yards through the air. In 2019, Jones ranked 4th in Total Points among RBs and was a top 10 performer in Positive Play rate as a rusher among backs with at least 150 carries. -Nathan

#30 – Pittsburgh Steelers: QB/ATH Taysom Hill, BYU

Actual Selection: LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Hill was undrafted

The Steelers took a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in this spot in 2017, but Watt is long gone in this exercise. So too is Juju Smith-Schuster. Pittsburgh was coming off a Conference Championship loss, and the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were thriving. However, their work loads were astronomical, and an injury to any of the three would have been detrimental. Why not add the most versatile offensive threat in the game today? 

The Steelers would use Bell in some Wildcat packages, which Taysom Hill could fulfill at the very least. He could spell Big Ben at quarterback on occasion, and potentially provide a long term replacement option like he may have for Drew Brees, a similarly aging QB. And he had 6 receiving touchdowns in 2019 as a surprisingly proficient downfield weapon for New Orleans.

In his career, Hill has played 22% of his snaps at QB, 36% as a TE, and 33% at WR, while also logging over 800 special teams reps. Mike Tomlin would find a way to get him on the field, just as Sean Payton has. -John

#31 – San Francisco 49ers: CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC

Actual Selection: LB Rueben Foster, Alabama

Jackson was actually picked #18

Adoree’ Jackson has definitely not lived up to his original draft destination at No. 18, but the back end of the first round at No. 31 makes it a little easier to swallow. Obviously he’s an incredible athlete, but he’s struggled transitioning from the college ranks to the pro-level.

However, there is a bright side. After being targeted 100 or more times his first two years in the league with solid success, he was only targeted 41 times in 2019. Additionally, his QBR Against has dropped each season from 91.1 in 2017 to 79.1 in 2019. He’s also a dynamic return man, having piled up over 1,000 yards in his career as a punt and kick returner. -Nathan

#32 – New Orleans Saints: RB Austin Ekeler, Western State

Actual Selection: T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Ekeler was actually undrafted

With Alvin Kamara gone, the Saints would be looking for a player to fill a similar role in their offense. Austin Ekeler put up All-Pro-type numbers in 2019, as he compiled 92 receptions for almost 1000 yards (nearly all of which were after the catch) and 8 receiving touchdowns, on top of having the 3rd highest Broken Tackle% among RBs with at least 50 carries. With numerous other notable running backs still on this re-draft board (Mixon, Fournette, Hunt, Conner, and Breida to name a few), the undrafted Ekeler may be growing into the best of that group and would be a perfect fit in the Saints’ Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles/Alvin Kamara role. -John

But what about …

The original selections at picks 2 through 5 fall out of the first round in this re-draft, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Mitchell Trubisky has been incredibly unstable at the Quarterback position for the Bears, and while he likely goes in the 2nd round to a quarterback-needy team in a redo, his 48-29 TD-INT ratio and 3.9% turnover-worthy throw rate are a cause for concern. 

Solomon Thomas has yet to find his rhythm with only 6 career sacks. Although Fournette ran wild in the 2017 playoffs and had a decent 2019 with over 1,150 yards, he’s been injury prone and has barely averaged 4 yards per carry. 

Finally, Corey Davis has been inconsistent for the Titans and while much of that blame can be placed on new Las Vegas Raiders Quarterback Marcus Mariota for most of his career, he still needs to show more to prove he’s a first-round worthy receiver.

Three years is about the general timeline in which you can begin to see if your draft picks will work out or are busts. While half of the original first rounders fell out of the first round in this re-draft, we see many players that were selected outside of Day 1 that have proven to be valuable commodities for their respective teams. 

As we approach the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s a given that a handful of first round picks won’t live up to their draft position, while other late-round selections will outplay theirs. Looking back three years is a good way to see how teams have drafted: if they are hitting on those early round selections and finding some gems in the later rounds or if they are missing early and failing to find key role players late. 

The New Orleans Saints, for example, found themselves with four of the players taken in this re-draft in 2017, and the Pittsburgh Steelers originally selected two of our first five overall picks. Find the teams that consistently hit early and find gems late and you’ll likely be looking at the teams that are playing in January and February.

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