With the 2021 NFL Draft less than a week away I though it would be fun to look back at what could have been in last year's draft. To keep things simple I will be going with the original draft order, negating draft day trades like Tampa Bay jumping ahead of San Francisco or the Patriots trading out of the first round, but keeping other offseason trades involving first round picks like Buffalo's acquisition of Stefon Diggs that sent their first round pick to Minnesota. My rationale for each pick will be "who would the team want to have on it's roster right now?" They say hindsight is 20/20, so let's jump in to redrafting the 2020 draft.
1. Cincinnati Bengals - QB Joe Burrow, LSU
There is an argument to be made for Justin Herbert to go number one overall rather than Joe Burrow but I'm not convinced. Herbert had a better roster around him, played in an easier division, and had the luxury of not suffering a season ending knee injury in week 11. Sure, Herbert would end up with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors but that could have easily been Burrow had he not gotten injured. There's no question that Burrow is the future in Cincinnati.
2. Washington Football Team - QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The Football Team surprised everybody by making the playoffs, albeit with a losing record, thanks to their defense and in spite of their struggles at quarterback. While Chase Young is a generation edge talent Justin Herbert would have a bigger effect on the organization long-term and the Football Team's defense would have been good this year even if Young was removed from the equation. It's simple: Herbert would elevate the offense more than Young would elevate the defense.
3. Detroit Lions - EDGE Chase Young
I thought about giving the Lions Justin Jefferson here but Chase Young is just too good to pass on. While offense is certainly the name of the game in today's NFL it's still defense that wins championships and the focus on offense means edge rushers are paramount. While Detroit's pass rush wasn't terrible last season they had only three players - Romeo Okwara, Everson Griffin, and Trey Flowers - register multiple sacks and Griffin and Flowers combined for just 5.5. Young had 7.5 in his rookie season and alongside Okwara Detroit could quickly develop one of the best pass rushing duos in the league.
4. New York Giants - T Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
The Giants definitely whiffed by selecting Andrew Thomas, who ended up being arguably the worst of the tackles selected in the first round who saw the field consistently, fourth overall. They certainly won't whiff here with Tristan Wirfs who had an All-Pro type season with the Buccaneers and was Pro Football Focus' fourth best tackle among those who recorded over 1,000 snaps at the position. Pretty easy pick for the G-Men here.
5. Miami Dolphins - QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
With all the Deshaun Watson trade rumors before the 22 women accused him of sexual misconduct and all the mock drafts featuring Miami taking a quarterback at number three overall in the 2021 draft before they traded the pick to San Francisco there was a lot of Tua slander. That trade showed the Dolphins are all in on Tagovailoa but it shouldn't have even been a question in the first place considering they believe he's going to take the next step in 2021. Miami sticks with Tua here because he's their franchise quarterback.
6. Los Angeles Chargers - T Mekhai Becton
With the top three quarterbacks off the board the Chargers bolster their offensive line rather than reaching on a QB like Jalen Hurts or Jordan Love. Mekhi Becton is the next best tackle in this class following Wirfs so the Chargers grab their franchise left tackle to protect whoever their next franchise quarterback ends up being in this redraft world. Becton is a freak athlete with surprising agility for someone of his immense size and was Pro Football Focus' second highest graded rookie tackle last year.
7. Carolina Panthers - DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
I see no reason to change up the pick here: Derrick Brown was a solid addition to a Panthers defense that needed a lot of help and the Auburn product started 15 games his rookie season. Sure, he had a rough start to the season but Brown ended up finishing the second half of the year strong and his eight tackles for loss were the third most on the team. He even ended up finishing the year with four passes defended which is pretty good for a defensive tackle.
8. Arizona Cardinals - S/LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
I thought about giving the Cardinals a tackle here considering their two best tackles after DJ Humphries are both on the wrong side of 30 but Arizona's o-line was surprisingly decent last season - ranked 5th in pass blocking by Pro Football Focus - so they stick with Isaiah Simmons. Although he had an underwhelming start to his pro career some of that can be attributed to the Cards not finding a proper role for him in their defense. The talent is still there, the team just needs to create a away to optimize it.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
The Jaguars should go best player available here and that is the most productive rookie wide receiver in NFL history Justin Jefferson. Receiver isn't too high on Jacksonville's list of needs but Jefferson is just too good to pass on. Jacksonville would potentially have the best young wide receiver duo in the league with Jefferson and DJ Chark and alongside James Robinson and, presumably, Trevor Lawrence they could have the makings of the NFL's next great offense.
10. Cleveland Browns - T Jedrick Wills Jr, Alabama
The Browns had one of the best offensive lines in football last season, the best according to Pro Football Focus, so I see no reason to change up the pick. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Wills started in 15 games his rookie season and while he wasn't incredible he did a solid job, especially in pass protection. Cleveland sticks with taking their franchise left tackle to protect Baker Mayfield.
11. New York Jets - WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
With four of the best offensive lineman in the class off the board I have New York opting to select CeeDee Lamb, the best receiver of the original big three - Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, and Jerry Jeudy - in this draft class. Despite playing behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup and catching passes from backups for most of the year, Lamb caught 74 passes for 935 receiving yards and five touchdowns and even was a factor in the running game, totaling 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts. The Jets desperately need help on offense and Lamb is a great young talent that could have quickly become their WR1.
12. Las Vegas Raiders - OL Michael Onwenu, Michigan
With this being a fairly deep receiver class I have Las Vegas grabbing MIchal Onwenu here rather than a wide out considering how much Las Vegas decimated their offensive line this offseason. Selected in the sixth round with pick 182 by the New England Patriots, Onwenu was arguably the steal of the 2020 draft and performed great at three different positions on the o-line: right tackle and right and left guard. He ended the season ranked as the 15th best offensive lineman in the league by Pro Football Focus and his versatility is extremely valuable.
13. San Francisco 49ers - CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
With the pick they got from the Indianapolis Colts by trading away DeForest Buckner, San Francisco drafts a cornerback rather than his replacement. Like all rookie corners Jaylon Johnson struggled in his first season as a pro but he was arguably the best, giving up only 588 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games. While he didn't record an interception Johnson did have 15 passes defensed which was the most of any rookie corner. He'd certainly be a welcome addition to a Niners defense that is weak in the secondary.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - T Andrew Thomas, Georgia
In the actual draft the Bucaneers made a great pick selecting Tristan Wirfs 13th overall after trading up a sport to grab him but in this redraft world he isn't available so they go with the next best tackle option in Andrew Thomas. While Thomas did struggle in his rookie season he did show improvement down the stretch that was promising. Also keep in mind he was protecting a quarterback with limited pocket presence who would hold on to the ball way too long in Daniel Jones, two issues Tom Brady certainly doesn't have. Maybe Thomas has a much better season with the Bucs considering Brady's superior pocket presence and quick release.
15. Denver Broncos - WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
The Broncos still select a receiver here and they go with Brandon Aiyuk rather than Jerry Jeudy. Aiyuk put up numbers comparable to Jeudy's despite playing in less games - Aiyuk had 748 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 12 games while Jeudy had 856 yards receiving and three touchdowns in 16 games - and the former Sun Devil is always dangerous with the ball in his hands, as evidenced by a spectacular 38 yard touchdown reception that ended with Aiyuk leaping over a defender into the endzone. Additionally, Aiyuk is arguably a more valuable offensive weapon considering he can be involved in the running game.
16. Atlanta Falcons - CB L'Jarious Sneed, Louisiana Tech
The Falcons probably have the worst secondary in the league so they still draft a corner but not AJ Terrell. Drafted in the fourth round L'Jarius Sneed is another candidate for the biggest draft steal in 2020 and his a his on field production justifies his selection here. In the nine games Sneed played in he snagged three interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of 54.2. He could instantly become the team's best cornerback.
17. Dallas Cowboys - S/OLB Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
As anyone who watched football last year will tell you, Dallas' defense was horrible. As Pro Football Focus will tell you, the Cowboys had the 28th ranked defense last season. That considered, and with CeeDee Lamb off the board, Dallas opts to take arguably the best defensive player in this class after Chase Young in Jeremy Chinn. Chinn's versatility would be much appreciated on a defense needing an infusion of talent and he'd immediately be one of their best players.
18. Miami Dolphins - WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Miami originally took Austin Jackson here and while he performed last season there are way better players still available in this redraft. I considered giving the Dolphins a corner here but a receiver like Chase Claypool or Tee Higgins was more appealing. I ended up giving them Higgins because last season he totaled the third most receiving yards of all rookie receivers and led the Bengals in both receiving yards and touchdowns. I consider Higgins to be more of a reliable number one target than Claypool, who benefitted from defenses paying more attention to Juju Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson on occasion.
19. Las Vegas Raiders - WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
In opposite fashion to what Las Vegas did in real life they take a corner with their first pick and now a receiver with their second. Chase Claypool has a playmaking ability that no other Raiders wide out has and was a great deep threat in Pittsburgh's offense despite lacking the homerun speed of someone like Henry Ruggs III. He's almost exactly what Vegas needs at the position.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars - S Antoine Winfield Jr, Minnesota
I struggled with who to give the Jaguars here and while I considered cornerbacks like CJ Henderson, Cameron Dantzler, and Jeff Okudah I ended up giving them Antoine Winfield Jr because he could make the biggest impact on their defense and, so far, is a better NFL player than the corners I just named. The addition of Shaquill Griffin in free agency makes corner less of a need for Jacksonville so they improve their secondary further with Winfield.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
The Jalen Reagor pick didn't really pan out too well for Philadelphia so they go with the receiver who was seen as the most pro ready coming out of college in Jerry Jeudy. While he had a fairly underwhelming rookie season considering the hype Jeudy is still a special talent at receiver and is able to create separation with some creative routes, giving Jalen Hurts an open target. Jeudy's 856 receiving yards in 2020 were over 300 more than Philadelphia's leading receiver Travis Fulgham.
22. Minnesota Vikings - WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Darnell Mooney is also an option here but I'm giving Minnesota Henry Ruggs III purely because you can't teach speed. Ruggs obviously won't have anywhere near the production as Justin Jefferson but even if he isn't catching passes his speed is quite valuable and canhelp the offense. Defenses have to respect Ruggs' speed - he ran a 4.27 40 yard dash at the combine - so he can draw defenders out of the box which opens up the field for Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr on underneath routes.
23. New England Patriots - S Kamren Curl, Arkansas
New England traded out of this pick on draft night but due to the rules I've established, and hopefully have consistently followed, they'll be taking the pick here. Their first selection ended up being Kyle Dugger and I have them sticking with a safety and selecting Kamren Curl here. Selected in the seventh round, Curl is another candidate for 2020's biggest draft steal and was Pro Football Focus' highest rated rookie safety. With Patrick Chung retiring and Devin McCourty not getting any younger at 33 years of age the Patriots get their safety of the future in Curl.
24. New Orleans Saints - CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
I thought about giving the Saints Jalen Hurts here but the Saints seem committed to Taysom Hill, signing him to a 4 year deal this offseason, and Jameis Winston was brought back as well. Instead, New Orleans crabs a corner here because that's currently their biggest position of need by a mile. Of all the corners still on the board, Cam Dantzler had the best rookie season and even was the best corner on the Vikings according to Pro Football Focus.
25. Minnesota Vikings - CB CJ Henderson, Florida
With Jeff Gladney facing domestic violence charges and Cameron Dantzler already taken in this redraft the Vikings need to draft a corner because aside from Patrick Peterson, who they brought in as a free agent, they don't have much else at the position. Although CJ Henderson struggled his rookie season he's arguably the best corner on the board and left a positive impression on then Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Walsh.
26. Miami Dolphins - RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
The Dolphins really missed with their two first round selections after Tua Tagovailoa- Austin Jackson at 18 and Noah Igbinoghene at 30 - but they certainly don't miss here, selecting Jonathan Taylor to be the franchise back Miami hasn't had since trading Kenyon Drake to the Cardinals in 2019. Despite not getting the starting position until late in the season Taylor totaled the third most rushing yards in the league, third most rushing first downs, and Pro Football Focus identifies that from week 11 to the end of the season he had the third most missed tackles forced behind Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb.
27. Seattle Seahawks - G Kevin Dotson, Louisiana
Russell Wilson made some comments about getting hit too much that sparked trade rumors this offseason, so the Seahawks heed his words in this redraft and grab an offensive lineman. Kevin Dotson was dominant as a pass blocker for the Steelers, allowing zero sacks, zero hits, and just one pressure, and earned one of the best pass blocking grades of all offensive lineman league-wide from Pro Football Focus. Wilson should be getting hit way less when he drops back to pass with Dotson on the line.
28. Baltimore Ravens - EDGE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
With Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue gone Baltimore has really nothing on the edge outside of 34 year old Calais Campbell which makes it a bigger need than receiver. Alex Highsmith isn't a name a casual football fan would recognize but he was one of the better rookie pass rushers last season, totaling two sacks, four QB hits, and 15 hurries. He was also Pro Football Focus' third highest ranked rookie edge defender and made their 2020 All-Rookie Team.
29. Tennessee Titans - CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
A lot like the Ravens the Titans have a big need at receiver but two departures in free agency at a defensive position make it a bigger need. With Malcom Butler and Adoree' Jackson no longer Titans, Tennessee takes Jeff Okudah here and hopes his rookie season isn't indicative of his future as a pro. Despite said underwhelming rookie season, Okudah still has great size at 6' 1" and still has potential to be one of the league's better man corners.
30. Green Bay Packers - DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Green Bay has struggled to stop the run consistently over the past few seasons and don't have any quality player on the d-line outside of Kenny Clark so they take Javon Kinlaw who can help stuff the run while also offering some pass rush. Raekwon Davis wouldn't be a bad pick here either but I gave Green Bay Kinlaw because according to Pro Football Focus he had a lower missed tackle rate than Davis and totaled more passes defended, sacks, QB hits, and hurries.
31. San Francisco 49ers - WR Darnell Mooney, Tulane
Darnell Mooney was one of the few bright spots of a terrible Bears offense last season, totaling the second most receiving yards on the team, and needing a receiver the Niners settle for Mooney. In comparison to the rest of the 2020 rookie receiver class Mooney totaled the seventh most yards, sixth most touchdowns, sixth most yards after catch, and fifth most yards after catch per reception amongst rookies with 80 or more targets. It's pretty simple - San Francisco needs a wide out and Mooney is the best one available at this spot in the redraft.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
We close out this redraft with a very familiar pick. The Chiefs took Clyde Edwards-Helaire last April and they stick with him here, as his skills as a runner and a receiver fit perfectly in Kansas City's offense. Edwards-Helaire was the best running back on the Chiefs last season by and mile and considering his production - over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and five touchdown in 13 games - there is little reason to think there's a better pick here.