Predictions are fun, which is why mock drafts are a friggin’ ball to create. But hindsight is even cooler, which is why re-mocking old drafts is an even larger pleasure.
The 2016 NFL draft took place one year ago this weekend. Now, let’s pretend the whole thing never happened. Which players would be picked where if the NFL redid the entire thing? Time to amuse ourselves with hindsight. (The real-life pick at that selection in 2013 is in brackets.)
[A tip: Don’t get too caught up on the teams. We generally tried to give teams the players that made sense for them, but in this hypothetical, let’s assume most teams are essentially going for the best available players. Oh, and this doesn’t include draft-night trades.]
1. Los Angeles Rams: QB Dak Prescott [QB Jared Goff] — Goff took too long to earn a shot and struggled when he did, while Prescott had the best statistical rookie season for a quarterback in NFL history.
Where he was actually picked: No. 135
2. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz [Wentz] — Jury’s still out, but Wentz showed signs of becoming a franchise quarterback as a rookie. Can’t pass that up.
Where he was actually picked: No. 2
— The Fanatics View (@thefanaticsview) December 26, 2016
3. San Diego Chargers: RB Ezekiel Elliott [DE Joey Bosa] — Bosa is becoming a star, but Elliott is already the best back in the NFL.
Where he was actually picked: No. 4
4. Dallas Cowboys: DE Joey Bosa [Elliott] — They essentially trade in the draft’s best offensive player for the draft’s best defensive player. Bosa had 10.5 sacks in only 12 games as a rookie.
Where he was actually picked: No. 3
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Tyreek Hill [CB Jalen Ramsey] — Arguably the league’s fastest player, Hill scored 12 touchdowns as a receiver, rusher and return man in 2016. He’s going to terrorize defenses for years to come.
Where he was actually picked: No. 165
6. Baltimore Ravens: OT Ronnie Stanley [Stanley] — It looks as though the Ravens found their cornerstone left tackle in this spot. Stanley struggled early but was dominant late in the 2016 season.
Where he was actually picked: No. 6
7. San Francisco 49ers: OT Taylor Decker [DE DeForest Buckner] — Thought about Goff, but Decker looks like a long-term left tackle option and a future Pro Bowler after a strong rookie campaign in Detroit.
Where he was actually picked: No. 16
8. Cleveland Browns: OT Jack Conklin [Conklin, after being traded to Tennessee] — There’s your stud right tackle and your long-term replacement for Joe Thomas on the blind side.
Where he was actually picked: No. 8
— NFL Deutschland (@NFLDeutschland) March 2, 2017
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Michael Thomas [LB Leonard Floyd, after being traded to Chicago] — The Ohio State product rather quietly had a monster rookie season with a catch rate of 76.0, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. No need for DeSean Jackson with this guy.
Where he was actually picked: No. 47
10. New York Giants: RB Jordan Howard [CB Eli Apple] — While everybody was looking at Elliott in Dallas, Howard had 1,313 rushing yards and the fourth-highest yards-per-attempt average in the NFL.
Where he was actually picked: No. 150
11. Chicago Bears: DE DeForest Buckner [CB Vernon Hargreaves III, after being traded to Tampa Bay] — It wasn’t a dominant rookie season, but Buckner did still have 6.5 sacks and draw a positive grade from Pro Football Focus.
Where he was actually picked: No. 7
12. New Orleans Saints: CB Jalen Ramsey [DT Sheldon Rankins] — This would represent tremendous value for a guy with top-five talent, especially after Ramsey had a strong rookie year.
Where he was actually picked: No. 5
13. Miami Dolphins: S Keanu Neal [OT Laremy Tunsil] — The Florida product forced five fumbles in 14 regular-season starts and was a force late in the year as the Falcons went on their Super Bowl run.
Where he was actually picked: No. 17
14. Oakland Raiders: DT Kenny Clark [S Karl Joseph] — Clark showed signs of having a huge future when he came on as one of Green Bay’s best defensive players in the playoffs.
Where he was actually picked: 27th
15. Tennessee Titans: C Ryan Kelly [WR Corey Coleman, after being traded to Cleveland] — The Alabama product gave up 10 pressures during the first five weeks of his rookie season but only allowed five during the final five weeks. It looks like he’ll be a Pro Bowler very soon.
Where he was actually picked: No. 18
16. Detroit Lions: TE Hunter Henry [Decker] — Dude caught 68 percent of the passes thrown his way while scoring eight touchdowns and pushing 500 yards as an occasional starter in 2016.
Where he was actually picked: No. 35
17. Atlanta Falcons: LB Deion Jones [Neal] — The Falcons miss out on Neal and draft somebody they took with their next pick in the real world. That’s a good indication they drafted well. The rangy Jones flashed often as a key cog on a Super Bowl team.
Where he was actually picked: No. 52
18. Indianapolis Colts: C Cody Whitehair [Kelly] — Only four centers in football earned higher PFF grades than the Kansas State product, who really came on late.
Where he was actually picked: No. 56
Next on RamFam podcast ill talk about last years best drafted players Pharoah Cooper, Tyler Higbee & Jared Goff. Can Mcvay make them elite? pic.twitter.com/ROoLrRDqbz
— RamFam Podcaster (@RamfamPodcaster) April 7, 2017
19. Buffalo Bills: QB Jared Goff [DE Shaq Lawson]— It’s only been a year. A really rough year, but just a year. Take a look at Eli Manning’s rookie season.
Where he was actually picked: No. 1
20. NewYork Jets: OLB Leonard Floyd [LB Darron Lee] — Floyd didn’t live up to expectations, but still has a high ceiling after recording seven sacks and a positive PFF grade in 12 games.
Where he was actually picked: No. 9
21. Washington Redskins: DL Chris Jones (WR Will Fuller, after being traded to Houston] — Jones was a top-notch starter throughout his rookie campaign in Kansas City.
Where he was actually picked: No. 37
22. Houston Texans: CB James Bradberry [WR Josh Doctson, after being traded to Washington] — He emerged as a No. 1 corner right off the bat and should help Panthers fans forget about Josh Norman in Year 2.
Where he was actually picked: No. 62nd
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) April 21, 2017
23. Minnesota Vikings: CB Anthony Brown [WR Laquon Treadwell] — After surrendering completions on nearly 88 percent of the passes thrown his way during the first half of the regular season, the 23-year-old Purdue product cut that rate down to 50 percent during the second half, according to PFF.
Where he was actually picked: No. 189
24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Brian Poole [CB William Jackson III] — He wasn’t overly consistent in 2016 but was still relied on heavily by a Super Bowl team despite being undrafted. The Florida product also had the highest PFF grade among qualified rookie corners.
Where he was actually picked: Undrafted
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: S Karl Joseph [CB Artie Burns] — The ball-hawking West Virginia product had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but his ceiling remains high.
Where he was actually picked: 14th
26. Seattle Seahawks: DT Michael Pierce [QB Paxton Lynch, after being traded to Denver] — The Samford product was left untouched in the draft before becoming a stud run defender as part of Baltimore’s rotation as a rookie.
Where he was actually picked: Undrafted
Yannick Ngakoue is not bad. In fact, he is good. https://t.co/dLNdyS0Fbf
— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) November 20, 2016
27. Green Bay Packers: DE Yannick Ngakoue [Clark] — The Maryland product quietly had eight sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception as a rookie starter in Jacksonville.
Where he was actually picked: No. 69
28. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Jordan Jenkins [G Joshua Garnett, after being traded to San Francisco] — The Georgia product actually became a really solid starter down the stretch for the Jets.
Where he was actually picked: No. 83
29. Arizona Cardinals: DE Noah Spence [DT Robert Nkemdiche] — The Ohio State product had some really big games as a situational rusher with the Buccaneers and should be a regular starter for years to come.
Where he was actually picked: No. 39
30. Cardinals Panthers: CB Tavon Young [DT Vernon Butler] — The Tempe product had two picks and a positive PFF grade as an occasional starter in Baltimore as a rookie.
Where he was actually picked: No. 104
31. Denver Broncos: LB Su’a Cravens [OT Germain Ifedi, after being traded to Seattle] — He flashed as a versatile weapon as a rookie and is expected to do big things as a do-it-all safety in 2017.
Where he was actually picked: No. 53