It’s often said that you can only judge an NFL Draft after three years and, by my clock, we’ve reached that mark with the 2014 NFL Draft. While the 2013 draft has been maligned for its lack of star power, the 2014 amateur player selection meeting more than made up for it.
As I normally do, I only use the final pick selections. That means all trades to move up or down count, even though the guy they traded for won’t be there. Frankly, I’m probably going to give them a better pick anyway. Hindsight and all.
I’d like to think of this re-draft as more than just a do-over, fixing problems, busts and bad decisions by NFL teams. No, I want to use it as a science less, exploring multiverse aspect of string theory. In string theory, many universes exist parallel to each other. Some of these universes can be completely different than ours, exhibiting a whole new set of physics laws. Others may be just like ours, but just slightly different. In one of those other universes right now another version of me could be typing this exact same article. Except with a goatee because he’s evil.
In another universe, this re-draft could be more than a thought experiment, but the actual results of its 2014 NFL Draft. And here you just thought you’d be killing some time with a few sports articles.
On to part 1! We’re digging deep on this one. Trust me.
1. Houston Texans – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Original pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans are more than satisfied with Clowney now that he’s put his injury issues behind him, but that doesn’t change the fact that Aaron Donald is the best player taken in this entire draft. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the best player in the NFL, period. He has been a consistent disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line since he entered the league and has only gotten better. In his three seasons he’s recorded 163 tackles, 28 sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and seven passes defended. He’s about to be the highest paid defensive player in the league too.
2. St. Louis Rams – Jadeveeon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Original pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams miss out on Donald, but grab Clowney as a consolation prize. I’d have the Rams going quarterback here, but they’ve got another pick coming up at No. 13. This was a card Jeff Fisher (may he rot in Nashville) was dying to turn in back in 2014 anyway. With Robert Quinn and Chris Long both on the roster at this point, the Rams could even afford to let Clowney heal up completely before he hit the field. Robinson has been a bust and the Rams just traded him last week to the Detroit Lions for a sixth round pick.
While Clowney is an all-pro with a solid career arc trending sky high, it’s still difficult to see this as anything other than a loss for the Rams. Donald is simply the most dominant defensive lineman currently playing in the NFL. Clowney is probably still in the Top 10. Last year he was finally healthy and recorded 52 tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble and two pass defenses.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Original pick: Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Are we passing on a quarterback with the Jaguars here? We are with Mack sitting right there on the board. While there seem to be a lot of people down on Bortles, I’m not one of them. Mack is just way, way too good to not pick right here. In Mack’s three seasons he’s amassed 225 tackles, 30 sacks, three fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, six passes defensed, one interception and one defensive touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus he’s the second best player in the entire league behind Aaron Donald. So you pass up on a quarterback here, Jags, but you nab a potential Hall of Famer. Hard to see a downside.
Bortles best season was his second, but while people seem ready to throw him off the cliff, I’m not one of them. In his three years in the league he’s completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 11,241 yards, 69 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.
4. Buffalo Bills – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Original pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Bills traded their first round pick the following year to move up to No. 4 at at least in this redraft it makes sense. The Bills get the franchise quarterback they’ve been desperate for since Jim Kelly retired. While the Bills may not have realized they needed a quarterback in 2014, we know now they desperately did. And Carr is the best of the bunch by a solid margin.
Carr is one of the bright young stars in the league and a reason some people are picking the Raiders to go to the Super Bowl this year. I’m not ready to jump on that bandwagon yet. Since he was drafted Carr has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 11,194 yards, 81 touchdowns and just 31 interceptions. Watkins’ issues are all about health and being on the field. When he actually plays, he’s unquestionably and NFL No. 1 wideout. Missing 11 games over the last two seasons has hurt his long-term prospects in Buffalo. Watkins has 153 career catches for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns.
5. Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Original pick: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
While the Raiders may have held off on a quarterback in the first round, they can’t afford to in this draft. The Raiders are our second team screwed in a re-draft and they are taking it royally. They ran a masterful 2014 in real life and are only punished in this re-do. That being said, Bridgewater was on his way to becoming a quality NFL starter before he suffered a freak knee injury. The kid could still come back and is working hard to do so and for his sake I’m going to pretend that same freak injury wouldn’t happen in this alternate reality.
In this re-do, they not only lose their All-World defensive end, but they lost their quarterback too. Bridgewater was 17-11 in his first two seasons, completing 64.9 completion percentage, 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns and 21 picks.
To be continued in Part 2.
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