Since it’s that time of the year you know you’re all going to “regift” those tacky items you got from co-workers and casual acquaintances, it seemed the fitting time for a “re-draft” of the NFL’s top picks in 2016. Quarterbacks were the primary focus of the ‘16 Draft, but what has transpired between last April and now in late December would certainly have NFL coaches and GMs reconsidering which signal callers to choose.
These are picks with the “20/20 is hindsight” perspective of who these NFL teams could have chosen to perhaps have had a more successful season--or at least the promise of a brighter future. Looking back after one year, it seems the Cowboys were the big winners of the 2016 draft, as they managed to take not one, but two elite rookies in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who look like they will be the foundation of the Cowboys for years to come.
Compiling a re-drafting list such as this is a combination of considering the rookies who are rating out as having the best seasons thus far, as well as the needs of the teams as the season has unfolded. Some of the choices may be provocative, but as this is a “re-draft”, there is no need to be timid!
31 LOS ANGELES RAMS - DAK PRESCOTT
Original Pick: Jared Goff
Stan Kroenke is dying to make a splash in Tinsel Town and needs a QB that would have provided some of that Hollywood glitter and glam.. Rayne Dakota “Dak” Prescott, a now-hard-to-believe 4th round pick, would provide L.A. with that flash-and-dash, changing them from Lambs to Rams. Dak would not have slipped so low had it not been for his DUI last March. It’s hard to overestimate what Prescott has meant to the Cowboys, perhaps the most successful rookie QB since the emergence of Ben Roethlisberger, who went 13-0 as a starter for the Steelers in 2004.
Prescott’s poise in press-packed games, like the win over the aforementioned Steelers, has lead them to the top of the NFC and dreaming of the franchise’s sixth Lombardi trophy.
30 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - CARSON WENTZ
Original Pick: Carson Wentz
Although the season went south on Philly in a hurry, along with Wentz’ stock, he does appear to be a long-term solution at the most important position in all of team sports. Wentz has demonstrated mobility and toughness that justify comparisons to Big Ben and if things work out, he could still be the main man behind center for the Eagles until 2030.
He’s provided stability, being the first signal-caller to start at least 14 games for the Iggles since the great Donovan McNabb. And just when everyone was souring on the kid, Wentz was impressive in the Week 16 victory over the playoff-contending Giants. After a full year in coach Doug Pederson's system, Wentz should be able to come back even stronger in 2017.
29 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS- JOEY BOSA
Original Pick: Bosa
“Joey Badass” was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October and the top-rated defensive rookie and fourth rated rookie overall by Pro Football Focus. The Browns’ eventual Hall of Famer OT Joe Thomas praised Bosa as the most polished rookie pass rusher he’s ever seen, per CBS Sports. And he hasn’t slowed down under the weight of a full NFL season, unlike some rookies who enjoy early-season success--Bosa’s had a sack in every game in December. His ability to stop the run and generate an effective quarterback rush, so critical in today’s pass-happy NFL, means Bosa could be a dominant--and potential defensive player of the year candidate--for years to come.
The Chargers still have a long way to go in becoming contenders, but Bosa provides a great anchor on the defensive side of the ball to build around.
28 DALLAS COWBOYS - EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
Original Pick: Ezekiel Elliott
America’s Team is standing pat with their pick of 'Zeke, a franchise running back who has ignited the Cowboys to the best record in the NFL and has shredded the run defenses of some upper-tier opponents like the Steelers. Elliott’s instant impact may have many an NFL GM rethinking the more recent philosophy of passing on running backs in the first round. Of course, not many rookie runners have the poise of Elliott, averaging an eye-popping 5.0 yards a carry. And he can catch the ball too, with 31 receptions, an area of play in which he will likely excel further.
Elliott is not only a candidate for the NFL's rookie of the year, but he has also gotten some recognition as a deserving MVP candidate. That is almost unheard of for rookie running backs.
27 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - JACK CONKLIN
Original Pick: Jalen Ramsey, CB
What happened to Blake Bortles and the jaunty Jags that were supposed to compete in the AFC South? When one of your three W’s is versus the lowly Bears, you know your season is shot. Shoring up the O-line is a huge priority for the Jags, and Conklin has been the league’s best rookie offensive lineman, part of a Titans unit that has allowed the fewest quarterback sacks in the league and barely any quarterback hits. Bortles would benefit from increased protection.
Conklin, who left Michigan State after his junior year, has been named as a Pro Bowl alternate and has that potential “Canton” mystique about him already. The Jags offense was a complete mess this year and drafting a solid offensive lineman is never a bad pick.
26 BALTIMORE RAVENS - JALEN RAMSEY
Original Pick: Ronnie Stanley
Ramsey’s prowess against both the pass and as a run-stopper would serve the Ravens well, facing the Steelers two--and sometime three times a year--and having to go up against venerable superstars wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Both those studs burned Ravens big-time during the instant classic Christmas game that saw the Steelers capture the AFC North. While Ramsey hasn’t been padding the stat charts for the Jaguars, his solid steady play exceeds the typical rookie output. Ramsey has his controversial side, openly criticizing referees, but that speaks more to his passion. As Deadspin noted, Ramsey has made plays all over the field, providing both tight coverage on routes and making the necessary plays despite being repeatedly challenged as a rookie.
25 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - JARED GOFF
Original Pick: DeForest Buckner
Despite the mess that is the L.A. Rams, the jury is still most definitely out on Mr. Goff, and the 49ers need a potential franchise QB. Goff’s Bay Area ties--having starred at Cal--make him a strong marketing selection for a team that is seeing chunks of their fanbase switching loyalties to the halfway-to-Vegas Raiders. Goff has shown inner strength despite all the expectations and the frustrations of not getting to start, not to mention the ongoing Jeff Fisher debacle. Yes, one of SF’s two wins actually came against Goff in his less-than-impressive Week 16 start versus the 49ers on Christmas Eve with one TD, two picks and only 90 yards, yet Goff still has enough promise that a team destined to be 2-13 at this point can’t afford the luxury of passing on him.
24 TENNESSEE TITANS - MICHAEL THOMAS
Original Pick: Jack Conklin
With Conklin already chosen in this re-draft, the Titans look elsewhere. They have made tremendous strides under the unfortunately injured QB Marcus Mariota, but he still could use weapons to make him that him much more effective. Thomas, the best rookie receiver in the league--and quite possibly the Saints’ best rookie wideout in franchise history--would do that with his ability to run after the catch. The Titans blew any shot they had at winning the AFC South with their Christmas Eve stinker against lowly Jacksonville, and to ultimately compete with teams like the Raiders and Patriots, they’re going to have to put the ball in the endzone.
Their leading receiver in their disappointing loss to the Jags was rookie Tajae Sharpe (see below), who drops in our re-draft. Thomas, with 8 touchdowns already, would considerably upgrade the Titans' receiving corps.
23 CHICAGO BEARS - CODY KESSLER
Original Pick: Leonard Floyd
This might be the most surprising pick of this 2016 re-draft. However, Kessler’s emergence as a starter for the hapless Cleveland Browns could make him an ideal selection to succeed Jay Cutler, who clearly is not going to be a long-term solution for the Monsters of the Midway. Playing for the winless Browns, Kessler has still managed to compile a 92.6 passer rating against opponents like Dallas and Baltimore.
Yes, Floyd’s been a stud, but if the Bears want to go in an aggressive direction, they need a new quarterback and Kessler’s precision--a 65.6 completion percentage--would be welcome at Soldier Field. We'll have to see whether Kessler will be a starter in 2017, as the Browns will likely be taking a quarterback in the 2017 draft.
22 NEW YORK GIANTS - LAREMY TUNSIL
Original Pick: Eli Apple
If the NFL got over its paranoia over pot, Tunsil would probably be a “higher” first-round pick than even this repositioning in our NFL re-draft has him being chosen. Tunsil’s draft stock out of Ole Miss plummeted after an online video was leaked revealing him smoking weed through a gas mask. Tunsil dropped to no.13--and a grateful Dolphins team last April. But in our reimagined first round, the New York Giants and their at-times abysmal and oft-injured offensive line receive a much-needed boost of talent and stability with the addition of the 6-foot-5, 315 pound Tunsil, who is incredibly agile despite his massive frame.
Tunsil's emergence has helped Tannehill improve as a starting quarterback and has played a part in Jay Ajayi being the Dolphins' breakout star of the year.
21 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - TYREEK HILL
Original Pick: Vernon Hargreaves
Hargreaves has been solid for the resurgent Bucs, who are still holding slim odds to make the playoffs, but Jameis Winston needs more targets--and he needs dangerous ones, at that.
Enter Hill, the seemingly undersized receiver at 5-foot-10 not selected until the 5th round (165th overall selection) by the Chiefs. No way does Hill last anywhere near that pick in our re-draft. Hill defies the odds and skeptics and just keeps making plays, with 56 catches and six touchdowns for the Chiefs. Hill was targeted less by Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith the last two weeks, with Smith preferring more veteran receivers, but it seems likely Winston would have relied on Hill’s skills to bolster an offense that came up short in the Christmas Eve shoot-out with the Saints.
20 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - CHRIS JONES
Original Pick: Sheldon Rankins
Rankins still has his potential to shine, but Jones was the number three rated interior defender in terms of pass-rushing productivity according to Pro Football Focus and the Saints would have benefitted from an impact defensive player that might have made a difference in some of the shootouts they lost such as versus the Raiders early in the season. Jones was particularly impressive against the Silver and Black when he went up against them with the Chiefs on a recent Thursday Night game when he notched 5 tackles. Jones is one reason the Chiefs will be tough to beat in the playoffs, especially if they get home games.
The Saints' defense has been a weakness for so long and it's high time they make a serious effort in building it to complement their explosive offense.
19 MIAMI DOLPHINS - JOE THUNEY
Original Pick: Laremy Tunsil
With Tunsil gone in this redraft scenario, the Dolphins still need a stalwart guard and they’ve got him in Thuney, the third round pick of the always draft-savvy Patriots. The Dolphins season was nearly lost when Ryan Tannehill went down for the remainder of the regular season and maybe Thuney would have prevented that the way he’s protected Tom Brady. Additionally, the Dolphins would be denying Thuney to the Patriots, weakening their chief rival. Instead it’s another Patriots coup, as Thuney’s smarts and ability to pass block could see him starting for years.
In any event, the Dolphins still did well for themselves in the 2016 draft. With the team set to play their first playoff game in seven years, you can't argue with the direction the Dolphins went.
18 OAKLAND RAIDERS - KEANU NEAL
Original Pick: Karl Joseph
Neal has had a much bigger impact season, with more consistent play, and key tackles and hard hits that have left players like the Eagles’ Jordan Matthews reeling and cost Neal over 24-grand of his rookie contract. Despite being in on 100 tackles, Neal hasn’t lit up the stat sheet but “The Matrix”, as his nickname is even listed in Pro Football Reference, has made a number of bone-jarring hits that make receivers think twice about crossing his path. This is a tougher Falcons team than in recent years and it looks like it’ll pay off with an NFC South title and Neal has certainly contributed to that.
While the also hard-hitting Karl Joseph has been solid for the Raiders, the breakout team in the AFC this season, he’s had injuries and Neal would provide more stability and talent when the Silver & Black go up against the likes of Big Ben and Tom Brady.
17 CLEVELAND BROWNS - JORDAN HOWARD
Original Pick: Corey Coleman
The Browns finally got their first win in yet another hopeless season by Lake Erie. But Cleveland could have had a few more wins this season, and one of the best dynamic playmakers still on the board could’ve made that critical play that could have made a difference in some of the close games they lost. Howard could be that difference-maker, considering his success for the terrible Bears.
Led by the Browns’ perennial Pro Bowl OT Joe Thomas, there could be holes carved for Howard perhaps even bigger than those carved by the Bears. Howard, with almost 1,200 yards and six TDs for a garbage Bears team, has averaged 5.1 yards a carry--exactly the same as another rookie running back in Dallas who gets considerably more hype.
16 DETROIT LIONS - YANNICK NGAKOUE
Original Pick: Taylor Decker
The Lions have more than proven their mettle in close contests but if they have deep postseason aspirations they need a sterner defense and Ngakoue can provide that with his ability to rush the passer, as this third-rounder has amassed 7 sacks for the woeful Jags to this point. Ngakoue’s four forced fumbles also points to make big plays, as turnovers often prove the difference in evenly matched playoff games.
There's no doubt that the Lions are in the process making adjustments to improve their rush D, but if they had drafted a player like Ngakoue that might not be such a concern. The Lions have a tough placement in the NFC, as they will be competing against the likes of Aaron Rodgers for years to come.
15 ATLANTA FALCONS - DEION JONES
Original Pick: Keanu Neal
This is a case of a team moving one of their picks up a round or more; Jones was a second-round selection by the Dirty Birds, but he’s been so solid, they have to take him first in this re-draft. Jones has defied the scouts who claimed he was too small to make an impact. You want game-changing big plays from your outside backers? How about Jones’ three INTs for 165 yards and 2 TDs!
This is not to belittle the contribution Neal has made to the Falcons, but he’s already been chosen in this re-draft (see above). These sturdier brand of Falcons have soared to the top of the NFC South and Jones has been one of the top rookie linebackers. There's no doubt Jones is worthy of a mid-round selection.
14 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - JATAVIS BROWN
Original Pick: Ryan Kelly
The Colts’ inadequate defense has repeatedly let them down in 2016 and a player like Brown would make a difference. Everyone knows about Joey Bosa, but Brown has been one of the true steals of the draft for the Chargers. As noted by Ohio.com, Brown is a serious student of the game and avidly studies film to give him an edge, a great sign for a rookie. Brown had 10 tackles in the October 30 showdown with division foe Denver, an indication he can rise to the occasion for big games. Brown would certainly be more vital to the 2016 Colts than a center.
You have to wonder how much longer Ryan Grigson can last as GM in Indianapolis, as it's become clearer and clearer that he can't build a proper roster around Andrew Luck.
13 BUFFALO BILLS - STERLING SHEPARD
Original Pick: Shaq Lawson
Lawson’s no bust, but spending the first six weeks of the season on the PUP list is not a productive start to one’s career. The Bills have become a moribund franchise, with the NFL’s longest playoff drought (since 1999) extended for another year, that demands a change in philosophy. After all, the Bills success in the 1990s came from their high-octane offense. And if Buffalo wants to get back to being an offensively dominant team, the Bills can use all the field-stretching talent that’s available. Shepard’s had a stellar rookie season with 62 catches, an average of over 10 yards a reception as well as eight touchdowns, and would serve as a another weapon for Tyrod Taylor.
We'll see if 2017 provides any sort of change for the Bills with Rex Ryan now out of town.
12 NEW YORK JETS - PAXTON LYNCH
Original Pick: Darron Lee
On the other U.S. coast, the Jets are in a similar situation as the Rams and the 49ers, trying to find a franchise QB to grab headlines and victories. It’s apparent that the Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick et al don’t represent much of a future with NYJ. Picking Christian Hackenberg in the second round this year was a mistake. All the 2017 mocks have the Jets selecting a QB, so why not start here with this re-draft? Lynch has been up-and-down during his stints with the Broncos but there’s surely enough potential there--with a 79.2 rating in limited action--for the J-E-T-S to take a flyer on him with their lackluster offense.
Lynch’s size, 6-foot-7, 244 pounds, and strength oozes with potential and he could be the big-time high-profile star the Jets need to compete in the AFC East--and with Eli’s publicity in the Big Apple.
11 HOUSTON TEXANS - DEFOREST BUCKNER
Original Pick: Will Fuller
They weren’t going to pick up a QB with Osweiler--despite his eventual failings, so a more defensive direction seems apt for Houston, especially in light of the devastating loss of defensive superstar J.J. Watt. Buckner has been a 6-foot-7, 290 pound beast for a really awful 49ers team, compiling 6.0 sacks and 43 tackles despite being routinely double-teamed. Yet Buckner has held his own when matched against two players, a sign he could be heading towards elite status.
On Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, Buckner exhibited his “swim move” that saw him elude a hapless offensive lineman and take down the aforementioned Jared Goff. Buckner recorded his sixth sack in the process. If the Texans are going to advance in the postseason, it’ll be defense that carries them, and Buckner would provide more than just depth, but another impact lineman.
10 WASHINGTON REDSKINS - EMMANUEL OGBAH
Original Pick: Josh Doctson
A season that seemed so promising for the Washington franchise has fallen apart in the tougher-than-expected NFC East, and no player symbolized that more than Doctson, who went down with an Achilles injury. Washington’s inconsistent and unreliable run defense leaves much to be desired and they could use a sturdy tackler like Ogbah, who has shined as a 2nd round pick (32nd overall) for the 1-14 Cleveland Browns with 27 tackles, 25 assisted and 6 sacks. Not many things have gone well in Cleveland this year, but Ogbah has been a bright spot.
Ogbah, who is getting better as the season progresses, a very good sign, is the kind of defensive chip a team can build around and Washington needs to stop the run in a division with Ezekiel Elliott.
9 MINNESOTA VIKINGS - WILL FULLER
Original Pick: Laquon Treadwell
The Vikings offense was decimated by injuries and can use all the field-stretching talent that’s available. Those kind of numbers would likely improve the play of Vikes’ hurler Sam Bradford who is no Tom Brady. Frankly Bradford needs top-notch talent around him to excel. Fuller has had issues with dropped passes and inconsistent play later in the season, which is why he drops in this re-draft, but his ability and potential--with 44 catches and 611 yards for a quarterback-challenged Texans team are impressive. As such, it’s worth it for the Vikings to take Fuller in the first, who exceeded 100 yards receiving in his very first two games.
That's not to say that Treadwell doesn't have potential, especially if the Vikings are healthier going into next season.
8 CINCINNATI BENGALS - DARRON LEE
Original Pick: William Jackson III
Another disappointing team in an NFL season full of them, the Bengals seem suddenly vulnerable with a lot of gaping holes. One such missing element is team speed on defense. To that end, the Bengals pick up one of the fastest men in the draft in Darron Lee of the NY Jets. Lee’s so quick, his coach Todd Bowles told ESPN he’s had to pull him out for plays because he’s too “hyper”. The Bengals could use some hyper instead of just hype. The only drawback to Lee was his sprained ankle, but in only 12 games he’s amassed 39 tackles and 26 assisted.
The Bengals have definitely lost a spark on defense this year and perhaps Lee's energetic nature would have given them a much needed shot in the arm.
7 PITTSBURGH STEELERS - SEAN DAVIS
Original Pick: Artie Burns
While Burns has been solid at cornerback for the Steelers, giving them depth, it’s been Davis who has made key tackles at critical junctures in games to deny first downs and scores at critical junctures in the game. Davis who was chosen in the second round by Pittsburgh, gets bumped up to the team's top spot in the draft. Davis has solidified the shakiest facet of the Steel Curtain with added coverage and not allowing plays to develop further.
The improved play of the secondary--and by extension, the entire defense--has propelled the Steelers to a five-game winning streak and another AFC North crown. Going forward, they appear to be a dangerous team in the AFC playoff picture. While Pittsburgh's secondary still needs some work, Davis is a good chip to have.
6 DENVER BRONCOS - TAJAE SHARPE
Original Pick: Paxton Lynch
It’s not just the absence of Peyton Manning; the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos need to wake up their offense that was oh-so-pitiful against the Chiefs on Christmas Night and their would-be assist in that regard is Sharpe, who has hauled in 41 passes with two scores to add some depth to the Titans’ resurgent passing attack.
His impressive 12.7 yards per catch speaks to his ability to stretch the field, which Denver lacks. Sharpe isn’t lacking for personality either--in November he was penalized for pretending to sleep in the end zone after scoring in a game against the Packers. Sharpe emerged for the Titans in training camp and he's one of the team's most promising players. Look for him to play a bigger role in Tennessee's offense in 2017.
5 GREEN BAY PACKERS - BLAKE MARTINEZ
Original Pick: Kenny Clark
Green Bay’s 4th round pick has excelled, so they would be wise to snatch him up in the first round of this re-draft because there’s no way Martinez lasts this long now. Despite being All Pac-12 in is senior season at Stanford, Martinez was obviously undervalued by NFL teams--even the Packers for three rounds--with his combination of speed, power and aggression. The well-schooled Martinez has started nine games for the playoff-hopeful Pack, making 41 tackles with an INT.
A starting inside linebacker as a rookie for Green Bay, Martinez has been one of the few bright spots and hopes for the future on a D that has struggled mightily at times but has improved as the postseason nears. Luckily, the Packers' defense has woken up in the second half of the season and it's in part, thanks to Martinez.
4 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - CODY WHITEHAIR
Original Pick: Joshua Garnett
The 49ers are going to need a solid offensive line to protect their heavy investment in Goff in our re-draft and Whitehair’s surprising season proves that this underrated third-rounder of the Chicago Bears could do the job right now. The previously referenced running back Jordan Howard owes at least a measure of his success to Whitehair’s robust blocking for the Bears. As Bleacher Report noted, Whitehair is as versatile as they come; he was a tackle at Kansas State, projected to be a guard in the pros and now is an impact center for the Bears. Whitehair can provide pass protection, and also move defensive lineman to set up the run game.
Whoever the next QB of the Bears is, they will have a great piece in front of them.
3 ARIZONA CARDINALS - HUNTER HENRY
Original Pick Robert Nkemdiche
Perhaps the most disappointing NFL season belongs to the Arizona Cardinals, who seemed on the precipice to many of reaching their second Super Bowl. Instead, they’ve fallen off a cliff into the vast chasm of their state’s Grand Canyon. Carson Palmer’s career, which once seemed so resurgent a year ago, now inches close to its twilight. Yet providing Palmer with more weaponry would help and Henry’s ability to get open would serve the statuesque Palmer well. Playing tight end--with its multiple responsibilities of blocking and receiving--is never easy for a rookie, but Henry has proven his mettle with 32 catches and a clutch seven scores for the San Diego Chargers. Case in point: Henry didn’t play against the winless Browns--and the Bolts were the first ones to lose to Cleveland in 2016.
2 CAROLINA PANTHERS - ARTIE BURNS
Original Pick: Vernon Butler
The Panthers got arrogant about the loss of Josh Norman to Washington in picking Butler. But they learn from their mistake in this redraft and select Burns, who has taken over a starting cornerback position for the Steelers. Burns has shown poise in coverage as well as the ability to make the tackle. Another key stat--his three interceptions--critical for a Steelers team that had not made the big turnover when it counted often enough in this current rebuilding of the Steel Curtain.
Burns is young blood that Ron Rivera could develop into a potential Pro Bowl corner and make the loss of Norman more palatable. This year was a big disappointment for the defending NFC Champions and part of their downfall was not finding a successor to Norman.
1 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - TAYLOR DECKER
Original Pick: Germain Ifedi
The pick of Ifedi was questionable when the Seahawks originally made it back on Draft Day and he’s considered to be one of the duds of the first round to this point. That’s one more reason Seattle’s offensive line has been their weak link this season and threatens their Super Bowl dreams--not to mention QB Russell Wilson’s long-term health. Wilson’s been dumped by opposing defenses 40 times for an NFL worst 287 yards lost.
Decker, a starter since Opening Day, has stabilized the left side of the Detroit Lions line to protect Matthew Stafford, the captain of the Lion’s high-octane offense. Many were surprised to see Detroit look so resurgent this season after Calvin Johnson's retirement, but it's been due to Stafford having more time in the pocket.