The NFL’s 2013 season is just one game shy of being complete, but Super Bowl Sunday is still more than a week away (and no, we’re not counting the All-Star farce that is the Pro Bowl). That gives us the perfect vantage point to look back one last time at the first round of April’s draft, and consider what would change if we knew then what we know now?
A few reminders about our annual re-draft of the first round: Rookie season production always carries significant weight in this hypothetical exercise, more so than projection or potential. But it’s not everything. If there were first-rounders who underachieved this season, they might still make our re-draft, perhaps just not in the same spot they originally went.
In the span of time, plenty of the picks that were made in 2013 might prove to have been for the best. But as always, using a current version of hindsight, we tried to link up teams with players who would have been useful due to the specific circumstances of the 2013 season. We also again kept the first-round order as it unfolded on the first night of the draft, rather than adding the complicating layer of un-doing trades.
I shouldn’t have to say this by now, but don’t forget: Your results may vary …
1. Kansas City Chiefs
(Original pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan)
Re-do pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Fisher looked lost at right tackle early in the season and really didn’t start playing with much consistency and command of his position until the final weeks of the schedule. But Richardson was a disruptive and productive force from Day 1 for the Jets, and he excelled at stuffing the run, while also proving he could regularly find his way into the backfield (15.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 33 quarterback pressures). Richardson, who got my vote for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, even turned into a useful Jumbo fullback late in the year and scored a pair of goal-line situation touchdowns.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
(Original pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M)
Re-do pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Joeckel fared well when he was healthy, but he lasted just four-plus games into his rookie season before a broken ankle landed him on IR. As starved as the Jaguars were for offensive playmakers, Allen would have come in very handy. He was a godsend for the Chargers, becoming the NFL’s first 1,000-yard rookie receiver in two years and establishing new San Diego rookie records for catches (71) and yardage (1,046). Allen lasted until the third round in April, but he doesn’t even make it to the third pick in our re-draft.
3. Miami Dolphins
(Original pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon)
Re-do pick: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
In case you slept through the season, Miami’s offensive line was a disaster zone for much of the year, surrendering a franchise-worst 58 sacks and spawning the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito melodrama. Warford, a third-round pick, was simply a revelation for the Lions, going all season without surrendering a sack and providing superb run blocking. The Dolphins, of course, traded up nine spots to select Jordan, but he struggled to make much of an impact as a 4-3 defensive end (two sacks) and might be better suited back in his more comfortable 3-4 outside linebacker spot.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
(Original pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma)
Re-do pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
There was nothing shabby about the Eagles’ original pick of Lane Johnson, but Fluker looked even better at right tackle for the Chargers. Though he struggled in a four-game starting stint at left tackle, Fluker proved to be athletic in his pass-blocking and powerful in run-blocking, logging more than 1,000 snaps for a playoff-qualifying San Diego team that was fortunate to see him fall all the way to No. 11.
5. Detroit Lions
(Original pick: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU)
Re-do pick: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
There are still several coats of polish to add to Ansah’s developing game, but the Lions knew he was a raw talent when they selected him fifth overall. Ansah still led all rookie pass-rushers with eight sacks, despite playing in only 14 games. His run defense and ability to set the edge were better than expected, while his pass-rush skills showed up less consistently. On balance though, he took a solid first step in 2013 and looks like he has the potential to grow into a beast for Detroit’s defense.
6. Cleveland Browns
(Original pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU)
Re-do pick: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
Mingo had sacks in his first three games of the regular season and then just two more the rest of the year. Even if Alonso’s tackle total (159) got a bit inflated, it’s hard to deny he was a steady and productive presence in the middle of Buffalo’s defense all season long, playing every one of the Bills’ 1,176 defensive snaps. He was stellar in coverage (with four interceptions) and solid in run defense. In Cleveland, Alonso would be an upgrade over veteran middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
7. Arizona Cardinals
(Original pick: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina)
Re-do pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
The Cardinals’ sub-par offensive line got the attention in April, and it gets our attempt at re-address here as well. Cooper suffered a broken leg in preseason and didn’t even make it to September. Johnson had a very solid first season in Philadelphia and excelled in run-blocking at right tackle. He needs to improve in pass-blocking, but he got better at it as the season unfolded and used his athleticism to great advantage as the Eagles’ run game led Chip Kelly’s team to the playoffs.
8. St. Louis Rams
(Original pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia)
Re-do pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Austin was their target in April, but maybe the Rams should have traded up eight spots from No. 16 to take Patterson instead. The Vikings’ Pro Bowl-bound rookie receiver-return man was electric with the ball in his hands, leading the league in kickoff return average (32.4) and kickoff return touchdowns (two). Patterson got better as the season wore on, scoring six times in his final five games, and racking up 2,020 all-purpose yards, which ranked second only to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
9. New York Jets
(Original pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama)
Re-do pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The Jets only started getting the top-10 player they thought they drafted in Milliner in the final month of the season. But Trufant was one of the few bright spots for Atlanta throughout 2013. His 17 passes defensed were topped by only nine others, and he proved to be a reliable tackler and nimble in coverage. As replacements for Darrelle Revis go, Trufant at least would have had a shot to handle that unenviable assignment.
10. Tennessee Titans
(Original pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama)
Re-do pick: Alec Olgetree, LB, Georgia
The Titans need more difference-makers on defense, and Olgetree on whole had an impact first season in St. Louis. Rarely leaving the field, he forced a rookie-league-high six fumbles, with 12.5 tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed and an interception return for a touchdown. His tackling and coverage got sloppy at times, but he did find the football on a consistent basis and made things happen when he did.
11. San Diego Chargers
(Original pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama)
Re-do pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
With Fluker already gone to No. 4 Philadelphia, Joeckel slides into a Chargers offensive line that had a need at right tackle entering 2013. Joeckel started the first four games of the season at right tackle in Jacksonville and was playing well enough there to prompt the Jaguars to trade left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore and open up the left side for him. But just 15 snaps into his first start at left tackle, Joeckel broke his ankle and finished the season on injured reserve.
12. Oakland Raiders
(Original pick: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston)
Re-do pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders would be getting a rookie whose calling card this season was his ability to stuff the run and plug the middle of the defensive line. His three sacks and 23 quarterback pressures weren’t bad, but it was Lotulelei’s ability to clog up the running lanes that helped Carolina’s defense take a major step forward in 2013.
13. New York Jets
(Original pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri)
Re-do pick: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
With the Jets having lost out on Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei in our re-draft, it seems reasonable to give them Short, the Panthers’ second-round pick who played liked a first-rounder, right alongside Lotulelei. Playing in Carolina’s defensive line rotation, Short was nearly as good as Lotulelei against the run, and he was even more disruptive on the pass rush, pressuring the quarterback 36 times according to Pro Football Focus.
14. Carolina Panthers
(Original pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah)
Re-do pick: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Mathieu went down with a torn ACL and LCL in Week 14, otherwise he’d be even higher in our re-drafted first round. The Cardinals used their third-round pick perfectly, shifting him between slot cornerback and free safety, with great results. With Carolina just out of the money in terms of the draft’s three best defensive tackles, adding a playmaking force to its sometimes suspect secondary would be a valuable consolation prize. And can you imagine the practice-field battles between Steve Smith and Mathieu?
15. New Orleans Saints
(Original pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas)
Re-do pick: Kenny Vaccaro
A Week 16 ankle fracture kept Vaccaro out of the playoffs, but the hard-hitting rookie was one of the big reasons the Saints made the postseason. Besides giving the New Orleans defense a much-needed jolt of attitude and intensity, Vacarro, much like Mathieu, added impact no matter where he lined up. He saw playing time at slot cornerback, both safety positions and even linebacker, and his ability to deliver a blow started in training camp and never waned.
16. Buffalo Bills
(Original pick: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State)
Re-do pick: EJ Manuel
Manuel certainly didn’t make the Bills’ surprise decision to draft him in the middle of the first round look like a stroke of genius with his uneven and injury-marred rookie season. But there were highlights, and I saw enough upside to his skillset to believe Buffalo wouldn’t cut and run if given the chance. In playing only 10 games, and suffering two knee injuries, Manuel didn’t develop enough consistency to warrant full-fledged confidence. He’ll have to do better than a 58.8 completion percentage and an 11-9 touchdown-to-interception differential next season, but his arm looked NFL legit and he proved he could make some plays with his legs as well.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
(Original pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia)
Re-do pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
I know, I know. Never draft a running back in the first round ever. I got the memo. But I’m still giving the Steelers the guy I voted for as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, because it’s my re-draft and Lacy deserves some first-round love after the stellar season he turned in for Green Bay. True, Pittsburgh got somewhat comparable production from running back Le’Veon Bell, who the Steelers took in the second round, and I loved his rookie effort, too. But Lacy’s season set the pace in the NFL, and he gets the nod. Especially since Jarvis Jones was not able to nail down the starting outside linebacker job he was drafted to fill, and so few other rookie pass rushers emerged in 2013.
18. San Francisco 49ers
(Original pick: Eric Reid, S, LSU)
Re-do pick: Eric Reid, S, LSU
No need to fix what wasn’t broken. Reid showed maturity beyond his years and supplied San Francisco with a suitable replacement for departed free agent Dashon Goldson from Day 1 of this season. He played a smart style of football and made more than his share of impact plays for the 49ers. Concussion issues marred his rookie season a couple times, but he proved a reliable presence on San Francisco’s last line of defense.
19. New York Giants
(Original pick: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse)
Re-do pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
After a slow start, Pugh wound up having a very respectable year at right tackle for the Giants. But the pick of Austin is just a nod to New York’s need for playmakers and more explosive weapons at Eli Manning’s disposal. Austin showed only flashes of his big-play potential for St. Louis, but his combination of return game and receiving talent would look good in Blue.
20. Chicago Bears
(Original pick: Kyle Long, G, Oregon)
Re-do pick: Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Though some considered him to have gone too high, Long proved to be a very solid choice for the Bears and helped improve their problematic offensive line. We could easily stand pat with him to Chicago at No. 20. But Frederick, taken 31st by Dallas, was an even better find, and premium centers seem more difficult to find these days than premium guards. The Cowboys earned quite a bit of derision when Frederick’s name was called on draft night, but the joke was on everybody but Dallas.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
(Original pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame)
Re-do pick: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
Reed had an injury-shortened rookie season and was lost due to a concussion suffered in Week 11. But he emerged as one of Robert Griffin III’s favorite targets with 45 catches for 499 yards, and his blend of receiving talent and decent blocking ability was unmatched by any other rookie tight end.
22. Atlanta Falcons
(Original pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington)
Re-do pick: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
Even the Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, derided his team’s lack of toughness at season’s end, and nowhere was that more evident in Atlanta than on an offensive line that almost got quarterback Matt Ryan killed. Long plays with tenacity and grit, and he would have been a welcomed addition to the weak link of the Falcons roster.
23. Minnesota Vikings
(Original pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida)
Re-do pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Rhodes made progress with his technique and decisions in coverage as his rookie season unfolded, and the Vikings were happy with their second first-round selection. We’re just bumping him up a couple spots, keeping him with the same team and shuffling Minnesota’s order of priority a bit.
24. Indianapolis Colts
(Original pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State)
Re-do pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
For a while there, when Reggie Wayne went down in October with a season-ending knee injury, quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t have a replacement for his most experienced and well-regarded receiver. Hopkins would have helped. He had a fairly impressive rookie season in what was otherwise a disastrous year in Houston.
25. Minnesota Vikings
(Original pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State)
Re-do pick: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
Maybe the Vikings wound up landing the wrong Tampa Bay starting quarterback in 2013. Instead of the ill-fated Josh Freeman signing — money for nothing — Minnesota would have been better off with Glennon, whose 13-game showing for the Bucs was better than anyone had the right to expect from the third-round pick. Glennon struggled against better competition, but he still led Tampa Bay to four wins, throwing 19 touchdowns against just nine interceptions, with an 83.9 passer rating that led all rookie passers. He didn’t make the killer mistakes that Christian Ponder has been known for in Minnesota, and Glennon’s 59.4 completion percentage and 2,608 yards represented very respectable first-year production.
26. Green Bay Packers
(Original pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA)
Re-do pick: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
We saw how much the NFC North champion Packers wound up relying on their Eddie Lacy-led ground game this season, with Aaron Rodgers missing half the season due to his broken left collarbone. So with Lacy already gone in our re-draft, we’re giving Green Bay the league’s second-best all-around rookie running back in Bernard. He was an effective change of pace weapon for the Bengals in tandem with veteran rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and his receiving ability and open-field elusiveness made the second-round pick one of the best bargains in the 2013 draft.
27. Houston Texans
(Original pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson)
Re-do pick: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
By season’s end Williams had emerged as a reliable and oft-targeted weapon for Tony Romo in Dallas, where he was second only to Dez Bryant in terms of receiving yardage at wide receiver. The Texans wouldn’t be in position to re-select Hopkins in this scenario, but Williams’ rookie-year production (44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns) would have aided the cause downstate in Houston. Every facet of Williams’ game showed steady improvement last season, and he’s got solid No. 2 receiver potential.
28. Denver Broncos
(Original pick: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina)
Re-do pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The temptation was to give Denver an offensive tackle (Green Bay fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari?) to help offset the loss of left tackle Ryan Clady, who was lost for the season with a foot injury in September. But veteran Chris Clark stepped into that void and filled it almost seamlessly. So we went with more pass rush help given that Denver played a good chunk of the season without outside linebacker Von Miller, the Broncos’ sack leader. Mingo started the season with impact but couldn’t sustain it, though he still finished with a respectable five sacks for the Browns.
29. Minnesota Vikings
(Original pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee)
Re-do pick: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Without Patterson to steal at the bottom of the first round in our re-draft, the Vikings could do worse than going in the direction of Stills, the fifth-round pick of the Saints who emerged as a big-play threat for Drew Brees in New Orleans. Stills had 641 receiving yards on a mere 32 receptions. His 20-yard average catch was the league’s best among players with at least 32 catches this season.
30. St. Louis Rams
(Original pick: Alec Olgetree, LB, Georgia)
Re-do pick: Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut
Moore had a productive first season as a 4-3 outside linebacker in Oakland, and he wouldn’t last into the third round if the draft were re-conducted. Moore racked up 8.5 tackles for loss, with 4.5 sacks and 28 quarterback pressures. With Olgetree already gone, Moore would be a viable replacement candidate at rush linebacker.
31. Dallas Cowboys
(Original pick: Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin)
Re-do pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The right guard position proved somewhat problematic this season, with Mackenzy Bernadeau starting 11 games and Brian Waters the other five, before a triceps tear cut his year short. With Frederick unavailable at this point, Warmack, who went No. 10 to Tennessee, is a solid, building-block component to add to the Dallas offensive front.
32. Baltimore Ravens
(Original pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida)
Re-do pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Ravens offensive line struggled mightily this season, creating minimal running room for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and turning in spotty pass protection. Baltimore traded for Jacksonville left tackle Eugene Monroe a month into the season, and both he and right tackle Michael Oher are set to enter free agency this spring. The Ravens are interested in re-signing Monroe, but will likely let Oher walk. Fisher struggled at right tackle for the Chiefs in the first half of the season, but the game started to slow down toward the end of the year, when his quality technique and top-ranked talent began to emerge.
First-round picks who did not make the cut this time: No. 3 Dion Jordan, Dolphins, DE; No. 7 Jonathan Cooper, Cardinals, G; No. 9 Dee Milliner, Jets, CB; No. 12 D.J. Hayden, Raiders, CB; No. 17 Jarvis Jones, Steelers, LB; No. 19 Justin Pugh, Giants, OT; No. 21 Tyler Eifert, Bengals, TE; No. 23 Sharrif Floyd, Vikings, DT; No. 24 Bjoern Werner, Colts, DE; No. 26 Datone Jones, Packers, DE; No. 28 Sylvester Williams, Broncos, DT; No. 32 Matt Elam, Ravens, S.