Five years ago, the 2016 NFL Draft opened up with a pair of quarterbacks immediately coming off the board. The Rams -- reborn in Los Angeles -- used the No. 1 overall pick they'd acquired in a trade with Tennessee to take the California kid, Jared Goff. Then the Eagles snagged Carson Wentz with the No. 2 pick they'd received in a deal with the Browns. That's not exactly how things are going to play out in today's fantasy adventure ...
Which brings me to a pair of preface points I want to make before we dive into this 2016 draft do-over:
1) I'm incorporating some of the trades that occurred before/during the 2016 draft and conveniently erasing others from history. Yep, that's right. Deal with it. This is a fictional undertaking in the first place, so I make the rules!
2) That said, I'm trying to keep it real with y'all. As opposed to just taking the best player available with every single pick -- something that'd be quite easy with the power of hindsight -- I tried to put myself in each team's shoes back in 2016. What did the overall roster look like? Where were the need areas? And did the original pick actually work out to some degree? Keeping these things in mind makes this activity a lot more interesting. Otherwise, I might as well just provide updated player rankings for the Class of 2016.
Oh, and I also wanted to point out one more thing:
3) As you'll see, there are only 31 picks below. What gives? Well, quick reminder: New England lost its first-rounder -- which would have been No. 29 overall -- as punishment for Deflategate. Sorry, Pats fans, but you're excluded from this exercise. Oh, and Joe Thuney never became a Pat in this alternate universe. Tough day in Foxborough.
All right, enough preamble. Let's get to the action!
Prescott was amazing as a rookie and he's reached at least 3,300 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns in every full season he's played. And he was absolutely crushing it last year before his injury. The guy's good. You almost worry that he was so good as a rookie that he would have saved Jeff Fisher's job, resulting in the Rams never hiring Sean McVay. Maybe Goff was the right pick here after all! I'm kidding. But I would like to think about that for a future podcast or something.
For a few years there, the Browns were questioned for trading out of this pick and inherently passing on Wentz. Lampooned, really. But I would say that it's all worked out pretty well for Cleveland over the past couple of seasons. Imagine what would have happened if the Browns had selected Bosa second overall. The fan base obviously would've warmly welcomed the Ohio State product. He's also good at football, posting double-digit sacks in three of his five seasons.
The Chargers nailed their pick with Bosa, but with him going No. 2 overall in this exercise, L.A. selects Thomas. The Chargers have always had those tall, physical receivers, so Thomas seems like a perfect pick to pair with Keenan Allen. The Bolts also had a need for a speedy receiver at the outset of the 2016 offseason, but they signed Travis Benjamin that March, so I favor Thomas over Tyreek Hill here. This isn't saying Thomas is better than Tyreek, but it's a better fit for the 2016 Chargers.
The Cowboys selected Zeke here in real life. And I would say that it was a smart pick. Even though the "running backs don't matter" crowd still hates it to this day. But Elliott has been good for the Cowboys. The guy did lead the league in rushing twice, rolling up 1,631 yards and 16 total touchdowns as a rookie. It hasn't been Zeke's fault. I would still make that call today. Like, do you think the Cowboys were a Jalen Ramsey away from winning a Super Bowl?
The Jaguars originally selected Ramsey in this slot, and I'd have them do it again. Obviously, things did not end well between the two parties. But maybe in this alternate reality, Myles Jack is not ruled down. Maybe the Jaguars go on to the Super Bowl and beat the Eagles. And maybe I become an AEW announcer. There are a lot of different ways this could have gone. But that 2017 Jaguars team was special, and I wouldn't change that. (Plus, if the worst thing is you get a ton of picks from the Rams, you do it.)
The Ravens originally nabbed Ronnie Stanley at No. 6. And he's turned out to be a really good pro player, earning All-Pro honors in 2019. I wouldn't even mind if Baltimore used this pick on Stanley again. The Ravens always seem to lack an abundance of playmakers, though. Yes, they had future Hall of Famer Steve Smith in 2016, but he was in the final year of his career. I think selfishly I just want to see those two receivers paired together to see what they could do.
The 49ers originally took DeForest Buckner here. And it would make a lot of sense for the 49ers to take him again, considering he was a key part of San Francisco's success in reaching Super Bowl LIV. But the 49ers traded him and have a huge need on the offensive line. Meanwhile, the D-line's still quite stout. So I'm going to have them take Stanley right here. I mean, honestly, you can't go wrong either way.
Stay with me, as this gets a little convoluted here. This pick was originally the Dolphins', but it was moved in a deal that featured Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell. And then, eventually, this ended up as the Titans' pick. But let's just say for a moment that this pick stays with the Eagles. I have them taking Wentz here. I know it ended horribly. Every Eagles content creator is going to roast me for doing this, and that's fine. But here's what I'm telling you: The Eagles don't get their lone Lombardi Trophy without Wentz. Obviously, Nick Foles earned Super Bowl MVP honors to close out a magical playoff run. But we don't get to that point if Wentz doesn't put in his own MVP-caliber season in 2017. Seriously, Foles is great in small runs, but not over a full season. Look at his history. You needed Wentz. So you make this pick again. And hey, this time you don't even have to make that final trade up to No. 2!
Chicago moved up to No. 9 to snag Leonard Floyd originally. I'm going to have the Bears move up here, as well. But instead of Floyd, Buckner's the target. A solid pro, who, -- as I previously mentioned -- became an All-Pro with the Colts last season. And if I didn't mention it, I certainly meant to. Buckner going to Chicago and eventually playing for Vic Fangio and with Khalil Mack means Super Bowl. That's right, I'm saying Super Bowl.
The Giants selected Eli Apple with this original pick in 2016. He's played for two other teams since and is now approaching free agency. So, instead, I have the G-Men taking Bradberry, who became an elite shutdown corner for this past season for ... the Giants. So New York eventually did make the right pick from this 2016 CB crop -- it just took a lot of time and free agency money.
The Bucs used the selection they swapped with the Bears and took CB Vernon Hargreaves III, who was waived in 2019. But since the 2016 Bucs still needed some help at the cornerback position -- and despite how fun it would be to imagine Derrick Henry landing there -- I'm going with Howard, who has become an elite cornerback in the NFL, even earning some DPOY votes this past season.
The Saints drafted Sheldon Rankins with the No. 12 overall pick, and he's been solid. But Jones has become one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the game. This is no disrespect to Rankins, by any means. But Jones is a headliner. Like Metallica. Rankins is also a headliner, but like Coldplay. A good band, but not on the level of Metallica.
Some weird circumstances -- to put it mildly -- caused Tunsil to tumble on draft day back in 2016. But given the opportunity, I believe the Dolphins would still make the move. If nothing else, they would eventually get some first-round picks from the Texans, so it's safe to say this selection worked out for them.
The Raiders went with Karl Joseph originally. And well, he showed promise during his rookie season with the team. But then, yeah ... It wasn't quite that great. If you're going to draft a safety, you have to take Byard, who was the NFL interception co-leader in 2017, when he earned first-team All-Pro honors.
Another one that gets complicated ... But if the Titans stay here at No. 15, they don't select Jack Conklin -- which they did at No. 8 in real life -- but instead use this pick on a player they got in the second round. And if you want to debate the merits of drafting a running back at this spot, please stop. Because Derrick Henry is the truth. Also the truth: The Titans did very well in this draft.
The Lions originally went offensive line here with Taylor Decker. And Decker has been pretty good. Even has a touchdown reception to his name! But Conklin is a two-time All-Pro, so he's a better selection right here. It's kind of like the way Blink-182 is a headlining band. Not that Good Charlotte isn't. Fine, this bit worked better with Metallica a few blurbs ago, but the same applies here.
The Falcons selected Neal at this spot and he's been a solid performer for the Falcons, even reaching the Pro Bowl in 2017. And Neal was a key contributor in the Falcons' Super Bowl season as a rookie. He has battled some injuries in recent years, but he did return to play 15 games in 2020, even recording his first NFL sack. So I'm happy to keep him here.
The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in football -- maybe the best -- due in no small part to the man in the middle. Kelly's made a pair of Pro Bowls and earned a second-team All-Pro nod in 2020. Indy sticks with this pick.
The Bills went with Shaq Lawson here originally. And he was fine. Not spectacular. But fine. However, I would go with Ngakoue, who was brilliant with the Jaguars, especially in 2017. (Before, of course, it ended poorly in Jacksonville. Troubling common thread with Ramsey there.) Ngakoue would be huge for this current Bills team.
The Jets used the No. 20 selection on Darron Lee. He did get a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs ... but he was inactive for the big game. So I'll have the Jets take Smith, whose career was delayed because of a brutal injury in college. But he was a Pro Bowler for the Cowboys in 2019.
Back in 2016, Houston swapped spots with Washington to take Fuller. And Washington ended up with Josh Doctson. That's not going to happen this time around. The Football Team will select Fuller, who has been one of the league's most explosive receivers, when available. Yes, that last part has been a struggle. But put him on this FT with Terry McLaurin and you've got yourself a pretty nice receiving tandem.
Houston will not be taking Doctson here, as Washington did. But since Houston would eventually trade picks for Laremy Tunsil, why not use this selection on Decker? He'd provide more stability on the O-line, something Deshaun Watson would've appreciated in his first few years. Maybe in this Bizarro World, Watson's happy as a clam in Houston!
The Vikings took Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell with this pick. And look, I missed on him, too, so I won't clown on the Vikings for that. There aren't a lot of a great receivers to pick here, so I believe Thuney would be an excellent choice here for Minnesota.
The Steelers always seem to nail it, no matter where they're drafting from. OK, they originally took Artie Burns here, so maybe not always. With hindsight, Simmons seems like so much of a Steelers move that I have to do it. I mean, this might prevent them from nabbing Minkah Fitzpatrick in the future -- unless one of them switches spots -- but we're not playing that game.
The Seahawks are going to stay in their spot here and not trade with the Broncos, which they did in real life. Back in 2016, Seattle moved down to No. 31 and then went offensive line with Germain Ifedi, who would eventually play with the Bears. In this exercise, the 'Hawks stay put and take current Bear Cody Whitehair. As a Bears fan, I don't like this at all. Whitehair has been a great pick.
In 2016, the Pack spent the No. 27 pick on Kenny Clark, but he's off the board in this activity. Still, I have Green Bay sticking with defensive tackle. Now, Rankins has had some injury problems, but he's been solid when available, and I'm sure he'd be great for the Packers.
The Chiefs traded out of this spot originally, as the 49ers moved up for Joshua Garnett. And that wasn't great. In this adventure, K.C. stays put and takes Judon. And maybe he's on the field in the 2018 AFC Championship Game instead of Dee Ford ... who never lines up offsides ... giving the Chiefs at least one more Lombardi Trophy!!!!! I know, I'm getting too far ahead of myself.
Arizona took a big swing with Robert Nkemdiche and it didn't work out. But I really do believe a player like Jack would have been perfect for the Cardinals, who have enjoyed great success with similar types of versatile talents. I was shocked Jack went in the second round in the original draft -- that can't happen again.
The Panthers obviously had Greg Olsen still on their roster. And they looked for help on the defensive line back in 2016, taking Vernon Butler in this slot. But I'm thinking of a bunch of 12 personnel with Olsen and Henry -- sound good? And then Henry eventually serves as Olsen's successor. The Panthers would be thrilled to have this.
The Broncos traded up to take Paxton Lynch in 2016. That move busted big time. And you know, we could debate whether Goff is really just a product of Sean McVay, but for the defending Super Bowl 50 champions, I believe it's worth the risk to take Goff in this spot and see what he might be able to do. The 2016 Broncos still had Gary Kubiak and a pretty good defense. Finished 9-7 that season. Maybe if they make this pick, they actually make it back to the playoffs.