2017 NFL Draft

We're in the middle of the offseason, so let's take a time machine back to April 2017. That NFL Draft proved to be one of the most pivotal weekends for the NFL, setting the stage for the league we know today.

The Chiefs and Texans traded for quarterbacks. The Browns and Steelers acquired two of the best pass rushers of this generation. New Orleans reshaped its franchise with its draft haul. In addition, this class of running backs could be one of the best of all time.

So what would happen if we gave teams a second go at this draft class? Now that every team knows what these players are at the NFL level, there would be a lot of changes. It takes five years to properly evaluate an NFL draft class, and now we're seven years into this group.

I reversed every trade on draft day (I kept the ones I made) and analyzed how the draft would have turned out if it had taken place today. Let's dive in.

1. Cleveland Browns
Original selection: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Redesign of the selection: Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech

There is no doubt that the Browns regret passing on Mahomes. However, nine different teams did. There was no consensus on the quarterback group this year. Some preferred Deshaun Watson. Others believe in Mitchell Trubisky. As we know, Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Mahomes has won three Super Bowls, been voted MVP twice, and has been a Pro Bowler every year he started. He doesn't turn 29 until September, and by then he would already be the Browns' best passer of all time.

Taking Garrett wasn't a bad choice, though. Since being drafted, only TJ Watt has more sacks. Garrett is a game-changing player who, aside from a terrible collision with Mason Rudolph, has been a leader of Cleveland's defense. His relentless drive and consistent year-over-year performance have him on track to one day win a gold jacket. He's a great player, but not good enough to pass up the best quarterback in the NFL.

2. San Francisco 49ers
Original selection: Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
New designs: TJ Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin

On draft day, the 49ers moved down one spot to take Solomon Thomas. With Garrett no longer available and the Bears desperate for a quarterback, it was a good move. Unfortunately, Thomas never proved to be the player San Francisco expected. He has developed into a solid rotational defensive tackle, but that's not what you'd hope for from the third overall pick.

On the other hand, Watt is one of the best defensive players in the league. He has 96.5 sacks in his career, the most in the league since 2017, compared to Thomas' 15. Adding Watt to a defensive line that already included Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner would have put San Francisco right up there. Watt would have led the team in sacks as a rookie. Maybe one of these Super Bowls against Mahomes will go differently with Watt up front.

3. Chicago Bears
Original selection: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
New drafts: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M

Chicago traded up to get Trubisky with the second pick in the draft. It was one of the most criticized moves in franchise history. The two quarterbacks selected after Trubisky, Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, led their teams in the playoffs and won awards, while Trubisky struggled to break through. He had his moments, including a Pro Bowl selection in 2018, but the Bears declined his fifth-year option and let him walk as a free agent after the 2020 season.

I considered Watson here, but given the 26 women who have accused Watson of sexual misconduct, coupled with his poor play since signing a record-breaking contract, I went with a safer option. Garrett's decline is short-lived and lands him on a defense looking for an elite pass rusher. Putting him opposite Leonard Floyd while Akiem Hicks collapses the pockets up front would have been devastating for opposing offenses. Sure, the Bears would have had to go back to using Mike Glennon or another experienced replacement at quarterback, but the defense would have been a major strength.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original selection: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
New drafts: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington

It's really hard to make an argument for drafting a running back in the top five. The position just isn't valuable enough to justify it in most cases. We saw that with Fournette. As productive as he may have been early on, he only played 36 games for Jacksonville in three seasons. The Jaguars cut him when they trimmed the roster after the 2019 season.

Instead, Jacksonville takes Kupp in our redraft. The former third-round pick had one of the best seasons we've ever seen from a receiver in 2021, leading the draft class in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. The Jaguars needed playmakers at the time. Their best receivers at the time were Marquise Lee, Allen Hurns and Keelan Cole. Kupp would have made things even better for Blake Bortles in his magical 2017 season.