When the NFL Draft comes to a close each year, there is a litany of instant reactions that attempt to prophesize how each prospect’s career will unfold and how each draft class will develop. On the flip side, many suggest a team’s draft should not be graded until five years later, once each prospect has had time to establish themselves in the NFL.
With the 2023 draft fast approaching, let’s put this five-year exercise to the test by re-drafting the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
2018 NFL Draft Do-Over
1. Cleveland: Josh Allen, QB
Original Selection: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB
Former Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey gets it right this time, snagging the NFL’s most physically gifted quarterback in Josh Allen. Taking the two-time Pro Bowl pick is an easy decision over the original selection of Baker Mayfield, who is on his fourth team in the past three seasons.
2. N.Y. Giants: Lamar Jackson, QB
Original Selection: Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB
Eli Manning entered the 2018 season at 37 years old, and the New York Giants wisely bring in his replacement here — future MVP Lamar Jackson — with the intention of sitting him for a year behind Manning while building the offense around their new dynamic playmaker.
The original selection, Saquon Barkley, wasn’t a complete miss from a talent perspective, but a litany of injuries and the devalued nature of the running back position make it much easier to pass on Barkley.
3. N.Y. Jets (from IND): Jordan Mailata, OT
Original Selection: Sam Darnold, USC, QB
With both top quarterbacks off the board – and no other gunslinger worthy of this premium selection – the New York Jets take former seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to round out the top three. The former rugby star has developed into one of the game’s best blindside protectors and would give whichever quarterback the Jets do eventually bring into the fold a foundational piece on the offensive line.
4. Cleveland (from HOU): Bradley Chubb, Edge
Original Selection: Denzel Ward, Ohio State, CB
The Browns could have gone in a number of different directions here with their second pick inside the top four, including keeping Denzel Ward in the fold. Instead, they settle on pass rusher Bradley Chubb. Cleveland has been looking for a pass-rushing answer opposite Myles Garrett since they took him first overall in 2017, and this time around they’ll land one.
5. Denver: Jaire Alexander, CB
Original Selection: Chubb
After missing out on their original selection of Chubb, the Denver Broncos make a luxury pick here with two-time All-Pro Jaire Alexander. While they already had Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. holding down the cornerback spots at the time, teams can never have too many good defensive backs. In Alexander, Denver would have secured one of the most consistent lockdown cornerbacks in the NFL.
6. Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson, OG
Original Selection: Nelson
7. Buffalo (from TB): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB
Original Selection: Allen
While their star signal-caller was poached at No. 1 overall, the Buffalo Bills aren’t going to panic here and reach for a quarterback. Instead, they find a new quarterback for their defense, selecting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to add a game-changing element to their defensive backfield.
8. Chicago: Kolton Miller, OT
Original Selection: Roquan Smith, Georgia, LB
The Chicago Bears would be very tempted to keep Roquan Smith in the fold, but instead, they decide to shore up their offensive tackle position with the selection of Kolton Miller. After taking Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, the Bears would be looking to add players who complement him. Taking one of the NFL’s most underappreciated players with this pick helps accomplish just that.
9. San Francisco: Brian O’Neill, OT
Original Selection: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, OT
Back-to-back offensive tackles come off the board, with the San Francisco 49ers electing to take Brian O’Neill over Mike McGlinchey. O’Neill is an excellent scheme fit in coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone-based offense and is a more well-rounded player than McGlinchey.
10. Arizona (from LV): Denzel Ward, CB
Original Selection: Josh Rosen, UCLA, QB
The Arizona Cardinals ideally needed a quarterback in this spot. But as constructed, this team was likely to tank and (spoiler alert) pick Kyler Murray in the 2019 NFL Draft even if original-pick Josh Rosen had shown more promise. So why not take the best defensive back available — Denzel Ward — here instead? An excellent athlete and premier cover man, Ward is a seamless fit in the Arizona desert.
11. Miami: Nick Chubb, Georgia, RB
Original Selection: Fitzpatrick
The Miami Dolphins‘ top running back was 35-year-old Frank Gore, so general manager Chris Grier elects to take one of the best and most well-rounded running backs of the past decade. Nick Chubb has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, and his only season with less than 1,000 yards rushing came in his rookie campaign when he rushed for 996 yards on 5.2 yards per carry.
12. Tampa Bay (from CIN via BUF): Orlando Brown, OT
Original Selection: Vita Vea, Washington, DT
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were tempted to take Vita Vea again but instead, opt to plug Orlando Brown Jr. into their starting right tackle spot. The four-time Pro Bowler’s draft stock took a tumble after a poor NFL Combine showing. In hindsight, Tampa Bay will throw those combine numbers out of the window and recognize Brown as one of the league’s better tackles with the versatility to play on the left or right side.
13. Washington: Daron Payne, DT
Original Selection: Payne
Why wouldn’t the Washington Commanders bring Daron Payne back in this situation? Payne has been the epitome of consistency in the middle of the Washington defense and was recently rewarded with a four-year, $90 million deal.
14. New Orleans (from GB): DJ Moore, WR
Original Selection: Marcus Davenport, UTSA, Edge
The New Orleans Saints let Marcus Davenport walk this offseason and likely regretted trading up for him in the 2018 Draft. In this do-over, they take DJ Moore to give Drew Brees another excellent weapon alongside Michael Thomas. The Saints ended up starting rookie Trequan Smith alongside Thomas in 2018 and had moments when they were perilously thin at the position. They fix that here by taking one of the most underrated receiving threats in the NFL.
15. Las Vegas (from ARZ): Mike McGlinchey, OT
Original Selection: Miller
The Raiders were desperate for offensive tackle help in 2018, as they started rookies at both OT spots. With the top three tackles in this draft already off the board, the Raiders nab McGlinchey, whom they were rumored to be eyeing back in 2018 before the 49ers swiped him at No. 9 overall.
16. Buffalo (from BAL): Fred Warner, LB
Original Selection: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech, LB
While Tremaine Edmunds was absolutely a worthy selection at No. 16 at the time, the Buffalo Bills get a slight upgrade at linebacker with Fred Warner. One of the league’s fastest and most productive coverage linebackers, Warner upgrades an already stout Bills defense.
17. L.A. Chargers: Mark Andrews, TE
Original Selection: Derwin James, Florida State, DB
Although their original pick Derwin James is still on the board, the Los Angeles Chargers pivot here and grab one of the NFL’s premier tight ends in Mark Andrews. The Chargers ultimately selected Hunter Henry in the second round of this class, but with hindsight at their disposal, they change their plans and snag Andrews here.
18. Green Bay (from SEA): Derwin James, DB
Original Selection: Alexander
With the Chargers passing on James, in part due to his injury history, the Green Bay Packers sprint to the podium to select this incredibly athletic and versatile chess piece to add to their secondary.
19. Dallas: Roquan Smith, LB
Original Selection: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State, LB
Leighton Vander Esch is still with the Dallas Cowboys after being selected No. 19 overall, but almost any scout or coach in Dallas would admit Smith is the better player. With other teams focused on their needs, Smith falls right into the Cowboys’ lap in this re-draft.
20. Detroit: Frank Ragnow, OC
Original Selection: Ragnow
The Detroit Lions are the third team to stick with their original choice, keeping their homegrown, two-time Pro Bowl center. Frank Ragnow is a locker room leader and stud interior run blocker with the versatility to play multiple positions.
21. Cincinnati (from BUF): Vita Vea, DT
Original Selection: Billy Price, Ohio State, OC
Vea’s slide ends here, with the Cincinnati Bengals selecting him to form a physically-imposing tandem alongside Geno Atkins. Vea and Atkins collapsing pockets from the interior and bullying offensive linemen together is a defensive coordinator’s dream.
22. Tennessee (from KC via BUF and BAL): Harold Landry, EDGE
Original Selection: Rashaan Evans, Alabama, LB
The Tennessee Titans originally took Rashaan Evans in the first round of this draft and Harold Landry in the second. This time around, Tennessee won’t wait to take Landry in the second. Through the first four seasons of his career in Tennessee, Landry accumulated 31 sacks.
23. New England (from LAR): Saquon Barkley, RB
Original Selection: Isaiah Wynn, Georgia, OT
Originally the draft’s No. 2 pick, Barkley falls 21 spots right into the lap of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. While Barkley is still one of the best running backs in the NFL, he’s had health issues, and the running back position has been devalued further. Barkley is a massive upgrade over Sony Michel, who New England originally took at No. 31.
24. Carolina: Jessie Bates III, DB
Original Selection: Moore
With Moore off the board after being snagged by the Saints at No. 14, the Carolina Panthers go in a different direction, taking former second-rounder Jessie Bates III. Bates has never made a Pro Bowl, but he’s absolutely a Pro Bowl-caliber player, as shown by the Atlanta Falcons‘ recent decision to give him a contract worth just more than $16 million per year.
25. Baltimore (from TEN): Calvin Ridley, WR
Original Selection: Hayden Hurst, South Carolina, TE
With Andrews unavailable and Hayden Hurst ultimately proving unworthy of this selection, the Baltimore Ravens opt to snag a different pass catcher in Calvin Ridley. Despite dealing with a gambling suspension that caused him to miss a full season, the Alabama product is still worthy of this selection. In his last full season on the field in 2020, he earned second-team All-Pro honors.
26. Atlanta: Shaquille Leonard, LB
Original Selection: Ridley
With Ridley off the board, Atlanta snags Shaquille Leonard to fortify the middle of its defense. Leonard earned All-Pro honors in each of his first four NFL seasons and would be selected much higher if not for the injury issues which have plagued him in recent seasons.
27. Seattle (from NO via GB): Charvarius Ward, CB
Original Selection: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State, RB
With Richard Sherman leaving the Seattle Seahawks after the 2017 season, they snag his replacement in former undrafted free agent Charvarius Ward. A long, physical cornerback, Ward is an excellent scheme fit with Seattle and would be an excellent long-term starter across from Shaquill Griffin.
28. Pittsburgh: Tremaine Edmunds, LB
Original Selection: Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech, DB
The Pittsburgh Steelers end up drafting the other Edmunds brother with this selection, giving them a dominant presence in the middle of their defense. Terrell Edmunds was an adequate player for the Steelers, but Tremaine Edmunds would have been a much better selection if they would have had the opportunity.
29. Jacksonville: Dallas Goedert, TE
Original Selection: Taven Bryan, Florida, DT
Coming off a surprising 10-6 season in 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars look to give Blake Bortles a security blanket by taking one of the league’s top 10 tight ends in Dallas Goedert. Back in 2018, James O’Shaughnessy was the clear starter at tight end for Jacksonville, and while he remained there until 2021, Goedert would have been a significant upgrade.
30. Minnesota: Wyatt Teller, OG
Original Selection: Mike Hughes, UCF, CB
Heading into the 2018 season, the Minnesota Vikings needed significant help on the offensive line. Former Vikings GM and 33rd Team contributor Rick Spielman noted that the Vikings were hoping Frank Ragnow would fall, but with Ragnow off the board to the Lions, Minnesota lands a different interior lineman in Wyatt Teller. The former fifth-rounder is coming off a down season relative to his Pro Bowl campaigns in 2020 and 2021 but is still worthy of this selection.
31. New England: Josh Sweat, Edge
Original Selection: Sony Michel, Georgia, RB
Teams can never have enough pass rushers, and in drafting Josh Sweat here, the Patriots acquire a steadily improving force off the edge. Sweat’s sack output has grown every year in the league, and while New England certainly did not have a clear need on the edge in 2018, this is a luxury selection it can afford to make.
32. Baltimore (via PHI): Braden Smith, OT
Original Selection: Lamar Jackson
After selecting an Alabama product at 25, the Ravens finish out this re-draft by selecting an Iron Bowl rival from Auburn, Braden Smith. The Ravens plugged in their third-round rookie, Brown Jr., into the starting right tackle spot right away. Here, they nab a replacement for that slot.