Jerry Lai / USA Today
There are still almost two weeks remaining until the 2014 NFL draft, but at this point pretty much every potential first-round scenario has been examined in the hundreds of mock drafts floating around the Internet. But what if every player in the NFL was suddenly available for teams to build their franchises around?
Inspired by the “Fantasy Draft” option in the franchise mode of Madden 25, how would we see teams drafting in this year’s first round they could craft their future around anyone.
We took existing contracts out of the equation, meaning that every player would likely be looking at a pretty standard four-year rookie deal for first rounders. Peyton Manning would certainly be among the top 32 players chosen if teams had to build a roster to win in one year, but the value of a 42-year-old Manning certainly isn’t a potentially high one.
With that in mind, here’s how we see the first round of the 2014 NFL Redraft going down.
1. Houston Texans — Andrew Luck, QB
If only there was such a sure thing among the signal-callers in this year’s draft for the Texans to choose from. In his first two NFL seasons, the 2012 top overall pick has made two Pro Bowls, played in three playoff games and thrown for almost 8,200 yards. Only 24 years old, he’s just getting started.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — J.J. Watt, DE
Now this would be a great draft in which to have two first round picks. The Rams decide to grab the league’s best defensive lineman with their first selection, as the 25-year-old Pro Bowl captain takes on a similar leadership role in St. Louis.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Newton, QB
The former Florida recruit returns to the Sunshine State to run second-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system. Fans in London rejoice at the prospect of seeing some actual NFL star power in the upcoming matchups across the pond.
4. Cleveland Browns — Russell Wilson, QB
He was a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, but a Super Bowl ring and two Pro Bowl selections in his first two seasons certainly have a way of upping a guy’s value as a franchise quarterback.
5. Oakland Raiders — A.J. Green, WR
The 6’4″ wideout has become one of the league’s best receivers in just three Pro Bowl seasons in Cincinnati. Only 25, he’s still getting better.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Patrick Peterson, CB
The Falcons get their best shutdown corner/kick returner since Deion Sanders.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Robert Quinn, DE
The 2011 first-round pick has improved in each of his first three seasons, putting up an impressive 19 sacks with the Rams in 2013. With Lovie Smith taking over in Tampa Bay, Quinn would be a great young defensive star to build around.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Aaron Rodgers, QB
Like former teammates Brett Favre and Greg Jennings, Rodgers makes the move to the Packers’ NFC North rivals. At 30, he may not have as much mileage left as the other first-round quarterbacks in this draft, but he’d still be one of the first players GM’s would want to build around.
9. Buffalo Bills — Luke Kuechly, LB
The 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year led the league in tackles during his 2012 rookie year and seems poised to get even better.
10. Detroit Lions — Calvin Johnson, WR
Entering his eighth NFL season, the 28-year-old has already had a Pro Bowl career. It’s a risky proposition to bet that he’ll still be producing similar numbers in four or five years, but even a slightly less productive Megatron is a pretty great franchise centerpiece.
11. Tennessee Titans — Earl Thomas, S
The hardest-hitting member of the Legion of Boom has played four NFL seasons but only turns 25 the week of the draft.
12. New York Giants — Tyron Smith, LT
The 23-year-old started to realize his immense potential in his third NFL season in 2013. He’s got the skills to be the league’s best player at one of the offense’s most crucial positions for the next decade.
13. St. Louis Rams — Colin Kaepernick, QB
After addressing defense with the first of their two picks, the Rams grab a franchise quarterback who will be a good match for the quick surface of the Edward Jones Dome.
14. Chicago Bears — Jimmy Graham, TE
The four-year-vet has established himself as a unique offensive weapon, grabbing 36 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Geno Atkins, DT
The Steelers D has struggled since perennial Pro Bowler Casey Hampton’s retirement. The 26-year-old nose tackle will be a defensive stalwart for years to come provided he makes a full recovery from a torn ACL.
16. Dallas Cowboys — Darrelle Revis, CB
Jerry Jones likes big name players and Revis has certainly established himself as that. Would we pick him over younger corners like Richard Sherman or Joe Haden here? Probably not. Would Jones? You bet.
17. Baltimore Ravens — Richard Sherman, CB
Now that Baltimore’s favorite loquacious defensive Super Bowl champion is utilizing his verbal skills on ESPN, the Ravens rebuild their defense with another great verbal presence.
18. New York Jets — Ndamukong Suh, DT
The 2010 second overall pick has had plenty of fines and criticism to go along with his immense talent during his first four seasons in the NFL. That fiery style will fit in just fine as the centerpiece of Rex Ryan’s defense with the Jets.
19. Miami Dolphins — Joe Thomas, OT
The seven-time Pro Bowl lineman would go higher if he weren’t going to turn 30 during the 2014 season. One thing in his favor? Thomas hasn’t missed one start since making his debut in 2007.
20. Arizona Cardinals — Joe Haden, CB
Arizona decides to start with their secondary, taking one of the few elite young corners still up for grabs.
21. Green Bay Packers — Joe Staley, OT
Like Joe Thomas, Staley will turn 30 during the 2014 season, but has been a perennial Pro Bowl player at a position that is still waiting for more recent high picks (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel) to prove their star potential.
22. Philadelphia Eagles — NaVorro Bowman, ILB
The 25-year-old middle linebacker dropped a good ten spots or so after suffering a torn ACL in January. His offseason rehab occurs to be going as planned, making him a potential longterm bargain at 22 if he comes back a full speed.
23. Kansas City Chiefs — LeSean McCoy, RB
Andy Reid gets the opportunity to pick the NFL’s leading rusher for a second time. While the running back position has been devalued in the NFL, McCoy’s age (25) and ability make him the rare first-round exception in this redraft.
24. Cincinnati Bengals — Von Miller, OLB
The NFL Network ranked Miller as the league’s 9th best player prior to the 2013 season, in which he was suspended six games for violating the league’s drug policy then tore his ACL in Week 16. The Bengals have shown a willingness to gamble in such spots before and given Miller’s 18.5 sack season in 2012, it’s probably a worthwhile risk.
25. San Diego Chargers — Matt Ryan, QB
The 28-year-old’s sixth pro season wasn’t an ideal one, but he remains one of the best second-tier options at the quarterback position. He’s got a shorter NFL future and ceiling than the earlier QBs selected but will give Mike McCoy a lot to work with in San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) — Louis Vasquez, G
Russell Wilson gets one of the NFL’s best young guards protecting him for the foreseeable future.
27. New Orleans Saints — Dez Bryant, WR
After gaining over 2,600 receiving yards and catching 25 touchdowns in the past two seasons, the 25-year-old wideout has certainly maximized his prodigious talent and minimized the off-the-field questions enough to become a solid franchise receiver.
28. Carolina Panthers — Julio Jones, WR
One of the best young receivers in the NFL, Jones drops here due to the foot injury that ended his 2013 season.
29. New England Patriots — Robert Griffin III, QB
Remember what Josh McDaniels did with Tim Tebow in Denver? Now imagine the Patriots offensive coordinator getting someone with Griffin’s talent and arm strength in a functional team environment. RG3′s injury concerns and inconsistent sophomore season dropped him this far, where a salivating Bill Belichick was eager to make the selection.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Trent Williams, LT
The 49ers offense has revolved around its strong line in the past few years, so the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle would be a great person to start with when rebuilding it from scratch.
31. Denver Broncos — Josh Gordon, WR
It’s a small sample size, but what the 23-year-old did in his first two seasons, especially with subpar quarterbacks, is pretty extraordinary. Remaining questions about his maturity would probably keep him from going higher but he could end up being the NFL’s best receiver in a very short amount of time.
32. Seattle Seahawks — Dontari Poe, DT
The 23-year-old focused on his conditioning between his first and second NFL seasons and the result proved to be a Pro Bowl season in 2013. Poe’s impressive speed and agility for a 340-pound lineman make him a great piece for Pete Carroll to rebuild his Seahawks defense around.