A scenario that’s always fun to play out in Madden (but will never happen in real life) is creating a fantasy NFL draft. How would things turn out if the NFL were to start over? If every player released from their teams and there was a massive redraft? For the purposes of this exercise, the NFL has decided to have every player play under a rookie contract (so salary cap is not an issue) and chose to give the best team last season the first pick (to make up for them losing their whole team) and then continue in descending order. Let’s get into things!
1. New England Patriots: Patrick Mahomes (QB)
It’s only logical that the most talented player at the most important position would be taken first. Couple this with his youth, and a team would have to be crazy to NOT take Mahomes with the first pick.
2. Los Angeles Rams: Russell Wilson (QB)
Wilson proved this season that he is capable of single-handedly carrying an offense to success (no slight to Chris Carson, but without Wilson he’s not doing anything). Nobody expected the Seahawks to win more than 8 games this season, let alone make the playoffs. At only 30, Wilson still has a long career ahead of him and is more than capable of earning a few more rings
3. New Orleans Saints: Deshaun Watson (QB)
Watson didn’t get the national respect that he deserved this season. With the worst offensive line in football and only one real receiving threat, Watson put up a quarterback rating of 103 and threw for 29 TDs. While there are some injury concerns, Watson proved his toughness this year by playing through a puntured lung and cracked ribs, showing he’s in it for the long haul.
4. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrew Luck (QB)
Amazing comeback by Luck this year. After two years off, Luck produced a monster season, turning around the Colts season after a 1-5 start to make the playoffs and earning a Pro Bowl nod in the process. If Luck can stay healthy, he has what it takes to dominate this league for a long time.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Aaron Rodgers (QB)
In the eyes of the national media, Rodgers went from arguably the GOAT to one of the most overrated QBs of all time over the course of a year (where he didn’t really play poorly at all!). Neither of these opinions is true, but the fact remains the Rodgers is one of the most talented men to ever play the position. Without the downside of needing to pick up a massive contract, Rodgers goes in the top 5. His age (35) is the only reason he isn’t going sooner
6. Dallas Cowboys: Baker Mayfield (QB)
Baker almost took home the honors of ROTY after turnign arounf the Browns misfortunes into almost a winning season. Mayfield displayed lots of talent and passion this season, which makes him a very desirable pick up for any team. His personality would mesh perfectly with Americas Team, not to mention how close to his alma mater he’d be playing. The pick makes too much sense for the Boys to not take him.
7. Indianapolis Colts: Aaron Donald (DT)
To be a non-QB and taken this early is a massive testament to the game changing ability of Aaron Donald. Offensive lines are forced to completely change the way they play every time they face off against this beast of a man. He’s only 27 years old and is in amazing shape, meaning he could be a force for another decade.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Garoppolo (QB)
A bold pick, Garoppolo’s career success could range anywhere from Drew Brees to Brock Osweiler. Believing the former to be the case, the Eagles grab their franchise QB. Having studies under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick while having far more natural talent than the GOAT, Jimmy G could very well MATCH (that’s right MATCH!) Brady’s 6 rings if he can stay healthy. He could also be out of the league in two years. We shall see.
9. Chicago Bears: Matt Ryan (QB)
Matt Ryan put up numbers that were awfully close to what they were when he won MVP a few years ago. It was simply not noticed due to the ugly record that the Falcons ended up with. Ryan appears to be hitting his stride in his 30s, and it would be a smart decision for a team to ride this success while it’s still going on. A master at spreading the ball around, Ryan would be an underrated pick this early on.
10. Houston Texans: Carson Wentz (QB)
Wentz was having an off year even before his back injury. He displayed a boatload of potential two years ago, nearly taking home the MVP despite missing the last 5 games of the season. He’s extremely cerebral and can be equally effective in the pocket or on the move. He’s a huge risk though with his apparent injury proneness. Major injuries have sidelined Wentz in back-to-back years, so taking him is a gamble. However, should he stay healthy he has a long career ahead of him, and is more than capable of leading a team to multiple rings.
11. Baltimore Ravens: DeAndre Hopkins (WR)
The first skill position player taken off the board is perhaps a surprise to many. Hopkins has shown that he can work with any QB and still be a huge weapon. This combined with his 4 year youth advantage on Julio and AB’s locker room antics, and it makes sense that Hopkins would be taken before these two.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Jared Goff (QB)
Goff showed his true self on Super Bowl Sunday. No, not the lackluster performance on the field, but the character shown after the game. Unlike other QBs who lose the big game *cough cough Cam*, Goff addressed the media to the best of his ability. He talked to many teammates about what went wrong and offered his support to them. While he may have some hurdles to get over, Goff’s character and drive alone should be enough to make him a person of interest for any team.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: Khalil Mack (LB)
Mack was an absolutely dominant force this season, and that’s when he was starting before having any time to learn the defensive system. Mack is able to both blitz and cover proficiently, making him an elite linebacker in the league.
14. Tennessee Titans: Cam Newton (QB)
Cam is only 29 years old and has been playing under the radar lately. He hasn’t really had any weapons save for McCaffrey and an oft injured Greg Olsen. His numbers last year were not up to his standards, but he had an injured shoulder that, in his own words, prevented him from throwing more than 20 yards downfield. Newton can still be “the guy”.
15. Minnesota Vikings: Von Miller (LB)
Miller put up double digit sacks for the 5th consecutive year. His intelligence combined with freak athleticism make him a force to be reckoned with year after year. Due to his continually consistency, Miller doesn’t receive as much media attention as his performance warrants. He is still truly a game wrecker and should be drafted as such.
16. Cleveland Browns: Matthew Stafford (QB)
Stafford is one of the more underrated QBs in the league. Certainly as tough and gritty as anyone, Stafford combines arm strength with high football IQ to continue to put up big numbers without much help from an offensive line or receivers. With half of his career still ahead of him, Stafford is a bargain this late in the draft.
17. Carolina Panthers: Saquon Barkley (RB)
The first running back to go off the board, Barkley is one of the most physically gifted players to ever come into this league. Saquon eclipsed 2000 total yards despite having one of the worst offensive lines in football and a QB who is a shell of his former self. While I tend to be of the opinion that running backs are very replaceable, Saquon brings something special to the table that can carry a team.
18. Washington Redskins: Antonio Brown (WR)
The Resdskins decide to overlook the locker room issues to grab one of the best pass catchers in league history. Brown is the best receiver in the league, and the Redskins are the first team to decide to take a shot on him. As the first round pick, Brown would be seen as the leader of this team. If he were to be more selfless, this would become the best pick in the draft.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Travis Kelce (TE)
A great tight end can disrupt a defense more than any other position. Kelce is 29, the same age as Gronk. Unlike Gronk, Kelce routinely plays all 16 games, put up his best performance of his career last year (both in yards and TDs), and hasn’t publicly contemplated retirement. Kelce combines speed and toughness that is ideal for a tight end in today’s NFL.
20. Miami Dolphins: Todd Gurley (RB)
Too early in my mind, but Gurley has built up a strong enough reputation that GMs might catch flak for not drafting him at this spot. Gurley offers the ability to thrive in any situation a running back may be put in: running up the gut, to the outside, pass catching, and blocking. With a competent offensive line, Gurley is extremely tough to stop.
21. Green Bay Packers: Kirk Cousins (QB)
Disappointing year for Cousins. Not necessarily statistically, but he didn’t show up when the Vikes needed him the most. Granted, it’s tough to do when your oline plays like their being bought by the other team. Regardless, Green Bay decides not to risk waiting till next round to grab their franchise QB. Cousins offers potential if he can develop a clutch gene.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: Julio Jones (WR)
Julio has some of the best hands and route running abilities in the league. His physicality is deadly. Jones is a game breaker, and absolutely deserved to be taken in the first round.
23. Denver Broncos: Tom Brady (QB)
The Broncos become the first team to decide to go into “win now” mode. Brady showed this year that he can still be elite even with no real weapons, and he has made very clear that he intends on playing till 45. I’m certainly not going to be the one to doubt him. So the Broncos give themselves a four year window to get as many rings as possible.
24. Buffalo Bills: Alvin Kamara (RB)
Kamara was not quite as impressive this year as he was last, but he still possesses an elite ability to catch the ball and to make people miss. His entire career is ahead of him, and he can make big things happen on any given play.
25. Detroit Lions: Drew Brees (QB)
Brees hasn’t lost a step this year. His accuracy was better than ever and he was a missed call away from a Super Bowl. There’s no real indication of when Brees might retire, so he provides a 2 to 4 year window to get the Lions their first ring.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey (CB)
Ramsey becomes the first person to stay on their original team. His outspoken personality tends to overshadow his ability on field, but Ramsey is the most talented corner back in the league. He is also extremely young and can be the best in the league for years to come.
27. New York Giants: Phillip Rivers (QB)
Rivers falls far below where his talent level places him due to his age. But Rivers is yet to show any signs of slowing down and he is HUNGRY for that ring. Rivers goes back to the team that drafted him and give it everything he has to finally hold the Lombardi.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
Zeke is young and full of drive. He showed this year that he can run efficiently even without a strong offensive line and demonstrated the ability to catch passes proficiently, which becomes more and more important every year.
29. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr (QB)
Gruden decided that Carr really is his man. Carr showed true dedication to this team throughout a tumultuous season. It is reasonable to assume that with a better roster Carr could replicate his 2016 performance.
30. New York Jets: Christian McCaffrey (RB)
CMAC had a huge year without many outside of the fantasy football community talking about it. His youth and his pass catching abilities mean that he can be a force in this league for a long time.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Dak Prescott (QB)
Dak had a nice bounce back in the second half of the season. The Cowboys playoff run that has been largely credited to Amari Cooper would have been impossible without Prescott. He is young and tough and should be able to have a nice career.
32. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson (QB)
The most promising of the rookie QBs outside of Mayfield, Jackson was largely discredited by the media after the losing playoff effort. This has been the narrative, despite the fact that Jackson was extremely close to leading a comeback effort. Jackson has potential to be the next Michael Vick and this earns him the number 32 draft pick in back to back years.