It's no exaggeration to say revisiting the 2017 NFL Draft is a more painful experience for Chicago Bears fans than revisiting Super Bowl XLI, and doing so for this draft do-over gave me no pleasure. One coping mechanism I engage in is to pretend the Bears selected Eddie Jackson with the third overall pick and waited until the fourth round to draft Mitchell Trubisky. This kind of helps, but even so, it's tough to think about what could have been if the team had selected Patrick Mahomes. Hell, even Deshaun Watson.
For the record, I ignored all of the draft-day trade swaps and just went with the order of the draft heading into the fateful day.
**Mahomes was actually drafted:** by the
Chiefs in Round 1 (No. 10).
This will likely cause a lot of cringing, because poor Patrick shouldn't be subjected to playing for the Browns, given what we've seen happen to other quarterbacks who have played for the Browns. And while I will stop short of saying Mahomes would have saved the career of then-coach Hue Jackson, I'm sure Mahomes still would have ended up with a lot of success -- with the Chiefs, who would have traded a fourth-round pick for him after two bad years in Cleveland, paving the way for Mahomes to lead Kanas City to a Super Bowl win. Just like he did this year.
**Watson was actually drafted:** by the
Texans in Round 1 (No. 12).
Here comes the most interesting part of the draft. In real life, the Bears traded up here for Mitchell Trubisky. Odds are, they won't do that again, though with general manager Ryan Pace, you never know. As a Bears fan, I wouldn't be mad if they traded up for Watson to fill their desperate need for a franchise QB (which, yes, existed even after they signed Mike Glennon that March). But remember, the 49ers, still six months away from acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo, were also in the market for a quarterback. Landing Watson would have been huge for them, so if we're going back to that draft night, let's send Watson to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch.
**Kittle was actually drafted:** by the
49ers in Round 5 (No. 146).
This would be the easiest call of this exercise in a non-Mahomes world. Kittle would be such a huge boon to a Bears offense that never really recovered from sending tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers in 2011 because then-coordinator Mike Martz couldn't find a way to fit one of the top generational players at his position into his precious scheme. (Although Zach Miller was nice.) If you are wondering, the highest a tight end has ever been drafted is fifth overall, which has happened twice -- and one of those times came in 1961, when Chicago snagged Mike Ditka. Here's another fun note: With the 49ers locking in on Watson, perhaps it's the Bears who end up with Jimmy Garoppolo from nearby Arlington Heights. Just kidding: We all know Pace will end up taking Mitch in the fourth or sixth round.
**McCaffrey was actually drafted:** by the
Panthers in Round 1 (No. 8).
I'm going to try to keep teams drafting as close to what they were looking for at the time, so here, we'll correct the Jags' decision to draft Leonard Fournette instead of the running back they should have gone with. I'm not saying the Jaguars would have gone to the Super Bowl with McCaffrey -- wait, that's exactly what I'm saying. While I love the attitude Fournette brought to the team in 2017 (remember him beckoning a Steelers defender he was about to level?), McCaffrey would have been instrumental in pumping up the passing game, which was one of the glaring weak spots on a team that made it to the AFC title match. I mean, Fournette did manage 36 receptions as a rookie, which isn't bad. But when you consider McCaffrey had 80, well, that's a slight difference.
**Godwin was actually drafted:** by the
Buccaneers in Round 3 (No. 84).
The Titans were looking to surround then-QB Marcus Mariota with some receiving talent, and they probably would have been better off going with the best receiver to come out of this draft. I'm not saying Godwin would have been good enough to save Mariota's career, but could you imagine how lit the Titans' run to the playoffs would have been last season if Ryan Tannehill had been throwing to both Godwin and A.J. Brown? OK, so, that still would not have been enough to beat the Chiefs. But the Titans would have a dynamic offense heading into 2020.
The Jets did pretty well for themselves with this pick in 2017, with Adams going on to become a two-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2019. While there are some great defenders to pick at this point (including the actual first overall selection from the draft, who is now starting to slide), it makes the most sense for the team to stick with Adams, who can do so many things for New York defensively. Not only that, but he's been a solid leader, too.
Marcus Williams has been one of the more productive players in the league, even though he will be remembered for
his role in allowing the Saints to end up on the wrong end of
the Minnesota Miracle in the 2017 playoffs. I know the
Chargers had other needs that were eventually filled via later drafts, but this was Gus Bradley's first season as the team's defensive coordinator, and his single-high safety scheme needed a playmaker. Williams would have been the perfect fit to play that center-field position.
**Kamara was actually drafted:** by the
Saints in Round 3 (No. 67).
The Panthers could have looked to defense at this spot, but it seemed certain that then-GM Dave Gettleman wanted to make the on-brand decision to line up a replacement for aging running back Jonathan Stewart. Kamara can do a lot of the things that has made Christian McCaffrey a success in this league, and pairing Kamara with Cam Newton at this point in Newton's career would have been fun.
**Mahomes was actually drafted:** by the
Steelers in Round 1 (No. 30).
The Bengals went into this draft looking for help at defensive end, and they should have stuck with that need instead of making an extreme whiff by picking receiver John Ross. Here, they can make things right by going with Watt. I know, you could make the joke that, given the recent trouble Myles Garrett got into on the field, he would have been a better member of the Bengals. But I would never stoop to make that joke. Instead, I will point out that the Bengals already had a pretty good LDE in Carlos Dunlap. Watt would offer Cincinnati more versatility, thanks to his ability to play multiple positions on this defense. Not that I have to justify this pick to you.
**White was actually drafted:** by the
Bills in Round 1 (No. 27).
The Bills absolutely scored with this pick in the real draft, but they're going to have to pay a bigger price for White this time around. Not that anybody with Buffalo would ever complain. He's allowed a passer rating of 57.7 since coming into the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and that is by far the best of any player over the past three years (minimum of 200 targets faced).
The Saints also did pretty well with this pick in the original draft, and New Orleans is exactly where the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year will land once again. Lattimore was amazing during his rookie season, and you could have made the case to pick him ahead of White based on that first year. Though Lattimore sort of flattened out over the past two years, he's still one of the top picks in this draft.
**Garrett was actually drafted:** by the
Browns in Round 1 (No. 1).
Hey, look: The Browns ended up with Garrett anyway, using a pick they acquired from the Eagles in 2016 in the swap that allowed Philly to draft Carson Wentz. Now, I don't want to make it seem like Garrett is a bad player. Obviously, swinging Mason Rudolph's own helmet at him last season brought Garrett some notoriety, along with some of the things he'd been fined for in the past (most notably punching Delanie Walker). However, Garrett is still a solid defender. And if the Browns have a chance to walk away with the best player of the 2017 draft and the guy they actually did take first overall, nobody in Cleveland will complain.
**Ramczyk was actually drafted:** by the
Saints in Round 1 (No. 32).
This was such a weird pick to make, because the Cardinals were in the mix for a quarterback. But with Mahomes and Watson gone, there was no way they were going to use such a high selection on the next best QB, Nathan Peterman. Instead, Arizona addressed a seemingly endless need by snagging the best lineman in the draft, a bookend tackle who will be dominant at his position for years and honestly would have had a good case to be the No. 3 overall pick. In this exercise, the Cardinals have landed quite a steal.
**Kupp was actually drafted:** by the
Rams in Round 3 (No. 69).
Like the Cardinals and offensive-line help, the Eagles seemingly have a perennial need for a wide receiver. One of my favorite receivers headed into the 2017 NFL Draft was Cooper Kupp, a standout at Eastern Washington who proved he could play in the Senior Bowl. But then his 40-yard-dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine wasn't that great, and folks panicked. Which was kind of stupid. Because I would always lean toward the guys who actually played well on the field over someone who looked good running around in his underwear in Indianapolis. Kupp would have no doubt flourished with Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz in Philly.
**Jackson was actually drafted:** by the
Titans in Round 1 (No. 18).
The Colts went into the draft with a huge need at cornerback, so it was a mild surprise when they actually went with Hooker. The Colts can improve by going instead with Jackson, a player with whom they've become quite familiar over the past couple of years. Jackson struggled during the early part of his career, but he was instrumental in the Titans' playoff run, and his presence would certainly be welcomed in Indianapolis.
The Ravens had a huge need at receiver headed into 2017 following the retirement of Steve Smith (who is now my co-worker!). So maybe one of the available receivers left on the board would make a lot of sense. But then you remember that if you saw Cleveland : drafting quarterbacks as an SAT analogy question, Baltimore : drafting receivers could have been an acceptable answer. So, instead, the Ravens add a player they already know is going to fit in perfectly with this team.
**King was actually drafted:** by the
Chargers in Round 5 (No. 151).
Speaking of teams that have struggled to draft wide receivers, here come the Redskins. It might make sense for them to take one of the best remaining receivers at this point. But to what end? Let's say they take Kenny Golladay. Well, 2017 was Kirk Cousins' final season in Washington, and Golladay struggled during his rookie year with the Lions while playing with Detroit's version of Kirk Cousins. So why not address the need at defensive back here? King has been a pretty solid player over the last two years.
**Johnson was actually drafted:** by the
Rams in Round 3 (No. 91).
The Titans would probably be in a good spot to move down, because cornerback would have been their biggest priority at this point. But the team also had a need at safety -- and I would favor Johnson over Eddie Jackson, because Jackson is a better free safety, a position that is already occupied on Tennessee's roster by the great Kevin Byard. Johnson would be able to play his more natural strong safety position, where he really did well for two years before an abbreviated 2019.
**Cook was actually drafted:** by the
Vikings in Round 2 (No. 41).
The Bucs went into this draft with a huge need at running back, and it's one they have still yet to address three years later (notwithstanding the attempt to do so via Ronald Jones). Selecting Cook takes care of this problem. I was in the NFL Network newsroom when this draft was going down, and the Bucs fans in attendance were going mad, hoping that the Florida State kid was going to end up in Tampa. He did not. Well, at least not until now.
**Jackson was actually drafted:** by the
Bears in Round 4 (No. 112).
The Broncos' actual selection of Bolles is obviously one that they would like to forget -- like the first season of Parks and Recreation. (A side note for those of you looking to stream that show: Just jump into Season 2, and you'll be just fine.) The Broncos could just go with another lineman here because of the need. But looking at Denver's roster, Jackson and 2016 draftee Justin Simmons could form the best safety combo of 2020. I know Simmons is currently playing free safety, and I just explained that Jackson is a better free safety than strong safety -- but Simmons was at strong safety in 2017, and the temptation to put these two together is great enough that we can just let the Broncos and current head coach Vic Fangio sort out who plays where. They're bright people.
**Golladay was actually drafted:** by the
Lions in Round 3 (No. 96).
The Lions were able to snare Golladay in the third round in real life but will have no such luck here. After a slow rookie season (those happen), he's become one of the better receivers when it comes to making contested catches, which no doubt brings back memories of Calvin Johnson. Not that Golladay is at that level yet. But he's been a solid performer. Golladay set career highs with 11 touchdowns last season, to go along with 18.3 yards per catch.
**Hooker was actually drafted:** by the
Colts in Round 1 (No. 15).
The Dolphins had a need on both lines, but while Dion Dawkins or Taylor Moton would make sense, Hooker has fallen way too far in this draft already. Reshad Jones missed 10 games in 2016, while free agent Nate Allen was signed as more of a stop-gap measure. Meaning Miami still could have used a player like Hooker, who has a knack for making big plays.
**Dawkins was actually drafted:** by the
Bills in Round 2 (No. 63).
The need for offensive linemen has been a recurring theme for the Giants for quite some time. 2015 first-rounder Ereck Flowers was one of the biggest busts in Giants history, and he was seemingly never able to figure it out -- Well, at least not until he landed in Washington last season. Fans also talk about the team's decision not to draft Quenton Nelson in 2018. Dawkins won't make up for either missing on Flowers or passing on Nelson, but he's solid enough that using the second overall pick on running back Saquon Barkley would make much more sense with Dawkins on the roster.
**Mahomes was actually drafted:** by the
Steelers in Round 2 (No. 62).
The Raiders were 12-4 in 2016 and were coming into this draft needing a cornerback. With all of that being known, they of course would take a receiver here, even with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper still on the roster. In fairness to them, the Raiders did select a corner in real life, although they passed on a future All-Pro (Tre'Davious White) in favor of someone who played just 23 games with the franchise before being traded to Houston last October (Conley). So, it's not fair to make jokes about the Raiders doing something a little out of the box here. But I will say, with so many of the top corners off the board and Crabtree heading into what would be his final year with the Raiders, JuJu makes a ton of sense. At least to me. A three-man rotation of Crabtree, Cooper and JuJu would have been exciting. And he could have eventually been teammates with AB, at least for a few months in 2019.
**Moton was actually drafted:** by the
Panthers in Round 2 (No. 64).
You know, it is fun to think about Leonard Fournette here, because he's still on the board. (The Raiders also could have jumped in one pick earlier, but that would have deprived us of Marshawn Lynch's stint on the Raiders, so no.) But really, the Texans have long searched for above-serviceable help on the offensive line. Plus, the team already had Lamar Miller on hand, and he was a pretty good running back. Finally, if the Texans had Fournette, it would have made absolutely no sense for them to trade DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson this offseason. Oh wait -- that still doesn't make sense.
**Griffin was actually drafted:** by the
Seahawks in Round 3 (No. 90).
The Seahawks moved out of this spot in reality because there weren't many players left to fill their needs -- the biggest of which, at this point, was on the offensive line. Without a way to address that (I've taken trades off the board), I'll have the Seahawks take Griffin here. You'll remember his presence on the roster helped set up one of the best stories of the 2018 draft, when Seattle added Shaquill's brother, Shaquem. And Shaquill really broke out in a big way in 2019, so I feel really good about this pick.
**Woods was actually drafted:** by the
Cowboys in Round 6 (No. 191).
Woods is a good NFL player who is coming off his best season. He's good in coverage and, again, is just a solid NFL player who would have helped soften the blow of losing Eric Berry to a ruptured Achilles in September. But I understand the frustration this exercise would cause a Chiefs fan, going from Mahomes to Woods. That has to be kind of a letdown. Like if you went to a comedy club to see Bill Burr, but instead it was me headlining. So, I get that.
**Baker was actually drafted:** by the
Cardinals in Round 2 (No. 36).
The Cowboys had a need at safety in this draft and landed Woods in Round 6. They would have happily taken him here, as well, but were usurped by the Chiefs. I've always considered Baker a good player. He was fourth in the NFL last year in tackles (147) and really improved under Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. He has yet to have an interception, which is fine, because I feel like the Cowboys would find a good use for him.
**Fournette was actually drafted:** by the
Jaguars in Round 1 (No. 4).
I'm not sure that I care for this. Because the idea of Fournette running behind Aaron Rodgers doesn't thrill me as a Bears fan. But it makes a ton of sense. We saw how important a solid running game was last year for the Packers, as Aaron Jones carried Rodgers and Green Bay to a 13-3 record. Don't @ me on this. They would have been 6-10 without him. But if the Packers had a solid road grader with Rodgers in 2017? Well ... it probably wouldn't have mattered, because Mike McCarthy wouldn't have used him correctly. But it would have been fun on Madden.
Speaking of Jones, I know a lot of Packers fans will ask, why not draft him? Especially coming off Jones' 19-touchdown 2019. But Fournette is a better back, and he has shown he can also catch the ball. So I'm going with the LSU product.
**Williams was actually drafted:** by the
Chargers in Round 1 (No. 7).
The Steelers really did have a great draft in real life, with Watt and JuJu. And while they're deprived of both in our imaginary draft, I think it would be pretty fun to see what Mike Williams could do opposite Antonio Brown in this offense. My conjecture would be that Williams would become a touchdown machine for sure, similar to what he did in Los Angeles in 2018, when he reached the paint 10 times.
**Awuzie was actually drafted:** by the
Cowboys in Round 2 (No. 60).
Blowing a huge lead in the Super Bowl is going to make you want to go out and splurge on defense. In reality, the Falcons did that when they traded up for Takkarist McKinley. Which I thought was a good move at the time. But here, we're going with Awuzie, who has been extremely solid in coverage for the Cowboys. He's not the second coming of Deion Sanders (oh, wow, that works as a callback for both the Cowboys and the Falcons), but he would be pretty nice right here.
**Engram was actually drafted:** by the
Giants in Round 1 (No. 23).
I know I said no trades. But the deal that put this choice in New Orleans' hands was completed in March of 2017, when the Patriots sent their No. 1 pick to the Saints for Brandin Cooks, well before draft day -- so it will stand here. I'm torn on what to do with this pick. Because the Saints have needed a tight end ever since they traded away Jimmy Graham (oh yeah, welcome to Chicago this year!). Engram battled injuries in New York, but he's so damn good. If he could stay healthy, he would be amazing in this offense working alongside Michael Thomas.