I feel for the Jets fans who will remember the 2021 NFL Draft because of their team taking Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. I really feel for you, because I'm a Bears fan who remembers taking Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes in 2017.
I'm not saying that drafting Wilson over Justin Fields is going to go down in history the same way -- not just yet. But it's clear some mistakes were made. I'm here to change all of that with my 2021 NFL Draft redo.
NOTE: As in previous redrafts, I'm keeping some trades and throwing out others -- as is my right.
Original No. 2 pick: Zach Wilson
You can try to get cute and slot Micah Parsons here, but don't. The spirit of this exercise is to put the team in the spot it was in back in 2021. The Jets clearly were looking for a quarterback. They should have drafted Fields, who lasted until No. 11, where the Bears grabbed him after trading up. Wilson's poor performance in 2022 helped put the team on the path toward Aaron Rodgers. Gang Green would have made the playoffs last season if Fields was their quarterback. I won't debate this.
Original No. 3 pick: Trey Lance
This is different. As with the Jets' selection of Wilson, the 49ers' decision to trade up and select Lance -- with it becoming clear that they weren't going to be able to trade for Aaron Rodgers -- has not panned out, thanks in large part to an ankle injury that wiped out the season that was supposed to mark his arrival as a starter. But I'm not giving San Francisco a quarterback here, because the one I would take (Fields) is already gone, and because we can feel fairly confident they would have found a workable QB or two anyway, based on what the team accomplished with Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy over the past two seasons. So Parsons, the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Pro, makes the most sense.
Original No. 4 pick: Kyle Pitts
OK, so maybe Chase would have been just as underused as Pitts, who has been targeted just shy of 100 times in 27 career games (a knee injury ended his 2022 season prematurely). Either way, I'd argue Chase -- the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year -- is the much better player, and the Falcons would have been wise to take him here.
Original No. 5 pick: Ja'Marr Chase
I don't know, man. Part of me wants to go with Kyle Pitts here. Maybe Jaylen Waddle. But the struggle for the Bengals back in 2021 was deciding between Chase and an offensive lineman. I would have to say the Bengals go offensive lineman in a do-over, with Chase off the table. (Even though I really want to put Pitts here. I do.)
Original No. 6 pick: Jaylen Waddle
Yeah, this was a great pick, well worth trading up for, and it's going to work out really well for the Dolphins moving forward. Only eight other players in the NFL have more receiving yards over the past two seasons than Waddle (2,371). Like with Lawrence staying at No. 1, no point in deliberating this much further.
Original No. 7 pick: Penei Sewell
Detroit broke out under Dan Campbell last season, but a defense that ranked 32nd overall (and 30th against the pass) held this team back. I can't imagine how much better the Lions would have been with Hufanga in the secondary. The second-year safety was a first-team All-Pro for the 49ers last season.
Original No. 8 pick: Jaycee Horn
If the Panthers still have their hearts set on a cornerback, then they should take Surtain, who has outplayed Horn thus far, earning an All-Pro nod last season (though, to be fair to Horn, injuries have gotten in his way). For what it's worth, I thought Carolina should've drafted Fields back in 2021. But he's not available in this redraft, so Surtain it is.
Original No. 9 pick: Patrick Surtain II
This is a tough one. We haven't really seen enough of Lance to say he should be a top-10 pick -- but then, he did nothing to disqualify himself during his brief appearance in 2022 before going down with that ankle injury. What I did see enough of: Russell Wilson as quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Even if Lance were to fail in Denver, selecting him here would cost the Broncos just this first-round pick, not all that stuff they gave up for Russ when they traded for him last offseason.
Original No. 10 pick: DeVonta Smith
I know you could make an argument for the Eagles to take Amon-Ra St. Brown. I'm even tempted to do so right now. But to keep with the spirit of this exercise, I would rather stick with the original pick if it's working out. And Smith has been exceptional for the Eagles since they moved up two slots to select him.
Original No. 11 pick: Justin Fields (by Bears)
Well, with Justin Fields going to the Jets at No. 2, the Giants are not trading this slot to the Bears -- Chicago isn't moving up for Mac Jones. And I guess that means the Giants aren't getting Evan Neal with the 2022 first-rounder they got back in the Fields trade (No. 7 overall), either. But they are getting a solid receiver for Daniel Jones.
Original No. 12 pick: Micah Parsons
Selecting Parsons was an excellent use of the 12th overall pick, which the Cowboys acquired from the Eagles in Philadelphia's move up to No. 10 for DeVonta Smith. But Parsons is gone here, so we'll give Darrisaw to the Cowboys, which means they don't end up having to invest a 2022 first-round pick in Tyler Smith.
Original No. 13 pick: Rashawn Slater
The Chargers did such a great job landing Slater, and though he's gone by this point in our redraft, they could go after an offensive lineman again. But the idea of putting Pitts on a team with Justin Herbert at quarterback is just too hard to resist. And no, this isn't about fantasy football potential. (OK, maybe it is a little.)
Original No. 14 pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker
Vera-Tucker -- whom the Jets traded up with the Vikings to take here -- has been pretty solid, though he missed 10 games in 2022 with a torn triceps. I'm going to keep this trade alive (even though I nullified the Bears-Giants trade), and to help protect Fields, I'm going with Humphrey, who was an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate in 2021 and earned a Pro Bowl nod last season.
Original No. 15 pick: Mac Jones
The Patriots should stick with that guy from Alabama they drafted this year. Oh, you thought I meant Mac Jones? Maybe later on. The Jones era has included peaks and valleys, even if we can acknowledge the Pats should maybe have done better than letting their former defensive coordinator call plays on offense. Still, here, they should go with Barmore, an original Round 2 choice who has proven solid (53 pressures, per Next Gen Stats) for them.
Original No. 16 pick: Zaven Collins
Horn battled through some injuries early on, but he returned in 2022 and had a pretty solid season for the Panthers. I would even suggest that he's going to take a leap this year playing for defensive backs coach DeAngelo Hall in Carolina. This would be a solid pick for Arizona.
Original No. 17 pick: Alex Leatherwood
The Raiders erase this reach from history and preempt a huge need from developing on defense by going with Campbell, an original second-round choice by the Jags who has racked up five picks and 25 passes defensed over the past two seasons.
(I really did think about slotting Mac Jones here. But honestly, I'm not sure where Jones ends up going in the first round ... or if he even does. Stay tuned!)
Original No. 18 pick: Jaelan Phillips
The Dolphins got a great one when they nabbed Holland in the second round of the real-life 2021 NFL Draft. If they want to keep him in this redraft, though, it's going to cost them a first-round pick.
Original No. 19 pick: Jamin Davis
No doubt this would be a very different pick if we were doing this exercise last year, when Davis was coming off a rookie campaign in which he logged just eight starts and played on 56 percent of Washington's defensive snaps. But he's since rebounded, becoming one of the most improved players from this class, and he has a bright future with the Commanders.
Original No. 20 pick: Kadarius Toney (by Giants)
Remember, we're undoing the Bears-Giants trade, meaning Chicago picks here. And while Mac Jones was a quarterback many observers thought the Bears could take a look at if he was available at No. 20, I don't see that happening now. I'm thinking that if you dropped Phillips on a Chicago line that still included Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack (both of whom were traded away last year) in 2021, that defense could have been pretty good.
Original No. 22 pick: Caleb Farley
There are some interesting possibilities for the Titans here, especially with a couple of notable edge rushers still on the board. But with corner a top priority back in 2021, I’m going with the best remaining player at the position.
Original No. 23 pick: Christian Darrisaw
The Vikings crushed this pick with Darrisaw in the actual draft. But with Darrisaw already off the board in this exercise, Minnesota targets another quality offensive lineman in Dickerson, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season. He's also an integral part of one of the NFL's best O-lines right now -- so that's good, I think.
Original No. 24 pick: Najee Harris
I didn't care for the Steelers' choice to go with Harris originally. (I mean, I did take him on my fantasy team, so that was fine.) Sewell's drop here might seem like a big dip, and you might have taken him over Landon Dickerson -- but I'm doing what I'm doing. And the bottom line is, he addresses a spot that has been a need for quite some time in Pittsburgh.
Original No. 25 pick: Travis Etienne
As much as I didn't like the Steelers going with a running back in the first round in 2021, that's how much I love that Jacksonville did it with this choice, acquired from the Rams in exchange for Jalen Ramsey. Especially with the way Etienne played for the Jags heading into the playoffs last season (103.3 yards from scrimmage per game over the final four weeks). I'm not completely against choosing an RB in the first round if you have a way to use him, and the Jaguars did. (Well, eventually.)
Original No. 26 pick: Greg Newsome II
As I wrote in the blurb above for the Jets' pick at No. 14, Vera-Tucker has been a solid player for Gang Green, setting aside the time he missed due to injury in 2022. And I have no doubt he'd be just as solid for the Browns, too, falling to them in this spot. Newsome is interesting, but his play hasn't always been consistent, so I'll take a safer route here.
Original No. 28 pick: Payton Turner
The Saints wanted to strengthen the defensive line when they originally took Turner. That selection hasn't quite worked out as they hoped. I'd prefer Rousseau (who has 12 sacks in 30 career games against Turner's three sacks in 13 games) at this point over the remaining edge rushers.
Original No. 29 pick: Eric Stokes
Again, Newsome's first two seasons with the Browns were a mixed bag. But Cleveland's defense was inconsistent in general under the direction of Joe Woods in that span, with Woods eventually being replaced this offseason by Jim Schwartz. Like the Packers' real-life pick, Newsome surely would have had a chance to seize the spotlight in Green Bay during Jaire Alexander's absence in 2021.
Original No. 30 pick: Gregory Rousseau
The Bills would be looking for defensive help, and with a lot of quality edge rushers already off the board, they go with Bolton, an original second-round choice by the Chiefs who has since racked up more tackles than anyone else in this class.
Original No. 31 pick: Odafe Oweh
Toney did nothing for the New York Giants, and he kind of did less than that as a midseason acquisition by the Chiefs last year -- until his starring moments in the Super Bowl. I still love the talent, and believe it or not, I still think he's going to be a productive NFL player, so I'll have the Ravens take him with this pick, acquired (ironically) from the Chiefs as part of the return for Orlando Brown.