After a long buildup and a furious three days of action, the 2018 NFL Draft is a thing of the past. But that doesn't mean we're done analyzing what happened and what should have happened.
Forget those two options, now it's time to think about what could have happened. While every team will tell you they're happy with how things played out, there's always a way to dream up a situation where things could have gone better. I'm going to try and find one spot for each team where things could have fallen into place perfectly had something been different.
In some cases, that means seeing who was available at picks that had been traded away earlier. In others, we check out key prospects that were tantalizingly out of reach when teams came on the clock.
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In every scenario, we're playing the what-if game. Consider this a look at an alternate reality of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Arizona Cardinals: Tackles out of reach
The Cardinals made the smart move to get up to No. 10 for Josh Rosen, but one byproduct of that deal means they didn't have that No. 79 overall pick in the third round, where Orlando Brown and Chukwuma Okorafor were available, to address the tackle position. Both were gone when the Cards picked at No. 97, and then another potential starter down the road went a few picks before No. 134 in Will Richardson. You make the Rosen deal every time, but when you do, it impacts how you can address other positions.
Atlanta Falcons: DT dominoes
Calvin Ridley was a great addition to the offense, but when the Falcons passed on Taven Bryan, it surprised a lot of people. Outside of the first-round prospects, the team had shown a lot of interest in two guys at the position: Sam Houston State's P.J. Hall, and Fort Hays State's Nathan Shepherd. The former was taken one pick ahead of Atlanta in the second round, and the Falcons went with corner Isaiah Oliver at No. 58 instead of Shepherd, who was taken early in the third. So the team ended up with Deadrin Senat with its third round pick. Oliver was a good value, so it's hard to hate that pick, but I'm sure most expected the defensive tackle position to be a higher priority in this draft.
Baltimore Ravens: Sniped on Davenport
I'm generally all for trading back and picking up selections, especially if you think the guy you want is going to be there down the line. But I'm not sure the Ravens would have passed on Marcus Davenport had the Saints not traded two first-round picks to get him at No. 14. Even with Davenport off the board, it was surprising to see the Ravens pass on the chance to draft Tremaine Edmunds in order to take a tight end prospect. And it was even more surprising when they came back around for another tight end in Round 3.
Buffalo Bills: O-line still an issue
The Bills had to move up for a quarterback, and they made a smart deal going up to grab Tremaine Edmunds when he fell further than expected. But the offshoot of those deals meant they had to wait until No. 96 to make their next pick, and those three picks dealt before then could have been used to address their offensive line issues. It then looked like they'd benefit from a stroke of luck and have Tyrell Crosby (someone they met at the combine) fall to them in the fifth, but he was taken one pick ahead of them at No. 153. I would have rather seen them take Crosby in the fourth round and spend more draft capital addressing the offensive line.
Carolina Panthers: O-line run in Round 1
D.J. Moore should be a quality receiver for the team, but before taking him, the Panthers missed out on Frank Ragnow, Billy Price and Isaiah Wynn, who came off the board at No. 20, 21 and 23, respectively. James Daniels was still there if they wanted to go that direction at No. 24, but they went with the receiver instead. That being said, I like every pick they made in the first four rounds, including taking tight end Ian Thomas at No. 101. But the reason they had the first pick in the fourth round in the first place was a trade down from No. 88, and one pick before that, the talented Arden Key came off the board thanks to the Raiders leapfrogging the Panthers to get to No. 87. Would the Panthers have taken Key and gambled on his off-field red flags? Can't rule it out. And if they did want Key, could they have taken him at No. 85 and gotten Rashaun Gaulden at No. 88? A draft of what-ifs for Carolina.
Chicago Bears: Sniped on Nelson
Hard to hate anything the Bears did in the first two rounds, but I'm sure there was a sigh of disappointment when Quenton Nelson came off the board at No. 6. They were able to get good value on James Daniels early in Round 2, but he has nowhere near the upside of Nelson, who'd been talked about as a potential Hall-of-Famer. Getting Nelson at No. 8 could have meant going with Anthony Miller at No. 39 rather than trading up for him later in the round and sacrificing the team's 2019 second-round pick. Roquan Smith, Daniels and Miller is a great haul, but would Nelson, Miller, the guy they could have taken next year and the player they would have taken at No. 105 with no Patriots trade (Josey Jewell? Nick Nelson?) been better? Hard to say.
Cincinnati Bengals: Just missed Ragnow
Many people had connected Frank Ragnow, the draft's top center, to the Bengals at No. 21. Then the Lions snapped him up one pick earlier, and the Bengals went with another interior lineman in Billy Price. Another what-if: Joshua Jackson was expected to be a first-round pick, and at one point I thought he could be in play for Cincinnati at No. 21. They came one pick within having him fall to their No. 45 pick, but the Packers double-dipped at the position and snatched him at No. 44. The Bengals then traded back, but would they have if Jackson was available?
Cleveland Browns: Barkley and a QB?
You absolutely have to take the QB you want at No. 1 and not hope he makes it to No. 4, or just be happy with any QB at No. 4. It's the do-or-die position in the NFL, and if you don't have a franchise quarterback, it becomes extremely tough to compete for a championship. But if Saquon Barkley quickly becomes a star in New York, Browns fans are going to be left wondering if they could have gotten both Barkley and Baker Mayfield had the team went with the running back at No. 1. And if any of the QBs that slipped out of the top four becomes a star, go ahead and crank the what-if game up to 11.
Dallas Cowboys: Just missed Witten heir
It's hard to hate what the Cowboys were able to do on the first two days of the draft, as they could have landed three long-term starters in Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams and Michael Gallup. But when news broke that Jason Witten was expected to retire, every Cowboy fan started thinking about landing Dallas Goedert at No. 50. Instead, the Eagles trades up from No. 52 to 49 and sniped the talented tight end, even though they already have Zach Ertz. That one has to sting.
Denver Broncos: Sniped on Daniels
This what-if would obviously have been about Bradley Chubb had he went in the top four as expected, but the Broncos were able to land the talented pass-rusher at No. 5. Quenton Nelson would have also addressed a position of need, and even though there was a run on interior lineman in the first round, then two more picked in the first two picks of Round 2, James Daniels was somehow still available as Denver's pick neared. The Broncos had brought him in for a private workout, so we know the interest was there. Yet one pick before they were on the clock, the Bears sniped Daniels at No. 39. Tough luck.
Detroit Lions: Paying price for RB
The Lions made an aggressive move up the board for a running back in Round 2, hopping from No. 51 to 43 to take Kerryon Johnson. They did that despite Derrius Guice still being on the board (he would last until No. 59). And in the trade-up, the Lions surrendered No. 117, which certainly would have come in handy on Day 3. The Lions ended up trading a 2019 third-round pick to get No. 113 and draft Da'Shawn Hand. If they had stayed put in Round 2, they could have had a running back, Hand likely still there at No. 117, and whoever that future third could have been.
Green Bay Packers: Trade costs Pack top punter
The Packers landed a nice haul in this draft, especially with their two trades in the first round. But one curious deal was the one to move up for into the third round for Oren Burks, who could have very well still been on the board at No. 101. The Packers sacrificed No. 147 to make that move, and that pick was ultimately used on potentially a better inside linebacker in Micah Kiser. But if the Packers still had that pick, they could have landed the top punting prospect in the draft, Texas' Michael Dickson. Instead they settled on JK Scott at No. 172. I'd be much happier with Josey Jewell (who went 106th) at inside linebacker and landing Dickson at No. 147, then using the Scott pick on help elsewhere.
Houston Texans: Passing on tackle help
The Texans somehow managed to land a guy in Justin Reid that many thought could go in the first round, even though they didn't pick until Round 3. Then they took Martinas Rankin, who is probably going to have to kick inside at the pro level, leaving the team lacking in talent at the offensive tackle position. In taking Rankin, the Texans passed on Orlando Brown and Chukwuma Okorafor, two players who project to stay at tackle, and both were gone by the time the team was back on the clock at No. 98. If the offensive line turns out to be their Achilles heel in 2018 due to mediocre tackle play, the Texans' third-round decisions could come back to haunt them.
Indianapolis Colts: 'Settling' for Nelson
Quenton Nelson is going to be a great player for a long time, and he should quickly become invaluable to Andrew Luck and that offense. But it had to hurt to see the team come within one pick of landing Bradley Chubb to elevate their new 4-3 defense. It also would have made more sense doubling up at guard if the second one they landed was Will Hernandez, but he went just a few picks before the team took Braden Smith.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Sniped on tight ends
The Jaguars did extensive work on the tight end class, taking multiple looks at Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, in particular. Hurst came off the board at No. 25, but the Jaguars still got a fine player in Taven Bryan at No. 29. If they had been able to come back around and land Andrews later in the draft, that probably would have been the best-case scenario, but he came off the board at No. 86, just a few picks before the Jaguars took Ronnie Harrison. With no tight ends drafted, the team has to hope they get a good season from Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hands tied after trades
The Chiefs made a pair of Day 2 trades I didn't like, and part of the result was them having No. 100 instead of No. 86 and No. 122. Dorian O'Daniel could very well have been available at No. 122, so if the Chiefs had just not traded at all, they could have very well landed the same guys at No. 54 (Breeland Speaks) and 78 (Derrick Nnadi), while using No. 86 to help another area of concern. That could have meant taking a chance on talented pass-rusher Arden Key (87) or landing some offensive line help like Chukwuma Okorafor (92). Or they could have paid a minimal price to move up from No. 86 for Rashaan Gaulden (85) or Orlando Brown (82) or Martinas Rankin (80).
Los Angeles Chargers: Just missed on Jefferson
The Chargers got a steal in Derwin James at No. 17, but that meant they weren't able to spend that pick on a defensive tackle. They instead helped that position with Justin Jones in the third round. Also in the third round, Malik Jefferson got within spitting distance (No. 78) of the Chargers' pick at No. 84, and that was a prospect they had met with multiple times during the pre-draft process. He could have been a great fit at linebacker for the Chargers.
Los Angeles Rams: Brown could have been big
The Rams did a lot of trading in this draft, particularly on Day 3, but after patiently waiting until 86 prospects came off the board before they were on the clock in Round 3, they made a small move back to No. 89 before selecting a tackle in Joseph Noteboom. Would they have made the deal if Orlando Brown was still there at No. 87? He's a guy with a lot more upside than Noteboom, but he came off the board at No. 83. Then again, if the Rams really wanted him, it's not like they have shown an aversion to trading.
Miami Dolphins: Sniped on Rosen
I think Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to be a good player for a long time, but after Dolphins fans got their hopes up that they may be in position to take a franchise quarterback at No. 11, it had to hurt to see the Cardinals trade up to No. 10 and draft Josh Rosen one pick ahead of Miami. If the Dolphins end up looking to replace Ryan Tannehill in the near future and Rosen is lighting it up for Arizona, it's going to be hard to get over just missing out on the quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings: No Plan B on O-line
I thought the Vikings would spend more draft capital on their offensive line in an effort to keep their new big-money quarterback upright, and while they landed a tackle in Round 2, it feels like they could have done more. While Frank Ragnow and Billy Price -- two interior lineman the team met with multiple times during the predraft process -- came off the board in the early 20s, Will Hernandez was still there at No. 30. Instead the Vikings went with Mike Hughes. If the interior of the offensive line is an issue this year, that decision could cause a lot of retroactive grief.
New England Patriots: Settling on Wynn
Of course, the Patriots have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point. Left tackle appeared to be a big priority, but they saw Kolton Miller come off the board at No. 15, then selected Isaiah Wynn, who will likely be tried at tackle but may end up projecting as a better fit inside. One pick before taking Wynn, the Patriots saw the Titans move ahead of them for Rashaan Evans, a player New England had in for a private visit and someone that could have been a big help to the defense. Considering the deal the Patriots struck before the start of Round 2, it's likely they were hoping to land a tackle target in Round 1, but I wouldn't be shocked if Evans was on his way to New England before the Titans trade.
New Orleans Saints: Just missing tight end
After trading up for Marcus Davenport, the Saints had a long wait until they were back on the clock. When they finally picked again at No. 91, they had just missed out on a potential weapon at tight end in Mark Andrews, who came off the board at No. 86. But the biggest missed opportunity will likely be whoever they could have selected in 2019 -- if they would have ended up in position for a great pickup, it's possible that player plus someone like Taven Bryan, or even Lamar Jackson as the heir to Drew Brees, would have been a better first-round option after staying put.
New York Giants: Barkley and a top QB?
I'm not sure taking Saquon Barkley at No. 2 instead of a potential franchise quarterback was the right call, no matter how good Barkley is, but Giants fans came close to getting both Barkley and a top-rated quarterback in Lamar Jackson, who was on the board at No. 32 and wasn't going to be taken by the team picking there (Eagles) or next (Browns). After the Patriots passed on Jackson, Giants fans had to be licking their chops at being able to watch a Lamar Jackson-Saquon Barkley offense down the road. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, as the Ravens traded into the Eagles' spot to take Jackson.
New York Jets: Linebackers get away
The Jets sacrificed three second-round picks, including two this year, to get up to No. 3 and ultimately take Sam Darnold. It was a price worth paying, but the opportunity cost of trading away those picks means they didn't have another selection until No. 72, where they took a defensive lineman in Nathan Shepherd. A couple of linebackers who came in for private visits came off the board just ahead of the Jets in Lorenzo Carter (66) and Fred Warner (70), and either could have had a bigger impact on improving the defense than Shepherd.
Oakland Raiders: Dealing away three years of control
Would the Raiders have traded back from No. 10 if Roquan Smith had been there? It's possible, considering they were linked to Kolton Miller before the draft, but I'm not sure they could have passed on the talented linebacker. And in retrospect, would the team have dealt the No. 79 pick for one year of Martavis Bryant had they known a receiver as talented as Michael Gallup would be there when that pick came on the clock? I hope not. If Gallup becomes a star with the Cowboys, the Raiders are going to be kicking themselves.
Philadelphia Eagles: What if Jackson wasn't available?
The Eagles didn't have a lot of picks thanks to the moves that helped them win a Super Bowl, and I like the picks they made. But one what-if worth exploring is what would have happened if the Patriots decided to snag Lamar Jackson at No. 31, or if they had taken the Ravens' offer (if in fact it was on the table, which I assume it wasn't, because how could the Pats turn down a deal that would have included a future second-rounder?). Would anyone else had traded up to No. 32 with the QB off the board? If the Eagles are stuck there, do they take a corner like Joshua Jackson? An offensive lineman like Will Hernandez or Connor Williams? Or do they just roll with Dallas Goedert? Being able to trade out means they got Goedert plus that future second-rounder, so if that pick turns into a great player, Eagles fans will have to retroactively thank their luck that the Patriots stayed put at No. 31 and passed on Jackson.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker still a need
The Steelers did nothing to address either inside or outside linebacker in the draft, and that could wind up being a major problem in 2018. They figure to have been eyeing Rashaan Evans, but the Titans traded up to No. 22 to take him. With the Ravens then at No. 22 and the Bengals at 21, it's unlikely either of Pittsburgh's main rivals were interested in opening the door for that perfect fit. Had the Bills not traded up to take Tremaine Edmunds at No. 16 (say he came off the board earlier), would they have moved back to No. 28 and picked up an extra third-rounder?
San Francisco 49ers: Sniped on Roquan Smith
Protecting the big-money quarterback has to be No. 1 priority, so it's hard to fault the 49ers for taking Mike McGlinchey at No. 9. But linebacker was a huge need for them, and no one would have been surprised to see them draft Tremaine Edmunds instead. Could they have still taken the tackle if Roquan Smith was available? I find that hard to believe.
Seattle Seahawks: Different possibilities in Round 3
The Seahawks made perhaps the most surprising pick of the first round when they moved back to No. 27 and selected Rashaad Penny, and it feels like they could have moved back a little future and picked up even more draft capital. But they did land the No. 76 in the move back, and they almost had the chance to pick up a nice tackle in Geron Christian with that pick. Instead, Christian came off the board at No. 74, then the Seahawks traded back a couple spots before taking a defensive lineman in Rasheem Green. And if Justin Reid had slipped just a little further (he went 68th), could the Seahawks have grabbed him then be more inclined to work out an Earl Thomas trade?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Key tackle in reach in Round 2
The Bucs made a smart trade back from No. 7 to 12, netting two second-round picks in the process. It's shocking they didn't take Derwin James after the trade, but either way, having No. 53 and No. 56 was nice. It would have been even better if the team was able to use No. 53 on Connor Williams as potential tackle help, but he went a few picks earlier to the Cowboys. Instead the Bucs doubled up at corner.
Tennessee Titans: Trades up deplete options
I had no problem with the Titans moving up for Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, two players that are going to be a big help. But in making both deals, the Titans gave up two potential depth pieces in No. 89 and No. 125. The latter could have been used on Josh Sweat, who was picked 130th by the Eagles, while the third-rounder could have a potential upgrade at center in Mason Cole. If the Titans have both those players plus prospects they could have landed at their original picks -- maybe still Evans, or a Taven Bryan or Will Hernandez if he was gone, in the first; Lorenzo Carter or Malik Jefferson in the second. I think Evans and Landry will be great, but would they be better than having Hernandez, Carter, Cole and Sweat?
Washington Redskins: Better scenarios in Round 4
I'm a fan of this team's draft class, especially what Washington was able to do on the first two days. But Troy Apke feels like a stretch at No. 109, and having Josey Jewell fall in their laps to improve the depth at inside linebacker could have been a better turn of events. But Jewell came off the board three picks earlier, and the team landed a great talent at the position a little later in Shaun Dion Hamilton. The more interesting what-if is upgrading from Apke to Ronnie Harrison, who fell further than many expected but was snapped up late in the third.