Last week on "With the First Pick," the NFL Draft podcast that I co-host with former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, we took a break from looking ahead to the 2024 class to take a look back. Specifically, Rick and I, knowing everything we know right now, and with three months of the NFL season in the books, re-drafted the 2023 class.
Actually, we re-drafted the top half of the first round because otherwise the podcast would've been three hours, but with no time constraints, I've gone through all 31 picks below (again, knowing everything we know now, and using the actual 2023 NFL Draft order from back in April) and best tried to match player and team.
(One more caveat for our little thought experiment here: I assumed all players are healthy.)
All told, four quarterbacks go in the first seven picks, five players originally drafted in the second round go in Round 1 below, and seven players drafted in Round 3 or later (including two Day 3 picks) make their way into this re-draft. If nothing else, it's a reminder that the draft remains more art than science.
Alright, let's get to it.
1. Carolina Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud
Actual pick: QB Bryce Young
Look, there's no guarantee anyone would be successful in this Carolina offense, which has issues at offensive line, in the run game and at the receiver positions. Don't get it twisted: Bryce Young hasn't played well, but I don't know who could overcome the current Panthers offense. That said -- and at the risk of angering Texans fans who are quite happy with the current reality in which we find ourselves -- I'd love to see Stroud try.
2. Houston Texans: DT Jalen Carter
Actual pick: QB C.J. Stroud
The Texans have picks No. 2 and 3, and given how dominant Carter has been for the Eagles, I took him here with the understanding that a QB is the priority with the next selection. Carter was the best player in the draft class back in the spring but off-field issues saw him fall to No. 9. In terms of on-field production, he's been the second-best player in the class through 12 weeks.
3. Houston Texans: QB Anthony Richardson
Actual pick: EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
This assumes that Richardson stays healthy, but I love what Shane Steichen was able to do with AR5 over the first month of the season, and I feel like Bobby Slowik could have similar success. I'd also be curious to see what Bryce Young could do with a functional offense around him, but this isn't a science experiment; this is a redraft where you're trying to get the best player to help your team right now. And even though Richardson played in just four games, he's had a more successful rookie season.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Bryce Young
Actual pick: QB Anthony Richardson
As I mentioned above, first-year Colts head coach Shane Steichen deserves a ton of credit for helping Richardson get acclimated to the NFL, and then finding ways to win with backup Gardner Minshew. I want to see Bryce Young in a functional offense because it's hard to imagine there's a worse landing spot for a rookie QB than the 2023 Panthers.
Actual pick: CB Devon Witherspoon
I had Zay Flowers going here in the redraft podcast episode, but my co-host, Rick Spielman, talked me into not trying to reinvent the wheel here; the Seahawks still have the No. 20 pick, and Witherspoon is a legit Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
6. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
Actual pick: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
Paris Johnson Jr. has been good at right tackle for the Cardinals, but he has given up six sacks (tied for second among all rookie starters). While Will Anderson Jr. has just three sacks, he has 39 pressures, which is tops among all rookies.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Will Levis
Actual pick: EDGE Tyree Wilson
Levis fell to the 33rd pick, but there were real discussions last spring that he might go in the top 10. He flashed in his first NFL start, and has showed glimpses in subsequent games -- including having one of the biggest arms in the league. In Tennessee he's been under constant pressure, but you'd imagine the Raiders would prefer him to the short-lived Jimmy G experiment, especially with playmakers like Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Michael Mayer and Josh Jacobs.
8. Atlanta Falcons: RB Bijan Robinson
Actual pick: RB Bijan Robinson
Hey, funny story: when Arthur Smith uses Robinson, he can help that team win football games! When Smith doesn't use Robinson, the Falcons offense sputters. And if you're still of the opinion that this is too high for a running back, I'd just say Robinson isn't just a running back (see: the touchdown catch in Week 12 on the wheel route where the linebacker in coverage never ever had a chance).
9. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Christian Gonzalez
Actual pick: DT Jalen Carter
Gonzalez suffered an injury early in the season, but he was one of the league's best cornerbacks over the first month of the year -- including a late interception against the Eagles in a game the Patriots had a chance to win. Philly's corners have struggled at times this season, and Gonzalez would be a long, physical playmaking presence on the unit.
10. Chicago Bears: OT Dawand Jones
Actual pick: OT Darnell Wright
First things first: Darnell Wright has been mostly good at right tackle for the Bears. But he's also allowed seven sacks, the most among all rookie offensive linemen, and Dawand Jones, who had first-round talent for days (but lasted until Round 4 because of concerns about his ability to control his weight), has been really, really good for the Browns when he was forced into action after Jack Conklin went down with an injury. In 10 games, Jones has given up just three sacks, and he's been beat just 2.9%, which ranks fourth among all rookie offensive linemen who have taken at least 100 snaps.
For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on "With the First Pick" -- our year-round NFL Draft podcast with NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find "With the First Pick" wherever you get your podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, etc. Listen to the latest episode below!
11. Tennessee Titans: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
Actual pick: OL Peter Skoronski
Peter Skoronski has been the best player on the Titans offensive line, but they desperately need to upgrade the tackle position. Johnson has been solid on the right side for the Cardinals, and he can play left tackle or guard, if needed.
12. Detroit Lions: LB Tuli Tuipulotu
Actual pick: RB Jahmyr Gibbs
The original pick, Jahmyr Gibbs, and even a cornerback were options here, but I went with a bookend edge rusher for Aidan Hutchinson along the defensive line. Tuipulotu was a favorite coming out of college, but the big question was where would he line up? On the edge, he has been a game-wrecker, at times, for the Chargers.
13. Green Bay Packers: CB Joey Porter Jr.
Actual pick: Lukas Van Ness
Porter Jr. lasted until the first pick of the second round, but he's played like a first-rounder for the Steelers; he has six pass breakups, and his 44.7 QB rating against is No. 1 among all rookie CBs.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: DB Brian Branch
Actual pick: OT Broderick Jones
The Steelers need to address the O-line, as they started the season with Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor at left and right tackle. Cornerback is also a need -- but so too is the nickel back position, and Brian Branch was a first-round talent until his 4.58-second 40-yard dash scared some teams off. That time shouldn't have had any effect on his draft stock because he plays much faster than that and would be an immediate impact player in Pittsburgh.
15. New York Jets: OT Broderick Jones
Actual pick: EDGE Will McDonald IV
This may have been the Jets' original target before the Steelers traded-up-in-real-life to take Jones. Darnell Wright was also a consideration here, but we went with Jones because plays left tackle (and has right tackle versatility) and addresses the biggest weakness on this team.
16. Washington Commanders: EDGE Byron Young
Actual pick: CB Emmanuel Forbes
The Commanders could target the offensive line here, but they need edge help after trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the deadline (worth noting: Washington has five picks in the top 100, including picks No. 5, 36, 38, 70 and 100 as of Nov. 30). Young was originally a third-rounder, in part because of his size (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) and his age (he'll be 26 years old in March). But he's been grown-man dominant for the Rams; he leads all rookies with five sacks, and his 35 pressures ranks third behind only Will Anderson Jr. and Tuli Tuipulotu.
17. New England Patriots: OT Darnell Wright
Actual pick: CB Christian Gonzalez
The Patriots original pick, Christian Gonzalez, was a home run ... except that he got hurt early in the season. Also, while the team drafted three interior offensive linemen in the spring, it didn't take a single offensive tackle. Wright solves that problem in Round 1, and he's a Day 1 starter.
18. Detroit Lions: RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Actual pick: LB Jack Campbell
Originally the Lions' No. 12 pick, Gibbs is still on the board. I gave some consideration to taking TE Sam LaPorta here because he's been so important to the offense, but I gave the slight edge to Gibbs because of his versatility as both a runner and a receiver.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OL Peter Skoronski
Actual pick: DT Calijah Kancey
Cornerback and even wide receiver were options, but Skoronski has been one of the best guards in the NFL when healthy (he had an appendectomy early in the season). He's allowed just one sack and has been beaten on just 1.5% of the snaps he's played, best for any rookie with at least 150 snaps. Cody Mauch was one of our favorite players last draft cycle, but the Bucs' 48th overall pick has struggled at guard this season. Skoronski is a plug-and-play player.
20. Seattle Seahawks: WR Tank Dell
Actual pick: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Dell, originally a third-round pick because he's only 5-foot-8, has been the best rookie wideout in this class and plays more like he's 6-foot-3. He can line up anywhere, and I love the idea of pairing him with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Seattle.
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21. Los Angeles Chargers: CB Deonte Banks
Actual pick: WR Quentin Johnston
Man, I really wanted Zay Flowers here because I love the idea of this offense with his dynamism. But this defense has been so god-awful that I had to give them a physical cornerback with ball skills; Banks has two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and has played more snaps than any other rookie CB not named Devon Witherspoon.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Zay Flowers
Actual pick: WR Zay Flowers
Flowers and the Ravens have been a near-perfect match, and because of varying circumstances in this exercise, teams above Baltimore that would've loved Flowers had to go in other directions.
23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jordan Addison
Actual pick: WR Jordan Addison
Like Flowers and Baltimore, Addison and Minnesota have been excellent together -- and you could even argue better, since Addison had to assume the No. 1 WR role when Justin Jefferson went down with a hamstring injury. Both picks have been boons to their respective teams, and there's no reason to try to reinvent the wheel here.
24. New York Giants: WR Puka Nacua
Actual pick: CB Deonte Banks
Originally a fifth-round pick, Nacua currently leads all rookies in targets, receptions, receiving yards, receptions gaining at least 16 yards, receptions that go for first downs, and he's second in end zone targets. Offensive line was also an option here, but the Giants desperately need playmakers at the skill positions not named Saquon Barkley.
25. Buffalo Bills: TE Dalton Kincaid
Actual pick: TE Dalton Kincaid
I thought long and hard about taking Jack Campbell here, and even gave Tyrique Stevenson consideration, but Kincaid's been really good in this offense, and for Josh Allen. You're not just replacing that production, especially if defenses try to take away Stefon Diggs. Alternatively, Jaxon Smith-Njigba might be an option here, but he's struggled with consistency in Seattle. Not going to overthink it and just stick with Kincaid.
26. Dallas Cowboys: OT Anton Harrison
Actual pick: DT Mazi Smith
Harrison played left tackle at Oklahoma but has competently manned the right-tackle position for the Jaguars as a rookie. Terence Steele has struggled with consistency in Dallas and Harrison solidifies the position.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars: OG O'Cyrus Torrence
Actual pick: OT Anton Harrison
Torrence plays right guard for the Bills, but he has experience at left guard, and that's where he'll line up in Jacksonville, where the team had to trade for Ezra Cleveland to fill a hole created by injuries at other positions. Torrence has been one of the NFL's best rookies through 12 weeks, and would've been a first-rounder if not for injury concerns heading into the draft.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: LB BJ Ojulari
Actual pick: EDGE Myles Murphy
Ojulari was the 41st pick in the 2023 draft, but he's played like a first-rounder; he has four sacks -- one fewer than Byron Young in a whopping 351 fewer snaps(!!) -- and his sacks per pressure rate of 26.7% ranks second among all rookies.
29. New Orleans Saints: TE Sam LaPorta
Actual pick: DT Bryan Bresee
Man, Bryan Bresee has been really good, and I'm glad he's playing so well after all the adversity he endured the last few years at Clemson. But the Saints offense has been stuck in the mud, and while a playmaking wideout would make sense here, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Rashee Rice didn't hit the ground running. Instead, I'm going with Sam LaPorta, the tight end who has been a huge part of the Lions' high-powered offense through the first 12 games.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Bryan Bresee
Actual pick: EDGE Nolan Smith
Bresee isn't Jalen Carter -- no one is, in this galaxy or any of the billions of other ones -- but he's been a spark plug in the middle of the Saints defense and he'd fit right into this Eagles unit.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: RB De'Von Achane
Actual pick: EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
I was *this* close to taking Rashee Rice here because he's gotten better as the season has progressed and the Chiefs desperately need wide receivers. I would've also grabbed Sam LaPorta had he been available. But I decided to go with Achane who, when healthy, is special, even on an offense as electric as Miami's. He has sprinter's speed, is a change-of-pace from Isiah Pacheco, and can add something in the pass game too.