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Biggest What If’s in Recent NFL Draft History: 2013

Every year there are some players that outplay their draft selection. There others who make us question why a player got selected as high as they did. What if teams could go back and fix their selections? How would their teams look today if they made the right choice Here are some instances where teams select the better player with their selection that still fills a need and what it could have done for the team.

The rules for this exercise is that players were swapped out with players that either
  • Were selected within the next 32 picks
  • Play the same position, but were selected much later
  • Fills a bigger need for them than the previously selected player did

The Jacksonville Jaguars take Lane Johnson over Luke Joeckel with the 2nd Overall pick

Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson was considered a prospect with a very high ceiling but was left out of the conversation for the first overall pick between Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The 2013 NFL Draft didn’t have any can’t miss prospects. The class was headlined by two tackle prospects, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel. However the third tackle taken it that year’s class was Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson. Seven years later Eric Fisher is an above-average left tackle and Joeckel has been out of the league for three years. Right now, Johnson is considered by many to be the best right tackle in football. Besides the quarterback position, the Jaguars’ most unstable position through the years has been their offensive line.

An All-Pro tackle could have been the difference between the Jaguars winning and losing the AFC Championship between the Patriots in 2017-18. The Jaguars lost the game by four points after having a lead into the fourth quarter. Johnson would have helped the Jaguars run out the clock and potentially make it to their first Super Bowl. At the time the Jaguars’ right tackle was veteran Jeremy Parnell who is solid, but replaceable at the position.

The St. Louis Rams trade up to select DeAndre Hopkins over Tavon Austin with the 8th Overall pick

DeAndre Hopkins
From late first-round draft pick to All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins has teams like the Rams wishing they took a chance on him coming out of the 2013 Draft. (Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

It was no secret that the St. Louis Rams were in desperate need of a true number one receiver. Before the draft, the Rams’ top receivers were Brian Quick, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis. Sam Bradford was in desperate need of some weapons. The Rams traded up to select Tavon Austin who many considered to be the top wide receiver in the draft. Austin was a speedy multitool that projected to be like how Tyreek Hill is used today. Austin only eclipsed 500 receiving yards once in his career and was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 during an exchange of 6th round picks.

The next receiver off of the board was DeAndre Hopkins who was taken by the Houston Texans to complement Andre Johnson and one day potentially replace him as the team’s number one receiver. Hopkins has exceeded expectations and is now considered one of the best wide receivers in all of football.

Hopkins could have been the number one receiver that the Rams needed right out of the gate. What if Hopkins was a part of Sean McVay’s offense? The trio of Hopkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp could have gone down as one of the best wide receiver groups in NFL history. Rather than trading for Brandin Cooks, the Rams could have selected Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez or James Daniels in the first round of the 2018 draft to bolster their offensive line and avoid what happened this past season. Jared Goff could have eclipsed 40 touchdowns during the 2018-19 season and potentially won the Super Bowl that year versus the Patriots.

The New York Jets select Xavier Rhodes over Dee Milliner with the 9th Overall pick

Xavier Rhodes Dee Milliner
Though both Xavier Rhodes and Dee Milliner were considered two of the best college cornerbacks in 2013, they had extremely different careers (USATSI)

Entering the league Dee Milliner had the biggest shoes to fill out of any of the 2013 draft’s rookies. Milliner’s job was to replace the best cornerback in football, Darrelle Revis, whom the Jets traded away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that season. From injuries to benchings Milliner had an extremely disappointing career with the New York Jets. His time with the team ended in 2016 after he was released from the team’s injured reserve list.

Many argue that the best cornerback to come out of this year’s draft class was Xavier Rhodes. Besides this past season, Rhodes had been considered one of if not the elite shutdown corner of the NFL. Like Milliner, Rhodes also had to replace one of the better cornerbacks in the league Antoine Winfield in Minnesota.

If the Jets would have selected Rhodes instead of Milliner they could have actually replaced Revis and found their cornerback one for the long term future. Rhodes would not have been able to replace everything that Revis was. Revis at his best one arguably the greatest cornerback in the history of football. But Rhodes could have definitely become ‘Revis Jr.’ from his play on the field and leadership in the Jets’ locker room if he would have landed there.

The Cincinnati Bengals select Zach Ertz over Tyler Eifert with the 21st Overall pick

Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz would have been an exciting addition to a Bengals offense who showed a lot of promise. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Eifert is not a bad player, he was actually considered one of the best tight ends in the league when healthy. Eifert was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and scored 13 touchdowns that season. He has played in 59 out of a possible 112 career games. Eifert has only been healthy for just under 53 percent of the games over the course of seven years.

The other problem in Eifert’s career is that two of the best tight ends in football over the last few years were selected after Eifert. One of those tight ends are Zach Ertz. Ertz has been the Eagles’ true number one receiver for a few years now, including their Super Bowl-winning year in 2017. He also set the record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season in 2018.

Eifert was selected to be another weapon for Andy Dalton and an offense loaded with talent that had just made the playoffs three straight years. But the team still has not won a playoff game since 1990. Whose to say if Ertz would have been the difference-maker, but an offense with A.J. Green and Zach Ertz would have been extremely fun to watch and could have made some real damage in the AFC.

The Baltimore Ravens select Tyrann Mathieu over Matt Elam with the 32nd Overall pick

Many believed Tyrann Mathieu would not be long for the NFL and was not worth a 3rd round selection. Instead he become the best hybrid defensive back in the league (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

One of the biggest storylines during the 2013 NFL Draft was where was Tyrann Mathieu going to land. Mathieu was an extremely talented prospect who many argue could have been a high first-round pick. But after failing multiple drug tests, Mathieu was dismissed from LSU in 2012. The following season Mathieu decided to enter the NFL Draft and got back on the NFL radar. He was selected by the Cardinals in the third round, transitioned into a safety hybrid and became one of the best defensive backs in all of football.

After their Super Bowl win, the Baltimore Ravens lost nine starters on their roster and had to rely on their depth to fill most of their voids. After losing Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed, the Ravens signed Michael Huff but was still missing another starting-caliber safety. The Ravens thought they found their future starter at strong safety in Matt Elam. Elam had a solid rookie year, but after that dealt with injuries and was arrested after a drug arrest.

This would have been a high-risk move of the Ravens to do at the time, but it would have been worth the rewards. Mathieu would have been played all over the field in Baltimore and defensive coordinator Dean Pees would have found him a role in the starting lineup by the end of his rookie year. Fast forward to now, if Mathieu stayed on the team all these years, the secondary of Mathieu, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Earl Thomas and Chuck Clark would be historic and could carry the Ravens to a Super Bowl.

Mathieu made the Ravens pay for passing on him multiple times in the 2013 Draft back when his Cardinals went up against the Ravens in 2015. Here are some of his highlights.

The Dallas Cowboys select Travis Kelce over Gavin Escobar with the 47th Overall pick and Keenan Allen over Terrance Williams with the 74th Overall pick

Though the Cowboys selected possible future Hall of Famer Travis Fredrick in the first round, they had a very questionable draft in 2013. Their questionable draft paid dividends. If the Cowboys redid two of their selections during their 2013 draft they could very well have one or two Super Bowls since 2013.

Rather than address their biggest need at safety early in the draft the Cowboys decided to address offense early and often during the 2013 Draft. The most mind-boggling pick by Dallas that year was taking tight end, Gavin Escobar, instead of D.J. Swearinger in the second round. Escobar was taken to be the eventual replacement for Jason Witten. The Cowboys have done this before when they selected Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett, both of which did not stick around to eventually replace Witten. Like the previous two mentioned, Escobar did not fulfill his purpose and replace Witten. Instead, Escobar was always a backup tight end that never reached 200 yards in a season. The following round the Kansas City Chiefs selected Travis Kelce. Kelce has since then has had a fantastic career that might land him in the Hall of Fame. Right now Kelce is considered by many to be the best tight end in football. If the Cowboys would have selected Kelce instead of Escobar they would not only have found their replacement for Jason Witten, but they would have one of the best tight ends in football. Instead, currently, Escobar has been off the Cowboys for four years and there is still uncertainty at the tight end position for the Cowboys.

Dez Bryant Keenan Allen
The combination of Keenan Allen and Dez Bryant would have been lethal (Getty Images)

The second of the Cowboys 2013 selections that they would definitely want to redo came in the following round. In the third round, the Cowboys selected Terrance Williams to develop to a complementary wide receiver to Dez Bryant. Williams became just that and was a nice piece for the Cowboys’ offense for six seasons. He was never considered more than a second receiver but did have some amazing clutch catches during his career. Two selections later the San Diego Chargers selected Keenan Allen. Allen was projected to be selected between the first and second round. But due to a major knee injury and missing out on the combine, he fell to the third round. Allen went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Then after dealing with more injuries he won comeback player of the year in 2017. Allen has made the past three Pro Bowls after posting over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns the past three years. If Dallas would have taken a chance on Allen instead of taking Williams, they would have had a historic offense during the 2014 season and could have had more success over the years and solidified their place as a consistent threat in the NFC.

The Cowboys offense would have been out of this world if it featured Kelce and Allen with names like Dez Bryant, Demarco Murray, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Ezekiel Elliot, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.

The Houston Texans select David Bakhtiari over Brennan Williams with the 89th Overall pick

J.J. Watt
David Bakhtiari and J.J. Watt could have been teammates if the Texans selected Bakhtiari in the 3rd round in 2013 (Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer)

It seems up until this past season the Houston Texans have always had problems across their offensive line. The average NFL fan does not know who Brennan Williams is and that is because he wasn’t there that long. Williams missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and was released the following season. Since then Williams has actually pursued a career with the WWE.

The next tackle taken in the draft was David Bakhtiari. Due to an injury to Bryan Bulaga, Bakhtiari was thrust into the starting lineup early and has not looked back. After he returned, Bulaga transitioned to right tackle and Bakhtiari has been the team’s left tackle ever since. He has started every game in his career and only missed four games during his seven-year career. Bakhtiari may only be a two-time Pro Bowler but he is a four-time All-Pro. Many consider him to be the best left tackle in football right now,

If the Texans selected Bakhtiari over Williams, he would have been waiting in the wings until it was his time to fill in for Duane Brown and Derek Newton. If given the opportunity, Bakhtiari would show that he is a starting-caliber tackle and stayed in the starting line up moving Newton to the bench and trade block and transitioning Brown to right tackle like the Packers did Bulaga. This would have given the Texans a sure thing at left tackle and Houston could have avoided the Laremy Tunsil trade giving them their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks. Jeff Gladney, Yetur Gross-Matos or Xavier McKinney could have been their first-round selection this past year.

Other What If Scenarios:

The Kansas City Chiefs select Lane Johnson over Eric Fisher with 1st Overall pick
The Arizona Cardinals select Travis Fredrick over Jonathan Cooper with the 7th Overall pick
The Tennessee Titans select Kyle Long over Chance Warmack with the 11th Overall pick
The Oakland Raiders select Desmond Trufant over D.J. Hayden with the 12th Overall pick
The Jacksonville Jaguars select Darius Slay over Johnathan Cyprien with the 33rd Overall pick
The Oakland Raiders select Terron Armstead over Menelik Watson with the 42nd Overall pick

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