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Biggest What If’s in Recent NFL Draft History: 2014

Derek Carr Johnny Manziel

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 St. Louis Rams select Khalil Mack over Greg Robinson with the 2nd Overall Pick

Khalil Mack Aaron Donald

The Rams could have drafted 2 Defensive Players of the Year and future Hall of Famers Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald in the same round in 2014

Khalil Mack was viewed as a sure thing as far as a prospect in 2014. There were even a few who thought Mack was going to be better than Jadeveon Clowney who ended up going first overall that year. The biggest fear with Mack was that he came from Buffalo, which usually doesn’t produce or play against elite college talent.

The Rams had former first overall pick, Jake Long, at left tackle who didn’t have many years left. Greg Robinson was an upside player. Scouts viewed Robinson as a prospect that needed to be developed for a couple of years. However, his ceiling was one of the league’s best left tackles for the next 10-12 years and that’s what his tape showed. Unfortunately, Robinson never really advanced as a player and grew into a starting left tackle. It took until 2018 with the Cleveland Browns for him to look like a steady left tackle.

The argument was that the Rams were set on the defensive line, especially at the edge positions. Chris Long, Robert Quinn and William Hayes were holding down the edge positions. However the Rams were set at defensive tackle with Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford in the middle, but they still selected Aaron Donald later at pick no. 13. If the Rams would have waited another year at left tackle and selected the highest players on their board with both their picks, they could have gotten the two best defensive players in football in one year.

Imagine Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald playing on the same team! Their pass rush and defense would be unstoppable. Fast forward to 2016, the Rams have even more confidence completing the trade for Jared Goff knowing that they have enough a defense to hold down the fort. Sean McVay is hired the next season and the Rams go to back to back Super Bowls against the Patriots and beat them both times. This past year the Rams would have been competitive and made the playoffs, but would have likely been eliminated in the divisional round or conference championship.

The Buffalo Bills trade up to the 4th Overall pick for Mike Evans instead of Sammy Watkins

Mike Evans
Six years later many considered Mike Evans to be the best receiver that came out of the 2014 Draft

The Buffalo Bills were desperate for receiver help going into the 2014 Draft. They tried to take the receiver that would hopefully be paired with last year’s first-round pick E.J. Manuel for the rest of their careers. The Bills selected Sammy Watkins out of Clemson. Now Watkins was a good pick and the right pick at the time and he has had a solid career up to this point. But Watkins has been plagued with injuries especially during his time in Buffalo, What really makes the pick seem bad is the 2014 Draft class was historic as far as the number of great receivers that came out of it.

The receiver that was picked after Watkins was Mike Evans. Evans is the youngest player to have five and six 1,000 yard seasons in their career. He is also the youngest player to reach 6,000 and 7,000 yards. Randy Moss and he are tied for the record with most consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to start a career with six. So it is fair to say Evans has had a great career up to this point.

If the Bills had selected Evans over Watkins in 2014 there wouldn’t be too much change in the team’s history. E.J. Manuel likely would have failed. Tyrod Taylor would have brought the Bills to the playoffs in 2017. However, this past season, the biggest flaw on the Bills offense was that they were lacking a true number one and large receiver for Josh Allen. Allen is not the most accurate quarterback and could use a larger target. Evans would be the perfect receiver for Allen. They would have beaten the Texans in that Wild Card game giving them their first playoff win since 1995. Now in the present time, the Bills don’t trade for Stefon Diggs, but instead, select Cesar Ruiz to fortify the offensive line for Allen. The Bills would be in a slightly better place now if they drafted Evans over Watkins.

The Cleveland Browns select Odell Beckham Jr. over Justin Gilbert at 8th Overall and then trade up to 22nd Overall to get Derek Carr over Johnny Manziel

Odell Beckham Jr.
The Browns could have a gotten Odell Beckham Jr. 5 years early if they would have drafted him with their first round pick in 2014

After trading away Trent Richardson, the Cleveland Browns had two first-round picks. They traded down from fourth overall all the way to eighth to select Justin Gilbert the cornerback out of Oklahoma State. Then they traded up from their second selection in the first round to select who they think would be the face of the franchise for the next 10-12 years Johnny Manziel. But in typical Browns fashion, both were off the team by 2016.

The next cornerback who came off the board was Kyle Fuller who has had a pretty good career up to this point with the Bears. But what if the Browns selected Odell Beckham Jr. instead. Beckham was selected by the Giants 12th overall. At the time, many thought this was a reach and that Beckham was going to fall later. But instead, Beckham emerged as one of the league’s best receivers early in his career. After Josh Gordon was suspended the Browns top receivers that season were Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel and Miles Austin. Beckham would have emerged as the team’s top receiver. This would have saved the Browns some time selecting him here rather than trading for him in 2019. Instead with their first round selection, the Browns could have chosen Andre Dillard to be their left tackle of the future.

There had not been very few players in the draft with as much of a following and a brand as Johnny Manziel. Especially one that fell as far as he did in the draft. Manziel was a former Heisman winner that was supposed to be the next big thing. The only issue was that he had to go to a team with a good enough culture to keep him contained and with enough around him to flourish. Cleveland did not have any of that. Manziel was cut after only having eight starts with the team. Another quarterback that was similarly graded to Manziel was Derek Carr. Carr fell to the second round to the Raiders. He’s been their starting quarterback since he was drafted and had lots of success. Carr brought the Raiders from mediocracy to the playoffs and was a candidate for MVP in 2016 before he got hurt.

If the Browns would have selected Beckham and Carr they would have been able to avoid having back to back first overall picks in 2017 and 2018 from only having one win combined during that two-year stretch.

The Houston Texans select Jimmy Garoppolo over Xavier Su’a-Filo with the 33rd overall pick

Jimmy Garoppolo Bill O'Brian
The Houston Texans would have been more than a strong defensive team between 2014-2017 if they would draft Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round

The team with the worst record in 2014 was the Houston Texans. Their problem was that head coach Gary Kubiak had lost the locker room and that there was instability at the quarterback position. Matt Schaub was a pick-six throwing machine, T.J. Yates wasn’t any good and second-year quarterback Case Keenum, despite his promising play, could not win a game. The Texans could not fix the quarterback position with the first overall pick because there was a can’t miss defensive prospect in Jadeveon Clowney and no true number one quarterback in this class. All the quarterbacks were similarly graded and any one of the four quarterbacks could have been the first off the board. Instead of taking one of the remaining quarterbacks with their second-round selection, the Texans took a guard, Xavier Su’a-Filo. Su’a-Filo has spent the majority of his career as a back up or low-end starter. The Texans finally took a quarterback in the fourth round, Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage.

That year the New England Patriots surprised many by selecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois in the second round. In Jimmy G’s first year in the league, he won a Super Bowl being Tom Brady’s back up. He also won a Super Bowl in the same role two years later. After getting traded to the San Fransisco 49ers, in his first full season this past year, he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. But he ultimately lost the game in the end. But if Garoppolo was groomed to become the Texans’ starter. Regardless of the inconsistent play at the quarterback position the Texans, they made the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Garoppolo could have made the Texans a real threat in the playoffs. The team could have potentially upset New England and played its way to the fist Super Bowl in franchise history in 2016.

The Seattle Seahawks select Davante Adams over Paul Richardson with the 45th Overall pick

Davante Adams
Davante Adams is one of the steals of the 2014 Draft that nobody talks about

After winning the Super Bowl in 2014, the Seattle Seahawks had the luxury using their top draft picks for depth because they had little to no major needs on their roster. They decided to add to their receiving core which had been missing a true number one receiver. The Seahawks took Paul Richardson with their first selection that year in the second round. Due to injuries and getting lost on the depth chart Richardson did not do much in Seattle, his best season came in 2017. After that, he left the team and signed with the Washington Redskins.

A few selections after Seattle, the Green Bay Packers decided to bolster their receiving core by adding Davante Adams to a crowded receiving core headlined by Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Adams had time to develop and once Nelson and Cobb moved on, he became the team’s number one receiver. Today many consider Davante Adams to be one of the best wide receivers in football. If Seattle had drafted Adams over Richardson he could have waited till his time came to start. Adams could have been seeing big-time reps by the end of his rookie year. It could have been Adams set to catch that slant pass on the goal line in the Super Bowl instead of Richardo Lockette. Adams is bigger than Lockette and could have boxed Malcolm Butler out to catch the touchdown pass making the Seahawks Back to Back Super Bowl Champions in 2014 & 2015. By the next season, Adams is the team’s number one receiver. The duo of Adams and Doug Baldwin would have been one of the best in football and would be the best receiving core Russell Wilson ever had.

Here is what the combination of Russell Wilson and Davante Adams could have looked like.

Other What If Scenario’s:

The Houston Texans select Khalil Mack over Jadeveon Clowney with the 1st Overall pick
The Philadelphia Eagles select Demarcus Lawerence over Marcus Smith with the 26th Overall pick
The Tennessee Titans select Devonta Freeman over Bishop Sankey with the 54th Overall pick
The Denver Broncos select Jarvis Landry over Cody Latimer with the 56th Overall pick

More NFL Draft What If’s:

2013 NFL Draft

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