As we head towards the inevitable selection of Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, we rewind to the last time a “sure-thing” quarterback was already penciled into the No. 1 selection. Does Andrew Luck still land in Indianapolis? What will Washington do with Robert Griffin III? Will Russell Wilson last until the third round again?! Let’s find out with a redraft of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The 2012 NFL Draft Redraft
1) Indianapolis Colts: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
The Indianapolis Colts were so convinced they were on to a sure-fire win with Andrew Luck that they announced his selection with the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft prior to the event.
In many respects, they did hit a home run with Luck. He broke the record for passing yards by a rookie in his first season. He also went on to lead the NFL in passing yards in 2014. However, injuries blighted his career. Despite winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2018, he retired early.
So instead, this 2012 NFL Draft redraft sees the Colts select Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin. The original third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks has been the most successful quarterback of the class: Super Bowl Champion, eight-time Pro Bowler, and the passing yards leader in 2017.
The Colts would probably have won a Super Bowl by now. Imagine Wilson being able to play behind the offensive line the Colts have assembled!
2) St. Louis Rams: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
In reality, the St. Louis-turned-Los Angeles Rams traded out of this spot in a mega-trade with the Washington Football Team. With Washington no longer needing to mortgage the franchise to go up and get Robert Griffin III, the Rams stay put here. The Rams originally selected Michael Brockers with the 14th pick. Although defensive line was a need, they opt to select the best defensive player in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luke Kuechly.
The linebacker out of Boston College was everything you could have asked for in a defensive playmaker. He secured NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The following year, he secured NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. A five-time first-team All-Pro, he twice led the NFL in tackles prior to retiring at the end of the 2019 season.
3) Minnesota Vikings: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Although offensive tackle and wide receiver were tagged as the Minnesota Vikings’ biggest needs at the time, in this 2012 NFL Draft redraft, they take the best player available in Andrew Luck.
For the reasons why the Vikings would take Luck, reread the opening paragraph of the Colts’ selection. Then, compare it to Christian Ponder, who was the starting quarterback for the Vikings in 2012.
4) Cleveland Browns: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Another redraft and another quarterback issue to resolve for the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback sits as the primary need of any redraft prior to Baker Mayfield’s arrival. The 2012 NFL Draft is no different. Prior to the 2019 season, selecting Ryan Tannehill here would probably have been widely derided. However, in becoming the starter for the Tennessee Titans, Tannehill has banished the memory of his inadequate play from his time with the Miami Dolphins.
As long as the right personnel surrounds him — see pick 22 for how Cleveland attempts to replicate the Titans’ offense — Tannehill can be a game-winner for the Browns. Speaking of widely derided things, the Browns’ original pick here was Alabama running back Trent Richardson. He is set to embark on a career in the Mexican Football League.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers originally traded out of the fifth spot and selected Alabama safety Mark Barron. Instead, they stay put and draft one of the best linebackers in today’s game — Bobby Wagner. The former Utah State linebacker was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. He immediately made his name known, earning a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Six first-team All-Pro appearances and a Super Bowl later, Wagner is still taking care of business. Tampa Bay won this year’s Super Bowl on their defense’s strength, particularly their linebacker trio. Maybe they would have won one sooner if they’d have taken this direction originally.
6) Washington Football Team: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Robert Griffin III was the Heisman winner, and Washington needed a quarterback. The marriage seemed almost inevitable. If it had been successful, the cost would have been a distant memory. The relationship began so well, with Griffin earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and leading Washington to the playoffs. Ultimately, injuries resulted in a divorce, and Washington would move forward at the quarterback position with their fourth-round pick, Kirk Cousins.
The rest of the Washington team needs in 2012 rested with the defense. As a result, they select the best player available on that side of the ball: Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
The original pick of the Philadelphia Eagles made an immediate impact with 5.5 sacks in 9 games. It was the start of a dominant career that saw him earn first-team All-Pro honors in 2018 after multiple years as a second-team All-Pro. Cox also has something that Washington fans have only been able to dream of recently — a Super Bowl ring.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
When the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to select Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, they presumed they were getting a productive answer to their receiving needs. Unfortunately, Blackmon spent more time injured or suspended than catching touchdowns. He played in just 20 NFL games.
In this 2012 NFL Draft redraft, the Jaguars instead select Chandler Jones, the defensive end out of Syracuse. Creating additional pass-rush threats was seen as a need for the Jaguars. Jones gives them that, and then some! The original 21st overall pick of the New England Patriots, Jones led the NFL in sacks in 2017. Furthermore, he has twice been voted first-team All-Pro. He needs just three more sacks to reach 100 career sacks.
8) Miami Dolphins: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
With Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Ryan Tannehill gone, the Miami Dolphins resolve their quarterback need with Kirk Cousins. YOU LIKE THAT?! Although Cousins might not seem like the most glamorous first-round pick in this 2012 NFL Draft redraft, let’s consider the other options.
Nick Foles? Brandon Weeden? Brock Osweiler? The Dolphins could have also built around Matt Moore. However, the wide receiver options weren’t exactly on par with the 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class. Cousins offers a reliable, accurate option for the Dolphins.
9) Carolina Panthers: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
With Luke Kuechly already gone in this redraft, the Panthers address the linebacker need with Dont’a Hightower.
The former Alabama linebacker has been a pivotal part of three New England Patriots Super Bowl-winning defenses. His influence in New England can be seen with his appearance on the New England Patriots’ All-Decade Team. Additionally, their struggles in 2020 during his absence are directly reflective of his impact. He may not be Kuechly, but he’d be the best available replacement.
10) Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Although Stephon Gilmore has earned his major career honors with the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills don’t change their pick here. Gilmore provided consistent production throughout his Bills career.
11) Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Kansas City Chiefs originally selected defensive tackle Dontari Poe with the 11th overall pick. Although he was a solid pick for the Chiefs, in this 2012 NFL Draft redraft, they address what was seen as their biggest area of need at the time.
David DeCastro has translated his first-round selection into becoming one of the best guards in the NFL. A two-time first-team All-Pro, he has helped create one of the best offensive lines in the league. Patrick Mahomes would have been thankful for DeCastro in Super Bowl LV.
12) Seattle Seahawks: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
Lavonte David was originally selected in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here, the Seattle Seahawks and the Buccaneers essentially swap second-round picks.
David represents an upgrade on original selection Bruce Irvin. Although the former West Virginia pass rusher had a solid NFL career, it pales into insignificance compared to David’s impact on the NFL. A first-team All-Pro in 2013 and a two-time second-team All-Pro, David was massively influential in bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Tampa.
13) Arizona Cardinals: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International
Although wide receiver wasn’t seen as a key need for the Arizona Cardinals — they had Larry Fitzgerald after all — they selected Michael Floyd in the first round. After considering options at defensive end and outside linebacker, they instead use this 2012 NFL Draft redraft to select T.Y. Hilton out of Florida International.
The third-round pick became a go-to threat for Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2016.
14) Dallas Cowboys: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
Josh Norman transformed from fifth-round selection to becoming the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history just five years later.
Although he would end up in the NFC East following that payday, he starts his life in the conference in this 2012 NFL Draft redraft. Norman replaces Morris Claiborne, who the Cowboys originally used the sixth overall pick on. Claiborne played less than two-thirds of his career in Dallas. He was also nowhere near as productive as Norman ended up being.
15) Philadelphia Eagles: Melvin Ingram, LB, South Carolina
With Fletcher Cox gone, the Philadelphia Eagles select Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina.
The 18th overall pick would provide the Eagles with a pass-rush presence from the outside linebacker spot. That was something that was identified as an area of need immediately prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. A three-time Pro Bowler, Ingram has two seasons with over 10 sacks. He would also bring coverage ability to the Eagles’ linebacker group, with an interception in each of his last three seasons.
16) New York Jets: Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami (FL)
The Miami Dolphins drafted Olivier Vernon before finding himself with the New York Giants in 2016. In this 2012 NFL Draft redraft, he starts his career in the Big Apple.
Vernon would provide the answer to the New York Jets’ pass-rush need. They originally attempted to fill the need with North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples. Although Coples had a positive start with 5.5 sacks as a rookie, an injury and position change were the start of a downward spiral that saw him out of the league after five seasons.
Meanwhile, Vernon was a second-team All-Pro in his first year with the Giants.