With Sam Darnold and the New York Jets in the spotlight as we barrel towards the 2021 NFL Draft, it only seems right that we re-visit the draft that led us to this point. Five quarterbacks went in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but did they all deserve to? Will the Jets look elsewhere for their face of the franchise? Across the Metlife Stadium dressing room, do the New York Giants stick with Saquon Barkley? Do the Cleveland Browns still believe in Baker Mayfield? Let’s find out as they’re on the clock in this redraft of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The 2018 NFL Draft Redraft
1) Cleveland Browns: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Every time I sit down to write a redraft piece, it feels like the Cleveland Browns’ biggest need is quarterback. Well, this redraft of the 2018 NFL Draft is absolutely no different. Hopefully, in years to come, this will be looked upon as the moment where that year-on-year need changed. Former Heisman winner Baker Mayfield arrived in Cleveland, unlocked all the beer fridges, and eventually guided the Browns to the postseason for the first time in 20 years.
That said, what if there was a better quarterback option in the 2018 NFL Draft? Like, I don’t know, a league MVP type of quarterback? Granted, for the Browns to take advantage of the unique talents of Lamar Jackson they would have needed a better offensive line than the one Mayfield played behind early on. However, Jackson’s ability to create magic with his legs in a Cleveland offense that had the third-most rushing yards per game last season would be something to behold.
2) New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The New York Giants used the second overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on a running back. Now, let me set things out clearly. I love Barkley. Hell, I even love running backs at a time when it’s particularly trendy not to. This particular former Penn State running back even rushed his way to the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. There’s no doubt he’s a special talent.
Since then, however, he has played just 15 games and is coming off of an ACL tear. These facts would be reconcilable if the Giants had a quarterback, but they didn’t then, and they don’t now. Daniel Jones isn’t “it” ladies and Gettleman. As Buffalo Bills fans — fresh off the back of consecutive playoff appearances — will attest to, Josh Allen is “it.” Strong armed and mobile, he’s everything the modern-day quarterback needs to be.
3) New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
It’s difficult to say whether Mayfield would have thrived in New York in the same way he has in Cleveland. After all, the Jets have hardly done everything possible to help Sam Darnold during his time there. Yet, it’s clear to see that Mayfield has made a better NFL quarterback than Darnold at this juncture in their careers.
Higher completion and touchdown percentages, plus lower interception percentages point to a better passer. For the analytically minded, Mayfield scored significantly higher than Darnold in our Offensive Value Metric (OVM) for the 2020 season.
4) Cleveland Browns: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Thanks to the first selection in this 2018 NFL Draft redraft, the Browns have the most athletically gifted quarterback in recent history. To make sure they maximize his talents, they need to ensure that he is well protected.
This is where Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson comes in. The original pick of the Indianapolis Colts has become the best guard in the NFL. Although it could be argued that they needed an offensive tackle in this class, building the line from the inside out with Nelson would be great business for the Browns — which isn’t something that you can say about a large number of their draft classes.
5) Denver Broncos: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The Denver Broncos have been busy adding pieces to their secondary in free agency as they look to overhaul a defense that recorded the fifth-fewest interceptions in the NFL last year. Cornerback was seen as their biggest need going into the 2018 NFL Draft. Even so, they took NC State’s Bradley Chubb who enjoyed an impactful opening season before suffering a torn ACL in his second year.
They wouldn’t have needed to fervently add free-agent cornerbacks, however, if they had selected Jaire Alexander. The original selection of the Green Bay Packers has been one of the best DBs since coming into the league. He earned second-team All-Pro honors last year after being named to the All-Rookie team in 2018.
6) Indianapolis Colts: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
Theoretically, the Indianapolis Colts are the biggest losers from this redraft of their 2018 NFL Draft. Not only do they lose the All-Pro guard that they drafted with this original pick, but they also use their first-round selection on a player they originally chose in the second round.
Regardless, the secret is out on South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard. There is absolutely no way that he would have made it to the second round again. A two-time first-team All-Pro and the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Leonard was clearly a steal for the Colts.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned the No. 7 overall pick into Vita Vea, Carlton Davis, and M.J. Stewart when they traded with Buffalo so the Bills could land their quarterback of the future. Although the Bucs needs were predominantly defensive — and those players would form part of their Super Bowl LV winning team — their biggest need was running back.
They land a great one here. As Barkley’s injury history causes him to fall in this 2018 NFL Draft redraft, it’s ironic that Tampa Bay is the team that he suffered his ankle injury against in 2019.
8) Chicago Bears: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
Former BYU linebacker Fred Warner has emerged as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He earned first-team All-Pro honors last year after setting career-high tackle and interception figures. He’s been ever-present on the San Francisco 49ers’ defense since being drafted in the third round. Although original pick Roquan Smith enjoyed a career year in 2020, Warner offers an upgrade at the heart of the Bears’ linebacker group.
9) San Francisco 49ers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Given his recent trade demands, it’s unlikely that Orlando Brown will be too happy with his landing spot in this 2018 NFL Draft redraft. The Oklahoma tackle wants to play left tackle, but, unfortunately for him, he would still line up at right tackle in the 49ers’ offense.
Originally a third-round pick, Brown serves as a timely reminder that pro day performance isn’t always indicative of future potential. He was considered a first-round pick prior to a “historically bad” showing which torpedoed his draft stock.
10) Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Kolton Miller has somehow survived the offseason cull of offensive tackle talent with the now Las Vegas Raiders. Conversely, he doesn’t survive as the selection of the Raiders in this redraft of the 2018 NFL Draft. The reason? Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Raiders have been crying out for someone to lead their secondary, and Fitzpatrick is the man to do it. The former Alabama safety has become one of the best at the position, earning first-team All-Pro honors the last two seasons.
11) Miami Dolphins: Bradley Chubb, LB, North Carolina State
With Fitzpatrick — Minkah not Ryan — gone, both theoretically here and in reality, the Miami Dolphins take a different defensive direction here. As alluded to earlier, Chubb had an impactful first season in the NFL with 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. He also racked up 19 QB hits across 14 games in a Pro Bowl-worthy 2020 season.
The fit for the outside linebacker might not have been ideal at the time, but he would be perfect in the current defense under Brian Flores. Chubb would add the pass rush production that the Dolphins have long desired for.
12) Buffalo Bills: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I’m sure Bills fans would rather put me through a window than a table with the selection of Darnold in this 2018 NFL Draft redraft. Nevertheless, the Bills needed a quarterback in the worst possible way. You’re not going to convince me that Darnold isn’t an upgrade over A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman.
The hope here is that a change of scenery — and away from Adam Gase — brings out the best in Darnold. Let’s not forget that the Bills surrounded Allen with the talent to succeed. Can the Jets say the same for Darnold?
13) Washington Football Team: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Washington Football Team is one of only three teams in this 2018 NFL Draft redraft to hold their position. They needed to add pieces to their front seven, and now Daron Payne is a pivotal piece of one of the NFL’s best defensive lines.
14) Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Green Bay Packers hopped all over the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. They traded out of this pick originally as the New Orleans Saints reached for Marcus Davenport. Additionally, they then opted to jump up from 27 to 18 to select Alexander.
With their star cornerback gone here, they replace him with Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. Originally the fourth overall pick, Ward only drops due to a lack of cornerback need. He was voted to the All-Rookie team and Pro Bowl after an impressive first season.
15) Arizona Cardinals: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Rather than trade up with the Raiders for Josh Rosen, the Arizona Cardinals rely on Sam Bradford to guide them safely to Kyler Murray in the following draft. Instead, they land a defensive playmaker to replace Tyrann Mathieu at the heart of their secondary.
Derwin James relished in an incredible rookie season, pushing Leonard hard for Defensive Rookie of the Year. His injury history (he’s only played five games in the last two years) is concerning, but the Cardinals are clearly not afraid to take a gamble.
16) Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Are you sitting comfortably? After a series of trades, this pick eventually became tight end Hayden Hurst. Pick 16 was traded to Buffalo who used it to select Tremaine Edmunds. As a result, the Baltimore Ravens received pick 22, which Buffalo originally received from Kansas City as part of the Patrick Mahomes‘ trade.
In turn, the Ravens traded it to the Tennessee Titans who went on to select Rashaan Evans. Eventually, they would use pick 25 to select Hurst and then trade back into the first round to secure Jackson.
With none of that happening here, they select the best wide receiver in the class, Calvin Ridley. Pass catcher was the biggest need for Baltimore, and with Ridley paired with Michael Crabtree, Joe Flacco may have garnered a new lease on life. Maybe.