2011 NFL redraft: Does Cam Newton still go No. 1 overall?
In Super Bowl 50, the top two picks from the same draft class matched up against each other for the first time in NFL history. However, Cam Newton and Von Miller weren’t the only two elite players to emerge from the 2011 NFL Draft.
We decided to look back at the 2011 class knowing what we now know about each player. Let’s take a look at what the order of the picks would be if the draft was held today.
The Panthers are on the clock.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton (Actual pick: Cam Newton)
Newton, 26, evolved into an elite quarterback with an average supporting cast. He won the league’s MVP with 35 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Newton’s Super Bowl 50 performance may be fresh in our minds, but the 18-game sample size that came before it is more telling of the player he has become. You don’t pass on an elite talent at the quarterback position.
2. Denver Broncos: J.J. Watt, DE (Actual pick: Von Miller)
Von Miller might be the NFL’s hottest pass rusher, but when it comes to being the most complete player, Watt has the stats and hardware to show for it. Watt has taken home the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award three times and he has led the NFL in sacks twice. He has 14.5 more career regular season sacks than Miller, and he’s a superior run defender who has never missed a game.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB (Actual pick: Marcell Dareus)
Miller has a rare combination of burst and edge bend that can make the task of blocking him one-on-one a lost cause. He has 60 career sacks in 72 games played. Miller can also hold his own in run defense and pass coverage — Tom Brady found that out the hard way in the 2015 AFC Championship game.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR (Actual pick: A.J. Green)
Green or Julio Jones? Over the past two seasons, Jones has better stats, but it’s important to keep the context in mind. Jones has become the only option in his team’s passing game while several players have emerged around Green. In 2014 and 2015, Jones saw 366 targets compared to just 249 for Green. The two receivers have nearly identical career numbers when it comes to receptions and yards, but Green has 11 more touchdowns.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Richard Sherman, CB (Actual pick: Patrick Peterson)
In 2015, Sherman dispelled the criticism that he was a product of the defensive scheme he played in. He moved around the formation, at times shadowing the opponent’s best receiver, and he still finished with a 68.0 passer rating against (up slightly from 48.4 in 2014). In 2015 Sherman had one of the most impressive games in his career — he shadowed Antonio Brown and held him to 51 yards in a game where Ben Roethlisberger threw for 456. This one also qualifies as addition by subtraction — Sherman has seven interceptions in 10 career regular-season games against the Cardinals.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR (Actual pick: Julio Jones, Falcons)
In this scenario, the Browns don’t trade this pick to the Falcons. Instead, they add their franchise receiver. Jones has taken his game to the next level over the past two seasons with 3,464 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Houston, OLB (Actual pick: Aldon Smith)
Smith would have been a no-brainer but couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field. Houston doesn’t rely solely on speed, and his unique ability to combine speed with power has made him one of the NFL’s most dominant pass rushers. He led the NFL and broke the Chiefs’ single-season sack record with 22 in 2014. He has 56 sacks in 70 career games, and he was originally selected at No. 70 overall.
8. Tennessee Titans: Tyron Smith, OT (Actual pick: Jake Locker)
Instead of reaching for a quarterback, the Titans find an elite left tackle who can protect the passer. Smith found immediate success in his rookie season at left tackle. He is undoubtedly one of the NFL’s elite tackles now — he finished with Pro Football Focus’ best overall grade among all tackles in 2015. In most drafts without an elite quarterback prospect, Smith would go No. 1 overall.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Peterson, CB (Actual pick: Tyron Smith)
Peterson emerged as an elite defensive back in 2015, and his dominant season earned him first-team All-Pro honors. The Cowboys kill two birds with one stone here. By drafting Peterson, they alter course and skip over selecting draft bust Morris Claiborne in the 2012 NFL Draft.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcell Dareus, DT (Actual pick: Blaine Gabbert)
Dareus’s forte is run defense, but the 331-pound defensive tackle is also surprisingly agile. He has 30.5 career sacks in five seasons, and he finished with 10 sacks during the 2014 season when he was named a first-team All-Pro.
11. Houston Texans: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE (Actual pick: J.J. Watt)
The Texans obviously can’t get Watt at No. 11, but their consolation prize is pretty awesome. Wilkerson is a force against the run and he has 36 career sacks. Those aren’t quite Watt numbers, but they will do.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Chris Harris Jr., CB (Actual pick: Christian Ponder)
You might not remember seeing Harris’ name called during the 2011 draft and that’s because it wasn’t. The Broncos nabbed Harris as an undrafted free agent. As a rookie, he led the NFL in tackles, and over the last five seasons he has emerged as one of the NFL’s elite defensive backs. He doesn’t get involved in any Twitter feuds about how good he is because he doesn’t have to — his stats speak for themselves. In his five-year career, Harris has allowed just six touchdowns on 392 targets against.
13. Detroit Lions: Cameron Jordan, DE (Actual pick: Nick Fairley)
Jordan broke out during the 2013 season, with 12.5 sacks and a ridiculous 87 combined pressures (sacks, hits and hurries). In 2015, the Saints mixed in a 4-3 base defense, and Jordan had no trouble with the transition — he finished with 10 sacks and 60 combined hits and hurries. Jordan and Ndamukong Suh would have done damage during their time together in Detroit.
14. St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn, DE (Actual pick: Robert Quinn)
The Rams are happy to get the chance to draft Quinn again, so they pounce. Quinn may never have another season as dominant as his 2013 campaign — 19 sacks and 91 total pressures — but Quinn is still an excellent weakside pass rusher.
15. Miami Dolphins: Andy Dalton, QB (Actual pick: Mike Pouncey)
Due to an unlucky injury, Dalton wasn’t able to change his postseason narrative, but 2015 was still a breakout year for him. He completed a career-high 66.1 percent of his passes and threw for 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
16. Washington Redskins: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB (Actual pick: Ryan Kerrigan)
Kerrigan has emerged as a leader for the Redskins both on the field and in the community — he was named the Redskins’ 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He has 47.5 career sacks, but it’s his run defense that holds him back from jumping the pass rushers taken in the first 15 picks.
17. New England Patriots: Rodney Hudson, C (Actual pick: Nate Solder)
Tom Brady has the ability to step up and avoid edge pressure, but pressure up the middle has always proved more troublesome. Hudson emerged as one of the NFL’s best centers in 2014 with the Chiefs, and he stayed dominant after signing a five-year, $44.5 million contract with the Raiders during the 2015 offseason.
18. San Diego Chargers: Jurrell Casey, DE (Actual pick: Corey Liuget)
Casey was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015 after racking up seven sacks and 51 total pressures. He has consistently generated pressure throughout his career with 28 sacks in five seasons. Unlike the Chargers’ actual pick, Casey can also stop the run.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT (Actual pick: Prince Amukamara)
Amukamara has been a solid defensive back for the Giants when healthy, but he missed 25 games in five seasons. For a team that has been so snake bitten by injuries, they are wise to turn to Castonzo — he has missed just seven games. Although his dominant 2014 season might go down as an outlier, he has been a consistent lineman in both pass protection and as a run blocker.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Randall Cobb, WR (Actual pick: Adrian Clayborn)
The Buccaneers have been lacking a receiver that can consistently produce chunk yardage after the catch for a while, and Cobb would fill that role. The 2015 season showed that Cobb works better in a complementary role, and he would inherit that here as long as the Buccaneers still signed Vincent Jackson in the following offseason.
21. Atlanta Falcons: Pernell McPhee, OLB (Actual pick: Phil Taylor)
The Falcons are stuck at No. 21 in this draft, and instead of reaching on a wide receiver who won’t make the same impact as Jones, they target an edge rusher. McPhee broke out during his final season with the Ravens in 2014, and he signed a five-year, $38.75 million contract with the Bears last offseason. McPhee’s success continued and he played a major role in helping the Bears’ defense improve in 2015. He has 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons and 23 in his career.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Cameron Heyward, DE (Actual pick: Anthony Castonzo)
The Colts have been getting crushed in the trenches since they drafted Andrew Luck. Heyward took a few years to get going for the Steelers, but over the past two seasons, he has been a force as both a pass rusher and run defender. He has 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons and 22 in his career.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Pouncey, C (Actual pick: Danny Watkins)
Since entering the NFL, Pouncey has earned strong blocking grades from Pro Football Focus in every season but 2014. In this redraft, the Eagles have no shot at landing Jason Kelce again in the sixth round again.
24. New Orleans Saints: Chris Culliver, CB (Actual pick: Cameron Jordan)
The former third-round pick emerged as the 49ers’ top cornerback in 2014 before signing a four-year, $32 million contract with the Washington Redskins in the 2015 offseason. Injuries derailed his 2015 season, but he should return in 2016 looking like the player we saw in San Francisco. He provides the Saints with some much needed talent at the defensive back position.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Orlando Franklin, OL (Actual pick: James Carpenter)
Franklin spent time at offensive tackle before breaking out when he transitioned to offensive guard. After signing a five-year, $36.5 million contract with the Chargers during the 2015 season, Franklin struggled alongside an offensive line decimated by injuries, but he is likely to bounce back in 2016.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: Tyrod Taylor, QB (Actual pick: Jonathan Baldwin)
Before the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, they had Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback. Although Cassel was coming off his best season with the Chiefs in 2010, he started just 17 games for the Chiefs and go 5-12 over the next two seasons. Hindsight is 20/20 so the Chiefs grab a dual-threat quarterback who they could develop until the bulk of guaranteed money in Cassel’s contract was paid off.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith, WR (Actual pick: Jimmy Smith)
After seeing two receivers go off the board in the last seven picks, the Ravens don’t want to take any chances at missing out on a player who fits in well with Joe Flacco. In the original draft, the Ravens selected Torrey Smith at No. 58 overall, but there’s no chance he would last that long this time. Smith racked up 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns in four seasons with the Ravens before signing with the 49ers last offseason.
28. New Orleans Saints: DeMarco Murray, RB (Actual pick: Mark Ingram)
Murray became the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014 behind the Cowboys’ power-blocking scheme, and the Saints run a blocking scheme with similar concepts under Sean Payton. Murray’s ability as a receiver out of the backfield would help keep him on the field and allow him to get into a rhythm with Drew Brees.
29. Chicago Bears: Jason Kelce, C (Actual pick: Gabe Carimi)
The Bears knew they needed offensive line help back in 2011, but they whiffed on Carimi. This time around, they bolster the interior with one of the NFL’s best centers. Kelce struggled during his rookie season, but he has played well in each season since.
30. New York Jets: Doug Baldwin, WR (Actual pick: Muhammad Wilkerson)
Baldwin went undrafted in 2011, and after several seasons as a solid starter, he broke out in a big way in 2015. He became a dynamic receiver who could successfully get over the top of defenses in addition to eating up coverage underneath. He finished with 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Gilbert, OT (Actual pick: Cameron Heyward)
The Steelers initially took Gilbert in the second round, but they won’t have that luxury in the redraft. Gilbert has emerged as an excellent right tackle over the past two seasons. In two meetings matched up against Von Miller in 2015, he allowed just one quarterback hit and no sacks.
32. Green Bay Packers: Julius Thomas, TE (Actual pick: Derek Sherrod)
The Packers add the play-making tight end they’ve been missing since Jermichael Finley’s breakout 2011 season. In two seasons with an aging Peyton Manning, Thomas racked up 24 touchdowns. Think about how dominant he could be with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball down the seam and in the red zone.
*All stats on defensive pressures and coverage are from Pro Football Focus.
You can find Dan on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.