It’s fairly safe to say that the current state of the NFL has unfolded beyond anyone’s recognition or predictions. Even those who take part in sports gambling in Indiana were unlikely to see quite how much COVID-19 would rock the world of football, athletics, and more besides. Even this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo has been cancelled.
However, as always, NFL fans continue to think about ‘what might have been.’ Following the 2019 draft, and with hindsight in mind, would any of the teams have selected different players? And are there any teams and squads likely to change their minds, given the significant changes that have unfolded?
Here are a few teams we think might have gone in other directions if they could travel back in time. As always – opinions are welcome!
In a case of a rookie landing on a run of bad luck, Jonah Williams’ career in Cincinnati got off to the worst possible start thanks to a pretty nasty shoulder injury. That, as you can imagine, is likely making fans wonder what might have been as the team only managed two wins in 2019 in his absence. However, the Bengals are known for bouncing back, and Williams will be vital in helping protect this year’s draft pick Joe Burrow.
New York Jets
Plenty of Jets fans and armchair experts will likely tell you that the decision to plump for Quinnen Williams was a short-sighted move. Many experts are likely to suggest that he is barely being used to his full advantage.
It’s safe to say that if the Jets want to continue using Williams in such a way, they need to find someone who is more complementary to his position. Who might that be? That’s not for us to say. However, you’ll likely find Jets enthusiasts bristling about the Williams situation right now.
The Vikings badly needed to bolster their offensive line and ended up taking a punt on Garrett Bradbury at center; however, he was often guilty of committing penalties, setting the offense back several yards at a time. Despite his struggles in pass protection, Bradbury still showed plenty of promise in helping to open up running lanes for Dalvin Cook.
The fact is, they were in dire need of a good center – and Bradbury fills that role. Sometimes, you have to take the rough with the smooth.
New England Patriots
Despite winning yet another Super Bowl in 2019, the Patriots saw a need to bring in more explosive offensive playmakers and picked one up in N’Keal Harry at wide receiver. Unfortunately, he was sidelined with a pretty severe ankle injury until the latter stages of the season. However, in the seven games he did play, he only caught 12 passes for two touchdowns. Not exactly the best rookie opening on the grid.
Many experts were expecting the Patriots to find a replacement for Rob Gronkowski, their long-serving tight end who retired shortly after the Super Bowl triumph. While Noah Fant, who many predicted to be the guy, was no longer on the board, Irv Smith Jr was available at pick 32 – if the Patriots wanted him. Smith ended up going to Minnesota and played in all 16 regular season games for them, catching 36 passes for two touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was in desperate need of someone to throw the football to. Twelve months on from the 2019 draft and he still is. There were plenty of receivers from this draft pool, however, that had a stellar rookie season and any one of these would’ve made more sense, in hindsight, than the selection of edge rusher Rashan Gary.
Gary recorded just two sacks whereas free agent signings Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith notched up an astonishing 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively. The team definitely didn’t struggle in this department while Davante Adams once again proved to be Rodgers’ only reliable pass catcher on offense. A.J. Brown, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, D.K. Metcalf or Terry McLaurin would’ve been a great fit.
While, in hindsight, some of these teams may take a different player if they were put in the same scenarios again, with the same players available for them to draft, it’s important to stress that we have only seen one year of these new rookies in action. Adapting to the professional game takes time, so there’s no way of telling whether or not we’ve seen the best these players have to offer. Some may have more work to do than others, but there’s plenty of time yet for them to become cornerstones of their respective franchises.