There is no more impactful exercise in the NFL than the draft. Or speculative one.

Teams spend hundreds of hours scouting players. Fly in many for private workouts. But draft picks are educated guesses. Every year, Day 3 picks or undrafted free agents become impact players, and first-round picks fall flat on their face.

But what if things were different? What if NFL teams knew which players would go on to win individual accolades and All-Pro nods? What if teams could look, say, five years into the future and know which players would blossom into stars?

Take the 2017 draft. In a class that featured a pair of generational pass-rushers in Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt, a megastar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and more Pro Bowl running backs than you could shake a stick at, if teams knew which prospects were going to become dominant professionals, then the first round would look a lot different.

It would look something like this.


1. Cleveland Browns

The Pick Then: Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M

The Pick Now: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

The Cleveland Browns can't be faulted for taking Myles Garrett No. 1. In his first five pro seasons, Garrett has logged 58.5 sacks, including a franchise record 16 sacks in 2021, and made the Pro Bowl three times.

And yet, in this redraft, the Browns throw Garrett back without a second thought.

In his first season as the starter in Kansas City (and second overall), Patrick Mahomes became just the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on the way to being named the league's most valuable player.

In his third and fourth seasons, Mahomes led the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, including a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. He has thrown 151 career touchdown passes against just 37 interceptions and has a career passer rating north of 105.

It might be premature to put Mahomes in the conversation among the all-time greats under center. But that's the career trajectory he's on.


2. San Francisco 49ers

The Pick Then: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (by Chicago Bears)

The Pick Now: Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M

In 2017, the San Francisco 49ers traded back one slot before settling on Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas at No. 3 overall. Moving down and adding picks was fine. Choosing Thomas? Not so much. He had 9.5 sacks over his first five seasons and was sent packing at the end of his rookie deal.

However, had Garrett slipped to No. 2, the 49ers would have stayed right where they were, because Garrett is a generational prospect—a 6'4", 272-pound athletic marvel with bend that has to be seen to be believed.

Garrett's 2021 season was the best of his career—he piled up 16 sacks and set a Browns single-season record. He has hit double digits in that category in four straight seasons and forced 11 fumbles in five years.

Pairing Garrett and Nick Bosa (who was drafted second overall by the Niners in 2019) would give San Francisco a terrifying duo of pass-rushers.


3. Chicago Bears

The Pick Then: Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford (by San Francisco 49ers)

The Pick Now: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson's career has been marred.

The 22 pending civil lawsuits against him alleging sexual misconduct and assault could result in a lengthy suspension.

He also sat out the 2021 season amid the uncertainty caused by the lawsuits and a trade request.

But there's a reason the Browns mortgaged the franchise's future and gave him a fully guaranteed $230 million contract. When last we saw him on the field, he was pacing the NFL with 4,823 passing yards in 2020. He has 104 career touchdown passes against just 36 interceptions and a career passer rating of 104.5.

He may not be Mahomes, but when Watson is healthy and on the field, he isn't that far off.

The Chicago Bears' trade up and selection of North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky—making him the first signal-caller taken—was a gaffe that has defined the team since. Trubisky wasn't terrible over four years in Chicago, but he wasn't the best quarterback in his class. Or the second-best.


4. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Pick Then: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The Pick Now: T.J. Watt, Edge, Wisconsin

The Jacksonville Jaguars did OK with the fourth pick, as Leonard Fournette topped 1,000 rushing yards twice in three seasons with the team. But Fournette was eventually released after the Jags couldn't find a trade partner in 2020.

And in this redraft, Jacksonville can do a lot better than "OK."

T.J. Watt wasn't considered an elite prospect in 2017—it was late in Round 1 before the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the Wisconsin edge-rusher. But he has been a difference-maker on the field since, racking up a whopping 72 career sacks, including 65 over the past four years.

A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, Watt tied Michael Strahan's single-season sack record with 22.5 and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year.