NFL Draft 2012 re-do sends Russell Wilson to the Colts, Luke Kuechly to the Browns

Sporting News

Luke Kuechly's retirement from the NFL, combined with the same move by Andrew Luck a few months ago, brings up an interesting question: What would a re-do of the 2012 NFL Draft look like knowing what we know now?

Luck, the No. 1 overall selection that year, is no longer active, and Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall pick, is reduced to limited backup status in Baltimore. These developments change past events in an alternate history.

MORE: Kuechly retires as best Panther ever

Scroll to continue with content

Knowing there is still one elite, durable franchise quarterback still going strong in the NFL from the 2012 class, the alternate history first round looks different, right from the first pick.

1. Colts: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin

Actual pick: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Wilson stands out as the best quarterback from this class as he continues his march to the Hall of Fame with elite play, never having experienced a losing season in the NFL. Forget the Colts; just about any team that isn't the Patriots, Packers or Saints would have loved to make this kind of QB pick over the past 20 years.

2. Redskins: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State

Original pick: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Logic might suggest the Redskins would have taken Luck here, but you have to credit their accidental foresight in getting a future starter when they drafted Cousins behind RGIII. Had Cousins started as a franchise guy in Washington instead of underpaid backup, he might still be there.


3. Browns: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Actual pick: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

The Cincinnati kid would have been perfect as the backbone to Cleveland's defense just like he was in Carolina, rather than the bust Browns pick at running back. Kuechly was the best non-QB option in this draft.

4. Vikings: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California

Actual pick: Matt Kalil, LT, USC

Minnesota took Kalil for real, and after promise early, his injuries and inconsistency made him arguably the league's worst starting left tackle. Schwartz plays on the right side, but he would have been a rock the way he was for Cleveland and is for Kansas City.

5. Jaguars: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International

Actual pick: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Blackmon goes down as a rough Jags early wide receiver pick right there with Matt Jones and R. Jay Soward. Imagine if they had invested in Hilton, instead, to keep him out of Indianapolis.

6. Cowboys: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Actual pick: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

The Cowboys got some decent play from Claiborne for a while, but they would have been better off with Gilmore, who aced it for the Bills before taking it to the next level with the Patriots.

7. Buccaneers: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Actual pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Barron was the linebacker-like safety they took in 2012. The do-over would clearly turn to Smith, the long-time leader of the Vikings' defense.


8. Dolphins: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Actual pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

The team is still looking for that successor to Dan Marino all these years later. Luck would have provided the answer, even for a relatively short time in the league. Think about it this way: Would the Dolphins rather have had six healthy starting seasons from Luck, or six healthy starting seasons from Tannehill?

9. Panthers: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State

Actual pick: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

The Panthers would have been fine "settling" for Wagner instead of Kuechly. The two will forever be tied together as elite middle linebackers, all the way through Canton.

10. Bills: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

Actual pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Had Dallas taken Gilmore, it would have made sense for Buffalo to draft who has ended up being the class' second best all-around corner.

11. Chiefs: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Actual pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Poe spiked for the Chiefs in a solid career that continues with the Panthers. Had it been Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and John Dorsey, who all arrived a year later, there's a good chance Cox would have ended up in Kansas City instead of Philadelphia.

12. Eagles: Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska

Actual pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

The Eagles would have recovered OK with no Cox by landing David to be their second-level cleanup man instead of their real second-rounder Mychal Kendricks.


13. Cardinals: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Actual pick: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Arizona tried to make it work as long as possible with Floyd, but Jeffery opposite Larry Fitzgerald would have paid off a lot more.

14. Rams: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Actual pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Then in St. Louis, the Rams addressed the interior defensive line with Brockers. But they needed guard help for that season, and DeCastro would remain a rock of a blocker for them today instead of the Steelers.

15. Seahawks: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Syracuse

Actual pick: Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia

Seattle got some decent production from Irvin and did OK with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on the way to a Super Bowl win, but Jones would have been the better way to address the edge.

16. Jets: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina

Actual pick: Quinton Coples, EDGE, North Carolina

The name Coples creates turbulent thoughts for Jets fans. Going for Ingram, whom the Chargers took two picks later, would have eased so much pain.

17. Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Actual pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Kirkpatrick has been just average. Jenkins has had his ups and downs, but the Jackrabbit would have made so many more impact plays, and the Bengals would have been a team to look beyond his off-field issues to get his production.

18. Chargers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Actual pick: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina

The Chargers needed a nose tackle for their defense, so they would have taken advantage of Poe falling to anchor their 3-4 at the time.


19. Bears: Justin Tucker, K, Texas

Actual pick: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State

A kicker in the first round? You better believe Chicago would have loved Tucker's operatic stylings and big leg to win them a lot of games as opposed to the awful mess its field-goal situation become a year ago.

20. Titans: Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State

Actual pick: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The Titans would pivot from the slot-limited Wright to address their interior blocking, which also was a big need for them seven years ago.

21. Patriots: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

Actual pick: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Look at that: New England gets the guy it took as a second first-rounder, anyway, with Jones off the board.


22. Browns: Nick Foles, QB, Arizona

Actual pick: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

This would have been a much better pick than Weeden and probably would have kept them from going after Johnny Manziel in 2014.

23. Lions: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (Fla.)

Actual pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Detroit could have used some running stability until Kerryon Johnson was ready to take over. Reiff was just OK before leaving to sign with rival Minnesota.

24. Steelers: Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (Ohio)

Actual pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

No DeCastro? No problem with this other great right guard from a current top NFL offensive line across the state.

25. Patriots: Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami (Fla.)

Actual pick: Dont'a HIghtower, ILB, Alabama

Versatile defender for the defensive line instead of Jones? Sign Bill Belichick up.

26. Texans: Mailk Jackson, DT, Tennessee

Actual pick: Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Illinois

Jackson did star for a Wade Phillips defense in Denver. He would have worked nicely up front with J.J. Watt, the first-rounder of the previous year.

27. Bengals: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

Actual pick: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

This is our first first-round pick who stays exactly the same with DeCastro, Osemele and Brooks off the board.


28. Packers: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina

Actual pick: Nick Perry, EDGE, USC

Green Bay has had an affinity for first-round defensive backs. Norman would be have been great in the division as opposed to the original pick of Perry, who provided limited pass-rush returns.

29. Vikings: Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western

Actual pick: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Minnesota actually took Blair Walsh four picks after Zuerlein. Young GZ would have been great for that Seahawks playoff game.

30. 49ers: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina

Actual pick: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois

Hicks had an awesome breakout year, going from solid to spectacular in Vic Fangio's Bears defense in 2018. Fangio oversaw the 49ers' defensive-minded run to the Super Bowl under Jim Harbaugh in 2012.

31. Buccaneers: Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State

Actual pick: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

The Bucs go for the next best option to help on the second level in this class with David long gone.

32. Giants: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Actual pick: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

The Texans going for Jackson instead of Mercilus would have been music to New York's ears as it adds yet another edge option behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck after winning the Super Bowl.

What to read next