There's no less constructive exercise in sports writing than wondering what could have been. For those of us that are fans of the Mariners, this process almost always holds negative connotations, like we "could have had a lineup with Adam Jones, David Ortiz, Asdrubal Cabrera" and whatever else suits your fancy to the doldrums of Mariner negativity. Luckily for the Seahawks and the 2012 draft, we can thank our lucky stars for what was and instead start to ponder what it's like for the 31 teams that don't have Russell Wilson.
What would the world look like now if they knew then what we knew now and we didn't know now what would could have known then in the now then could would who where now then before? Am I right?
There were 74 players drafted before Wilson. They include players like Trent Richardson, who was traded away for an almost certain lesser pick about 17 months later. A.J. Jenkins, who was has one catch for six yards in his career and was dealt for maybe an even bigger disappointment. Names like Brian Quick, Andre Branch, Isaiah Pead, Devon Still, Ryan Broyles, Brock Osweiler, Vinny Curry, LaMichael James, DeVier Posey, T.J. Graham, Bryan Anger, Josh LeRibeus, and Brandon Taylor.
History will end up telling the true story of how big of a swing-and-miss this was for 31 teams, but never forget that instead of Wilson (and also instead of drafting Robert Griffin III, and then when they traded down with Washington and preceded to trade down again with Dallas, didn't draft Ryan Tannehill) the Rams drafted Michael Brockers, Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Pead, and Trumaine Johnson.
The team that we will face on Monday night, the team that's starting Kellen Clemens at quarterback, drafted five players before Wilson was picked by Seattle. Five.
Brockers is so far having a very nice career as the guy sandwiched between two of the best defensive ends in the NFC. So far Jenkins looks like a risk that's going to pay off. But Pead and Quick are already on very thin ice and to be honest I don't know who Trumaine Johnson is. And maybe he's a good corner, but the Rams are starting Clemens at quarterback. It's not just that they could have avoided drafting one just because they had Sam Bradford either, because Bradford was coming off an injury and St. Louis traded down for extra picks but took two running backs, two receivers, two corners, and a kicker among other things. Not a single quarterback.
This isn't meant to just bag on the Rams, there's been enough of that in the last 10 years and it turns out that there are some great people that are Rams fans, it just so happens that their draft is the most egregious. It doesn't change the fact that a lot of other teams would also look back on that day(s) with regret.
To recap the 2012 draft, most people agreed that Andrew Luck would be the number one pick. There were many that said that Griffin was the better selection, but almost everyone agreed that Luck was going to be great. As of now he hasn't disappointed and in a 2012 NFL Draft Reeemix, Luck would likely stay as the number one pick to the Colts. Then what?
Well, the Rams drafted second and with so much hype surrounding RGIII, there was a lot of thought that some team would end up trading up to take him unless St. Louis had decided to give up on Bradford. They could try to trade him and still receive a few draft picks, but there was also the complication that as of 2011, rookie quarterbacks cost a fraction of what Bradford had cost when he was picked the year before.
Bradford, number one pick in 2010: six-years, $78 million
Cam Newton, number pick in 2011: four-years, $22 million
Given the landscape at the time of the 2012 draft, could St. Louis have convinced a team like the Browns, or even Seahawks, to trade a draft pick for an injured quarterback that was somewhat disappointing and would carry a base salary in 2013 of $9 million when a rookie would come much cheaper?
Either way, the Redskins offered a deal of three first round draft picks and a second round pick that was too good to pass up. The question for this article is: What would happen if every team knew where these players would be at on October 25, 2013?
I feel confident here:
1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
And then I don't know anymore.
According to OvertheCap.com, the Rams will save $10 million against the cap in 2014 and $11 million in 2015 if they release Bradford. He'd still carry significant dead money ($12 million total over two years) but the savings can't be ignored.
If they knew everything we know now, I see St. Louis as having several options in 2012:
- Keep Bradford, draft Matt Kalil. Already regarded as one of the best tackles in the game, the Rams could do a better job of protecting Bradford and he'd be a significant upgrade over Rodger Saffold in 2012 and Jake Long in 2013 while also saving them money in the four-year deal they gave to Long.
- Make the trade with the Redskins. Or whatever suitors are out there. I just deleted an entire paragraph because of something I had forgotten: the 2012 draft was just littered with trades.
The order as it looks now: IND, WAS, CLE, MIN, JAX, DAL, TAM
The order as it was originally: IND, STL, MIN, CLE, TB, WAS, JAX
Vikings fans might have an interesting conundrum on their hands, because they ended up with Kalil and Harrison Smith in the first round that year. That's not a bad duo to land on your team, but is it more valuable than Wilson or Griffin? The Browns wanted Trent Richardson so badly that they traded their number four pick, a fourth, a fifth, and a seventh. They would not repeat that deal for Richardson, but they'd have to pay even a higher price for Wilson or Griffin.
And yes, I've established that there's no way Russell Wilson gets out of the top three.
The Vikings are presently flip-flopping around three of the worst quarterbacks in the league. It's like watching someone juggle, except I give even fewer shits. Other QB options in this draft besides the top three include Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Brandon Weeden and Osweiler. Minnesota could choose between simply drafting the QB that the number two team doesn't pick or trading down and taking Kalil or perhaps Tannehill.
I think I'm starting to realize that it would be harder to draft if you knew the future than how it is now. Stupid fortune-telling.
We already know that the Redskins were willing to offer the sixth and 39th overall pick in the 2012 draft, plus first round picks in 2013 and 2014. The Rams would also know that they aren't doing very good at drafting and might just be better off taking Griffin or Wilson. I don't think that Washington would pull that offer 18 months later. In addition to being good players, Griffin and Wilson are money-makers.
The Browns, picking fourth, could offer the fourth, 22nd, and 37th overall picks in the 2012 draft. They had more leverage than anyone. They instead opted to take Richardson and Weeden, which was bad then and worse now. I do however think that the Rams would feel safer picking fourth than picking sixth and in this scenario, Cleveland should be willing to offer the best deal possible:
Rams trade pick 2 to Browns for picks 4, 22, 37, 100 and a 2013 1st round pick
Now, what to do?
Griffin was the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, led his team to the playoffs, is one of the most exciting and notable players in the NFL.
Wilson is Wilson.
A lot of people said that Cam Newton was struggling in his second year and wouldn't turn out to be great after all, but I thought it was dumb then and I think it's even dumber today. Griffin is coming off of his best game of the season and though they are 2-5, the Redskins can easily repeat as NFC East champions because have you watched the East?Even if that's not very impressive in context. I honestly don't know how you can go wrong with either, and I don't think that there would be anything wrong with going the opposite of what I'm about to do, but I'd be lying if I said that the future of one didn't worry me a little bit more than the future of the other. And it has little to do with talent.
2. Cleveland Browns (from Rams) - Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Which I think would mean:
3. Minnesota Vikings - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
It's impossible to say what would have happened to the 2012 Cleveland Browns had they done this, and perhaps my trade offer was a lowball (they'd still be the team with the most leverage because picks now are always better than picks later) but I don't think they lose much, if anything, with this deal.
Wilson is a significant upgrade over Weeden, and that alone should be worth an extra win or two. Pat Shurmur might even still be the coach of the Browns if this is what had happened. The other possible destination for Wilson or Griffin is the Rams, but if they picked fourth, they could still take Kalil, Tannehill, or someone else. Maybe even... Bobby Wagner?
Because St. Louis needs help at linebacker and if Wilson was the steal of the third round, right now there's a very solid argument that Wagner was the steal of the second. The Seahawks are lucky to have them both, and revisionist history will remain just that.
History. (Drops mic. Excellent article finish. 10/10, perfect score.)
(Addendum: This originally started as a piece about where Wilson would be drafted if we did the 2012 draft all over again with new knowledge. Then it became obvious that the lede was the fact that the Rams and Seahawks were playing on Monday night, that St. Louis was starting Clemens, and that they passed on Wilson more than anyone. That's why it might seem a bit weird that all of a sudden I mock Wilson to the Browns, though i believe it's still a deal that the Rams would have to do based on Bradford's contract and the value of those draft picks if they used them right.
And even without knowing what we know now, why didn't St. Louis draft a single quarterback at all? The costs of players like Osweiler, Foles, Wilson, and Cousins make it very headscratching that the Rams wouldn't take one of them to backup Bradford and have as insurance in case he never properly healed or couldn't stay healthy or just wasn't that good.)