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Re-drafting the first round of the 1996 NFL draft – The Draft Wire

At the risk of giving some fans an unfair daydream and others an ulcer, let’s take a look at what a redo of the 1996 NFL draft could look like with the gift of hindsight.
Keyshawn Johnson was certainly productive over more than a decade in the NFL, but there were a handful of legends in this class far more worthy of this pick. Ogden was one of the most dominant tackles in NFL history, the 11-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Jags took a linebacker here, but Kevin Hardy went to 12 less Pro Bowls than Lewis, and won two fewer Super Bowls. Hardy spent six seasons in Jacksonville, while Lewis became one of the most recognizable faces of the NFL for more than a decade, and is headed for Canton.
Simeon Rice racked up 122 career sacks over 12 NFL seasons, but his best years came in Tampa Bay after leaving the Cards in free agency. If given the chance to make this pick again, Arizona could take the other member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to come out of this class, and one of the most prolific pass-catchers to ever play the game.
There’s no way around it: the Ravens get shafted in this re-draft. Like the Bucs the year before, Baltimore spent their two first-rounders on future gold jacket recipients, but both would be off the board before they had a chance to pick them again. Instead, they get one of the most talented, productive but controversial receivers of the era.
Rice is one of two top-five picks from this class that stays there for this re-draft. A dominant pass-rusher, Rice posted double-digit sacks in eight of his 12 NFL seasons. His career-high mark of 16.5 in 1999 was more than original pick Cedric Jones posted over his entire six-year career.
One of the most notorious picks in draft history, Lawrence Phillips’ career and off-field life became a sad cautionary tale. The gem of this class at running back was the Heisman trophy winner in George, who rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns over nine NFL seasons.
The Pats waited until the second round to grab Milloy, but they wouldn’t let him get past this pick if they had to do it over. He spent less than half of his 15 NFL seasons in New England, but made the Pro Bowl four times over that stretch, becoming one of the key building blocks of the Patriots dynasty.
Injuries doomed the career of running back Tim Biakabutuka, Carolina’s original pick at this slot. Dawkins was taken near the end of the second round and became one of the best defenders of his era, making nine Pro Bowls and having his No. 20 jersey retired by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Raiders spent this pick on tight end Rickey Dudley, who had a decent five seasons in Oakland, but ended up winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers, beating the Raiders. Undersized and underestimated, Thomas racked up over 1,000 tackles in 13 NFL seasons and was named first-team All-Pro five times.
If the draft fell this way on a redo, I’d expect the Bengals to make the same pick they did in ’96. Anderson was a mainstay for 12 seasons in Cincy, missing just two games and making four Pro Bowls.
One of the biggest steals of this class, Glover waited until the end of the fifth round to hear his name called. After a brief trip to NFL Europe, Glover returned for 12 NFL seasons, the best of which came in the Big Easy. He bagged 83.5 career sacks (including a league-high 17.5 in 2000) and earned  six Pro Bowl berths.
Like Milloy, Alstott was a second-round pick who would be scooped up by the same team a round earlier. A powerful and versatile playmaker, the “A-Train” spent all 12 of his NFL seasons in Tampa Bay, becoming one of the team’s beloved and iconic figures, both on the field and in the community. His 71 career touchdowns are 25 more than any other player in franchise history.
The No. 1 overall pick ends his fall here, as the Bears snatch up the big, physical pass-catcher to pair with Curtis Conway. Johnson may not have been the most dynamic or explosive pass-catcher in this class, but over 800 receptions and 10,000 yards across 11 NFL seasons is nothing to scoff at.
Robbed of their original pick here in George, the Oilers take the next best runner to come out of this class. Davis was a three-time Pro Bowler and led the NFC in rushing yards twice, amassing over 8,000 yards and 65 touchdowns on the ground in his 11 NFL seasons.
Injuries robbed Mobley of a longer career, but he still made an undeniable impact for the Broncos during their most defining era. A stalwart leader in the middle of their defense for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, Mobley started 102 of his 2015 career games over eight NFL seasons, all of which were spent in Mile High.
Duane Clemons played just four seasons in Minnesota, and never posted double-digit sacks in any of his 10 NFL seasons. Rivera was a rock-solid interior blocker for the rival Green Bay Packers, and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2011. The three-time Pro Bowler started 141 games over his 11 years in the league, helping the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI.
Reggie Brown’s career was tragically cut short in just his second season due to a spinal cord injury. Bruschi had his own brush with a scary situation, suffering a stroke in 2015, but returned to to play that season, winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He was a mainstay in the defense of New England’s dynasty, tallying over 1,100 tackles in 13 seasons with the Pats.
Eddie Kennison had a long NFL career, but his only pair of 1,000-yard seasons came long after he had left the Rams. Moulds was a three-time All-Pro who eclipsed 1,000 yards four times, coming just five yards shy of 10,000 for his 12-year career.
The Colts are one of two teams to lose a Hall of Famer in this re-draft, as Harrison would be long gone by this pick. Muhammad was never an explosive playmaker, but he was as reliable as any possession receiver over his 14 years in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowler ended his career with 11,438 receiving yards and 62 touchdowns, leading the NFL in both categories in 2004.
Harris was the No. 13 overall pick in this draft, and while he was never a true shutdown corner, he carved out a 14-year career in the league. An All-Rookie selection in 1996, Harris made the Pro Bowl in 2006 after tying for the league league with eight of his 35 career interceptions.
The Seahawks drafted Walter Jones in 1997, so they didn’t up needing needing Runyan in the long run. But if transported back to the ’96 draft, Seattle likely would have passed on Pete Kendall for Runyan, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and started a ridiculous 190 games in a row.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Tampa Bay spends their second first-rounder on another player they picked later in this draft, getting one of the most productive cover men the franchise has ever had. Abraham picked off 31 passes over his six seasons in Tampa Bay (including seven in 1999, tied for the most in the NFL), which is second on the team’s all-time list behind Ronde Barber.
This was a solid pick by the Lions, even though Hartings’ best days came in Pittsburgh, where he moved from guard to center. He made a pair of Pro Bowls for the Steelers, starting 160 of 162 career games over 11 seasons.
With Moulds off the board, the Bills could replace him with a productive pass-catcher who came off the board in the top 10, but played his first six seasons across the AFC East in New England. Glenn wasn’t the most consistent receiver in the world, but he topped 1,000 yards four times and averaged just shy of 15 yards per catch over 11 NFL seasons.
It wasn’t the sexiest pick, but with the names left on the board, there’s no reason for the Eagles to change this one. Mayberry played nine of his 11 NFL seasons in Philly, helping anchor the offensive line for an extremely successful run for the Eagles. 96 of his 104 career starts came in winged helmet, with a Pro Bowl berth in 2002.
Without Ray Lewis on the board, Ravens fans are reminded how much fun this exercise isn’t for them. Wiegmann may not be a future Hall of Famer, but the undrafted free agent played 16 years in the NFL, starting all 16 games in each of his last 10 seasons.
John Michels made just 14 career starts, which is 116 less than Oben logged over his 12 years in the NFL. Despite making four different stops throughout his career and never making the Pro Bowl, Oben was a reliable blocker wherever he played, and helped anchor the offensive line during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run in 2002.
Jerome Woods had a fairly decent career over nine seasons in KC, but it was the Chiefs’ fourth-round pick who ended up being the gem of their 1996 class. Edwards spent eight of his 13 NFL seasons in Kansas City, racking up nearly 1,500 tackles and becoming one of just eight players in NFL history to record more than 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career.
Jamain Stephens was a huge bust, but Horn was one of the biggest steals of the draft. After a year in the CFL and four seasons in Kansas City that netted him less than 1,000 total receiving yards, the fifth-round junior-college product topped 1,200 yards in four of his first five seasons with New Orleans. Cell phone celebration and all, the four-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Saints’ Hall of Fame after ranking second on the team’s all-time list in receptions and receiving yards.
35-year-old Henry Ellard was Washington’s only 1,000-yard receiver in 1996 (Michael Westbrook was second with 505 yards), which tells you all you need to know about the state of the team’s receiving corps at that point. Toomer never made the Pro Bowl, but after 13 seasons with the Giants, he left as the team’s all-time leader in every major receiving category.
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
Articles: 7580

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