Imagine every quarterback in the NFL was dropped by their current team and a draft decided who would go where.
Tom Brady may have finished the 2016 season with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions, but his 40th birthday is in August. It probably wouldn’t be smart for a team at the top of the draft order to scoop him up, especially considering that’s a roster that likely isn’t a single player away from being a Super Bowl contender.
But how young does a team like the Cleveland Browns need to go? Should Aaron Rodgers not be a top-three pick just because he turns 34 in December? He’s still Aaron freakin’ Rodgers.
Let’s play out the scenario and see. I used the latest Super Bowl odds on Bovada to determine the order, which puts the Browns up first:
1. Cleveland Browns — Andrew Luck
There’s really no clear-cut choice for the first pick. While Luck hasn’t been as convincing as a franchise quarterback in the last two seasons, he’s still one of the NFL’s best and has had to deal with a poor cast around him in Indianapolis. He’ll turn 28 early in the 2017 season, giving the Browns plenty of time to give him a winning unit to work with.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Marcus Mariota
In his second NFL season, at only 23 years old, Mariota posted a 95.6 passer rating. He’s efficient, dynamic, and intelligent, and probably would’ve been the Browns’ pick if it wasn’t for injuries that ended his first two years prematurely.
3. New York Jets — Derek Carr
Like the Browns and the 49ers, the Jets need to build for the future and don’t make much sense as a landing spot for one of the more seasoned veterans. With Carr they get a 26-year-old ascending talent who has improved in each of his first three seasons.
4. Los Angeles Rams — Dak Prescott
This is a boom-or-bust selection and it feels really early, but it sets the Rams up with the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year who turns 24 later this month. The question is how much the dominant offensive line of the Cowboys and the help of Ezekiel Elliott helped Prescott during his remarkably efficient rookie season. Todd Gurley should help that transition, though.
5. Chicago Bears — Matthew Stafford
It feels like Stafford has been in the NFL forever, but he’s still just 29 and has consistently put together 4,000-yard seasons year after year.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars — Russell Wilson
The Jaguars really don’t need a ton to be a Super Bowl contender and that makes it a tempting landing spot for one of the passers in their mid-30s. Wilson’s still just 28, though, and has proven himself as a winner even if Seattle hasn’t done a good job protecting him.
7. Buffalo Bills — Kirk Cousins
Buffalo already has the rushing game in place, so just getting a passer who can move the chains and avoid mistakes should get the Bills offense clicking. Opinions of Cousins are all over the place, but Buffalo’s a comfortable landing spot.
8. Los Angeles Chargers — Jameis Winston
Winston’s best days are still ahead of him and he could be in line for a breakout season in 2017. Giving the 23-year-old Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin to work with could be a good situation for the Chargers for years to come.
9. Detroit Lions — Aaron Rodgers
With the young-franchise-quarterbacks-of-the-future tier mostly pilfered through, Rodgers is finally off the board.
10. Philadelphia Eagles — Matt Ryan
The reigning MVP just turned 32 and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He might need a Julio Jones to get the job done in Philadelphia, but the team has a lot of pieces in place and Alshon Jeffery is plenty dangerous.
11. Washington — Cam Newton
Newton was an MVP a year ago, but finished near the bottom of the NFL in passer rating in 2016. In reality, he’s somewhere in between and still just 28. He’s a player that can be built around for the future.
12. Miami Dolphins — Carson Wentz
After bursting out of the gates as a rookie, Wentz came back down to Earth in the latter half of the season. There are a lot of kinks to work out with Wentz, but that’s supposed to be Adam Gase’s specialty.
13. Cincinnati Bengals — Andy Dalton
After five straight winning seasons, Dalton posted a losing record with the Bengals for the first time in 2016. At 29, he’s a known commodity at this point, but he’s been fine for Cincinnati and getting him at No. 13 is just fine.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Joe Flacco
The AFC North is looking pretty similar with the Ravens also retaining their quarterback. When things are right around Flacco, he’s already shown he can win a Super Bowl. That’s about as much as you can ask for at this point in the order.
15. Tennessee Titans — Tyrod Taylor
The Titans have a lot of positive things in place, but losing Mariota is a tough pill to swallow. Taylor is a player who doesn’t make many mistakes and can allow the Tennessee offense to lean on its rushing attack.
16. New Orleans Saints — Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo is easily the most coveted backup in the NFL after spending two seasons behind Tom Brady and filling in briefly in 2016. Durability is a question as is, uh, everything about him. But it’s a good risk for the Saints to take.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sam Bradford
The Buccaneers have looked on the verge of a breakout season, but Jameis Winston has been a tad too inconsistent in his first two NFL seasons. Bradford has much less upside, but he is consistent.
18. Arizona Cardinals — Mitchell Trubisky
There’s a good chance Arizona would’ve drafted a quarterback in April if they didn’t get scooped by the Chiefs and Texans. Now in the re-draft they get the first rookie quarterback off the board, although the team may be better off finding a bridge starter to give Trubisky time to adjust to the NFL.
19. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Tannehill
This might actually be a steal for the Colts in the latter half of the draft. He’s about to turn 29 and hasn’t made much of an impact in the NFL, but he hasn’t been terrible either.
20. Minnesota Vikings — Eli Manning
Now we’re getting into the tier of proven quarterbacks nearing the end of their career and young quarterbacks who haven’t proven much yet. At age 36, Manning falls in the former, but has been a pretty consistent and reliable player who shouldn’t have trouble being the same for Minnesota.
21. Kansas City Chiefs — Patrick Mahomes
Like the Bengals and the Ravens, the Chiefs get the same guy. The team needs a young passer to build around, although getting Mahomes without Alex Smith means the Chiefs will probably want to pick up a cheap veteran to start while the Texas Tech product comes along.
22. Carolina Panthers — Deshaun Watson
Watson and Mahomes are close to an equal value, so the two players going back-to-back makes sense. While Watson isn’t Newton, he can be a threat in a backfield with Christian McCaffrey in many of the same ways, albeit at a much less dangerous level.
23. New York Giants — Tom Brady
Finally Brady is off the board and he goes to the team that cost him two more Super Bowl rings. At 40 years old, the Giants aren’t going to have him long, but the team’s defense and offensive weapons mean Brady should be able to compete for another ring right away.
24. Denver Broncos — Alex Smith
There are better quarterbacks out there, but Smith is just fine and he’s 33. The Broncos can lean on their elite defense and hope Smith is good enough to take the team to the top in the next few seasons.
25. Houston Texans — Ben Roethlisberger
At 35, Roethlisberger probably should’ve gone ahead of the likes of Manning, Brady, and Smith, but he sounds closer to considering retirement than any of them. There’s a good chance the Texans only get one year out of Roethlisberger, but at least they’re set up to make it a good one.
26. Atlanta Falcons — Drew Brees
Brees is another player whose play could drop off a cliff really soon and leave the team without a quarterback. But he’s a player who can take the Falcons back to the Super Bowl in 2017 and he has a win under his belt.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers — Jared Goff
The No. 1 pick in 2016 didn’t show much as a rookie and it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s much optimism around him. But getting a top pick in his second season isn’t a raw deal by any stretch for the Steelers.
28. Oakland Raiders — Blake Bortles
The Raiders took Derek Carr a round after the Jaguars took Bortles and its been a hell of a bargain. If things went the opposite for Oakland, well ... yikes. Is Bortles salvageable? Maybe, but so far in his career he’s thrown 51 interceptions and the Raiders will probably have to deal with turnovers with Bortles at the helm.
29. Seattle Seahawks — Paxton Lynch
The Broncos took Lynch in the first round a year ago and still don’t really know what they have in him. He didn’t look good, but pickings are getting slim at this point for the Seahawks.
30. Dallas Cowboys — Carson Palmer
This sure looks like the last year for Palmer, and the Cowboys are a team that can get a lot out of it.
31. Green Bay Packers — Cody Kessler
In eight starts for the Browns in 2016, Kessler was 0-8 but he actually wasn’t that bad. Six touchdowns and two interceptions is a better statline than most rookies would’ve posted in that situation. Green Bay can attempt to groom Kessler into something to work with.
32. New England Patriots — Teddy Bridgewater
The Patriots might as well take a shot on Bridgewater at this point. It’s a bad situation for the team, but Bill Belichick will probably find a way, right? Or maybe land USC’s Sam Darnold, somehow. Things always work out well for New England.