Real NFL Fantasy Draft

By Hunter Ansley
July 25, 2009

Hunter is a freelance writer who has been published by ESPN the Magazine. He runs Draft

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Now that the real draft is almost three months old, and the weird draft-pick-wagering supplemental draft is over, there’s kind of a lull in the NFL Draft community. Most fans are busy filling their heads with fantasy information in hopes of impressing that girl who sits across from them at work by winning their leagues and holding it over the head of that cocky guy who drives a BMW’s during the next staff meeting. I can’t stand that guy.

Anyway, I started to think, what if NFL teams actually held a fantasy draft? What would that look like? Obviously, it’s an independent defensive player league, and you don’t get points for receptions, but it’s still an interesting concept – what if NFL teams could simply participate in a one-round draft where every other team’s players make up the talent pool?

There’s only one rule: once a team has been stolen from, their roster is off the board. So once the Lions take Joe Thomas, no other team can take one of Eric Mangini’s players. He must be pissed about that.

And one other thing. I’ve given each team a pick that satisfies a need they still had after the 2009 NFL Draft, but before this one. For instance, even though the Saints lost Drew Brees here, I don’t have them taking a replacement at quarterback. This will never happen, but it’d definitely be another way to strike parity into the league.

Real NFL Fantasy Draft:
  1. Detroit Lions: Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
    The Lions amazed us all when they skipped over the tackle position until finally landing Lydon Murtha in the seventh round. Problem solved, right Matt Stafford? Well, you’re wrong. The problem is still there and it’s as big as it’s ever been. The Lions can’t afford to put Stafford behind the same type of line they hung Joey Harrington with.

    Thomas is one of, if not the, top young left tackles in the league right now. He’d be an immediate upgrade over most teams’ left tackles, and his age makes him a good fit. Thomas could be around for most of Stafford’s career, and that might just buy him enough time to decide that living in Detroit isn’t as much fun as hitting plates on the Jimmy Fallon show. At least he’d have time to find Calvin Johnson.

  2. St. Louis Rams: Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington Redskins
    The Rams could go a couple of ways here. There’s a need for a better, younger quarterback. The receivers are all raw and nothing special anyway. And the defense only has a couple hundred holes. But with new coach Steve Spagnuolo in town, my money would be on taking the top defensive lineman on the board.

    Haynesworth fits the bill, easily. He’s simply too talented not to catch Spags’ eye. With Chris Long and Haynesworth up front, maybe even Adam Carriker would catch fire and become what he was supposed to be – somewhat decent. There’s just no way that this 29th-ranked run defense wouldn’t improve greatly with Haynesworth working for one of the best defensive coaches around.

  3. Kansas City Chiefs: Vince Wilfork, NT, New England Patriots
    OK, so the Chiefs seem set to watch Matt Cassel do his best Tyler Thigpen/Brodie Croyle impersonation, which means showing some flashes while never being a true starting-caliber quarterback. And they’ve got a No. 1 receiver, and the running game could be worse than Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. But the defensive line is apparently undergoing a massive overhaul, and the one piece they really need is a true nose tackle.

    Wilfork is the best in the biz at plugging the middle of the 3-4, and the Chiefs could have a decent young line if Tyson Jackson and even Glenn Dorsey prove to be adequate 5-techs. After “stealing” Cassel from the Patriots, why wouldn’t Scott Pioli take something else from Bill Belichick? Only this time, he’s actually getting good value. Hooray for accidental success.

  4. Seattle Seahawks: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
    Plenty of people would argue that a young, amazing quarterback would make sense here – someone to take over when Matt Hasselbeck finally hangs it up. But I think Hasselbeck has a few good years left, and with the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the projected growth of John Carlson, I think he’s got some good targets to work with. Plus the defense is starting to look a little better. What he doesn’t have is a premier running back.

    Sure, Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett did all right last year behind a patchwork line, but neither is a game-changer who has to be planned against every week even when they’re at their best. Peterson is the top running back in the NFL, and now that the Hawks have a guy who could blossom into a great guard in Max Unger, I have a feeling he could get the ground game going in Seattle. This offense would hum with that kind of ground game coupled with what I expect to be a much-improved passing game.

  5. Cleveland Browns: Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
    The Browns need to run the football better. Jamal Lewis’ speed, or lack of, has been reported almost as much as Michael Jackson’s death. And honestly, I’d rather talk about Lewis’ 40, but that’s another story. Anyway, the Browns have a pretty good core on offense. Brady Quinn is a good young quarterback, Braylon Edwards isn’t gone yet, and Joe Thomas is still on the team in real life. So the only missing cog is Turner.

    Sure, Turner is overrated as far as fantasy running backs go, but with his younger age and low mileage (career-wise) he makes a lot of sense for a team that has to play football on a field; not on a laptop. He could easily step in and give the Browns a second dimension, which would likely open things up for Quinn and Edwards. Look what his production did for Matt Ryan.

  6. Cincinnati Bengals: Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
    The Bengals just drafted Michael Johnson in the third round, and there’s a chance that could eventually pay off in a big way. They also agreed to pay Antwan Odom an amount that was apparently right at the mark to cause him to quit trying. So while the potential is there, it’d be pretty hard not to take a guy who is already proven.

    Williams has more upside than any defensive lineman left in this draft, and he’d be a nice fit in Cincinnati. Odom has apparently bulked up a great deal (to around 286 pounds) and could end up being a better option on the left side. That would leave Williams open to hang on the right. The whole Reggie Bush/Mario Williams debate has really shifted in Williams’ favor, and the Bengals would certainly know what they’re getting. This kind of addition could push them into the top six or so defenses in the league.

  7. Oakland Raiders: Ryan Clady, OT, Denver Broncos
    Yeah, I know. This seems like a smart pick, and that almost eliminates it as a possibility in this completely fake event. But since it’s fake, and it’s mine, I can do whatever I want here, and the Raiders need a left tackle. Clady is one of the best in the league, and although having a mobile quarterback like Jay Cutler helped his sack numbers, JaMarcus Russell isn’t exactly a statue despite his weight problems.

    But the real kicker here that makes this such a cinch pick is that taking Clady would really cripple the Broncos. And what could make Al Davis happier? He lived through some rough seasons at the hands of Mike Shanahan, but this would give him an early lead over Josh McDaniels. Clady’s young enough to be around for a long time.

  8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcus Stroud, DT, Buffalo Bills
    Why they hell not? Sure there are better players left on the board at other positions, and maybe even some better at this position, but how great would it be to see this play out? Jack Del Rio could take back the guy the Bills took from him, and he seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy doing that.

    After Stroud left, this defensive line fell apart up the middle. John Henderson is a good player, but it’s apparent that he needs Stroud next to him to make this front four dangerous. With these two guys back in Jacksonville, maybe the Jags could bounce back from a seriously disappointing season.

  9. Green Bay Packers: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders
    The Packers always seem to take the best player available, and that player always seems to fill some sort of need. Here you go, Green Bay. Asomugha is probably the best corner in the game right now, and the Packers have had some great success with their last Raiders transplant at this position.

    Charles Woodson played perhaps his greatest season in 2008, and he’s not done yet. But he and Al Harris are getting dangerously old, and there’s no reason not to bring Asomugha in. I’m just still bitter about the reaction I got when I mocked Malcolm Jenkins to the Packers a few months ago. No, I’m over it. Can’t you tell?

  10. San Francisco 49ers: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
    Mike Singletary can scream pants-less all he wants about being fine with Shaun Hill and Alex Smith at quarterback, but if he had the chance to add Peyton Manning to his team, he’d probably have to pull his pants back up, if you get my drift.

    Manning is in the latter years of his career, but I just think Singletary would rather have him than either of the young whiners, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers. Manning just seems more like a coach Mike kind of guy. And I’m willing to be he couldn’t make Peyton cry – unless he poked him in the knee really hard.

  11. Buffalo Bills: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
    Buffalo, on the other hand, would likely welcome Rivers to the team. I’m not giving up on Trent Edwards, and he should be in for a better year with Terrell Owens added to the roster. But imagine what Rivers could do with these kind of weapons in the passing game. Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Steve Johnson, and even James Hardy and Shawn Nelson could get in on the action with a quarterback like this.

    Rivers is another quarterback who really hasn’t ever had a marquee player at the receiver position and he’d have a ball throwing to some better targets. Of course, the Bills could just take Jason Peters back, but if he’s protecting – and I use that word loosely – a mediocre quarterback, then it won’t matter. Rivers did some amazing things behind a line that gave up 25 sacks last season, and I think he could be even better with these receivers.

  12. Denver Broncos: DeMarcus Ware, DE/OLB, Dallas Cowboys
    It would be nice to see Denver add a premier defender in his prime to their new 3-4 look. Ware certainly fits the bill. No longer would Broncos fans have to worry about whether or not Jarvis Moss and Elvis Dumervil can cut it as 3-4 linebackers. Now only one of them would have to with the NFL’s sack leader on the other side.

    Ware has been a huge success in this scheme in Dallas, and there’s no doubt he’d immediately bump the Broncos’ unit up a level. With his ability to rush the passer, there’d be less stress on the secondary, which would be a good thing considering the lack of a corner opposite Champ Bailey and a safety opposite Brian Dawkins. Ware just has that rare ability to make an entire unit better by himself.

    (Editor’s Note: Ware makes all the sense in the world, but I’m willing to bet that given the opportunity, McDaniels would opt to steal Matt Cassel away from the Chiefs to play in his awesome offense.)

  13. Washington Redskins: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
    Come on, what other position would Daniel Snyder pilfer, assuming he couldn’t draft another team’s coach? Jason Campbell should be much better in his second season under the same coordinator, but Snyder probably wouldn’t be able to resist.

    The Redskins haven’t drafted as awfully as some think, so I don’t want to discount this pick as a crazy one. Just not a necessity. Still, having Brees run this attack would be pretty fun to watch. He’s got two talented young receivers here in Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, and Santana Moss is pretty decent himself. Giving Brees an actual defense could push him past the individual accolades into the postseason. That’d be a welcome accomplishment for him and Snyder.

  14. New Orleans Saints: Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
    I’ve received a ton of emails from fans telling me that the Saints won’t take a middle linebacker in the actual 2010 NFL Draft because Jonathan Vilma doesn’t want to play on the weakside. Well, if the Saints had the chance to pick up Willis, Vilma might just have to deal with it. And I’m pretty sure he would.

    I’m a big fan of Scott Fujita at strongside linebacker, and with Willis and Vilma manning the other two spots, this could quickly become one of the better units in the league. I think Willis can handle the middle in the 4-3; he did it pretty well in college, and he seems like a good fit for a team that has a talented defensive line, and a secondary that was recently bolstered.

  15. Houston Texans: Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
    I know Houston has bigger needs, most notably on the other side of the ball, but I couldn’t resist. And I don’t think Houston could either. Steve Slaton is a great running back, and enjoyed success in his rookie season that no one saw coming. But he’s small, and his lack of durability has to have Houston a little worried.

    So to bring in Jacobs would just make too much sense. Jacobs is a load at around 6-4, 264, and he certainly plays the power back role well. He scored 15 touchdowns last season in an injury-mired campaign, and he’s a perfect complement to the pass-catching Slaton. Jacobs would give Houston a goal-line back, and a hell of a weapon to use in conjunction with Slaton. This offense would be one of the best in the league with a guy like that.

  16. San Diego Chargers: Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
    The Chargers have more pressing needs as well. They could use a big-time 5-technique to take over for the departed Igor Olshansky. They could also use a right tackle so that LaDainian Tomlinson has a puncher’s chance to stay healthy and Rivers isn’t sacked 25 times again. But they needed those positions in the 2009 NFL Draft, and threw us all a curveball when they selected Larry English.

    So here’s another wild pitch, though it’ll probably end up working out for them. Clinton Hart is in no way above an upgrade at strong safety, and Polamalu is the top player at that position. He’d bring another big-name big-hitter to a defense that already boasts Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. With Polamalu patrolling the secondary, this defense would be one of the elite units in the NFL, something they slipped from last season.

  17. New York Jets: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
    Hard to believe Fitzgerald would fall this far in a draft like this, but it’s not impossible. No team above them is in so dire a need of a receiver that they would ignore other positions to grab him. Maybe one of the smart best-player-available teams would have grabbed him, but the Jets would certainly welcome the upgrade.

    When Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney are your top receivers, then you know it’s time for an addition; in talent as well as size. Fitzgerald became a playoff legend with his scintillating numbers in the recent postseason, and he’d be a perfect fit in New York. Mark Sanchez would really blossom with a target like this, and the running game would explode now that opposing defenses would actually have to respect the pass. The acquisition will likely never happen, but with a defense like this, the Jets could be a playoff team year in and year out.

  18. Chicago Bears: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
    Jay Cutler would wet himself. More specifically, he’d wet his face with tears of joy. He just huffed his way onto a team with no real threats at receiver, and if the Bears don’t remedy the situation, it’ll only be a matter of time before he starts to moan about that too.

    So, if the Bears had this chance, they’d be crazy not to add the most physically gifted receiver in the NFL. Johnson is stuck in a flaky situation for a receiver in Detroit with awful quarterbacks followed up by rookie quarterbacks behind a bad offensive line, and he still put up some amazing numbers. With a quarterback like Cutler throwing him the ball, the Bears would suddenly have a top offense. Add in the fact that Matt Forte is in the backfield, and this might be a super team.

  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina Panthers
    Tampa Bay isn’t in a great spot for this type of draft. A lot of the teams with flashy defensive playmakers have already been stolen from, and they really need a playmaker on that side of the ball. But this isn’t exactly a bad consolation prize; it’d just be better if Peppers was younger.

    I know they have Gaines Adams, but they need someone to really get things going here, and Peppers is the best available option. He’d be able to stay on the line in a 4-3 defense, and his tutelage would go along way in helping Adams become the terror he was drafted to be.

  20. Dallas Cowboys: Kris Jenkins, NT, New York Jets
    Dallas would be insane not to grab a top 3-4 nose tackle here. They just lost Tank Johnson to the Bengals, and Jay Ratliff is probably better suited to play outside. Jenkins struggles with consistency some, but he’d be on a defensive front with lots of talent, and might not wear down as much. He’d definitely be a welcome addition in Dallas.

  21. Philadelphia Eagles: Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
    So you just lost Brian Dawkins, what to do now? Bringing in Sean Jones is a start, and he could really pan out in Philly, but why not grab a proven entity who is one of the most active playmakers in the game?

    Reed is a force over the top for Baltimore, and that kind of presence has been huge for their defense’s success. He plays the game a little differently than Dawkins did, but he’s still just too talented to pass up for a team that is looking like it has fewer holes than most. With the quality of players left that fill a need for the Eagles, Reed is a great choice.

  22. Minnesota Vikings: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
    Here’s a nice double whammy for the Vikings. Not only do they steal the Bears’ first potentially great quarterback in about a hundred years, but they also shore up their biggest weakness. Someone wake Brad Childress up for his MENSA meeting; if he ever found a way to do this, he’d have an instant Super Bowl contender on his hands.

    With Percy Harvin recently added to the roster, and Bernard Berrian’s track record, Cutler would have weapons comparable to those he had in Denver. Only this time, he’d have an excellent rushing attack on his side. Maybe with a great defense and more of a push from the running backs, he wouldn’t force so many passes into double coverage. At the very least, this move would keep Brett Favre where he belongs – behind a microphone announcing his intentions to play for someone else’s team.

  23. New England Patriots: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
    The Patriots are again in a tough spot to address their biggest needs – a pass rusher and secondary help. There just aren’t any guys at those positions who make as much sense as Jackson from a value standpoint. It’s not like the ground game isn’t a concern. Of course, it’d be interesting to see if Jackson is “veteran enough” for Bill Belichick’s taste.

    Basically, if Jackson can do what he’s done playing for St Louis, then imagine what he can do playing on a team with a passing attack like this. He’s consistently listed among those that NFL players would least like to tackle, and he’s already light years ahead of Laurence Maroney and is much fresher than recent addition Fred Taylor. Plus, he’s proven capable of catching passes, and the last thing the AFC East wants to see is Tom Brady get another weapon.

  24. Atlanta Falcons: Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
    I know there’s an Atlanta fan out there who will tell me that the Falcons don’t need a corner, but in this spot, they’d be remiss to pass on Samuel. Asante has made a name for himself as one of the top corners in the league, and the Falcons secondary just lost one of their top guys in Domonique Foxworth.

    Samuel, or any corner for that matter, might be needed this season as teams prepare to follow Arizona’s lead and bomb away on the Falcons. With no real pass-rushing threat opposite John Abraham, quarterbacks have had too much time to pick this secondary apart, and Samuel is a better option at corner than any pass-rushers at this point.

  25. Miami Dolphins: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
    The pickings are getting slim with so many teams already off the board, but this would be a nice fit for Miami. Now that the WildCat is no longer some mystifying secret, the Dolphins will actually have to throw the ball downfield with more consistency. And that’s a problem when Ted Ginn is your top receiver and only managed two touchdowns.

    Bowe has become an upper-level receiver for the Chiefs, and he’s done it with some pretty average guys throwing him the ball. Sure he’s benefitted from Tony Gonzalez’s presence, but he’s still getting the job done on a level that Miami’s corps can’t compete with. Perhaps more importantly, Bowe is 6-2, 221, so he gives Chad Pennington or Chad Henne a sizeable target. I think he’d make one of those Chads pregnant with glee.

  26. Baltimore Ravens: Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers
    The Ravens just lost a huge piece of their offense. Derrick Mason may have finally hung it up, and he probably didn’t mean to, but he might have taken the passing game with him. Now it might be up to Mark Clayton to lead this group, and I’m not sure he’s up to it.

    So why not take a guy who is somewhat of a younger version of Mason? Both played their college ball in Michigan, both are under 6-feet tall, and both have been very consistent in their careers, though Jennings’ has been much shorter. Still, it’s hard to argue with his production, and he’s already done a nice job of developing a relationship with a young quarterback. Joe Flacco, whom I heard had his mom drive him to practice as a rookie, should be a big fan of relationships.

  27. Indianapolis Colts: Barrett Ruud, ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Again, there’s not much to choose from here, but there aren’t many holes for the Colts if their two new defensive tackles work out as planned. One of the biggest pieces that may be missing soon is at middle linebacker where Gary Brackett had trouble staying healthy last season. I know it’s a stretch, but it’s the only position of need left that actually has a competent replacement still on the board.

    Barrett Ruud is probably one of the most underrated linebackers playing the game, and he’s young enough to be around for a while. He’s got two pretty productive seasons under his belt with more than 113 tackles in each of the last two seasons, and he fits the scheme. Brackett’s probably better off than I’m making him sound, but for the strength of this article, Ruud makes a lot of sense.

  28. Carolina Panthers: John Henderson, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
    Carolina could go with a quarterback here, but the only viable option left is Carson Palmer, and he’s a big injury risk. Plus, I’m not completely sold on the whole “Jake Delhomme is awful” argument. He did take the Panthers to the Super Bowl, and he’s been better at times than he gets credit for.

    The area of this team that isn’t above an upgrade no matter how you slice it is the run defense. The Panthers ranked 20th in the league last season and gave up 145 yards on the ground in their lone postseason game… against the Cardinals. That’s not good enough. John Henderson is simply the best defensive tackle left on the board, and it’s also funny that it messes up Jack Del Rio’s plan to repair his defensive tackles.

  29. New York Giants: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seattle Seahawks
    The Giants did just draft Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, but that doesn’t mean that the receiving woes will automatically disappear in 2009. Rookie wideouts usually struggle, and while I think Nicks’ background will help him become an immediate factor, there’s no reason not to go after a proven entity.

    Some would expect Chad Johnson here, or Ochocinco, or whatever, but I don’t think that fits Tom Coughlin’s personality. They just had a receiver shoot himself in the leg with a gun, and I don’t believe they need another one to shoot someone in the eye with his mouth. Houshmandzadeh has been pretty darn consistent during his career, and he’s still got the red-zone abilities and size that Eli Manning needs. He’s just a safer pick for a team that can’t afford to be burned at this position again.

  30. Tennessee Titans: Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
    Here’s the landing spot for Carson Palmer. If there’s one team that could use a big-time playmaker at quarterback, it’s the Titans. Kerry Collins did a great job of managing the games last season, but he’s old as dirt, and won’t hold up much longer. Plus, the Titans just spent some money on some pretty legitimate pass-catchers (Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook), and I’m sure they want to utilize them.

    Palmer carries an injury risk, but the possible reward is worth it for the Titans. Vince Young is probably never going to be the answer at quarterback, though it is possible, I guess, and having someone capable of winning a game at the position has to be a more attractive option than someone who just won’t lose it. There aren’t any defensive tackles worth taking to replace Haynesworth left in the draft – at least none that make more sense than Palmer at quarterback.

  31. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Roos, OT, Tennessee Titans
    The Cardinals have the Titans and the Dolphins rosters to choose from. They don’t need any receivers; they just drafted a first-round running back; and there aren’t any quarterbacks or defenders worth pilfering from either of the two remaining clubs. So what’s left? The offensive line. I thought about giving them Kevin Mawae here, but he’s on his last legs, and Roos is a lot fresher. They need to protect Kurt Warner if they don’t want him to end up riding a Rascal to work. Roos is simply the best available option for this team’s style of play.

  32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins
    And finally, the Steelers. There’s been a lot of noise made about Pittsburgh’s offensive line – so much so that you could almost forget about the fact that they just won the Super Bowl. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out whom they’d take if Miami’s roster was the only available talent pool left.

    It’s Jake Long in case you didn’t read that a paragraph ago. Long was a major part of the Dolphins’ surprise playoff berth, and he’s simply the only player on the Miami team that the Steelers need. He’s got some work to do, but he would definitely be welcome on this team.

Real Mock Drafts:

2010 NFL Mock Draft

2009 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12