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Much of the lead-up to Super Bowl 2021 has centered around the quarterback matchup of the ages between the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Buccaneers’ Tom Brady. It has been well documented how every team passed on Brady in the 2000 draft before the Patriots selected him in the sixth round. Mahomes did not have 31 teams say “no thanks” in the 2017 draft, but he did have 10 teams pass on him, a decision that they all must regret in varying degrees.
Mahomes has already shown he is going to be one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game if he stays healthy. He has already won a regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl MVP and is in the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
The Chiefs selected Mahomes No. 10 overall out of Texas Tech in 2017 after trading up 17 spots to take him.
Their pick: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
What they were thinking then: The Browns were coming off a 1-15 season and had plenty of needs. They decided Garrett was a generational pass rusher and were not convinced Mahomes was worth the No. 1 pick. They also felt that the 2018 QB class had more promise than the 2017 class.
What they are thinking now: The Browns went 0-16 in 2017. Both GM Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson were fired in 2018. Cleveland drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in 2018 and the Browns made it to the playoffs this year with Mayfield, winning one game before losing to Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Browns clearly are happy with Mayfield, but Mahomes is far and away the better player.
Patrick Mahomes at the 2017 draft.AP
Bears GM Ryan Pace fell in love with Trubisky during the draft process, highlighting his accuracy, ability to extend plays and how he processed the field after drafting him.
What they are thinking now: Of all the teams that passed on Mahomes, the Bears take the biggest beating because they are the only one that drafted a different quarterback. Trubisky has been inconsistent at best. He was benched last season in favor of Nick Foles for a stretch before regaining the starting job. Trubisky is scheduled to become a free agent next month and is not expected to re-sign with the Bears.
San Francisco 49ers
Their pick: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
What they were thinking then: The 49ers had just hired GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. The prevailing thought was Kirk Cousins would sign with the team as a free agent in 2018. Shanahan has admitted that he erred in his evaluation of Mahomes. He thought he was good but not good enough to draft No. 2 overall, the pick the 49ers originally had.
What they are thinking now: The 49ers ended up trading with the Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo in the middle of the 2017 season, instead of chasing Cousins.
Their pick: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
What they were thinking then: Jacksonville had just hired Doug Marrone as their full-time head coach after an interim stint and brought in Tom Coughlin to oversee football operations. Blake Bortles had one more season remaining on his rookie contract and the thought was to see what he could do with some more help like Fournette.
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What they are thinking now: The Jaguars went 10-6 and made it to the AFC Championship game in 2017, but then things fell apart. Bortles was cast aside after the 2018 season and Jacksonville bottomed out in 2020, going 1-15. They have the No. 1 pick in 2021 and are expected to take Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.
5. Tennessee Titans
Their pick: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
What they were thinking then: Marcus Mariota was entering his third season and the Titans were focused on building around him.
What they are thinking now: Mariota did not work out, and Tennessee stumbled upon Ryan Tannehill, who has become their franchise quarterback.
New York Jets
Their pick: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
What they were thinking then: The Jets had taken Christian Hackenberg in the second round the year before and had an eye on the 2018 QB class.
What they are thinking now: After passing on Mahomes, the Jets took Sam Darnold in 2018 with the third pick. Darnold’s future is uncertain after three seasons. Adams became an All-Pro player but was traded to Seattle in 2020 after a contract dispute.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Their pick: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
What they were thinking then: The Chargers were trying to get the most out of Philip Rivers’ final years with the team and trying to give him weapons like Williams.
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What they are thinking now: They went to the playoffs in 2018 and said goodbye to Rivers after 2019. They look well positioned at quarterback after taking Justin Herbert No. 6 overall last year.
8. Carolina Panthers
Their pick: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
What they were thinking then: Cam Newton was one season removed from an MVP year.
Their pick: John Ross, WR, Washington
What they were thinking then: The Bengals had just missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and still believed in Andy Dalton.
What they are thinking now: They have not made the playoffs since 2015 and took Joe Burrow No. 1 overall last year to solve their quarterback issues.
10. Buffalo Bills
Their pick: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU (No. 27 overall)
What they were thinking then: Sean McDermott had just been hired to rebuild the Bills. Kansas City sent them two first-round picks and a third-round pick to move up 17 spots. The Bills used the picks to start restocking their roster and stuck with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback for another year.
What they are thinking now: The Bills took Josh Allen No. 7 overall in 2018 and have built a roster that has made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.