Why do we give it six seasons to re-examine a draft class? Well, although it might seem vaguely scientific, allowing players enough time to establish themselves and outlast a rookie contract to reach free agency, it actually started a few years ago when we were discussing how the 2005 draft would have looked if we held it again. That was an all-time "What if?" draft, notably based on the idea that Aaron Rodgers just might go ahead of Alex Smith this time. So the next year we did 2006, and then 2007, and … well, here we are.
In the 2008 draft, some teams drafted well at the top, really. The top 10 does offer one pretty big bust (Vernon Gholston) and one pretty small one (Derrick Harvey). It was also a strange draft in that not one wideout was taken in Round 1, something that seems almost hard to imagine in this pass-happy NFL. Here are the guidelines I used:
1. The order is based mainly on what players have accomplished but also considers what else they have left. Health matters.
2. The need of the team at the time is not considered. This is now purely "best player available."
3. Positional value matters -- so a good tackle could edge a star guard, for instance.
The order below follows the actual 2008 draft order. And remember: New England didn't have a second pick in the first round because of the Spygate incident, so there are only 31 picks.
1. Miami Dolphins: Matt Ryan, QB
2008 pick: Jake Long
He's coming off a disappointing season, but Ryan has 4,515 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes, and he carries a 60-34 record as a starting quarterback. There is certainly a question of whether he's at the elite level people so often discuss but never really define, but Ryan is unquestionably one of the top 10 franchise quarterbacks in the NFL and seems fully capable of winning a Super Bowl. Had Miami drafted him at No. 1, it would have shifted the direction of the franchise.
(Ryan's previous slot: No. 3 overall)