Ranking The Top 15 NFL Stars Since 2000 Who Should Have Been Drafted No. 1

This list has the best of the best when looking back to the year 2000. It's surprising how many teams got the top pick in the draft wrong. Of course, there have been guys drafted in the No. 1 spot who have had a solid career. But in just about every year since 2000, someone else should have been drafted.

As we look back to the year 2000, just about every No. 1 draft pick was wrong except for two years. In 2012 and 2015, there was a relatively low showing of superstars those years and we have to give props to Detroit for drafting Matthew Stafford and Tampa Bay for drafting Jameis Winston. Those were good picks, so, the 2012 and 2015 drafts don’t factor into these rankings. There just wasn’t anyone else during those two years who was deserving of the No. 1 spot.

Like we mentioned earlier, this list includes the best of the best. Arguably the best player of all time tops this list, and every player that shows up was deserving of the first overall pick in the draft. Some of the players originally drafted No. 1 were deserving of their top spot, but most of the guys picked first overall since 2000 were in some ways a disappointment.

This list doesn't just identify the guys since 2000 who should have been drafted, it ranks them. The following list outlines every guy who should have been drafted in the top spot of the draft and then ranks them from worst to best.

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Los Angeles Rams Drafted Jared Goff

It’s early in Dak Prescott’s career and he may not be as good as it seems, but after this first season, it looks like Prescott should have been the first pick overall. It’s too early in his career to rank him higher than anybody else that appears on this list, but we expect Prescott will continue to climb the rankings as his career goes on.

A playoff run with a rookie running back is rare. Pair that rookie quarterback with a rookie running back and a playoff run is unheard of. It’s something that would have made league analysts laugh at the start of the season. Prescott, though, has been through an entire regular season and has seen more success than a lot quarterbacks end up seeing in an entire career. The Cowboys got lucky finding this talent so far back in the draft. If we’re rewinding the clocks, Prescott clearly gets drafted in the top spot of the 2016 NFL Draft.


Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Houston Texans drafted Mario Williams

The 2016 draft wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t include the big-name stars who were drafted in the other years after 2000. Mario Williams wasn’t a terrible first pick overall, but he has a career that’s been plagued with injuries. That’s why Haloti Ngata takes over as the No. 1 pick as we look back to 2006.

But in all honesty, neither of these guys would have been first overall picks in any other draft year. Normally, for the top pick there are guys who will be considered as one of the best ever at their position. Ngata has been good, but best-ever? No way.

Ngata does deserve credit as he’s had an accomplished career (plus he’s still listed as active in the NFL). Ngata has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times and has been a first-team All-Pro selection twice. He may not have much time left in the league, but his career has been a great success even if it didn’t last another day.

13 2010: DEZ BRYANT

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Original Pick: St. Louis Rams Drafted Sam Bradford

The Rams needed a talented playmaker in this pick, and Sam Bradford just doesn’t really fit that mold. Bradford has been a good NFL quarterback, but not among the NFL’s elite. Bradford really has been more of an average to below-average quarterback for most of his career. Dez Bryant has been the complete opposite. Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has been a star in the NFL.

Bryant, who would be drafted late in the round by the Cowboys, has shown he can be great with even a rookie quarterback. Yeah, Dak Prescott has been good without Bryant on the field. But when Bryant is running routes, Prescott looks like an elite and seasoned veteran. It takes a special wide receiver to do something like that.

12 2013: Le’VEON BELL

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Kansas City Chiefs Drafted Eric Fisher

This draft saw offensive tackles go in three of the first five picks. That’s a pretty boring year for fans. What’s worst is the fact that none of the O-lineman have ever been good enough to get selected to the Pro Bowl. It would have been a much more entertaining draft if Le’Veon Bell were drafted where he should have been – at the top.

Bell has just four seasons of work in the league, so he doesn’t have the list of accomplishments that a lot of these older guys have. Bell, though, has shown a skillset that will make him a Hall of Famer at this pace. Bell is poised and seems to see the defense in slow motion as he sidesteps the line and cuts upfield for easy yardage. Bell has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice and he got about 2,000 yards from scrimmage in each of those years.


Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Indianapolis Colts Drafted Andrew Luck

Russell Wilson has been on fire since joining the league. While Andrew Luck had a few good years to start, he’s significantly cooled down over the past couple of seasons. And as good as Luck has been, Wilson has been better. Wilson has gone 56-23-1 as a starting quarterback and has started every game since he was drafted in 2012. Luck can’t compare to either of those numbers, which is the main reason Russell Wilson is looking like a better top draft pick. Sure, the Seahawks have a great defense that’s been paired with Wilson and his offense, but you’ve got to give Wilson credit – he’s never won less than 10 games in a season.

Wilson also has the stats to back up his win record. He’s thrown for 18,193 yards, 127 touchdowns and just 45 interceptions. He’s made the Pro Bowl three times and has taken the Seahawks to the postseason in every season so far (he’s 8-4 in the playoffs). At this pace, he may looking like Tom Brady by the end of his career.

10 2008: MATT RYAN

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Miami Dolphins Drafted Jake Long

It’s tough to compare quarterbacks to offensive tackles, but there’s no doubting that Matt Ryan has provided more value to the Falcons than Jake Long has provided to the Dolphins (partly because Long only played for Miami through his first contract). Regardless, Ryan has proved to be one of the league’s best signal callers, and that’s deserving of a first overall pick in most years.

Ryan was drafted third overall, so he didn’t fall as far as some of the quarterbacks who show up on this list. Ryan may not have the stuffed resumes like the quarterbacks ahead of him, but he’s been a star just about the entire time since joining the league. The four-time Pro Bowler has thrown 240 touchdowns and just 114 interceptions and has 37,701 passing yards. Ryan can easily climb this list in a couple seasons at the rate he keeps playing.


Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Houston Texans Drafted Jadeveon Clowney

As these two guys have just a few seasons of experience in the league this could drastically change in a few years, but as for now, Khalil Mack is proving more than anyone in 2014 that he should have been the first overall draft pick. Mack has played and started in every game since being drafted, and he’s been a first-team All-Pro selection twice as well as a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

Even more amazing is the fact that Mack was named the Defensive Player of the Year last season. At this rate, Mack can possibly go down as one the best defensive athletes in NFL history. Sure, he’s a long way away from any title like that. But for now, his potential to be a superstar gives him a solid spot in these rankings.

8 2011: VON MILLER

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Carolina Panthers Drafted Cam Newton

This in no way is saying the Panthers should have drafted Von Miller over Cam Newton. However, Von Miller is deserving of a No. 1 draft pick. If Von Miller would have been on the board the year before or the year after, he would have been the unquestioned first round pick. But Newton took over this draft once, so we’re letting Miller take it back.

His resume is stacked with accomplishments in the brief time he’s been in the league. There’s a Super Bowl MVP, five Pro Bowl selections, a defensive player of the year award and much more. Miller should have been a first overall pick, just not in this years draft. Unfortunately for Miller, Newton has been Carolina’s saving grace and continues to lead the franchise better than most in the league.


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Cincinnati Bengals Drafted Carson Palmer

Troy Polamalu barely edged out Terrell Suggs for the top spot as we look back to 2003. Suggs had a really good career, but Polamalu’s was better. Polamalu, who was part of two Super Bowl wins with the Steelers, was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and was the defensive player of the year in 2010. He had such a good career in Pittsburgh that the Steelers named Polamalu to their All-Time Team.

Carson Palmer has had a good career, but Polamalu’s has proved to be more valuable (even though he didn’t play as long as Palmer). Polamalu announced his retirement in April 2015, and finished his 12-year career with 770 tackles, 32 interceptions, and three touchdowns.


Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Oakland Raiders Drafted JaMarcus Russell

Adrian Peterson has done some great things in his career and even though he’s missed a good chunk of time on the field, he still deserves to be the top pick in the 2007 draft. Peterson even ties a couple records with a couple of the league’s greats. He has six 200-plus yard rushing games (that’s tied with O.J. Simpson) and he has seven 50-plus yard runs in a single season (that’s tied with the great Barry Sanders). Peterson also has the most 60-plus yard touchdowns in his career (13). That’s just the tip of Peterson’s accomplishments. He was the MVP in 2012, he’s a three-time rushing yard leader and a two-time rushing touchdowns leader and has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times.

5 2002: ED REED

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Original Pick: Houston Texans Drafted David Carr

There was a lot of defensive talent available in the 2002 draft, and Ed Reed tops the list. He may not have had the career that the guys that follow have had, but it was deserving of a top spot draft pick (Baltimore originally drafted Reed with the 24th pick in the first round). Julius Peppers competed with Reed for this spot, but Reed’s career warranted the No. 1 pick.

Reed holds the record for interception return yards in a career (1,590) and has the longest interception return, 108 yards. He’s got one of the longest lists of accomplishments among defenders in league history. Reed was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time, first-team All-Pro selection and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.


Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: San Diego Chargers Drafted Eli Manning

Big Ben edged out Eli Manning because of his win to loss ratio. Sure, both quarterbacks have won two Super Bowls, so it’s a close matchup. But Ben Roethlisberger deserved to be the top pick in the 2014 draft. Manning does hold the statistical advantage in just about every category, except for the fact Roethlisberger has a better record and has been named to one more Pro Bowl than Manning. Roethlisberger can still increase his position on this list with another playoff run or two, but he’s had a really successful career if not.

Roethlisberger has already been named to five Pro Bowls and has led his team to the playoffs nine times. He has a 13-7 playoff record and an impressive 123-60 regular season record. Roethlisberger has also thrown for 46,814 yards and 301 touchdowns.


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Atlanta Falcons Drafted Michael Vick

LaDainian Tomlinson is any easy choice for this year’s No. 1 pick. Tomlinson was without a doubt one of the most talented athletes to ever rush the ball in the NFL. By the end of his career, Tomlinson ranked fifth in career rushing yards (13,684) and second in career rushing touchdowns (145). Tomlinson even threw seven touchdowns during his 11-year career. The most impressive part is that Tomlison’s last season was mostly spent on the bench, so his totals mostly came from 10 seasons in the league.

L.T. was a five-time Pro Bowler, who led the league in rushing yards twice and rushing touchdowns three times. He holds the record for most rushing yards in a season (28), and is tied for the most consecutive games with a touchdown (18). Tomlinson is not yet in the Hall of Fame, but he no doubt will be soon.


Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: San Francisco 49ers Drafted Alex Smith

Whenever Aaron Rodgers retires from the NFL, he’ll go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. He’s another guy joining the list who is the unquestioned top pick as we look back to his draft year back in 2005. The tough reality for Rodgers is that he’s playing during a time when the NFL is seeing the best quarterback in history take over the game (you’ll be able to read more about him in a moment as he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round back in 2000).

If it weren’t for the guy from New England, Rodgers would be the best quarterback out there right now. But instead, he remains the second best quarterback in the league despite being the MVP twice, winning a Super Bowl and being named to the Pro Bowl six times.

1 2000: TOM BRADY

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Original Pick: Cleveland Browns Drafted Courtney Brown

Tom Brady would have been the easiest decision at No. 1 in any draft. Brady commands New England’s offense and makes winning look easier than anybody has ever been able to do. Brady has won about 80 percent of the games he started in. That’s absolutely insane.

Plus, Brady has been selected to the Pro Bowl 12 times, has led the in touchdowns four times and led the league in passing yards twice. He’s been league’s MVP twice. More importantly, Tom Brady is a four-time Super Bowl champion and has his shot for a fifth championship ring this year. Oh, and he was Super Bowl MVP during three of those victories.

Brady will no doubt be a Hall of Famer and his stats continue to be better than anyone that has played. So far, he has 456 touchdowns with more than 61,000 yards and has just 152 interceptions. And as long as he’s in the league, these stats will continue to get better.

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