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2008 NFL Draft Revisited

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan

If there was ever any doubt that the NFL draft is an inexact science, look no further than the 2008 NFL Draft. Ten years since it took place, the 2008 draft will be remembered for producing just as many first-round busts as it will for a pair of franchise quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco). The 2008 draft was historic in that the first two picks featured the same last name, but also that it was the first since the common draft era (1967) in which no wide receiver was taken in the first round.

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This draft did produce several quality wide receivers, most notably Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Stevie Johnson, it's just that none of them went in the first round. Here's who did go in the first round and how each pick panned out.

(This article appears in Athlon Sports’ 2018 Pro Football Magazine, which is available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.)

1. Miami: Jake Long, OT, Michigan

Miami (2008-12), St. Louis (2013-14), Atlanta (2015), Minnesota (2016)

All-Pro Seasons: 2010

Miami made Long the third tackle ever to be selected No. 1 overall. The first two -- Ron Yary (Vikings, 1968) and Orlando Pace (Rams, 1997) -- ended up in the Hall of Fame. Long’s career started out as if he might join them. After making the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement as a rookie, Long was named a starter in the game the next three seasons and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2010. He started 61 straight games to begin his career, but injuries cost him two games late in the 2011 season, and it was a preview of things to come. A torn triceps cost him the last four games of 2012, and he signed with the Rams as a free agent before the 2013 season. Long started 15 games for the Rams but again couldn’t make it through a full season, tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee. He re-injured the knee seven games into 2014, effectively ending his career with the Rams. After playing just 10 offensive snaps in four games for the Falcons in 2015, Long tried one more comeback in October 2016 with the Vikings. He ended up making three starts in Minnesota, but his career ended when he tore the Achilles in his left leg. It’s tough to call Long a bust given how effective he was before a bad stretch of injuries, but his career certainly turned out to be a disappointment.

2. St. Louis: Chris Long, DE, Virginia

St. Louis (2008-15), New England (2016), Philadelphia (2017-present)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Long has had an impressive career, but he and the Rams were probably hoping for more when he was chosen second overall. After starting every game as a rookie, Long started just four games in 2009 but increased his sack total by one (4.0 to 5.0). He then racked up 41.5 sacks over the next four seasons but strangely never made a Pro Bowl, even after posting a career-high 13 sacks in 2011. After injury-filled seasons in 2014-15, Long’s Rams career ended without even having been on a team that won more than seven games. But he played in the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons: as a part-time starter with New England in 2016 and as a pass-rushing specialist for the Eagles in 2017.

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2018 Athlon Sports Pro Football Magazine

3. Atlanta: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Atlanta (2008-present)

All-Pro Seasons: 2016

With Michael Vick in jail, the Falcons had a chance to find their next franchise quarterback with the No. 3 pick, and they chose wisely. Ryan has missed just two games in 10 seasons (both in 2009), and the Falcons have had just two losing seasons with six playoff appearances during his time in Atlanta. In 2016, Ryan was named NFL MVP after throwing 38 touchdowns with just seven interceptions and leading the league with a 117.1 passer rating. Unfortunately, the most memorable thing from that season remains Ryan and the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in the second half of the Super Bowl. Ryan led the Falcons back to the playoffs this past season and didn’t seem haunted by the loss, but it may have been his only shot at a ring.

4. Oakland: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Oakland (2008-14), Dallas (2015-17)

All-Pro Seasons: None

McFadden seemed like a sure thing coming out of Arkansas. In three seasons, he had done just about everything possible on the college level except for winning the Heisman Trophy, although he did finish second in the voting twice. But injuries plagued him throughout his NFL career, and he never lived up to the promise of a top-five pick. In seven seasons with Oakland, McFadden played in all 16 games only once -- in his final season with the Raiders in 2014. His best years were 2010 (1,157 rushing yards in 13 games) and 2011 (614 yards in just seven games). In 2015, McFadden started 10 games for the Cowboys and rushed for 1,089 yards, but he appeared in only three games in 2016, and he had just one carry in 2017 before announcing his retirement in November.

5. Kansas City: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Kansas City (2008-12), San Francisco (2013-16)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Dorsey came out of LSU after winning virtually every major award a defensive player could win in 2007, but he was never dominant in the NFL. He started every game as a rookie and recorded one sack as a defensive tackle, but he moved to end in 2009 as the Chiefs switched to a 3-4 defense. He remained a starter until his 2012 season ended after four games due to a calf injury. He signed with San Francisco in 2013 and recorded two sacks, but his 2014 season was lost to a torn biceps. He played 10 games in 2015 before an ACL tear ended his season. He never fully recovered, battling knee issues throughout 12 games in 2016.

6. New York Jets: Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State

New York Jets (2008-10)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Gholston had a huge 2007 season at Ohio State with 14 sacks, and he shot further up draft boards at the NFL Combine when his 37 reps on the bench press tied for the most at the event. But Gholston ended up as the biggest bust of the 2008 draft and perhaps one of the biggest ever. He started just five games in three seasons for the Jets, never recording a sack, and he never played again after being cut by the Rams before the 2012 season.

7. New Orleans: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

New Orleans (2008-12)

All-Pro Seasons: None

The Saints traded up three spots to select Ellis, who was solid if not spectacular for the team, starting all 70 games in which he saw action over five seasons and recording 12.5 sacks. Not exactly what the Saints had in mind for a top-10 pick, but good enough to earn a free-agent deal with the Bears after the 2012 season. But Ellis never reported to training camp in 2013, walking away from the NFL and into retirement.

8. Jacksonville: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

Jacksonville (2008-10), Denver (2011)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Like Gholston, Harvey was an athletic defensive end who wowed scouts with his measurables, so much so that Jacksonville traded up all the way from No. 26 to take him. But he was never all that dominant in college. In three seasons at Florida, he was a second-team All-SEC pick twice, with his best season coming in 2007 with 8.5 sacks. Alas, that was more than he’d compile in his entire NFL career. He started 32 games in three seasons for Jacksonville, recording eight sacks and one interception. He was cut during training camp in 2011 before catching on with Denver for just five games.

9. Cincinnati: Keith Rivers, LB, USC

Cincinnati (2008-10), New York Giants (2012-13), Buffalo (2014)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Rivers got off to a strong start as a rookie, starting the Bengals’ first seven games before his season was ended thanks to a broken jaw from a blind-side crackback block by Hines Ward of the Steelers. Rivers started 13 games in each of the next two seasons but missed all of 2011 with a wrist injury and was dealt to the Giants for a fifth-round pick. After two uneventful seasons in New York, Rivers signed with Buffalo and started three games in 2014. He then signed with Dallas but retired on the first day of 2015 training camp.

10. New England: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee

New England (2008-15)

All-Pro Seasons: 2010

While Rivers, Harvey and Gholston were busts, the Patriots found a perfect fit in Mayo. The former Vol was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after starting all 16 games and racking up 126 tackles. It was the first of five straight seasons of at least 100 tackles, including a career-high 175 in 2010 when he was named first-team All-Pro. Injuries limited Mayo to just six games in both 2013 and 2014, and his playing time dropped off in 2015. He was injured during the 2015 playoffs and announced his retirement after the season. Despite playing for the Patriots for eight seasons, Mayo was never on the active roster for a team that won a Super Bowl due to bad timing with injuries.

11. Buffalo: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Buffalo (2008-15), Philadelphia (2016)

All-Pro Seasons: None

The Bills made McKelvin the first cornerback taken in the draft, and he turned out to be a big play waiting to happen; the only question was which team would benefit. McKelvin gave up plenty of big plays in a nine-year NFL career, enough that he never could lock down a starting spot for more than a couple seasons. But he also finished his career with six return touchdowns (three punts, one kickoff and two interceptions). After eight years in Buffalo, McKelvin spent one year in Philadelphia before being released after the 2016 season.

12. Denver: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Denver (2008-15), New York Jets (2016)

All-Pro Seasons: 2009, 2012

The second offensive tackle taken after top pick Jake Long, Clady currently has more All-Pro seasons to his credit than any other 2008 first-round pick. He started every game for the first five years of his career, making three Pro Bowls and earning those All-Pro honors in 2009 and 2012. A foot injury ended his 2013 season after only two games, but he returned to make another Pro Bowl after starting all 16 games in 2014. The injury bug bit again when he tore an ACL in May 2015, costing him the entire season, and he was traded to the Jets in April 2016. A torn rotator cuff ended his 2016 season after nine games, and he never played in the NFL again.

13. Carolina: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon

Carolina (2008-17), New York Giants (2018)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Stewart had an odd career for the Panthers. He was good enough to keep around for 10 years, but he was also injured enough to force Carolina to always have another option in the backfield. He began his career sharing the workload with DeAngelo Williams for seven years before earning his only Pro Bowl selection in 2015. He’s played in all 16 games only three times and not once since 2011. He’s averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry twice but less than 4.0 four times. He rushed for 10 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons but then only 10 more over the next five seasons. Has Stewart lived up to his first-round draft status? Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. He signed with the Giants in the offseason.

14. Chicago: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt

Chicago (2008-12, ‘14), St. Louis (2012-13), Buffalo (2014)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Williams was an All-SEC tackle at Vanderbilt, but a back injury kept him off the field until November of his rookie season. He became a full-time starter in 2009 and played in 38 of the Bears’ next 41 games, all starts, at one of the tackle spots or left guard. But in November 2011, Williams dislocated his wrist and never started another game for the Bears. He went on to start 19 more games over the next two seasons for the Rams and Bills before a back injury forced him to retire.

15. Kansas City: Branden Albert, OG, Virginia

Kansas City (2008-13), Miami (2014-16)

All-Pro Seasons: None

A guard in college, Albert moved to tackle for the Chiefs, who got six solid seasons out of him as he started 83 games in his Kansas City career, culminating with a 2013 Pro Bowl selection. He signed with Miami in 2014 and started 35 games over the next three seasons, earning another Pro Bowl bid in 2015. But Albert’s career took an odd turn as he was traded to Jacksonville for tight end Julius Thomas in March 2017, and he abruptly announced his retirement on July 31, 2017.

16. Arizona: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DB, Tennessee State

Arizona (2008-10), Philadelphia (2011-12), Denver (2013), New York Giants (2014-17)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Rodgers-Cromartie has become a bit of a journeyman, but he’s been an effective corner in the NFL for four different franchises. After starting 11 games as a rookie and picking off four passes, Rodgers-Cromartie went to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after starting every game and recording six more interceptions. Despite another solid season in 2010 and the fact that he had 13 interceptions in three seasons (with four returned for scores), he was traded to Philadelphia in a deal for quarterback Kevin Kolb. After two seasons with the Eagles and one with Denver, Rodgers-Cromartie signed with the Giants, for whom he has started 45 games over the last four seasons. He earned a second Pro Bowl bid in 2015.

17. Detroit: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College

Detroit (2008-12), Indianapolis (2013-14), Tampa Bay (2015-16)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Cherilus protected the blind side of No. 3 overall pick Matt Ryan at Boston College, where he started a school-record 51 straight games. He started 71 more over five seasons at right tackle for the Lions before moving on to the Colts in 2013. He signed with Tampa Bay in 2015 and was a full-time starter for one season before starting three of 15 games in 2016. He retired before the 2017 season.

18. Baltimore: Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware

Baltimore (2008-present)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Flacco has always seemed to leave critics wanting more, never putting up elite numbers and often stumbling in the postseason. But then, he has played his whole career in the same conference with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Given that drafting a quarterback in the first round seems to be about a 50-50 proposition, the Ravens hit a home run with Flacco. He’s started all but six games in 10 years, missing all six of those in 2015 -- and he’s never had a losing record in any of his full seasons. While he struggled early in his postseason career, he is 10-5 overall as a starter in the playoffs with 25 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. In 2012, he enjoyed one of the best postseason runs ever. In four games on the way to winning Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco threw for 1,140 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

19. Carolina: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Carolina (2008-11)

All-Pro Seasons: None

While five offensive linemen had already been taken, the Panthers thought so highly of Otah that they traded their second- and fourth-round picks, plus their 2009 first-rounder, to get back into the first round and grab him here. After starting 25 of 32 games at right tackle in 2008-09, Otah saw his career derailed by injury. He missed all of 2010 after knee surgery and played only four games in 2011 as knee problems continued. He was traded to the Jets in the summer of 2012 but failed his physical and never played again.

20. Tampa Bay: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

Tampa Bay (2008-12), New England (2012-13), Denver (2014-17), Los Angeles Rams (2018)
All-Pro Seasons: 2016

The third corner taken in the draft turned out to be the best of the bunch, although Talib has found most of his success away from Tampa Bay. After starting two games as a rookie, Talib became a full-time starter in 2009 and developed into one of the game’s best corners. After four games in 2012, he was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and traded to New England. Talib started to get recognition for his strong play with the Patriots and made his first Pro Bowl in 2013. That earned him a six-year, $57 million contract with Denver, where he has made four more Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2016. Since entering the league, Talib ranks second among all players with 34 interceptions and first in interceptions returned for touchdowns with 10. He signed with the Rams in the offseason.

21. Atlanta: Sam Baker, OT, USC

Atlanta (2008-14)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Like Carolina two picks earlier, the Falcons felt the need to trade back into the first round for an offensive tackle, even though the best prospects at the position were long gone. It didn’t work out much better for Atlanta. Baker started more than six games only three times in his first five seasons, but he did parlay starting every game in 2012 into a six-year contract worth $41.5 million, including $18.25 million guaranteed. But he suffered a torn left patellar tendon four games into 2013 and was never the same.

22. Dallas: Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas

Dallas (2008-12), Pittsburgh (2013)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Using the first-round pick acquired a year before from the Browns in the Brady Quinn deal, Jerry Jones couldn’t resist grabbing a fellow Arkansas product who had posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons despite sharing the Razorbacks backfield with Darren McFadden. Jones lasted five seasons in Dallas, mostly as a change-of-pace back and receiving threat. He signed with the Eagles in free agency before the 2013 season but was then traded to the Steelers during preseason. He ended up starting two games but carried only 48 times and caught nine passes as a reserve.

23. Pittsburgh: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois

Pittsburgh (2008-12), Arizona (2013)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Mendenhall was expected to complement Willie Parker in the Steelers backfield, but things got off to a rough start as he had fumble problems in preseason of his rookie year and then was lost for the season in late September when he fractured his shoulder. Almost a year to the day later, Mendenhall started for an injured Parker and didn’t give up the job for three seasons, starting all but one game through the end of the 2011 season. He rushed for 1,108 yards and seven scores in 2009, then had his best season in 2010 with 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. He signed with Arizona and scored eight TDs as a reserve in 2013.

24. Tennessee: Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina

Tennessee (2008-13), N.Y. Jets (2014), Arizona (2015-17)

All-Pro Seasons: 2009

The third consecutive running back off the board and fifth of the first round, Johnson turned out to be the best of the bunch. He shot up draft boards when he ran the fastest 40 in NFL Combine history up to that point (4.24), and he lived up to the hype. After rushing for 1,228 yards as a rookie, Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, racking up 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground and an NFL-best 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009, his only All-Pro season. He made his third straight Pro Bowl the following season with 1,364 yards and 11 TDs rushing in 2010. He hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since, but he put up three more 1,000-yard seasons to make it six in a row to start his career. He was released and signed with the Jets in 2014. He had some nice moments with the Jets and later the Cardinals but never matched the production he had with the Titans.

25. Dallas: Mike Jenkins, DB, South Florida

Dallas (2008-12), Oakland (2013), Tampa Bay (2014-15)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Jenkins was mainly a nickel corner as a rookie. Still, he started three games and returned his only interception for a touchdown. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009 after starting 15 games and picking off five passes, and he started all 28 games he played in 2010-11. After starting just two games in 2012, he signed with Oakland and started 15 games in 2013, picking off two passes and racking up a career-best 65 tackles. After moving on to Tampa Bay, he was injured in the 2014 opener and missed the rest of the season. He started just five games in 2015 and signed with Arizona for 2016. But he tore an ACL in preseason and never played again.

26. Houston: Duane Brown, OT, Virginia Tech

Houston (2008-17), Seattle (2017-present)

All-Pro Seasons: 2012

Brown was the eighth offensive lineman taken in the first round, but his career has turned out better than most. He started all 16 games as a rookie and in fact has started every game he’s played in the NFL. Over his first nine seasons, Brown played 132 of a possible 144 games, making three Pro Bowls (2012-14) and earning All-Pro honors in 2012. In 2017, Brown wanted a new contract and threatened to retire, holding out for six games before returning Oct. 29 vs. Seattle. Two days later, he was traded to the Seahawks for two draft picks and started the final nine games. In late July, Brown signed a three-year, $36.5 million extension with Seattle.

27. San Diego: Antoine Cason, DB, Arizona

San Diego (2008-12), Arizona (2013), Carolina (2014), Baltimore (2014)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Cason was an All-American at Arizona and blessed with great size for a corner at 6'1", but he never blossomed into the shutdown defender the Chargers expected. While he never missed a game in five seasons in San Diego, he didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season. Cason signed with the Cardinals but lasted just one season as a reserve. He signed with Carolina in 2014 and was cut after starting 11 games, but he landed in Baltimore, where he finished his career playing the last two regular-season games and two playoff games for the Ravens.

28. Seattle: Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC

Seattle (2008-09), Detroit (2010-12)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Jackson was the third USC defender and fourth Trojan overall taken in the first round, but none of them found NFL stardom. Jackson lasted just two seasons in Seattle, playing in all 32 games and starting 24 of them. After just 6.5 sacks in the two seasons combined, he was traded to Detroit. He never started a game for the Lions but had a career-high 6.0 sacks in 11 games in 2010. His sack total dropped to 4.5 in 2011 and 2.5 in 2012, his final season on an active roster.

29. San Francisco: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina

San Francisco (2008-09), Seattle (2010), Washington (2011-12)

All-Pro Seasons: None

Balmer was drafted as a defensive tackle but was moved immediately to 3-4 end by the 49ers, and it didn’t work very well. Despite playing in 27 games in two years with San Francisco, Balmer never started a game and totaled 19 tackles and no sacks. He was traded to Seattle, where he started 11 games and had a career-high 43 tackles in 2010. He was cut by both the Seahawks and the Panthers in the 2011 preseason before playing three games late in the season for Washington. He failed to register a sack in his career.

30. New York Jets: Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue

New York Jets (2008-12)

All-Pro Seasons: None

An impressive Combine performance prompted the Jets to make Keller the first tight end off the board in 2008. He was a solid if not spectacular performer, never missing a game in his first four seasons and starting 43 of them. After catching 48 and 45 passes in his first two seasons, Keller led the Jets with 55 catches in 2010 and 65 in 2011, including five touchdowns in each season.

31. New York Giants: Kenny Phillips, DB, Miami (Fla.)

New York Giants (2008-12), New Orleans (2015)

All-Pro Seasons: None

The defending Super Bowl champs made Phillips the first safety off the board, and he played in every game as a rookie with three starts. Phillips was diagnosed with arthritis in his left knee and played just two games in 2009 before undergoing microfracture surgery. He returned to start 30 games over the next two seasons but was slowed by another injury in 2012. He was out of football until 2015, when he started three games for the Saints before being cut in October.

Note: New England forfeited its first-round pick (would have been No. 31) due to “Spygate.”

Best Pick by Round

Round 2: Matt Forte, RB, Tulane (Bears)

Five running backs were taken before the Bears tabbed Forte at No. 44 overall, all in the first round, and Forte has been better than all of them. While he has made only two Pro Bowls, he was one of the best all-around backs in the NFL for all eight of his seasons in Chicago. He retired after two nondescript seasons with the Jets, but Forte was incredibly durable and consistent with the Bears, averaging more than 1,000 yards rushing and nearly 1,600 yards from scrimmage in the Windy City.

Round 3: Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas (Chiefs)

While injuries have always nagged Charles -- he’s played in all 16 games of a season only three times, while playing five or fewer three other times -- few backs have been better when healthy. He produced five 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Kansas City and three times posted more than 1,700 yards from scrimmage. He made four Pro Bowls and twice was named All-Pro, including in 2010 when he racked up 1,935 yards from scrimmage despite starting only six games while sharing the backfield with Thomas Jones.

Round 4: Josh Sitton, OL, UCF (Packers)

Sitton was the final pick of the fourth round, going No. 135 overall to Green Bay. Drafted as a tackle, Sitton moved to guard and started two games as a rookie before settling in for seven years as a starter for the Packers. After making the Pro Bowl in 2012, ’14 and ’15, Sitton signed with the Bears, making another Pro Bowl in 2016 and starting in three different spots in 2017.

Round 5: Brandon Carr, DB, Grand Valley State (Chiefs)

Carr has never been to a Pro Bowl in 10 seasons, and he’s played for three different teams. But he’s also never missed a start, getting the nod in all 160 games, plus four playoff games, and he’s still in the league. That’s pretty good for a guy who was the 140th pick in the draft. Carl Nicks, an offensive lineman taken with the 164th pick, deserves mention as the latest pick in the 2008 draft to be named an All-Pro, but he played only six seasons.

Round 6: Pierre Garcon, WR, Mount Union (Colts)

Garcon was the 205th pick in the draft as the Colts took a flyer on a wideout from the Division III ranks. No other receiver from the 2008 draft has caught more passes, and only DeSean Jackson and Jordy Nelson, both second-round picks, have more yards and touchdowns for their careers. And he wasn’t merely a beneficiary of Peyton Manning’s greatness; Garcon had his best season with the Colts catching passes from the likes of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky before moving on to Washington. He had two 1,000-yard seasons with the Redskins and led the NFL with 113 catches in 2013. After signing with San Francisco for 2017, Garcon played just eight games due to a neck injury.

Round 7: Stevie Johnson, WR, Kentucky (Bills)

No fewer than 30 wide receivers were taken in the 2008 draft before the Bills tabbed Johnson with the 224th pick overall. Of those 30, only Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon have produced more yards and touchdowns than Johnson. Once he moved into the starting lineup in 2010, Johnson averaged 79 catches for 1,041 yards over the next three seasons and caught 23 touchdowns over that time. In the process, he became the only receiver in Bills history to record three straight 1,000-yard seasons.