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)
2. St. Louis Rams: Joe Flacco, QB
2008 pick: Chris Long
Before you scream that Flacco isn't as decorated as a few players lower on this list, consider: (A) While the idea of "QB wins" has big holes, we can't call it a fluke that Flacco is 62-34 as a starter and has a Super Bowl ring to show for a stretch of exceptional play in the playoffs. (B) The occasional roller-coaster aspect to his play doesn't extend to his health, where he's started 96 of a possible 96 games. (C) If he's just a "pretty good" QB in today's game, those guys are worth a ton of money. Ask Jay Cutler. Flacco gets his criticism, but the body of work at the position he plays, and his future, put him here.
(Flacco's previous slot: No. 18 overall)
3. Atlanta Falcons: Ryan Clady, OT
2008 pick: Matt Ryan
Although Clady got hurt this year, he's been one of the best NFL left tackles since he was drafted, going to three Pro Bowls and having been named to the All-Pro team twice. Health wasn't an issue previously, either. Before he got hurt, Clady had started in the first 78 games of his NFL career. He'll still be really good going forward. But we sure can't say the Falcons got it wrong.
(Clady's previous slot: No. 12 overall)
4. Oakland Raiders: Ray Rice, RB
2008 pick: Darren McFadden
If this were based on his rushing totals alone, Rice wouldn't be in this position. After all, he's only third among 2008 draftees in rushing yards. However, consider that Rice also leads the 2008 draft class in receptions, and you get a better sense of his total value. The question going forward is health, but I kept Rice high because he doesn't even turn 27 until Jan. 22, so there's some value to be found.
(Rice's previous slot: No. 55 overall)
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Jake Long, OT
2008 pick: Glenn Dorsey
The injury bug has hit Long over the past couple of years, and he's currently in recovery mode, but it shouldn't diminish his accomplishments so far. He has started 89 of a possible 96 games, has been to the Pro Bowl four times, has been an All-Pro once and should still be a useful left tackle going forward if he can stay healthy.
(Long's previous slot: No. 1 overall)
6. New York Jets: Jerod Mayo, LB
2008 pick: Vernon Gholston
One of the biggest busts in the draft gets replaced by one of the best picks. Until this season, Mayo had escaped serious injury and had become the leader of Bill Belichick's defense as a versatile player who doesn't need to come off the field. He's second in his draft class in total tackles. Gholston, meanwhile, washed out of the league without picking up an NFL sack.
(Mayo's previous slot: No. 10 overall)
7. New Orleans Saints: Chris Johnson, RB
2008 pick: Sedrick Ellis
Before you scoff at Johnson's selection this high given what some might call his recent struggles, consider that he has nearly 1,300 more rushing yards than anyone else in the draft class with 7,965. That's a very good NFL career for a running back. What Johnson did in 2009 was have one of the greatest rushing seasons of all time (2,006 yards), and it set the bar so high that he's faced criticism since. But he's never had fewer than 1,000 rushing yards in a season, and he has 272 career catches. He doesn't get enough credit and would have been fun for a Sean Payton-coached team.
(Johnson's previous slot: No. 24 overall)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: DeSean Jackson, WR
2008 pick: Derrick Harvey
Not only does Jackson have more than 1,500 more receiving yards than the next closest pass-catcher in the class, he's also been underrated in his durability, having played in 87 of a possible 96 regular-season games. The Jags get a dynamic playmaker instead of one of the bigger busts in the draft -- not a bad exchange.
(Jackson's previous slot: No. 49 overall)
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Calais Campbell, DE
2008 pick: Keith Rivers
Campbell is one of the NFL's really good defensive linemen whom nobody seems to talk about. A giant of a human, the 6-foot-8, 280-plus-pound lineman creates values through his versatility and ability to rush the passer. He has 36.5 sacks (third in the class) but is also a good run-defender. Rivers has fought some major injuries that have diminished his career.
(Campbell's previous slot: No. 50 overall)
10. New England Patriots: Chris Long, DE
2008 pick: Jerod Mayo
Long might be considered a disappointment by some because of his lofty draft slot, but he's put together a solid career and continues to play a key role for one of the better defensive lines in the NFL in St. Louis. He has 50.5 sacks, more than anyone in his draft class, with no fewer than 8.5 in any of the past four seasons. Perhaps not a star, but a really good player. The Patriots did well the first time around, however.
(Long's previous slot: No. 2 overall)
11. Buffalo Bills: Matt Forte, RB
2008 pick: Leodis McKelvin
On a per-carry basis, I think most people would say that I should have Charles in this spot and Forte in the spot below him. But consider that Forte has 843 more rushing yards and 119 more catches, and he has been significantly more durable, with 91 games started to 49 for Charles (who split a lot of reps earlier in his career). Forte has even more rushing yards than Rice, in fact. He's one of the more underrated players in the game today.
(Forte's previous slot: No. 44 overall)
12. Denver Broncos: Jamaal Charles, RB
2008 pick: Ryan Clady
As explosive a runner as the league has seen since he arrived, and that includes Johnson and even Adrian Peterson, who was drafted the year before. Charles has a crazy-high 5.6 yards per carry for his career, including a remarkable 2010, when he averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Although durability concerns have cost him some carries (and an injury cost him a season), he's had a great career and was clearly a steal at No. 73.
(Charles' previous slot: No. 73 overall)
13. Carolina Panthers: Aqib Talib, CB
2008 pick: Jonathan Stewart
The way his time in Tampa ended probably takes away from the fact that Talib has been a very good player when he's on the field, and he's played in 76 of a possible 96 regular-season games. He leads all players from this draft class in interceptions with 23 and maintains a skill set that allows him to cover some of the league's best big targets.
(Talib's previous slot: No. 20 overall)
14. Chicago Bears: Jordy Nelson, WR
2008 pick: Chris Williams
The Bears aren't thin at wide receiver now, but until Brandon Marshall arrived, it was a problem area that a guy like Nelson would have helped. Nelson is more than some lucky recipient of Aaron Rodgers' passes -- he's a very good receiver at every level and is crafty in his ability to improvise when plays get extended, making him a valued player because he helps Rodgers maximize his mobility. Nelson is second only to DeSean Jackson in receiving yards for this class.
(Nelson's previous slot: No. 36 overall)
15. Kansas City Chiefs: Josh Sitton, OT/G
2008 pick: Branden Albert
He's not a flashy player, but Sitton has been a steady guard for five consecutive seasons, having started 80 regular-season games in that time. He was a tackle at Central Florida, but the Packers initially moved him to right guard, where he very quickly looked like one of the better players in the league at that spot. He moved to left guard in 2013.
(Sitton's previous slot: No. 135 overall)
16. Arizona Cardinals: Curtis Lofton, LB
2008 pick: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
He's not a star, but Lofton is a dependable, durable linebacker and leads his draft class in tackles (519 overall) by a wide margin. You can quibble with performance, but health has great value, and Lofton has started 95 of 96 games since he arrived in the NFL. The Falcons got him in Round 2 along with a starting quarterback and a good tackle in Round 1. Not too shabby.
(Lofton's previous slot: No. 37 overall)
17. Detroit Lions: Duane Brown, OT
2008 pick: Gosder Cherilus
When he was a freshman at Virginia Tech, the athletic Brown was a tight end, but he ended up at tackle and ultimately also in the first round. He's been very good in Houston, playing at an All-Pro level in 2012 and making 89 starts through his first six seasons, all at left tackle. His athleticism has been particularly useful in Houston's zone-blocking scheme.
(Brown's previous slot: No. 26 overall)
18. Baltimore Ravens: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB
2008 pick: Joe Flacco
DRC stays at roughly the same slot he was taken. Rodgers-Cromartie was part of the trade that brought Kevin Kolb to Arizona and has been a good if not great cornerback over his first six seasons, with a Pro Bowl in 2009 on his mantle. He's second to Talib in interceptions among this draft class. Suffice it to say that Baltimore and Ozzie Newsome nailed this pick the first time.
(Rodgers-Cromartie's previous slot: No. 16 overall)
19. Carolina Panthers: Carl Nicks, G
2008 pick: Jeff Otah
His past two seasons have been marred by injuries, but Nicks was still one of the steals of the draft when you consider where he was taken versus what he's been at his best in the NFL. The Saints got Nicks at No. 164 overall. He gave them 61 starts over four years and was probably the best guard in the NFL from 2010 to 2011. He got paid for it when signing with Tampa, and and hopefully the Buccaneers gets some return. Otah was a good player who just hasn't stayed healthy.
(Nicks' previous slot: No. 164 overall)
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cliff Avril, DE
2008 pick: Aqib Talib
It took a while for Avril to really come into his own, in part because he's not really big enough to completely hold up against the run in a 4-3. But he's at least become a respected NFL pass-rusher, and his 47.5 career sacks (and no, sacks don't tell us everything) are second to only the 50.5 of Chris Long in this draft class.
(Avril's previous slot: No. 92 overall)
21. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Flowers, CB
2008 pick: Sam Baker
While the Falcons got a good amount of value out of this pick (and definitely this draft), Flowers rates a little higher and would have been a good value here. After struggling as a rookie, he's been a consistent, good player in the Chiefs' secondary from 2009 through 2012 before dipping a bit this season. He's also been healthy, having started 87 games.
(Flowers' previous slot: No. 35 overall)
22. Dallas Cowboys: Pierre Garcon, WR
2008 pick: Felix Jones
One of the steals of the draft, the No. 205 pick overall is behind only Jackson and Nelson in this class for receiving yards, with 4,498. Perhaps most importantly, he proved that he's far more than a Peyton Manning creation and, with the Redskins, quietly led the NFL in catches this past season with 113. As for Jones? Some considered it a luxury pick, and his inability to stay healthy hasn't changed that perception, fair or not.
(Garcon's previous slot: No. 205 overall)
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Red Bryant, DT
2008 pick: Rashard Mendenhall
After a quiet start to his career, I feel like Bryant has come into his own, particularly in the past season, as a solid run-stuffer in the middle of the Seattle D-line. Maybe I have him too high based on his body of work, but I also like his future if he can stay in his current role. If they're good, players like this are hard to find.
(Bryant's previous slot: No. 121 overall)
24. Tennessee Titans: Brandon Carr, CB
2008 pick: Chris Johnson
Although he's been middle-of-the-road over the past few years after a really good 2010 season, Carr has been extremely durable (starting 96 of 96 games) and is unquestionably one of bigger steals in the draft based on his rate of participation alone. The Division II product collected a big payday in Dallas before 2012.
(Carr's previous slot: No. 140 overall)
25. Dallas Cowboys: Kendall Langford, DT
2008 pick: Mike Jenkins
He's no star, but Langford has put together a good NFL career as a versatile lineman with 86 starts for the Dolphins and Rams. He's not scaring any quarterbacks in tape study, but a lot of players have also thrived playing next to him. Not bad for a third-rounder out of Hampton.
(Langford's previous slot: No. 66 overall)
26. Houston Texans: Gosder Cherilus, OT
2008 pick: Duane Brown
Middle-of-the-road right tackles can make a pretty good living in the NFL, and after five pretty good years in Detroit, the Colts jumped to give Cherilus $35 million ($15 guaranteed) last offseason to improve their own offensive line. Never a star, he's also never been a liability and has put together a good career, which includes 86 starts.
(Cherilus' previous slot: No. 17 overall)
27. San Diego Chargers: Stevie Johnson, WR
2008 pick: Antoine Cason
As big of a steal as there was in this draft, Johnson was taken at No. 224 overall, and was basically forgotten about over his first two years in Buffalo, with just 12 total catches in that time. But he has 289 catches over the past four seasons, and in three of those he exceeded 1,000 receiving yards. He's not a star, but he's been a very good NFL player.
(Johnson's previous slot: No. 224 overall)
28. Seattle Seahawks: Branden Albert, OT
2008 pick: Lawrence Jackson
Named to the Pro Bowl in 2013, Albert has been an underrated pass-blocker for a few years. Jackson never really found the form at this level that made him a stud at USC.
(Albert's previous slot: No. 15 overall)
29. San Francisco 49ers: John Sullivan, C
2008 pick: Kentwan Balmer, DT
Most people had turned off the draft by the time he was taken, and most still don't know who he is. Such is the life of a center. Thing is, Sullivan has been durable and easily one of the top centers in the game the past few seasons.
(Sullivan's previous slot: No. 187 overall)
30. New York Jets: Jermichael Finley, TE
2008 pick: Dustin Keller
Why do I have Finley here instead of Keller, who quietly has more catches (241 to 223) and receiving yards (2,876 to 2,785) since both were drafted? For one, I still think a healthy Finley is the more dynamic player, tougher matchup and -- despite some drop issues -- the more difficult player to prepare for. And secondly, this is still a draft, and Finley is almost 3 years younger.
(Finley's previous slot: No. 91 overall)
31. New York Giants: Jonathan Stewart, RB
2008 pick: Kenny Phillips
Stewart's best season was 2009, when he piled up 1,133 yards and had an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. He's battled injuries often since that time but is also better than his total numbers show, as he hasn't had the chance to truly carry the load in the Carolina system because he's always split the reps with DeAngelo Williams. He's still just 26 and has a chance to have a renaissance, perhaps outside of Carolina.
(Stewart's previous slot: No. 13 overall)
Also considered: Phllip Wheeler, Danny Woodhead, Thomas DeCoud, Glenn Dorsey, Leodis McKelvin, Mike Tolbert, Tyvon Branch, Rashard Mendenhall, Kyle Arrington, Garrett Hartley, Danny Amendola, Darren McFadden, Ahtyba Rubin, Sam Baker
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.