With the NFL Draft becoming more and more publicized, and with fans having more access to information and videos than ever before, we all tend to start forming our opinions of which players are the best, and confirming or denying the opinions of the so-called “draft experts.”
But more often than not, the players we think are the best heading into the draft don’t turn out to be the very best ones from their draft class when we look back just a few years later.
As the saying goes: hindsight is 20/20. But with the benefit of hindsight, here’s our attempt at redrafting the top overall pick in each of the previous 25 NFL drafts.
 Patrick Mahomes
Deshaun Watson might’ve been the rookie quarterback sensation from the 2017 NFL Draft class and running back Alvin Kamara might’ve been the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, but if you were starting an NFL team from scratch today, there’s absolutely no way you’d take either of them — or anyone from the 2017 NFL Draft — over quarterback Patrick Mahomes, seeing what he’s doing in just his second season in the NFL.
In his first season as a starter, Mahomes is on pace to throw for over 5,200 yards, and challenge Peyton Manning’s single-season touchdown pass record of 55.
 Carson Wentz
With all due respect to the star-studded top five of this class, which included Jared Goff, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jalen Ramsey, quarterback Carson Wentz — whom the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select — is the best player out of this year’s class. If it weren’t for his season-ending injury in December of 2017, Wentz would’ve been named the MVP of the league in just his second season in the NFL.
As he continues to round back into form after the injury, his combination of size, arm strength, and accuracy are as dangerous as almost any quarterback in the NFL.
 Todd Gurley
Who would’ve thought that the best player to emerge from the 2015 NFL Draft was the one with the greatest injury concerns? University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was coming off a major knee injury when heading into the draft, leading to the question of where he’d be taken as being one of the true wild cards that year.
While there were rumors that some teams in the top 10 that year were seriously considering taking him, the then-St. Louis Rams selected him with the 10th overall pick. Gurley quickly emerged as one of the best running backs in the NFL, culminating in him winning Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
 Khalil Mack
In the days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, almost everyone considered defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to be the “no-brainer” top prospect available, given his combination of size, strength, and speed. But there was a sizable group of people who began to question whether it was another edge rusher named Khalil Mack who was actually the best pass rusher, if not the best player in the draft.
Looking back on it with the benefit of hindsight, the latter group was probably right. Mack is one of the 10 best players in the NFL today, irrespective of position. He gets the slightest of nods as the top pick in this year’s group over Aaron Donald, just because of the way edge rushers have a slightly greater impact on the game than interior pass rushers.
 DeAndre Hopkins
You can make a great argument around the 2013 NFL Draft being one of the worst classes of the past two decades. While 11 players from the first round of this group did make a Pro Bowl at some point in their career, almost none of them would be considered among the very best at their position.
The only exception to this would be wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who went from being one of the best wide receivers in the NFL over the past few years to perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL today.
 Andrew Luck
All the hype around the top offensive prospects entering the 2012 NFL Draft turned out to be a huge bust, except for quarterback Andrew Luck. Hailed as a generational prospect, and perhaps the best quarterback coming into the draft since John Elway, Luck had a very promising start to his NFL career before injuries began to derail it.
However, he’s had a tremendous rebound year in 2018, and working with head coach Frank Reich seems like the perfect antidote to getting his career back on track. You can’t fault the Indianapolis Colts for making this pick, even over guys like Luke Kuechly and Chandler Jones.
 Von Miller
The top of the 2011 NFL Draft is stacked with players who were among the very best at their position in recent years, including cornerback Patrick Peterson, offensive tackle Tyron Smith, and wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones. But there were two truly transcendant defensive players taken in 2011 as well: defensive end J.J. Watt, and outside linebacker Von Miller.
We’re giving the edge to Miller in a redraft like this, because the six-time Pro Bowl selection and six-time All-Pro hasn’t missed as much time due to injury as Watt has.
 Antonio Brown
With perennial Pro Bowl picks like Ndamukong Suh and Trent Williams being selected in the top five of the 2010 NFL Draft, it was a 6th-round pick who should’ve been the top overall pick. Wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Steelers was another product of Pittsburgh’s ability to coach and mold young receivers.
Brown has transformed himself into the most singularly dominant wide receiver in the NFL’s post Randy Moss-era, finishing with five-straight seasons of at least 1,284 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Over the past five seasons, he’s led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns each at least one time.
 LeSean McCoy
The latter half of the first decade of the 2000’s produced some really ugly NFL Drafts. The 2009 NFL Draft was a great example of this. While guys like Matt Stafford, Brian Orakpo, and Malcolm Jenkins have all become good-to-very-good players, the only real superstar from this year’s draft is running back LeSean McCoy, selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round.
Linebacker Clay Matthews III was another great pick in this draft class, but he hasn’t consistently made quite the same impact on the game as McCoy.
 Matt Ryan
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells didn’t make many mistakes through the course of his NFL career. But one of those mistakes did come when he was the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins, and led the charge to select offensive tackle Jake Long with the #1 overall pick, instead of quarterback Matt Ryan.
There will be interesting discussion some day about whether Ryan belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he’s at least been one of the most consistently solid quarterbacks over the past decade, at a position that the Dolphins have struggled to fill since Dan Marino retired.
 Adrian Peterson
It’s absolutely astounding to see the fact that running back Adrian Peterson fell all the way to the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, behind guys like Jamarcus Russell and Gaines Adams.
A record-setting freshman who became one of the most dominant players in recent college football history, Peterson gets the nod for the best player in this year’s draft ahead of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, mostly because the latter had his career cut short due to injuries, while the former continues to play at a high level into his 30’s.
 Mario Williams
The 2006 NFL Draft picked up right where the draft from the year before left off — not a lot of great choices, with the benefit of hindsight. While guys like Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and Matt Leonard were “can’t-miss” guys, it was defensive end Mario Williams — whom the Houston Texans famously selected with the #1 overall pick, over Bush — who finished with the most successful (albeit inconsistently so) career.
Interestingly enough, if you go back and look who might’ve been the second-best player in this draft, it was probably offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2nd round.
 Aaron Rodgers
The San Francisco 49ers have nobody but themselves to blame for their terrible record in the 2000’s. After all, they were the franchise who passed on Aaron Rodgers, who went to school in the San Francisco Bay Area and rooted for the 49ers as a kid, to select quarterback Alex Smith.
As we all know, Rodgers has gone on to become one of the most dangerous and productive quarterbacks in NFL history, and will no doubt be enshrined in the Hall of Fame one day. In a rather terrible 2005 NFL Draft, the fact that Rodgers fell all the way to #24 overall really stands out.
 Ben Roethlisberger
Even with a fellow two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning and one of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history in Larry Fitzgerald being taken among the top three picks n the 2004 NFL Draft, it was the third of three quarterbacks — Ben Roethlisberger, selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers — who emerged as the best player from this draft.
In his 14th NFL season, Roethlisberger continues to play the game at a “mastery” level of proficiency, having been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons (while he’s well into his 30’s).
 Carson Palmer
The 2003 NFL Draft has four quarterbacks selected in the first round, along with three players who were among the very best at their position in the 2000’s in Andre Johnson, Terrell Suggs, and Troy Polamalu. But even with his somewhat up-and-down career, quarterback Carson Palmer was the correct pick with the #1 overall selection.
Palmer, along with head coach Marvin Lewis, took what was previously a sad-sack franchise into a playoff team. As a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Palmer helped his team advance to the NFC Championship game.
 Julius Peppers
Throughout the 2001 college football season, everyone acknowledged that University of North Carolina defensive lineman Julius Peppers was a man among boys. But since the Houston Texans took quarterback David Carr with the #1 overall pick, the Carolina Panthers benefitted from Peppers being available at #2 overall.
Still active in his 16th NFL season, Peppers has made six All-Pro teams and been named to the Pro Bowl nine times. He’s currently fourth on the NFL’s all time sack leaders list.
 Drew Brees
Want to talk about hitting a grand slam with your first two draft picks? After the San Diego Chargers traded down from the #1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft (passing on the chance to select quarterback Michael Vick), the Chargers took Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson with their first round pick, and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees with their second round pick.
Brees holds the NFL records for career pass completions, career completion percentage, career passing yards, is second in career touchdown passes, third in regular season career passer rating, and fourth in postseason career passer rating.
 Tom Brady
Can there be anyone else? The most famous sixth round pick in NFL history, 198 players — including six quarterbacks — were selected ahead of Tom Brady, before the New England Patriots took him. You’d be hard-pressed to make an argument against Brady being in the conversation for the greatest quarterback of all time, considering he’s won five Super Bowls and four NFL MVP awards.
Fellow 2000 NFL Draft classmate Brian Urlacher is already in the Hall of Fame, and it’s just a matter of time before Brady finds himself enshrined there as well.
 Champ Bailey
While the 1999 NFL Daft featured eight players who were selected to the Pro Bowl at some point in their career during the first 11 picks, none of those guys have been inducted into the Hall of Fame as of yet. But the one guy who probably has the best chance would be cornerback Roland “Champ” Bailey, selected by the Washington Redskins with the 7th overall pick.
Bailey was easily the most consistently dominant players in a draft class that featured Ricky Williams, Edgerrin James, and Donovan McNabb. The 12-time Pro Bowl defensive back will likely garner lots of attention during the 2019 Hall of Fame voting.
 Peyton Manning
The 1998 NFL Draft saw one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history (Randy Moss) and a future Hall of Fame defensive back (Charles Woodson) taken in the first round, but the Indianapolis Colts got this one correct by selecting quarterback Peyton Manning with the #1 overall pick.
Manning sent an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes in one season, and throwing for 5,477 yards in a season. He won five MVP awards, was selected to 14 Pro Bowls, and named to the All-Pro team 10 times.
 Tony Gonzalez
In 1997, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Tony Gonzalez with the 13th overall pick. While there were two Hall of Fame offensive linemen selected among the top 10 picks (Orlando Pace and Walter Jones), you’d be hard-pressed to say he wasn’t the most memorable member of this draft. Over the course of his career, Gonzalez was selected to 14 Pro Bowls and 10 All-Pro teams.
He currently owns the record for most receptions and receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. Unsurprisingly, he was named among the finalists for the 2019 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
 Ray Lewis
The 1996 NFL Draft replenished the league with boatloads of talented players, including future Hall of Fame players like offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, safety Brian Dawkins, and wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens. But regardless of how some fans might feel about him, virtually nobody would will question that Ray Lewis was the top player from this year’s class.
For generations to come, Lewis — a nine-time All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion — will always be mentioned among the greatest linebackers in NFL history.
 Curtis Martin
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the 1995 NFL Draft as the foundation of their great defenses of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and future perennial Pro Bowl players Tony Boselli and Steve McNair were taken among the top 3 picks, but in our opinion, the top pick from that year’s class goes to running back Curtis Martin, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro.
Starting his career with the New England Patriots and then traded to the New York Jets, Martin ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons in the NFL, including a league-leading 1,697 yards in 2004. Upon his retirement after the 2006 season, Martin had the fourth-most rushing yards in NFL history, trailing only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders.
 Marshall Faulk
Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson was the headliner leading up to the 1994 NFL Draft, but running back Marshall Faulk, who was taken second overall by the Indianapolis Colts, was unquestionably the best player to come out of that group. In a class that featured Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Allen and three-time Super Bowl champion Willie McGinest, Faulk outshined everyone taken that year.
Faulk was three-time Offensive Player of the Year, the NFL’s MVP in 2001, and the only running back in NFL history with 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards.
 Michael Strahan
In a draft that saw two future Hall of Fame players among the top 10 selections, it was a relative unheralded defensive end from Texas Southern University named Michael Strahan who was the headliner from this class. While Drew Bledsoe was the #1 overall pick of the New England Patriots, it’s safe to say that Strahan was the top pick of the 1993 Draft.
Strahan finished his career with the 6th-most career sacks in NFL history, including a record 22.5 sacks in 2001.