24. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
In retrospect, it’s unconscionable that Rodgers fell all the way to the 24th overall pick, but even at the time it was puzzling. After growing up in Northern California, he hoped the 49ers would take him no. 1 overall. But they passed and opted for Alex Smith instead. His numbers in two seasons at Cal were impressive, and even after a bowl loss, he led the Bears to a 10-2 record and no. 9 ranking his final season. However, while scouts noted that he had the arm talent to make all of the throws, they believed he benefited from a quarterback-friendly system and would have a steep learning curve in the NFL.
Of course, we don’t know how steep that curve would have been. Rodgers spent three seasons serving as the backup to Brett Farve. Much like a lot of the teams that drafted before them, the Packers didn’t have a pressing need for a quarterback at the time. But Green Bay saw what other teams failed to see, which is that Rodgers was too good to pass up after he started to fall in the draft. As a result, the Packers won Super Bowl XLV and are now associated with arguably the best quarterback of all-time.