Here’s the criteria: The best players are the best picks. All-time greats are rare finds; All-Pros are countless. Reliable starters are even more numerous. For example, Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton aren’t on the list, but if they were, Clifton would be rated ahead of Tauscher. As a seventh-round choice, Tauscher was one of the Packers’ best all-time bargains, but Clifton was a better pick as a No. 2 simply because he was regarded as a better tackle. That said, value over investment was a consideration. Also taken into account was who else was available. For example, the Packers didn’t miss when they selected Paul Hornung with the first overall pick in 1957, but they passed on Jim Brown to draft him. The first draft was held in 1936.
1. Aaron Rodgers (first round, No. 24 overall, 2005) -- There have been 78 NFL drafts and more than 23,850 players selected. This pick, in all likelihood, will go down in league history as being unprecedented. Brett Favre is all but a cinch to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in two years. Rodgers is closing in on being a lock. Never has a team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback on the plus side of 30 – Favre was 35 when Rodgers was drafted – filled those shoes with another future Hall of Famer through a draft pick, with one irrelevant exception. In 1973, San Diego drafted Dan Fouts eight days after it purchased 17-year veteran Johnny Unitas from the Baltimore Colts for one final season.
2. Bart Starr (17th round, No. 200 overall, 1956) -- The Packers’ all-time biggest steal. He didn’t have to win games playing with a supporting cast that included 10 other Hall of Famers, and he rarely lost them. He was a true field general. Back when quarterbacks called their own plays, he led the Packers to five NFL championships, more than any quarterback in history.
3. Ray Nitschke (third round, No. 36 overall, 1958) -- Selected with a draft choice acquired from the New York Giants for defensive end John Martinkovic, Nitschke became the focal point and tough guy of defenses that never allowed more than 14 points in five world championship games.
4. Forrest Gregg (second round, 20th overall, 1956) -- Vince Lombardi once called him “the finest player I ever coached.” With that endorsement how does one leave him off?
5. Herb Adderley (first round, No. 12 overall, 1961) – There’s one spot left and seven more Packers draft picks in the Hall of Fame that are pretty much equals. Jim Taylor was on a par with Gregg as a second-round selection. Hornung panned out as an overall No. 1. Tony Canadeo and Jim Ringo were steals at 77 and 79. Unlike those four, Adderley had the size and speed to play the same position today and be a Hall of Famer. The same is true of Dave Robinson and James Lofton, two other No. 1 picks. Of those three, Adderley probably ranks higher among the all-time greats at his position. As good as Charles Woodson was, Adderley was cut in the same mold and maybe better.