Notable Hits: This category does not just include team's superstars. A Notable Hit is defined by the performance of a player for the team that drafted him in relation to where he was drafted.
Biggest Whiffs: This category is predominantly, but not limited to, early round selections.
Looking ahead to the upcoming NFL draft of 2011, I've decided to run through each team's past five drafts and grade their overall performances in detail.
Notable Hits: Rolando McClain, Jacoby Ford, Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaughnessy, Louis Murphy, Darren McFadden, Tyvon Branch, Zach Miller, Michael Bush
Biggest whiffs: JaMarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Quentin Moses
Let's at least start off with the good. Then we can move onto both the bad and the ugly.
Last year's draft for the Raiders was actually very impressive. Rolando McClain looked like a future star without struggling as much as a 21-year-old should, while Lamarr Houston posted five sacks from different positions on the line.
Jacoby Ford's first season in the league looked nothing like the fourth-rounder who was projected as just a special teams guy. He excelled on special teams while also showing flashes on offense, posting over 400 yards receiving and scoring seven total touchdowns.
His emergence along with the 2008 fourth overall pick Darren McFadden's explosion last season gives the Raiders some playmakers on offense that have been lacking in recent years. Second-round pick Zach Miller and fourth-round pick Louis Murphy have also only been positive additions since their draft day.
However, the team has essentially whiffed on three of its five first-round selections. One of which is probably the biggest bust in the history of the NFL. JaMarcus Russell signed a $61 million contract as the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.
Today, he does not even have a football team. Russell has a career rating of 65.2 and played the equivalent of a season and a half before being cut.
What makes things worse for the Raiders is the fact that Michael Huff, while being a solid safety, has not lived up the his top-10 reputation and Darrius Heyward-Bey has done very little to suggest that he was worth a first-round pick, not to mention seventh overall.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh on Heyward-Bey considering that I have previously stated that I would give others time before writing them off, but those players had actually shown something. Heyward-Bey has a little less than 500 yards over his first two seasons and only two touchdowns.
You can't miss that often, and that early, and still expect to contend in the NFL.
Notable Hits: Brian Orakpo, Trent Williams, Rocky McIntosh, Kedric Golston, Reed Doughty
Biggest Whiffs: LaRon Landry, Devin Thomas, Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly
Tried to be optimistic here, it wasn't easy.
The Redskins haven't done much to be proud of in the past few years but Brian Orakpo has really stood out. Orakpo is a vicious pass rusher that has definitely lived up to his 13th overall selection.
Trent Williams looks like he could be the franchise's next tackle for the coming years, while Rocky McIntosh has stood out on a defense that has, more often than not, been porous over the years. The Redskins have only had three first-round picks in the past five years, the third was LaRon Landry.
Many people will probably contest Landry's Whiff status here but when you consider that he was the sixth overall selection and the team passed on Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis, Lawrence Timmons, Leon Hall...do I need to continue? There are quite a few more.
Landry has been okay in Washington, but would probably be picked closer to the bottom of the first round if the 2007 draft was redone.
I recently wrote an article that said the Redskins' had the worst skill position players in the league. This is largely due to the lack of development of Fred Davis, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. The trio were taken in the second round of the 2008 draft and have yet to make any sort of impact on the league.
The current Redskins roster needs upgrading on both sides of the ball, their futile drafting over the years is a major reason why.
Orakpo and Trent Williams potential as a franchise left tackle prevent this franchise from receiving an F grade.
Notable Hits: Earl Thomas, John Carlson, Justin Forsett, Brandon Mebane.
Biggest Whiffs: Lawrence Jackson, Max Unger.
The Seahawks are a horrible drafting team. The only two first-round picks that are not busts cannot yet be called hits because they haven't shown enough in their limited time.
Aaron Curry and Russell Okung may be leading stars in this league one day but neither has done enough to justify their top-10 selections as of yet.
The Seahawks' recent drafts are just littered with underwhelming players such as Darryl Tapp, who was solid, if unspectacular, before being traded to Philadelphia. It's hard to call Tapp a bust, but you can't call him a hit either as a second-round selection.
A guy like Josh Wilson, who was taken in the second round and looked like a solid corner for the Ravens last season, just never made enough of an impact in Seattle. The list is seemingly endless—Rob Sims went to Detroit, Lawrence Jackson followed him, Kelly Jennings and Max Unger are still with the team but many fans probably wish they weren't.
The Brandon Mebanes and Justin Forsetts of the Seahawks organization are too scarce for them to receive a decent grade. Had they been in any other division besides the NFC West, they would be rock bottom.
Remember this is a team that appeared in a Super Bowl in 2005!
Notable Hits: Greg Toler, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Deuce Lutui, Early Doucet, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower.
Biggest Whiffs: Cody Brown, Matt Leinart, Alan Branch.
This franchise specializes in drafting wide receivers it seems...but not quarterbacks.
The Cardinals past five drafts are going to be dogged by the failures of Matt Leinart. Leinart was taken 10th overall in 2006 and had plenty of opportunities with talented pieces around him to make a name for himself at the NFL level. Five years later and he isn't even with the Cardinals anymore.
The failure of Leinart has left Larry Fitzgerald disgruntled and the team in desperate need of a quarterback for the coming season. John Skelton won't be good enough to even win the NFC West.
Two of the team's other first round picks are unproven—Dan Williams and Chris Wells. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie has proven to be a good but not great cornerback. He is too short to cover elite receivers one-on-one, but still represents some level of value as the 16th overall pick.
Levi Brown has remained the starter in Arizona since he was drafted but has not been convincing. The team must regret passing on guys like Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson and Darrelle Revis for him. Brown isn't good enough to be considered an elite blindside protector, at best he is an adequate left tackle.
The team got good value with Calais Campbell and Deuce Lutui in the second round but missed on Alan Branch and Cody Brown. This is the problem with the Cardinals' drafting over the past few years. They have been totally inconsistent.
Late round studs like Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower and Greg Toler are negated because they have little first-round talent for these players to complement.
Without the twilight brilliance of Kurt Warner, this team would have never been anywhere near the Super Bowl appearance of 2008.
Notable Hits: Jonathan Stewart, Jeff Otah, Charles Godfrey, Mike Goodson, Sherrod Martin, Charles Johnson, DeAngello Williams, Richard Marshall, James Anderson, Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason.
Biggest Whiffs: Dwayne Jarrett, Everette Brown.
The Panthers may have been the worst team in the league this past season but you have to remember that it's not been that long since they were in the playoffs.
The team's biggest problem was on offense. Their three best draft picks of the past five years have been offensive players, but all three are running backs.
DeAngello Williams was a first-rounder in 2006, Jonathan Stewart followed in 2008 while Mike Goodson was a gift in the fourth round of 2009. They only ranked 15th in the league last year in rushing but 32nd overall in passing.
The team's biggest problem is the quarterback position, but in reality, the lack of talented receivers in Carolina is almost as big an issue. It's too early to write off Jimmy Clausen, even after an uninspiring rookie season.
The Panthers have picked up some good pieces in the past few years. Trading the 2009 first-round selection to pick Jeff Otah in the 2008 draft is difficult to analyze. The team got a good player in return but gave up a lot—a first, second and fourth-round pick—for a right tackle.
Those three draft choices cost the team a chance at players such as DeSean Jackson, Calais Campbell and Jason Jones or Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt and Jairus Byrd. One from each of those groups as well as a fourth-round pick seems like a lot for Jeff Otah. That is presuming of course that the team turned those selections into hits, which is not guaranteed.
The team has, however, got pieces to build on. Ryan Kalil is a very good center who has lived up to his second-round selection. Jon Beason is one of the best linebackers in the league after being taken late in the first round of 2007. Charles Johnson had 11.5 sacks last season and while he may be leaving Carolina, it's likely that they try to resign him. Johnson was taken in the third round in 2007.
Everette Brown has put up some decent sack totals as a reserve but he has only started three games on a team that is in need of better pass rushers. After being taken in the second round the team was hoping for more.
Dwayne Jarrett's status as a bust has long since been confirmed. The former second-round selection has just over 400 yards in four seasons.
The Panthers' recent draft picks could blossom with a new quarterback, or better yet could benefit from a developed Jimmy Clausen. Clausen could turn this C- draft into a B+ at least if he turns into a franchise quarterback. That remains a big "if" however.
Notable Hits: Jairus Byrd, Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Leodis McKelvin, Steve Johnson, Paul Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Kyle Williams.
Biggest Whiffs: Marshawn Lynch, Trent Edwards, Aaron Maybin.
Missing on two first-round picks and passing on quarterbacks such as Jay Cutler and Josh Freeman has really hurt the Bills in recent years. Marshawn Lynch couldn't curtail his fumbles which led to him losing his job to Fred Jackson, while Aaron Maybin has started one game since being selected 11th overall two seasons ago.
The team put a lot of their stock on Trent Edwards to become its franchise quarterback, which hasn't worked out. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked good last season, but he was not actually drafted by the team.
Where the Bills have excelled in prospect evaluation has been in the secondary. Jairus Byrd, drafted in the second round, was unlucky not to be defensive rookie of the year in 2009. Byrd only had one interception last season, but the Bills' real problems were upfront, which exposed the secondary. He did manage one sack and three forced fumbles however.
Byrd, along with Leodis McKelvin and Donte Whitner, were big parts of the Bills defense that ranked third in the NFL, giving up only 192 yards per game last season.
The Bills also look to have a good corps of interior offensive linemen, but the tackle situation is dire. This wouldn't be such a strike against their grade except for the fact that they have passed on both Ryan Clady and Michael Oher in the past three drafts.
The Bills' most astute pickup was the addition of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. However, these type of picks are too few in Buffalo.
The Bills have picked up some good pieces in recent years but the overall standard of player is reflected in their place in this year's draft—second overall.
Biggest Whiffs: Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder, Alphonso Smith.
Looking through the Denver Broncos' drafting over the past five years really does shine a light on the limitations of Josh McDaniels during his time there.
Peyton Hillis, seventh round, has been one of the best value draft choices in the past five years but cannot be considered a hit considering he was given away to the Browns and never really used in Denver.
Most of the team's good selections came before McDaniels' arrival.
The first four selections of the 2006 draft were some of the best during the evaluation period by any team. Jay Cutler was a franchise quarterback in Denver before he was traded, and even after the trade he brought the team two first-round picks and a third, not to mention Kyle Orton.
That pick was followed by Tony Scheffler in the second. Scheffler is a good tight end that was inexplicably given away by the Broncos to the Lions in 2009. That pick was followed by another player who has subsequently been traded in the fourth—Brandon Marshall. Marshall is the highest paid receiver in the league now in Miami. He brought the team two second-round picks.
The fourth pick from that draft was Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil is still in Denver. He led the league in sacks two years ago but missed all of last season through injury. Dumervil may be a one-year wonder to this point, but as a fourth-round pick, that's one more than expected. Which is not to say that he won't come back and be just as good.
Offensive line has been a good well for the Denver Broncos to return to over the years. After picking up a starting guard, Chris Kuper, in the fifth round of 2006, they struck gold in 2007 and 2008. Ryan Harris arrived in the third round in 2007 while Ryan Clady came to Denver as the 12th overall pick in 2008. Clady is now a contender to be the best left tackle in the league.
Alphonso Smith was taken in the second round of 2009. It was a heavily scrutinized pick by the Broncos, which eventually backfired as he was traded after his rookie season to the Detroit Lions. Jarvis Moss never lived up to his first-round billing and is now an Oakland Raider while Tim Crowder, the second-round pick in 2007, only lasted two seasons before traveling to Tampa.
Robert Ayers is looking like a bust already for the Broncos too, but considering he is only going into his third season, it's not fair to write him off just yet.
Without Ryan Clady and Knowshon Moreno, this draft grade would be very close to a D-, passing only because of the value their traded players brought to the team.
Notable Hits: David Buehler, Tashard Choice, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Deon Anderson, Alan Ball, Dez Bryant.
Biggest Whiffs: Mike Jenkins, Bobby Carpenter, Martellus Bennett.
Starting with the whiffs, Mike Jenkins imploded last season after an impressive first two seasons. He blatantly has an attitude problem because he is definitely talented. Rob Ryan may be able to revive his career, but as of today he shouldn't even be a starter.
Bobby Carpenter was traded to the Rams last season for Alex Barron. He never really lived up to his billing, which cost him his job in St. Louis. Carpenter is now on his fourth team—the Detroit Lions.
Martellus Bennett has not been a bad player for the Cowboys as a backup, but when you consider that he was taken ahead of Jermichael Finley or even Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, it becomes a questionable choice.
The Cowboys dismantled one of their drafts with the Roy Williams trade in 2009. They haven't exactly made up for that with their other drafts in the past few seasons. Outside of Anthony Spencer and Dez Bryant, the team has missed on all of its other three choices to an extent. Felix Jones is not exactly a bust yet, but he hasn't shown the ability to carry the ball consistently.
In that same draft, however, the team did strike gold with Tashard Choice. Choice hasn't been featured as much as Jones, but has averaged over five yards per carry in two of his three seasons in the league.
Late-round guys like Doug Free, Deon Anderson and Alan Ball all have their flaws but are all good enough to start in the right roles.
Notable Hits: Sam Bradford, Rodger Saffold, James Lauranitis, Bradley Fletcher, Donnie Avery, David Vobora, Brian Leonard.
Biggest Whiffs: Jason Smith, Adam Carricker, Tye Hill.
My brother is a St. Louis Rams fan. He and I constantly argue over whether Jason Smith is a bust or not. For me, he is a bust. He may be a good right tackle, but second overall picks are for left tackles. Left tackles are more important than right tackles for any team with a right-handed quarterback. This is common knowledge these days.
To an extent, the Rams have this same problem with Chris Long, who has shown that he can beat right tackles but gets manhandled by most left tackles during his albeit short career. I haven't listed Long as a bust simply because he looks to be improving along with the Rams defense.
The Rams get a pass on Jason Smith being a bust because of the success of Rodger Saffold during his rookie season. Saffold looks like he has locked down the tackle spot for the next few seasons in St. Louis. This means that the team that has whiffed on at least three of its last five draft picks has still managed to lockdown the left tackle and quarterback position.
The 2006 and 2007 first round selections—Adam Carricker and Tye Hill—were promptly sent on their way after being found out in a Rams uniform. Neither player did anything to help revive the struggling franchise—but then came Sam Bradford.
Bradford was brilliant during his rookie season. He is far and away the best quarterback in the NFC West and worked without his top two receivers for the better part of last year. Bradford has given the whole franchise the hope that they can, sooner rather than later, become a playoff contender again.
He, along with James Lauranitis, gives the team two blue-chip players that are also mature leaders at such young ages.
The Rams have made some terrible decisions that will pull down their grade, but another draft or two like the last two years and they could become a force.
Notable Hits: Alterraun Verner, Kenny Britt, Javon Ringer, Chris Johnson, Jason Jones, Michael Griffin, Cortland Finnegan, Stephen Tulloch.
Biggest Whiffs: Vince Young, LenDale White, Chris Henry.
Vince Young is only a whiff because of his impending release. He is only not going to be playing in Tennessee again because of his attitude, as for his on-the-field play he was definitely a hit but the NFL is a bigger monster than that.
LenDale White didn't take long to disappear in Chris Johnson's dust. He had one good season splitting time with Johnson before being traded (and subsequently released). At least that was one good season more than Chris Henry, who essentially gave the team one good game as a second-round pick in 2007.
Outside of that, the Titans have had some success in the draft. Guys like Chris Johnson, Michael Griffin and Kenny Britt are all obviously great additions from the early rounds.
They have also made some noteworthy pickups in the latter rounds—Alterraun Verner in the fourth round last season, Javon Ringer in fifth round in 2009, as well as Stephen Tulloch*, fourth round, and Cortland Finnegan seventh round in 2006.
The most notable of those selections would have to be Cortland Finnegan, who has made a Pro Bowl appearance, as well as Javon Ringer, who has managed to force the coaching staff in Tennessee to take the ball out of Chris Johnson's hands with his impressive running.
The problem with the Titans remains that 2006 draft however. The fact that Vince Young hasn't panned out and there is no obvious heir in sight, means that the franchise as a whole could really suffer if things don't go well in the coming years.
*Tulloch is about to hit free agency but could be resigned.
Notable Hits: Joe Haden, Colt McCoy, Alex Mack, Joe Thomas, Eric Wright, Lawrence Vickers.
Biggest Whiffs: Brady Quinn, Kamerion Wimbley, Brian Robiskie.
Almost a month ago, I wrote this article that talked up the Cleveland Browns' chances of making the playoffs next year.
A big part of my reasoning was the quality of young players looking to take the next step in Cleveland. The Browns have picked up some solid pieces to build on in the first round. Joe Thomas was taken third overall in 2007. That may have been the same draft when the Browns made their biggest mistake, Brady Quinn, but Thomas is potentially the best left tackle in the league right now at 26 years of age.
Of course you can't just brush off the disastrous decision to draft Brady Quinn. If I had been writing this article before last season the Browns would have been strongly considered for an F grade. Colt McCoy's performances in Cleveland last season did enough for me to believe that they have overcome that pick and found their quarterback of the future. McCoy may not have won many games but the poise and talent he showed as a rookie was astounding. McCoy was a winner in college and I have no doubt that he can translate that to the NFL in the right circumstances.
The Browns are set with two of the most difficult things to find in any draft—a franchise left tackle in Joe Thomas and a potentially elite corner, Joe Haden. Haden had an astounding rookie season after coming into the lineup late. Obviously, it is too early to call him an elite corner, but the signs are promising.
He and Eric Wright, who did struggle last season but has the ability to rebound, could make a fearsome corner tandem over the coming years.
Alex Mack rounded off the last of the hits in the first round as the young lineman is hastily becoming one of the better centers in the league.
The biggest issue with the Browns' drafting of the past five years is Brady Quinn, but the abrupt end to Kamerion Wimbley's career in Cleveland only brought them a third-round pick that turned into Shaun Lauvao, who started once during his rookie season.
The Browns' hits in the past few seasons may be overshadowed by the Brady Quinn debacle, but should they have a good draft this season they will be a good team come the start of next season.
Any time you solidify the left tackle position and quarterback position for the long-term, you can't be considered a failure.
Notable Hits: Koa Misi, Vontae Davis, Brian Hartline, Sean Smith, Jake Long, Kendall Langford, Paul Soliai.
Biggest Whiffs: Ted Ginn Jr, John Beck, Pat White.
The Dolphins' drafting can be described in one word—bipolar. The team either hits big or misses worse than Rory McIlroy in the last round of a major.
The drafting of Ted Ginn Jr. cannot be excused under any circumstances. Ginn Jr was traded before last season to the 49ers where he is now just a special teams player. Pat White was a second-round pick who didn't start a game as a rookie before deciding he was better suited for baseball.
It's hard to believe that this is the same franchise that has hit so wonderfully on other occasions. Jake Long has been a beast and has solidified the left tackle position for the next decade or so in South Beach. Koa Misi did enough during his rookie season to have Dolphins fans excited about his future potential, while Vontae Davis is already fulfilling his future potential.
Davis looks to have all the tools to be one of the best cover corners in the league over the coming years. If Sean Smith can rebound from his underwhelming sophomore season, this could become a stellar partnership.
Picking up strong defensive linemen such as Kendall Langford and Paul Soliai in the latter rounds really helped Mike Nolan during his first season in Miami last season as the team's defensive coordinator. It is always a major boost to the franchise when you can find quality starters without using first or second-round picks.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, I cannot give them a higher grade than C+ until Chad Henne shows me something. It is too early to call Henne a complete bust (which is why John Beck is featured as a whiff and he is not) but the coming season will be decisive for how we judge the Dolphins' recent quality of drafting.
Notable Hits: Jordan Shipley, Rey Maualuga, Anthony Collins, Leon Hall, Chinedum Ndukwe, Jonathan Joseph, Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko,
Biggest Whiffs: Andre Smith, Jerome Simpson, Kenny Irons.
The Bengals started off with two back-to-back stud selections in the first round to create one of the best cornerback tandems in the league—Jonathan Joseph (24th overall in 2006) Leon Hall (18th overall in 2007).
The Bengals biggest problem is a large one!
Andre Smith was taken ahead of Michael Oher, Ebben Britton and Eugene Monroe in 2009. Since that day he has started only five games, struggling with conditioning and his level of play, while the others have prospered for the most part. Even when he was on the field he hasn't looked like the franchise left tackle the team hoped to be getting.
Second-round hits like Andrew Whitworth and Rey Maualuga are blighted by the oddities of Kenny Irons and Jerome Simpson (who, to be fair, at least showed some flashes at the end of last season).
Irons didn't even appear in a game before being released by the team, he was part of a very poor second round for running backs that season that included Brandon Jackson and Chris Henry. Brian Leonard, a fullback originally taken by the Rams, eventually ended up with the team after they passed on him in favor of Irons.
Uncovering starters Chinedum Ndukwe and Anthony Collins in the latter rounds have helped the team's grade but it's hard to look past the early-round whiffs when marking up the the final grade.
Notable Hits: Percy Harvin, John Sullivan, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Chad Greenway, Ray Edwards, Jaspar Brinkley.
Biggest Whiffs: Tyrell Johnson, Phil Loadholt, Tarvaris Jackson.
The Vikings were forced to sign Brett Favre after former second-round pick Tarvaris Jackson failed to inspire the fans in Minneapolis on the field. Jackson is not the future for the team, and neither is Joe Webb in all probability.
The lack of development in Jackson's game can probably be attributed to Favre, who had little interest in doing anything except turning up just in time to sort himself out for the season.
The Vikings have only picked up a first-rounder three times in the past five years and each player has been a stud. Percy Harvin won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2009. He is in line to be the team's first choice receiver if Sidney Rice doesn't return next year.
Adrian Peterson, provided his problem with holding onto the football doesn't return, is the best running back in the NFL today. His running can only be described as violent, but if the team doesn't pick up in the passing game that may not matter.
Chad Greenway was taken 17th overall in 2006 and has been an ever-present in one of the best rush defenses in the league since his sophomore season.
Along with Greenway, the Vikes picked up another vital piece to that front seven in Ray Edwards in the fourth round of 2006. Edwards is the least-heralded of the Minnesota front four, but his loss after this season, should he not return, will definitely be felt.
There are two arguments to take when evaluating the Sidney Rice selection. For one, you can point to the fact that he is a one-year wonder that never put up decent numbers except for his third year. I tend to look at it from the point of view that he never really had a chance without a good quarterback. Once Favre arrived he got the chance to show what he can do, while last season he missed too much time due to injury.
Notable Hits: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Josh Morgan, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Vernon Davis, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Delanie Walker.
Biggest Whiffs: Glen Coffee, Kentwan Balmer.
The 49ers can't really be blamed for Glen Coffee's decision to retire so early in his career, but nonetheless they are left with the results—a wasted second-round pick.
The Niners have put together a really good offense that is only lacking a quarterback. Alex Smith was not taken in the last five years but neither has a capable replacement. The team has instead picked up good offensive pieces to surround him, such as Vernon Davis, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Josh Morgan.
Each of those players are good, but the team is really relying on the development of Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has huge potential, but will probably never reach his ceiling with Smith at quarterback.
The team's most impressive pick on offense to this point has been Joe Staley. Staley has come in and quietly been a star at left tackle. The only reason many national fans won't know much about him is because of the team he plays for.
Undoubtedly though, the team's proudest moment in the past five years has been the drafting of Patrick Willis. Willis is the best linebacker in the league. Every team that passed on him initially would have to at least consider taking him if the draft were redone.
The team has almost everything in place to make a run to the playoffs, but the lack of consistency at the quarterback position will cost them.
Notable Hits: Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Mike Thomas, Rashad Jennings, Uche Nwaneri, Mercedes Lewis, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Biggest Whiffs: Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense revolves around Maurice Jones-Drew and the team has done a good job getting him the support upfront that he needs. Jones-Drew himself was a second-round choice in 2006 while Eugene Monroe (first round) and Eben Britton (second round) were added to give the team two mauling presences on the outside of the offensive line in 2009.
Add Uche Nwaneri, a fifth-round guard from the 2007 draft, and you can see why the team was ranked third overall in rushing last season. Don't overlook the contributions of Rashad Jennings also. Jennings was a seventh-rounder in 2009 that had 459 yards rushing last season. He gives the team another viable option when Jones Drew inevitably gets knocked around.
However, this is where the team's impressive hits come to an end. Outside of Mercedes Lewis in the first round in 2006 and Mike Thomas in the fourth round of 2009, the team has done little to improve the receiving corps for David Garrard. Mike Sims-Walker looked to be their next big-play receiver, but he has recently been told that he won't be returning for the 2011 season.
The defensive line has particularly been a problem for the team as Derrick Harvey, first-round choice in 2008, hasn't panned out and Quentin Groves, second-round choice in 2008, is now playing for the Raiders.
The grade for this team's recent drafts could change dramatically depending on how Tyson Alualu and Terrence Knighton improve over the coming years. The Alualu pick in particular has been heavily scrutinized because it was considered a huge reach. He did have 3.5 sacks on a poor pass-rushing team last season, but needs to improve on that and against the run as he gets older.
The strength of the pieces added to the running game are incredibly impressive but a team needs to be put together with more than just that in mind.
There is a solid offensive basis here that is waiting to be built on with good receivers and strong blitzers.
Notable Hits: Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, Johnny Knox, J'Marcus Webb, Earl Bennett, Zackary Bowman, Danieal Manning, Devin Hester.
Biggest Whiffs: Chris Williams, Jarron Gilbert, Dan Buzuin.
The Bears decimated their chances at drafting top level talent with the acquisition of Jay Cutler. Despite the injury concerns, Cutler has proven that he was worth giving up those picks for. That will not, however, excuse Chicago of any poor prospect-picking.
The team has had some hits despite not starting until the third round for the past two years and the second round in 2006. The biggest pickup has been Matt Forte, who starred as a rookie before overcoming a sophomore slump in his third season.
The Bears have given Jay Cutler some decent weapons to work with. Earl Bennett was to be reunited with his college teammate after he was taken in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft. Bennett and Cutler have a good rapport on the field.
The bigger star on offense, however, has been Johnny Knox, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. Knox is the team's best receiver and has the speed to take on most cornerbacks.
The team has also spent first-round selections on offensive talent. While Greg Olsen has become a big-time tight end in Chicago, Chris Williams has failed to pan out as a franchise left tackle. Williams was eventually moved to guard this season when seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb found himself as the new right tackle in Chicago.
The Bears have had some success in the latter rounds. Webb gave the team good play this season, while Zackary Bowman, a fifth-round pick, had six interceptions during his sophomore season. His play tailed off last season but the talent is obviously there.
Notable Hits: Ryan Succop, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Carr, Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali.
Biggest Whiffs: Turk McBride, Bernard Pollard, Alex McGee.
Many people are already calling Tyson Jackson a bust, but it's too early, in my mind, to do so. His third year will be decisive, however.
The Chiefs made their first playoff appearance in 2010 since the 2006 season. This was on the back of good drafting over the past few seasons.
Tamba Hali is a top-five pass-rushing linebacker in the league, who was taken in the first round in 2006 and has been working without much help on the opposite side. Hali joins Eric Berry, Branden Albert, Glenn Dorsey and Dwayne Bowe as the Chiefs' first-round picks that have already proven themselves worthy of their selection.
However, the Chiefs have somewhat struggled during the middle rounds save for 2008. In 2008 the team picked up Jamaal Charles and Brandon Flowers. Flowers and Charles are two of the premier young players at their respective positions, cornerback and running back.
The team struggled with the quarterback position after Trent Green left Kansas City, but quickly addressed that outside of the draft. This has allowed them to look to surround Matt Cassel with weapons in the most recent of drafts.
As of yet, Tony Moeaki is the only player who has shown enough offensively to be considered a hit. There is somewhat more pressure on Dexter McCluster to live up to his second-round tag during his sophomore season.
If McCluster can spark his career off to become the Chiefs' complimentary receiver to Dwayne Bowe, they may not be waiting long to return to the playoffs.
Tyson Jackson will be the deciding factor in this grade down the road, but right now the Chiefs have to be happy with their tally over the years.
Notable Hits: LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nate Allen, Moise Fokou, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Kolb, Stewart Bradley, Brent Celek, Brodrick Bunkley, Jason Avant.
Biggest whiffs: Victor Abiamiri, Trevor Laws, Winston Justice.
The Eagles haven't been scared to trade away their first-round pick. They have had only three selections in the first round in the past five seasons.
Those selections have been stellar, however. Jeremy Maclin is a big part of what is one of the most dynamic offenses in the league, while Brodrick Bunkley has been a fixture on the defensive line since his rookie season, despite some struggles this past season.
For the most part, Andy Reid's staff has looked to pick up skill positions in the early rounds. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are players with game-changing ability that were taken in the second round. While Kevin Kolb has not exactly panned out yet in Philadelphia, his worth as trade bait for the rest of the league is substantial.
The offense has been complimented in the latter rounds also, with the selections of Brent Celek and Jason Avant, who are dependable receiving options for Michael Vick.
The defense has benefited too from the Eagles' late-round activity, as Moise Fokou has turned himself from a seventh-round selection into a player that started 11 games this past season. While Stewart Bradley has been a stud from the third round when healthy.
Taken in the second round, Victor Abiamiri should have been able to take his place across from Trent Cole and wreak some havoc in the opposition's backfield. He has four sacks in his first three seasons starting six games.
Winston Justice was taken at the top of the second round but his performances simply haven't been good enough and many Eagles fans are hoping for the team to draft a tackle in the upcoming draft.
Trevor Laws' whiff status is fair in spite of his four sacks during last season. It should not have taken him three years to become somewhat relevant after being a second-round pick three years ago.
Notable Hits: Louis Vasquez, Antoine Cason, Jacob Hester, Eric Weddle, Brandon Siler, Marcus McNeil, Charlie Whitehurst, Jeromey Clary.
Biggest Whiffs: Craig Davis, Antonio Cromartie.
Firstly let me address why Charlie Whitehurst is a hit. Whitehurst garnered extra and higher picks than what they originally gave up. The team essentially traded a third-round pick for a second and third-round pick.
The Chargers haven't actually picked up their most important pieces during recent drafts. Guys like Quentin Jammer, Philip Rivers (even though Manning was the actual pick) and Luis Castillo are still the mainstays of the team.
Either way, the Chargers have managed to complement the team each year. The standout pick is of course Marcus McNeil, who came in and solidified Philip Rivers' blindside with great success.
Louis Vasquez and Jeromey Clary have also come in to fortify the offensive line. Clary has not exactly been stellar for the team, but you have to consider the fact that he was taken in the sixth round and remains the starter today. Vasquez was taken in the third round and has started 24 games in two seasons so far. At 24 years of age, he has plenty of time to improve to potentially an elite level.
Guys like Antoine Cason in the first round and Eric Weddle in the second, have proven they were talents coming out of college playing at all pro levels during last season. (They may not have won all pro awards, but they were definitely playing to that level).
What is going to be the most important draft pick from the Chargers' past five years is the man in the picture. Ryan Matthews must attempt to replace the legacy of LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego and he definitely hasn't gotten off to the best start.
As for busts, there are a couple. The one that stands out is Antonio Cromartie because he was only a one-year wonder in San Diego before recapturing his form in New York. Craig Davis still has a chance to become a starter in the league, but really needs to offer more than he has to this point.
Notable Hits: Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy, Brandon Pettigrew, Cliff Avril.
Biggest Whiffs: Drew Stanton, Gosder Cherilus, Ernie Sims.
The Lions' most important draft choice has yet to get going because of injuries. Stafford showed enough during the short time he spent on the field to prove that he has the abilities of a franchise quarterback, if he can stay healthy.
Not much was left to Jim Schwartz when he took the reigns of the Lions a few years ago, but the team had drafted an elite receiver. Calvin Johnson is a special player that would start on any team in the league. The Lions did well to not turn him away after failing so infamously with other receivers in the first round.
The only choice that could be considered better than Johnson's was the second overall selection of the 2010 draft—Ndamukong Suh. Suh looks to be another special player after he changed the whole attitude of the Lions defense with his play last season.
The Lions have added so many talented pieces compared to the team that went 0-16. The overall improvement of the team has been sparked with such astute pickups as DeAndre Levy, Cliff Avril and Brandon Pettigrew. Trading up to draft Jahvid Best turned out to be a brilliant move for the team when you compare the impact of he and Toby Gerhart during their rookie seasons.
The Lions have not been perfect.
Gosder Cherilus' struggles after being selected 17th overall in 2008 has led the team to look for a new tackle for next season.
Drew Stanton is currently the team's third choice at quarterback after, at one stage, being a second-round selection.
The 2006 first-round pick, Ernie Sims, never made the desired impact in Detroit and eventually found himself wearing the green of Philadelphia.
The Lions' last two drafts have been great, but they need at least another one like that before they can look to become a playoff team again.
Notable Hits: Donald Brown, Austin Collie, Jerraud Powers, Jacob Tamme, Pierre Garcon, Clint Session, Joseph Addai, Antoine Bethea,
Biggest whiffs: Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Fili Moala.
Let's start off with the busts. In a sense the team was very unlucky drafting Anthony Gonzalez in the first round. He looks like a good player when healthy but has barely played in the past two seasons, totaling five receptions.
Tony Ugoh and Fili Moala, on the other hand, signifies the Colts' fatal flaw. Ugoh was taken in the second round to protect Peyton Manning's blindside but is now plying his trade in Detroit. Moala was taken in the second round in order to stifle opposing running backs and bring some strength to the interior of the defensive line. He has yet to do so, as the team ranked 25th in the league during his sophomore season.
In spite of all that, the Colts have still been one of the best drafting teams in the league in the past few years.
Donald Brown and Joseph Addai, both running backs that were taken in the first round, fit their system perfectly. Jerry Hughes is the team's only other first-round selection since then (excluding Gonzalez) and he needs to wait for his opportunity as Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been ever present to this point in Indy.
It is the late rounds, however, where the Colts really up the ante. Guys like Jerraud Powers and Austin Collie have become important parts of the team, while Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme have shown that they can complement the Hall of Fame stars on the depth chart ahead of them sufficiently. Garcon in particular stands out because he was taken in the sixth round and hasn't looked out of place as a starter.
The team's best bit of business, however, has been Antoine Bethea. Bethea was the 207th player taken in the 2006 draft. Today he is one of the best free safeties in the league, even if he does not get as much recognition as other guys. Bethea is the perfect safety net to play behind Bob Sanders and had Sanders stayed healthy for the Colts, he would probably receive more acclaim than he does.
The Colts have had some great draft choices, however the reason that they haven't made it to the Super Bowl more than once is still clear. They haven't sorted the left tackle or defensive tackle position to this point.
Notable Hits: Brian Cushing, Duane Brown, Jacoby Jones, Zach Diles, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Eric Winston, Owen Daniels,
Biggest Whiffs: Amobi Okoye, Charles Spencer, Steve Slaton.
The Texans started off their five-year stint of drafting with one of the best draft classes of the past decade.
In 2006, the team shocked everyone by passing on Reggie Bush and taking Mario Williams. Williams has turned into an elite defensive end and proven to be worthy of the first overall pick. In the second round the team added another defensive stalwart to build on, with Pro Bowl inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
Reliable right tackle Eric Winston came in the third, while Owen Daniels has been the team's second-biggest offensive threat since he became a Texan. That is until Arian Foster exploded last season.
Technically, Foster wasn't drafted so he can't be included as a notable hit, but obviously the franchise deserves huge credit for picking up the Tennessee running back.
While Duane Brown is obviously not an elite name in the league, he is a solid left tackle for the Texans. He was picked late in the first round, 26th overall, so the investment isn't as high as you would initially think when you hear first round and left tackle. Brown has definitely given the team enough to be considered a hit. It should be noted that he is still only 25 years of age.
One big mark against Brown is that he was suspended for four games during last season, this was especially disappointing for the Texans as Brian Cushing had earlier suffered a similar fate. Both players committed offenses against the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.
Cushing however still won the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009...twice. Cushing kept the award after a second vote because of his violation. Cushing and Ryans, as well as some solid play from seventh-round pick Zach Diles, are not the reason that the team is changing from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.
The good thing about the Texans' whiffs is that they haven't cost the team. Save for Amobi Okoye, who is still too young to be considered a bust, the team's biggest whiffs have been Steve Slaton and Charles Spencer.
Slaton obviously hasn't been missed because of the emergence of Arian Foster, while Spencer is a tackle who was drafted in the third round ahead of eventual starter Eric Winston. Spencer is now a free agent, while Slaton could bring some reward to the team in a trade.
Kareem Jackson will really need to improve during his second season and beyond to make this team's drafting over the past few years that bit more impressive.
Notable Hits: Stephen Gostkowski, Jerod Mayo, Sebastien Vollmer, Pat Chung, Zoltan Mesko, Devin McCourty, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski.
Biggest Whiffs: Terrence Wheatley, Laurence Maroney, Chad Jackson.
As I was writing this list I instantly put the heading "New England Patriots A+" atop this article. Then as I actually begun to examine the Patriots' past five draft classes, the grade eventually fell to a B.
The past five drafts are, in a sense, building up to this one as the team is in the perfect position to dominate this year. They have two selections in each of the first three rounds.
The team's only serious strike against them is Laurence Maroney, who was taken in the first round in 2006. Maroney is now riding the pine in Denver after being traded last season.
Outside of that, most of the team's early selections are good players with aspects of their game that still need to improve.
Players such as Brandon Meriweather, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman still have time to turn themselves into "Notable Hits" but as of yet haven't done enough.
Last year's class looks to be particularly pleasing for New England fans. Seven players made notable contributions as rookies to the team with the best regular season record in the league.
The Patriots have picked up a lot of talent in the past few years, it's just a matter of molding that talent into a championship team now (or, as a start, a playoff-game-winning team).
Notable Hits: Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Gerald McCoy, Sammie Stroughter, Jeremy Zuttah, Aqib Talib, Josh Johnson, Geno Hayes, Cody Grimm, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood.
Biggest Whiffs: Gaines Adams, Aaron Sears.
The Bucs' biggest whiffs were unlucky, in that Aaron Sears showed promise before being waived because of a neurological condition, while Gaines Adams was traded before his untimely death.
Tanard Jackson is another player that could be considered a bust, but he played very well in Tampa the season before he was suspended, so there is still the chance that he could return in some role.
The Buccaneers are one of the best young teams in the league and have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Josh Freeman has more fourth quarter comebacks in his 25-game career than Joe Flacco has in his 55-game career. Freeman is definitely one of the league's rising stars and there is no question that he is the franchise quarterback in Tampa.
While Gerald McCoy's efforts for the Buccaneers last season may have been overlooked because of the impact Ndamukong Suh made in Detroit, he has shown enough on a poor team to be considered a hit after his rookie year.
McCoy needs help on the defensive line if he is to prosper fully.
The Buccaneers have made some astute selections elsewhere defensively as Aqib Talib has been a star on the field, if a little suspect off of it, while Cody Grimm was a pleasant surprise in the seventh round during last season.
The Buccaneers picked up LeGarrette Blount on waivers from the Titans at the start of last season to eventually become the team's starter. While he does not count directly for the team's grade, his hard running has highlighted the quality of blocking that Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood and Jeremy Zuttah did throughout the year. Joseph and Trueblood were first and second-round picks, while Zuttah started nine games last season after being taken in the third round in 2008.
There looks to be a bright future in Tampa. The past five drafts, the last two in particular, have set them up for sustained success.
Notable Hits: Corey Peters, William Moore, Chris Owens, Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Curtis Lofton, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, Justin Blalock, Jason Snelling.
Biggest Whiffs: Peria Jerry, Jimmy Williams, Chevis Jackson.
Jimmy Williams did little during his two seasons in Atlanta before suspensions put his career on hold until the start of next season. Williams was taken at the top of the second round by the Falcons in 2006.
The team's first-round pick in 2009 has as many sacks as he has starts, the problem is he has only started twice.
For the most part, this team has had a good five seasons drafting, which is reflected in their NFC-leading record from last season.
Matt Ryan is definitely the franchise quarterback after being taken third in 2008, while also bringing in a left tackle worthy of protecting his blindside in the same round. Sam Baker was taken 21st overall and has started every game in the past two seasons.
That said, those two are the only two first-round picks that you could actually call hits. It is still too early to call Peria Jerry a complete bust, while Jamaal Anderson did start for a few years but his production was minimal.
The Jerry pick can be overlooked to an extent because of the success of rookie Corey Peters during last season. Peters was taken in the third round and started 15 of 16 games last year. It's guys taken in the middle rounds, such as Peters, that have served the Falcons so well in recent years.
Justin Blalock has been a mainstay at guard in a strong running game since being taken in the second round in 2007. Curtis Lofton has started since day one of his rookie season. He was taken in the second round in 2008 and exploded into a playmaker during last year tallying two sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
The team also picked up Thomas DeCoud in the third round. DeCoud has solidified the safety position in Atlanta since taking over as starter in his sophomore year—2009. The team added another second-round pick to pair with DeCoud that season when William Moore was selected. Moore did not start until this past season when he racked up five interceptions.
The team has also added role players in the latter rounds, with guys like Stephen Nicholas, Kroy Biermann and Jason Snelling arriving in Atlanta.
The Falcons have hit on the most important pieces while also underwhelming their fans with some of their early selections. The defensive playmakers and the fact that they have solidified the most important offensive positions (left tackle and quarterback) have earned them a high grade.
Notable Hits: Terrell Thomas, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Mario Manningham, Jonathan Goff, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Johnson, Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield.
Biggest whiffs: Aaron Ross, Sinorice Moss, Clint Sintim.
The Giants haven't missed much in recent years. Aaron Ross is the only major bust and he is doing a solid job as a backup. Clint Sintim was taken in the second round but has struggled to make an impression as of yet.
The Giants have hit all over the draft. Mathias Kiwanuka is the closest thing to a bust outside of Aaron Ross, but even he has contributed well to the defensive rotation. Along with Hakeem Nicks, who had a Pro Bowl standard season last year, Kenny Phillips also proved his worth, starting every game this past season. Phillips didn't have any major deterrents from his knee injury the previous year during his return.
The team has had great success drafting receivers, outside of whiffing on Sinorice Moss, with such players as Nicks (first round), Steve Smith (second round) and Mario Manningham (third round). Pairing them with Kevin Boss (fifth round) has surrounded Eli Manning with quality weapons without costing the team early draft picks that were spent on the defense.
The Giants have been better than most at picking up late-round starters. Ahmad Bradshaw took over at running back this season after being picked in the seventh round in 2007. Jonathan Goff did the same after being a fifth-round pick in 2008, while Barry Cofield was a starter on the 2007 Super Bowl team after being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.
Notable Hits: Michael Oher, Joe Flacco, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, Dawan Landry, Ben Grubbs, LeRon McClain, Jared Gaither, Haloti Ngata, Sam Koch.
Biggest whiffs: Paul Kruger, Yamon Figurs, Oniel Cousins.
The Ravens have done brilliantly, while more often than not picking late in each round.
The Baltimore Ravens have been trying to sort out their offense since winning the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer in 2001. A brief Steve McNair stint in Baltimore was the only stability that the quarterback position experienced before the drafting of Joe Flacco.
Flacco was taken 18th overall in the 2008 draft. He has shown enough to convince the team that he can be the next franchise quarterback in Baltimore.
The Ravens enter this season in need of tackle help after Michael Oher's struggles on the blindside (ironically) last season. Nonetheless, you cannot deny that Oher, taken 23rd in the draft, was brilliant value because worst-case scenario looks to be that he plays right tackle. He excelled on the right during his rookie year.
Ozzie Newsome's best pick, however, was Haloti Ngata in 2006. Ngata was taken 12th and has become the best defensive lineman in the NFL today. He can play either nose tackle or defensive end in any scheme.
The Ravens haven't missed in the first round during the past five seasons, which is always the most important thing. Adding the league's best punter, Sam Koch, a quality left tackle, Jared Gaither, one of the best hybrid fullback/running backs in the league, LeRon McClain and a dynamic running back, in Ray Rice, has made them what they are today—one of the best teams in the league.
Notable Hits: Andrew Quarless, Bryan Bulaga, B.J Raji, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, Matt Flynn, Brett Swain, James Jones, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, A.J Hawk, Greg Jennings, Daryn Colledge,
Biggest Whiffs: Justin Harrell, Brian Brohm.
A team with as many injury problems as Green Bay last year has to be a good drafting team. The Packers aren't just a good drafting team, they are a GREAT drafting team.
It's no coincidence that last year's Super Bowl teams have both been expert drafters over the past five years.
Everyone knows the success of first-round guys like B.J Raji, Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga and A.J. Hawk, but it's the latter-round success that allows them to whiff on a first-rounder and still get an A+ grade.
Josh Sitton may be the best guard in the league, the Packers took him in the fourth round. Jermichael Finley may be the most talented receiving tight end in the league, the Packers took him in the third round.
Then the team took guys like James Jones, Desmond Bishop, Andrew Quarles and James Starks in the latter rounds that played crucial parts on the team's Super Bowl-winning team from last year.
At the end of the day, however, it is the team's dominance in the first two rounds that has made this team champions. Clay Matthews has become such a star in the whole league that not many people will probably realize that he was actually the Packers' second pick in 2009. Matthews was taken behind B.J Raji, who has also excelled to become one of the best defensive tackles in the league.
Half of the team's receiving corps came in the second round, as Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson fell. Jennings is probably the strongest receiver in the league physically, while Nelson is definitely the best third receiver on a team in the whole league.
Even seventh-round selections Matt Flynn and Brett Swain have looked like star-caliber players with minimal exposure on the field.
The Packers are a team with emerging stars all over the field to complement their proven veterans. It's difficult to fathom what this team could achieve if next season's draft is anything like the past five. Especially if it can avoid major injuries.
Notable Hits: Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Matt Slauson, Dwight Lowery, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Leon Washington, Brad Smith.
Biggest whiffs: Vernon Gholston.
Vernon Gholston is the only reason that this grade is not A+. Their draft record of the past five seasons is almost perfect, except for one of the biggest busts in a long time.
Gholston was taken sixth overall in the 2008 NFL draft. After three sackless seasons in New York, he is now a free agent.
Nonetheless, that really was just a once off.
The Jets have no other whiffs in early rounds. In fact, they have picked up great value no matter the round. The Jets have turned five of their first-round selections into pillars of their recent playoff runs. Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis have all turned up trumps for the Jets.
The resultant tally of this was—the best center in the league, a franchise left tackle, a potential franchise quarterback and a shutdown cornerback. That is a group of players that most teams are lucky to draft in 50 years, forget five.
Mike Tannenbaum also managed to add another first-round talent in the second round of 2007 when he picked up David Harris. Harris is the team's current defensive signal caller and a vital player in Rex Ryan's defensive system.
The team have filled out their middle-round picks with reliable young players like Shonn Greene, Dwight Lowery and Brad Smith.
This didn't prevent the team from then going on to ravage the late rounds for value with such selections as Leon Washington in the fourth round as well as Drew Coleman and Matt Slauson in separate sixth rounds.
Notable hits: Maurkice Pouncey, Santonio Holmes, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Willie Colon, Daniel Sepulveda, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Ziggy Hood, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown.
Biggest whiffs: Willie Reid, Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis.
The Steelers have not missed on a first-round draft selection for a very long time. This feat is made even more impressive by the fact that only once in the past five seasons have they picked in the top half of the first round (Lawrence Timmons was taken 15th in 2007).
The first draft pick for any team is always the most important. If you miss in the first round you can cost your team a lot of money. That's without even considering the fact that you miss out on getting a potentially elite player.
Guys like Maurkice Pouncey, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace can't be argued against as great choices.
Santonio Holmes may be pointed to as a failure for the simple fact that he is no longer with the team and was allowed to leave for a measly fifth-round draft pick. Any team would happily swap a first-round pick for a fifth if they knew the player they were getting would become a Super Bowl MVP, not to mention catch the game-winning touchdown for the franchise.
It may be a little early to call Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown hits. However, Sanders showed more than enough for me to call him a hit during his rookie season. He was a key figure in the Steelers' game plan for the Super Bowl and a major loss when he was injured. Being a sixth-round pick means that Brown has already surpassed what most people hope for from late-round pick-ups.
The Steelers are famous for their build-through-the-draft philosophy and it has definitely served them well so far.
The team has obviously had some misses, but they are vastly outnumbered by hits, it's no coincidence that the team has gone to two Super Bowls during this period.
Notable Hits: Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Robert Meachem, Jermon Bushrod, Sedrick Ellis, Tracey Porter, Carl Nicks, Thomas Morstead, Malcolm Jenkins, Jimmy Graham.
Biggest Whiffs: Usama Young, Andy Alleman.
For many teams, Reggie Bush would have been a bust, however the Saints have taken advantage of his skill set to fit him in their dynamic offense perfectly. He may not carry the ball on every down, but he does give the team a spark that many teams are desperately lacking.
However, the Saints best pick from the 2006 draft came at the other end. Marques Colston was the second-to-last receiver, the 29th receiver taken in the whole draft, in 2006. Today he is a top-10 talent that played a vital role in the team's Super Bowl run.
Colston led the team in that game against the Colts with 83 receiving yards and was applauded specifically in NFL.com's report "Marques Colston played a big role in the game plan, routinely finding openings over the middle of the field. His ability to attract multiple defenders also created space for his teammates."
Colston isn't the only late-round selection that has done big things in Louisiana. A pair of Pro Bowl guards came in the fifth and fourth rounds—Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. Evans and Nicks are often referred to as the best guard tandem in the league, which makes sense because they must both be equally as good as pass blockers and in the running game in the Saints' balanced offense.
Incredibly, the team also made it to the Super Bowl starting a left tackle that they took in the fourth round. Jermon Bushrod took over the starting spot in 2009 after an injury to Jamaal Brown and hasn't looked back since.
The Saints have been one of the best teams at hitting in the first round, while still uncovering gems in the latter rounds. The level of consistency in recent years has been outstanding, as Usama Young and Andy Alleman are the closest things they have to busts and they were both taken in the third round.