Decade in the making: the ultimate NFL draft grades

Cold, Hard Football Facts for May 03, 2011



By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts professor of pigskin 
 
We've come far enough along as a collective group of football observers to know that hasty post-draft grades are about as useful as a $5 coupon toward a new BMW. Yes, admittedly, even our own.
 
Still, the draft is one of the most important and interesting events of the NFL calendar, especially in this lockout-mired offseason. So we hand out those grades and hope that in a few year's time we're not haunted by glowing reviews of players that go on to short and undignified pro careers.
 
But who's really drafting well? Who gets the good grades that really matter, based off, oh, you know, stuff like actual evidence, performances and Cold, Hard Football Facts?
 
We endeavored to find out.
 
Using information from the great folks at pro-football-reference.com – or, as we like to call it, "The Bible" – we broke down the 10 drafts from 2001-2010 looking for an impartial answer to who was the best. Who drafted the most stars, the most longtime starters, the most promising young players? Who had the most players from their drafts active in the league last year? Who was the best?
 
When it was all said and done, there was an easy and not-so-surprising answer: the New England Patriots.
 
They had the second-most Pro Bowlers, 11, trailing only San Diego (12). They had the most players with a career "Approximate Value" of 50+ as determined by Pro Football Reference's formula that takes into account position, playing time, team success and production (read more about it here). They had the second-most players with career AV of 20 or better. They were tied for third in terms of draftees still active in the league in 2010.
 
And they did it despite having the best record in the league over that decade, which means having the least amount of actual draft power. It's pretty remarkable feat, and the reason that guys like Mel Kiper and Peter King couched their criticisms of the Patriots' 2011 draft by adding "but it's the Patriots, so it'll probably work out OK."
 
Our own Chief Troll has also routinely criticized New England's drafts in recent years (and did so again this year). But our report below finds that, yes, he's wrong, too. Sorry, Chief.
 
Of course, for every yin, there is a yang. While the Patriots were acing their draft tests, Tampa Bay, Washington and Detroit were in the back of the class sending text messages and throwing paper airplanes.
 
The Redskins in particular were just atrocious – you don't necessarily think of them as the most inept franchise in the league, but they really were over the decade. They were at the bottom in every measurable, and their relative success in the decade was a real upset. While they got a rep as the place where top-level coaches like Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs (and now Mike Shanahan) couldn't or can't succeed, it was pretty clearly the talent that was at issue.
 
Here are our decade grades for all 32 teams, with their pertinent numbers, best and worst picks and a brief summary for each. Enjoy.
 
THE VALEDICTORIAN
New England (A)
Pro Bowlers: 11 (2nd)
Draftees Active in 2010: 46 (t-3rd)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 7 (1st)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 22 (t-1st)
Best Pick: CB Asante Samuel (4th round, 2003)
Worst Pick: WR Chad Jackson (2nd round, 2006)
 
Summary: The Patriots got at least one impact player in each of their 10 drafts from 2001-2010, and maybe the biggest tribute to their ability to identify top talent is that all 10 of their No. 1 picks were still playing in the league last year along with 11 of their 14 No. 2s. This bodes well for 2011 draftees Nate Solder, Ras-I Dowling and Shane Vereen.
 
TEACHER'S PETS
Baltimore (A-)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 43 (8th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 21 (t-4th)
Best Pick: S Ed Reed (No. 24 overall, 2002)
Worst Pick: DE Dan Cody (2nd round, 2006)
 
Summary:  Much as the Patriots struck gold with Tom Brady and built wonderfully around him, Baltimore and Ozzie Newsome have done the same around Ray Lewis. While they're known for their attention to defense, they really set the stage for continued success with their offensive hits in 2007 and 2008 – linemen Marshall Yanda and Ben Grubbs, fullback Le'Ron McClain, QB Joe Flacco and tailback Ray Rice.
 
San Diego (A-)
Pro Bowlers: 12 (1st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 39 (t-15th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 3 (t-13th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 22 (t-1st)
Best Pick: QB Drew Brees (2nd round, 2001)
Worst Pick: WR Craig Davis (1st round, 2007)
 
Summary: Although their last three draft classes have yet to really develop, the Chargers had one of the great draft runs of all time from 2004-07 under A.J. Smith, and they certainly got the better of the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers swap, at least in terms of statistical production. If Charlie Whitehurst is the starter in Seattle next year, they can boast of having picked three NFL starting QBs this decade (Drew Brees being the other). They've had almost no huge misses, and a whole lot of hits.
 
New York Giants (A-)
Pro Bowlers: 9 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 42 (t-9th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-4th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 20 (t-6th)
Best Pick: OL David Diehi (5th round, 2003)
Worst Pick: WR Sinorice Moss (2nd round, 2006)
 
Summary: The Giants have excelled at finding defensive linemen in the draft the past 10 years, but they haven't had nearly as much luck with linebackers. They drafted 10 of them in the decade and none of them were really hits (pending the continued growth of MLB Jonathan Goff, who started all 16 games last year). 
 
THE OVERACHIEVERS
Atlanta (B+)
Pro Bowlers: 6 (t-16th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 42 (t-9th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 5 (t-2nd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 22 (t-1st)
Best Pick: QB Matt Schaub (3rd round, 2004)
Worst Pick: CB Jimmy Williams (2nd round, 2006)
 
Summary: The Falcons drafted three Pro Bowlers at QB (Schaub, Michael Vick, Matt Ryan), plus Roddy White and Alge Crumpler, but are still looking for an impact pass rusher – of their 13 picks on the defensive line, no one has more than 18 career sacks.
 
Indianapolis (B+)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 41 (14th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-4th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 16 (t-17th)
Best Pick: DE Robert Mathis (5th round, 2003)
Worst Pick: T Tony Ugoh (2nd round, 2007)
 
Summary: Bill Polian has had success all across the board for the Colts, and when his top picks have been clunkers (a rarity), he's made up for it with lower-round success. About the only knock is that Colts draftees have found limited success when signing with other teams, which suggests that Peyton Manning and a great system make up for a lot of shortcomings, but the same could be said of the Patriots.
 
Philadelphia (B+)
Pro Bowlers: 7 (t-14th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 45 (t-5th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-17th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 19 (t-9th)
Best Pick: DE Trent Cole (5th round, 2005)
Worst Pick: DE Jerome McDougle (1st round, 2003)
 
Summary: The Eagles didn't draft a bona fide star in the first round all decade, but they have had as many steals later in the draft as anybody. They also deserve a lot of credit for covering the running back position in glory for a full decade without a draftee in the top 50 (Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Correll Buckhalter).
 
THE SOLID STUDENTS
Carolina (B)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 47 (2nd)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 5 (t-2nd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 15 (t-20th)
Best Pick: WR Steve Smith (3rd round, 2001)
Worst Pick: RB Eric Shelton (2nd round, 2005)
 
Summary: The Panthers had as many good picks as any team in the 2000s ... so why did they manage to go under .500 for the decade? It probably has something to do with their five QB picks (Chris Weinke, Stefan Lefors, Randy Fasani, Tony Pike, Jimmy Clausen), none of whom were drafted above No. 48 and none of whom worked out. Cam Newton may or may not be the answer, but it's a step in the right direction.
 
Pittsburgh (B)
Pro Bowlers: 9 (t-4th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 35 (25th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 3 (t-13th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 18 (t-11th)
Best Pick: S Troy Polamalu (No. 16 overall, 2003)
Worst Pick: LB Alonzo Jackson (2nd round, 2006)
 
Summary: The Steelers had the best group of first-round picks in the decade, with two likely Hall of Famers (Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu) along with stars like Maurkice Pouncey, Santonio Holmes, Laurence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall, Heath Miller and Casey Hampton. They were also one of the least successful in rounds three through seven, interesting since they have such a sharp eye for top talent. 
 
Dallas (B)
Pro Bowlers: 10 (3rd)
Draftees Active in 2010: 42 (t-9th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 15 (t-20th)
Best Pick: TE Jason Witten (3rd round, 2003)
Worst Pick: LB Bobby Carpenter (No. 18 overall, 2006)
 
Summary: Jerry Jones doesn't lack an eye for talent, but he's always been short the one or two players needed to break through. Although the Cowboys had more pressing needs in the secondary in the 2011 draft, the selection of tackle Tryon Smith at No. 9 overall reflected a less obvious failure from the past decade of drafts: the Cowboys didn't draft a lineman in the first round in all of the 2000s, and only one of the 15 OLs they did pick made a Pro Bowl (Andre Gurode).
 
Green Bay (B)
Pro Bowlers: 6 (t-17th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 49 (1st)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-18th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 14 (t-24th)
Best Pick: QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 24 overall, 2005)
Worst Pick: DE Jamal Reynolds (No. 10 overall, 2001)
 
Summary:  This grade would be higher if we figured in all of the undrafted free agents the Packers have brought in – or the probable future success of their young core. But by the constraints of this study they're just solid. They didn't have great drafts at the beginning of the decade, and their good work at the end of the decade is just starting to pay off. If we do this same study in five years, the Packers will almost certainly move up the list – they have more draftees in the league as of 2010 than any other team. But for right now there's still some potential that needs to be tapped for the grade to be any higher.
 
Tennessee (B)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 46 (t-3rd)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 18 (t-11th)
Best Pick: CB Cortland Finnegan (7th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: CB Andre Woolfolk (No. 28 overall, 2003)
 
Summary: The Titans didn't draft that well at the beginning of the decade – only two players from their 2001-03 drafts were still active in 2010, which explains their lack of Career AV aggregators. But they had a series of hits the rest of the decade, one of the main reasons they stayed competitive despite hitting bottom with salary-cap issues in the mid 2000s following their Super Bowl run. Their biggest problem has been finding wide receivers – 38 touchdowns and no Pro Bowls from 17 WR draftees in the decade (three each in both 2005 and 2007, none of whom panned out). 
 
Chicago (B-)
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 38 (t-20th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 21 (t-4th)
Best Pick: LB Lance Briggs (3rd round, 2003)
Worst Pick: WR David Terrell (No. 8 overall, 2001)
 
Summary: The Bears have found a lot of later-round gems, but have really struggled to hit on their first-rounders. Only Tommie Harris was a true success, with Marc Colombo and Cedric Benson not finding their niches until the Bears gave up on them (apparently too early). The second round has been their forte (no pun intended), where they've gotten Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, Tank Johnson and Danieal Manning.
 
THE "C" STUDENTS
Jacksonville (C+)
Pro Bowlers: 6 (t-16th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 38 (t-20th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 5 (t-2nd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 20 (t-6th)
Best Pick: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (No. 60 overall, 2006)
Worst Pick: T Mike Pearson (2nd round, 2002)
 
Summary: The Jaguars drafted pretty well in the early part of the decade, and have uncovered more than their share of later-round standouts. This grade might go up a couple notches if their newest crop of draftees continues to develop. But they've had six top-10 picks in the decade, and only John Henderson has been an unqualified success – Byron Leftwich, Derrick Harvey and Reggie Williams were misses, and the jury is still out on tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu.
 
New York Jets (C+)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 31 (30th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 20 (t-6th)
Best Pick: C Nick Mangold (No. 29 overall, 2006)
Worst Pick: OLB Vernon Gholston (No. 6 overall, 2008)
 
Summary: Our formula was probably a little harsh to the Jets. They've drafted more than their share of high-end players, comparable to some of the top-graded teams on our list. But they also had more league-assigned draft power than those teams (sub-.500 record for the decade). And their decisions to trade up frequently over the years left them with just 62 picks in the decade, and of those half are out of the league – leaving them just 31 active players from 10 drafts. Because they've been so short on draftees, almost every pick makes the roster, which is perhaps one of the reasons the Jets are so reliant on signing veteran free agents. Bonus note: The Jets drafted only five interior offensive linemen in the decade, which is exceptionally low – good thing they drafted a possible Hall of Famer in Nick Mangold.
 
Arizona (C+)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 39 (t-17th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 5 (t-2nd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 17 (t-14th)
Best Pick: DL Darnell Dockett (3rd round, 2004)
Worst Pick: DL Wendell Bryant (No. 12 overall, 2002)
 
Summary: The Cardinals had some pretty good drafts in the decade, but they grade out at a C+ because, well, they should have been better. They had the sixth-worst record in the league in the 2000s, and thus had access to untold draft day riches. Their biggest problem was drafting for the offensive line – Arizona picked only 10 linemen, including high picks on Leonard Davis (didn't hit his stride until leaving) and Levi Brown (looking like a bust). Even in their good years, their offensive lines were subpar, and only the free agent pickup of Kurt Warner allowed them to get by the failed Matt Leinart era.
 
San Francisco (C+ )
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 45 (t-5th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 3 (t-13th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 19 (t-9th)
Best Pick: RB Frank Gore (3rd round, 2005)
Worst Pick: QB Alex Smith (No. 1 overall, 2005)
 
Summary: The pick of Smith alone is almost enough to keep the Niners from a B – they've done a nice job getting some good pieces to the puzzle over the decade, enough so that you'd think they would have broken through by now. But their lack of a quarterback has haunted them. The Niners had 13 No. 1 picks in the decade and still managed to accumulate 15 extra picks, so they certainly did a great job in that area. They've grabbed stars there in Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis, but it's the development of wideout Michael Crabtree and tackle Anthony Davis that will help determine their future grade. And if they ever finish that time machine, remember, set it for the spring of 2005 and choose Aaron Rodgers instead of Smith. He's better.
 
Seattle (C )
Pro Bowlers: 6 (t-16th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 45 (t-5th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-24th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 18 (t-11th)
Best Pick: LB Lofa Tatupu (No. 45 overall, 2006)
Worst Pick: DT Marcus Tubbs (No. 23 overall, 2004)
 
Summary: The Seahawks are good with quantity, not so much with quality. They drafted a lot of solid players, but only Steve Hutchinson can be considered a real star in the group. When the good-not-great Lofa Tatupu is your biggest steal – after a high-profile career at USC – you aren't exactly the next Indiana Jones. Their C grade is pretty well in keeping with their record for the decade, an averagetastic 83-77.
 
Buffalo (C )
Pro Bowlers: 6 (t-16th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 42 (t-9th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 3 (t-13th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 17 (t-14th)
Best Pick: DT Kyle Williams (5th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: LB Aaron Maybin (No. 11 overall, 2009)
 
Summary: The Bills had seven picks in the top 13 in the decade, none of which have turned out to be stars. Considering the extent to which they rely on the draft, they do very little draft-day maneuvering and choose instead to stay where they are and try to fill their needs. Judging by their year-in, year-out mediocrity, it's not working so great – which could be why they just fired lead scout Tom Modrak. The Bills have put some nice building blocks in place, but not much on top.
 
New Orleans (C )
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 30 (31st)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-17th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 15 (t-20th)
Best Pick: WR Marques Colston (7th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: DL Johnathan Sullivan (No. 6 overall, 2003)
 
Summary: No team can boast three better late-round picks in the decade than Colston, guard Carl Nicks (fifth round 2008) and guard Jahri Evans (fourth round 2006). That said, the Saints' excellence at developing undrafted free agents has meant a thin crop of draftees that stick – only 30 active in 2010, second-fewest in the league. The organization is obviously a strong one, but had Drew Brees gone to Miami instead of New Orleans in 2006 this team would probably still be locked in mediocrity.
 
ON DOUBLE SECRET ACADEMIC PROBATION
Cincinnati (C-)
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 38 (t-21st)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 15 (t-20th)
Best Pick: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (7th round, 2001)
Worst Pick: RB Kenny Irons (2nd round, 2007)
 
Summary: There are some pretty good names from the Bengals' drafts of the 2000s, enough of them to launch the league's annual laughingstock into contention for a high draft grade. Carson Palmer, Justin Smith, Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph are all Pro Bowl caliber, along with Chad Johnson. But there are also a lot of high-profile misses, of which No. 6 overall pick in 2009, 345-pound OT Andre Smith, appears to be one of the biggest (no pun intended). And despite more than 60 picks from the third round on, the Bengals have only uncovered a handful of good performers they're. All in all, considering how bad they were in the 1990s, the Bengals should be happy with a C- from the 2000s.
 
Houston (C-)
(Note: The Texans' numbers were pro-rated in the rankings because they had one fewer draft)
Pro Bowlers: 8 (t-6th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 39 (t-15th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 16 (t-16th)
Best Pick: TE Owen Daniels (4th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: QB David Carr (No. 1 overall, 2002)
 
Summary: Their most criticized pick has been one of their best – Mario Williams, instead of Reggie Bush or Vince Young back in 2006. Seems like a no-brainer in hindsight, but it wasn't then. They also got it right with Andre Johnson in 2003, picked right between busts Charles Rogers and Dewayne Robertson. But in general, they haven't done enough with their top draft picks, which is why they can't make the playoffs despite trading for Matt Schaub and uncovering the undrafted Arian Foster.
 
Minnesota (C-)
Pro Bowlers: 7 (t-14th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 32 (29th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-17th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 13 (t-27th)
Best Pick: DE Ray Edwards (4th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: WR Troy Williamson (No. 7 overall, 2005)
 
Summary: The Vikings are generally perceived as having a solid organization, but their draft record is shaky. Give them credit for adding a guy like Jared Allen on a draft-pick deal, and for nabbing top talents like Adrian Peterson, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin and Bryant McKinnie in the first round. But the numbers don't lie – they're average or below in just about all of the measurables we tracked here, and were extremely weak beyond the second round.
 
St. Louis (C-)
Pro Bowlers: 1 (t-31st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 42 (9th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 16 (t-17th)
Best Pick: RB Steven Jackson (No. 24 overall, 2004)
Worst Pick: DL Jimmy Kennedy (No. 12 overall, 2003)
 
Summary: If we gave this grade out three years ago, the Rams would have been an easy F. They didn't pick in the top two overall three years running by mistake – it was earned by some really poor drafts in the aftermath of the team's successful run of the late 1990s and early 2000s. While some teams like New England and Pittsburgh thrived at the bottom of the draft, the Rams didn't, and it eventually cost them. But Chris Long and Sam Bradford are looking like long-term answers at key spots, and the Rams almost made the playoffs with 10 members of their 2010 draft class seeing time. We'll give them a speculative passing grade because the potential is there, but they better keep hitting the books.
 
THE CLASS CLOWNS
Denver (D)
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 34 (26th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 14 (t-24th)
Best Pick: WR Brandon Marshall (4th round, 2006)
Worst Pick: DE Jarvis Moss (No. 17 overall, 2007)
 
Summary: Not only did Denver make very few good picks in the decade, many of their good ones are succeeding elsewhere (Peyton Hillis, Jay Cutler, Chris Myers, Brandon Marshall, Clinton Portis). Mike Shanahan was a hell of a coach in Denver, but he wasn't a great general manager – and shaky-looking drafts in the brief Josh McDaniels era didn't help much either.
 
Kansas City (D)
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 36 (t-24th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-17nd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 13 (t-27th)
Best Pick: DE Jared Allen (4th round, 2004)
Worst Pick: DE Tyson Jackson (No. 3 overall, 2009)
 
Summary: The Chiefs deserve a lot of credit for great drafts in 2008 and 2010, but Scott Pioli's good work doesn't undo what Carl Peterson did in the front half of the decade. The drafts from 2001-07 produced a very small handful of good contributors and a slew of busts, which clearly caught up to the Chiefs prior to Pioli's arrival.
 
Miami (D)
Pro Bowlers: 4 (t-27st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 39 (t-15th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 13 (t-27th)
Best Pick: S Yeremiah Bell (6th round, 2003)
Worst Pick: QB Pat White (2nd round, 2009)
 
Summary: They did well picking Jake Long No. 1 overall in 2008, and that's about the end of the good news for the Miami drafts of the 2000s. They drafted 27 players for the front seven, only one of whom has more than 10 career sacks (Matt Roth, who got most of them in Cleveland). Miami has done a pretty good job of instilling toughness in the trenches, but when you don't come up with talent on draft day it leads to the type of consistent mediocrity that haunts this franchise.
 
Cleveland (D)
Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 33 (28th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 17 (t-14th)
Best Pick: CB Anthony Henry (4th round, 2001)
Worst Pick: QB Brady Quinn (No. 22 overall, 2007)
 
Summary: The Browns drafted a few good players, but considering their draft power (59 wins in the decade, third least) they should be sitting on a dynasty. None of their picks from the 2001-06 first two rounds are still with the franchise, although Braylon Edwards, Kam Wimbley, Kellen Winslow and Brodney Pool were all contributors for better teams elsewhere. Add in the presence of the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North, and it's easy to see why the Browns are still two or three more good drafts away from being competitive.
 
Oakland (D)
Pro Bowlers: 4 (t-27st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 39 (t-15th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 1 (t-23rd)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 14 (t-24th)
Best Pick: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (No. 31 overall, 2002)
Worst Pick: QB JaMarcus Russell (No. 1 overall, 2007)
 
Summary: The only thing surprising about Oakland's drafts from the 2000s is that there are actually other teams that did worse. Like Cleveland and Kansas City, they drafted better in the tail end of the decade, but did so much damage earlier on that they're still digging out from under. Asomugha was their only strong player from the first half of the decade, and picks in later years that look like winners (Rolando McClain, Darren McFadden) have been neutralized by ones like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Russell.
 
THE DEAD-END GANG
Detroit (F)
Pro Bowlers: 4 (t-27th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 36 (t-23rd)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 2 (t-17th)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 12 (31st)
Best Pick: DT Shaun Rogers (No. 61 overall, 2001)
Worst Pick: WR Charles Rogers (No. 2 overall, 2003)
 
Summary: Congratulations, Lions! You flunked the decade, but you're not dead last on our list. They had eight picks in the top 10 overall, most of any team, and whiffed badly on half of them (Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, Mike Williams and Ernie Sims). Taking Rogers No. 2 in 2003 a pick ahead of Andre Johnson goes down as one of the worst decisions in NFL history – imagine the Colts taking Ryan Leaf and passing on Peyton Manning and you're in the ballpark of how bad that was. We're fairly high on Detroit's future these days, though, on the strength of drafting Ndamukong Suh, Gosder Cherilus, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the last four first rounds. That said, when you're drafting at 2, 1 and 2 overall, it's not exactly rocket science to pick winners (unless you're Matt Millen).
 
Tampa Bay (F)
Pro Bowlers: 1 (t-31st)
Draftees Active in 2010: 34 (t-26th)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 0 (t-31st)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 13 (t-27th)
Best Pick: QB Josh Freeman (No. 17 overall, 2009)
Worst Pick: T Kenyatta Walker (No. 14 overall, 2001)
 
Summary: The Bucs' complete ineptitude on draft day has flown under the radar, but it's pretty shocking when you really look at what they did. Their only Pro Bowl draftee was guard Davin Joseph in 2008, and they didn't have a single player that really produced from the first half of the 2000s – linebacker Barrett Ruud was their top scorer in Approximate Value, and he's not exactly burning up the league. Despite it all, they were 79-81 for the decade – a tribute to three strong coaches in Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris.
 
Washington (F)
Pro Bowlers: 3 (29th)
Draftees Active in 2010: 26 (32nd)
Players with 50+ Career AV: 0 (t-31st)
Players with 20+ Career AV: 11 (32nd)
Best Pick: TE Chris Cooley (3rd round, 2004)
Worst Pick: WR Malcolm Kelly (2nd round, 2007)
 
Summary: Congratulations, Dan Snyder. You're the only constant in a franchise that has been absolutely terrible in all of their different war rooms of the 2000s. The Redskins, far and away, have got less out of their drafts than any other team – in fact, they might have done better in the 1970s when they were trading away all of their top picks for veterans every year.  It's not that they've drafted acres of busts, like Detroit or Oakland, it's that they've traded up a lot, failed to get big hits, lost out on volume, and left themselves needing to overpay for underachievers in free agency. The Redskins had only 21 picks in the first three rounds, fewest in the decade, and missed on more than half. They're the poster boys for why trading up doesn't work – and this year, they finally figured it out, adding extra picks and moving down a lot. Maybe the 2010s will be theirs.
 
It's gotta be better than the 2000s, when Washington sat all alone at the back of the NFL draft class.

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