Posted: Wednesday April 20, 2005 3:48PM; Updated: Wednesday April 20, 2005 5:31PM
AFC North Five-Year Draft Grades
The Ravens have been the NFL's gold standard on draft day, consistently making choices that stand the test of time. Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs were first-round gems and Kyle Boller is entering his put-up-or-shut-up season. Receiver Travis Taylor (1st, 2000) is the one glaring miss at the top, and there have been mid-to-late-draft finds such as Adalius Thomas (6th, 2000), Edgerton Hartwell (4th, 2001) and Chester Taylor (6th, 2002).
All but three of Marvin Lewis's 20 draft picks in 2003-2004 are still on the team, which says something about his approach to roster-building. The Bengals haven't gotten anything yet out of running back Chris Perry (1st, 2004), but quarterback Carson Palmer (1st, 2003) and left offensive tackle Levi Jones (1st, 2002) are looking like the right choices. The 2001 draft was great, bringing Justin Smith and Chad Johnson at the top and Rudi Johnson in the fourth round.
Cleveland has had opposite fortunes of Baltimore. Courtney Brown (1st, 2000) has been released, Gerard Warren (1st, 2001) traded and William Green (1st, 2002) is on the block after losing his starting job. If tight end Kellen Winslow and safety Sean Jones get healthy and contribute this season, the 2004 class might be a starting point. Other than a few hits like Anthony Henry (4th, 2001) and Lee Suggs (4th, 2003), the Browns have the NFL's worst draft record.
We could give the Steelers flying colors for last year's selection of Ben Roethlisberger alone. But that's not the whole story. Safety Troy Polamalu (1st, 2003) has developed into a playmaker, guard Kendall Simmons (1st, 2002) missed last year with an injury but has been a starter since arriving, and the team got some production out of receiver Plaxico Burress (1st, 2000). Mid-draft picks such as Clark Haggans (5th, 2000), Chris Hope (3rd, 2002) and Larry Foote (4th, 2002) also have worked out.