Editor's note: Anyone in the NFL will tell you it takes three years to judge a draft. With that in mind, we asked analyst Bucky Brooks to take a look at how every NFL team fared over the last three years. In the third of a four-day series, he examines the AFC and NFC North divisions:
Analysis: The Ravens are superb at working their draft board, and their willingness to consistently take the "best available player" in all situations has yielded impressive results throughout the years. The Ravens rarely make mistakes with their early selections, and are one of the best franchises at identifying players that are ideal fits in their respective schemes. With a disciplined approach to drafting, the Ravens have been able to unearth gems in all rounds. Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Le'Ron McClain and Michael Oher are a few of the young players that made immediate contributions to the team. Given their consistency and production, the Ravens' recent draft classes have been superior in every category.
Analysis: The Bengals have become relevant again in the AFC North due to the solid play of their young players. Hall, Rivers and Maualuga have shown immense potential at their respective positions, and their emergence has shed light on the burgeoning talent the team has assembled through the draft. While the failures of Simpson and Irons has diminished the team's returns on its early-round picks, the promising starts of Michael Johnson, Bernard Scott and Andre Caldwell could eventually balance out those disappointments.
Analysis: The Steelers have excelled at drafting players that are outstanding fits in their system. In addition, the team does a very good job of grooming its young players for key roles in the early stages of their careers. Woodley, Mendenhall and Timmons all had tremendous success in their second seasons, and their rapid development allowed the team to maintain its high level of play while phasing out older players. Several teams attempt to adhere to this philosophy, but few do it as well as the Steelers. Given the importance that solid drafting has on this approach, the Steelers deserve high marks for their ability to pluck talent at all stages of the draft.
Analysis: The Browns' constant front office turnover has led to numerous mistakes in their personnel department. The shift in philosophies has resulted in the team's roster having players not suited to play in its scheme. Quinn's woeful tenure with the team is an ideal case study of the misfit between player and system. Quinn was drafted to be the franchise quarterback of the future, but never got a legitimate chance to settle in to his role after Eric Mangini took over as the head coach. In addition to the Quinn failure, the Browns have appeared to be a rudderless ship on draft day with their constant movement up and down the board without rhyme or reason. Though Cleveland successfully plucked Thomas and Wright in the early rounds, its roster's lack of depth and production is a result of a poor draft history.