It depends where they were drafted. If a 7th rounder doesn't end up being a pro bowler, that doesn't mean it's a bad pick; but if a 1st rounder isn't at or close to a pro bowl player, then it could be a FAIL pick. You would expect Hood and Heyward to be very good players, at least, at this point; I have not heard anyone agree that they are good players. Most say they get pushed around and make no real difference in games. That is not what I'd expect from first round DE picks. If they were nothing more than ham and eggers for this D, so be it. But you shouldn't need to use first round draft picks for pluggers.
So what is a reasonable definition of "quality" or "pretty good" player? A player that is a starter for a playoff caliber team? A player that regularly performs up to expectations relative to draft position? Is a fifth through seventh round pick that makes the roster quality? What if he actually starts and plays well -- does that earn extra credit?
If there were signs that the player had injury histories you could.
And what about players that were otherwise playing well but who were stricken with injuries? Is that reasonably something you can pin on the GM?
OK, so show me all the players drafted in this era who left to star on another team. I will wait for you to get back to me on that one.
And what about players who contributed while here but took advantage of free agency to leave? The GM can't force a player to accept a contract, right?
Sure, go ahead and list those for me as well.
And do we give credit for finding quality undrafted free agents?
You are listing a punter taken in the 4th round, who never was that good, as a good draft pick? If you are going to take a punter that high, he better be a pro bowler. Most punters (even some of the best) go undrafted. If you are going to take one with a 4th round pick, he better be awesome for 12 years.
2007 --- Lawrence Timmons, Lamar Woodley, Daniel Sepulveda
Well, at least you are being reasonable. And although Mundy "lasted" I can't allow myself to point to him as a good pick, because when he finally did make the field, he was just terrible. And with Mendenhall, he a middle, first round pick. I would honestly say a back taken that high should be better than what we got. The only reason he lasted as our starter for as long as he did was because the team was slow to admit he was a bust. Had he been a middle round draft pick, he would have lost his starting job. Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Matt Forte were taken after him, and I would much prefer we drafted one of those guys.
2008 --- the entire draft now looks like it was a disaster, I will give you this one. But the team did get three solid seasons from Mendenhall. And Mundy lasted a lot longer than most teams 7th round picks. Most people were when Sweed dropped to us in Rd 2. Who could have predicted his problems would be mental rather than injury related.
Are you really going to tell me you think Hood ended up being worthy of his spot? Urbik was cut the very next season; that is not a successful 2nd round pick. I will give you Wallace and Lewis, although they took too damn long to get him productive on the field, per usual, with Tricky Dick's brain surgery schemes.
2009 --- Ziggy Hood, Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis; everyone from the 5th round on was a bust
I will give you Pouncy, Sanders, Brown. Dwyer not too bad for how late he was taken. Heyward? No way can he be considered a solid pick at this point, nor can Gilbert and definitely not Brown or Carter. Brown is horrible - he can be burned deep all day long. Carter offers nothing.
2010 --- Maurkice Pouncey, Manny Sanders, Jonathan Dwyer, Antonio Brown, possibly Worilds
2011 --- Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen, possibly Curtis Brown, possibly Chris Carter
Let's just agree to disagree. I no way consider many of the picks you posted as solid players. If Curtis Brown and Chris Carter are good picks, then I am also an NFL caliber player. If our draft classes were as decent as you seem to think, I wonder why we are now staring into the abyss, as far as how untalented this team is becoming. And as I already said, the excuse of picking near the end of the draft is not a iron clad argument. It DOES impact a draft quality some, but with 7 picks, there can be no excuse as to most of a draft class offering any good talent, as the 2008 draft provided. If having higher draft picks was guaranteed success in drafting, the Browns wouldn't have endless horrid drafts as they pick in the top 1-5 virtually every year since 1999. Pgh should have got more decent players since Tomlin era than they have. And it is becoming increasingly obvious that they have been drafting poorly for 5 years at least.
From 2007 - 2011, I'm seeing 18 names on that list. You can argue that some of those guys aren't what you consider quality, but most of the ones I've listed are either starting material or have been playing behind an entrenched starter and not given much opportunity so we don't really know yet what they can do if given an opportunity as a 10-12 game starter. You toss out the ones that have left --- Mendenhall, Wallace, Lewis, Sepulveda, Mundy --- that's still 13. Add in Isaac Redman and Ramon Foster, punter Drew Butler, Steve McClendon, Robert Golden --- they have done a decent job stocking this roster with players considering that (1) they have regularly been hamstrung with a tight cap because they somehow managed to keep the bulk of the SuperBowl XL defense --- and Roethlisberger --- together with expensive long term deals that kept them in contention long enough to win one more SB and make it to another (look at what happened to Baltimore's roster this offseason after ONE SuperBowl) and (2) due to that success, they are frequently picking at the bottom of the round in each draft.