Coming into the 2011 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos were in full-blown rebuilding mode. The McDaniels experiment had a devastating effect on the state of the legendary franchise. It was up to John Elway, John Fox, and Brian Xanders to restore the franchise to its glory days. Their first test was the 2011 NFL draft.
Let's take a look at how they fared in their first draft.
Many analysts and fans alike were critical of the Von Miller pick when he was first selected. It was the general consensus that Von Miller was better suited as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 OLB. EFX obviously knew something that many "experts" didn't.
Quite simply, Von Miller was unblockable until his thumb injury this year. Through 10 games he was on pace to break the rookie sack record and was drawing comparisons to his hero, the late Derrick Thomas. Despite the torn ligaments in his thumb, Miller showed extreme toughness by only missing one game.
Von looks to be the anchor of the Denver Broncos defense for years to come and is extremely versatile. If he continues to produce in the way he has this season the Broncos have a perennial pro-bowler on their hands.
Draft Grade: A
This image pretty much sums up Rahim Moore's first season. He showed promise in the preseason and many Broncos fans had high hopes for this young, talented player. As the regular season rolled around Moore seemed confused and even lost in coverage sometimes.
Poor tackling also plagued Moore during his rookie season. He was eventually benched in favor of Quinton Carter. After Brian Dawkins went down with a neck injury, many fans expected to see Moore and hoped that his play had progressed enough to contribute to the team.
Instead, David Bruton was called upon to fill the role, while Rahim Moore was left to the special teams unit.
When making a second round draft pick, a team isn't usually looking for just a special teams contributor. Moore still has potential and will benefit from a full offseason. Nevertheless, Moore lacked production this year and did not live up to his draft position.
Draft Grade: D+
Orlando Franklin proved to be one of the more valuable selections in the 2011 draft. The massive right tackle out of the University of Miami was well known for his powerful run blocking and for playing with a mean streak.
Little did we know that this selection would end up being the man responsible for protecting Tim Tebow's blindside.
At 6'7" and 315 pounds, it was evident that Franklin had the size to be a solid starting right tackle in the NFL. There were questions surrounding his footwork and his ability to protect the passer. In the preseason and early on in the regular season Franklin appeared lost at times in pass protection.
As the season progressed Orlando made significant strides in pass protection and played a large role in the Denver Broncos' first-ranked rushing attack.
Franklin was one of the more valuable picks made by the Broncos in the 2011 draft. His progression throughout the year lead some to believe that the Broncos have a pair of bookend tackles between Franklin and Ryan Clady.
Draft Grade: B+
Nate Irving was quite the disappointment for the Denver Broncos this season. Coming out of the draft, Irving was praised by Elway and Fox and was expected to push Joe Mays for a starting spot at the linebacker position. Irving's lack of an offseason was clearly detrimental to his development and his play suffered as a result.
Mays would eventually beat out Irving for a starting spot on the defense. Irving was demoted to primarily special teams play. His four tackles is not something you would look for from a third round pick. Irving flashed potential at times but never enough to convince the Broncos faithful that he will be a legitimate contributor in the years to come.
Draft Grade: D
This would be one of two times that the Denver Broncos decided to double dip at a single position during the 2011 draft. Despite selecting Rahim Moore in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, the Denver Broncos decided to take Quinton Carter here in the 4th round. Little did they know that Carter would end up being a more valuable asset to the team than Moore.
Carter performed well throughout the season, providing depth at the safety position. After Brian Dawkins went down with an injury in the second half of the season, Carter was called upon to fill the role. He played well for a rookie and seemed increasingly comfortable the more playing time he received.
In the playoffs, Carter came up big with two interceptions (one against the Steelers and one against the Patriots). Expect Carter to earn more playing time over the next couple of years. This was a great value pick for EFX.
Draft Grade: A-
There are definitely mixed feelings about this pick amongst Broncos nation. When Julius Thomas was selected here in the 5th round there was some buzz surrounding him. Many fans were optimistic that they finally found a tight end of the Antonio Gates caliber.
The fact that he was a basketball player turned tight end automatically brought the comparisons between other tight ends such as Gates and Jimmy Graham.
Julius Thomas had a very strong preseason, and many rumors around the Denver Broncos camp suggested that Thomas was moving up the depth chart and could receive significant playing time during the season.
Unfortunately Thomas sustained an ankle injury early in the season that seemed to hamper him for the rest of the year.
All in all, Thomas was ineffective on the stat sheet (one reception and five yards) but there is definitely potential there. It is too early to assign a grade to this pick due to Thomas' untapped potential. Broncos nation should have a better feel on Thomas' abilities after next season.
Draft Grade: To Be Determined
Generally it is hard to assess a grade to players that are drafted in the later rounds of the draft due to the low expectation coming into the league. Mohamed struggled more than most people expected throughout the season. He was mostly a special teams player this year. Even with low expectations, though, Mohamed's performance seemed lacking.
Mohamed only appeared in two games all season and recorded a grand total of zero tackles. Mohamed has the potential to stay in the league but as nothing more than a special teams player.
This was one of the more disappointing picks of the Broncos draft.
Draft Grade: F
The first word that comes to mind when evaluating Virgil Green this year is "overachiever." Green was a steal here in the seventh round of the draft.
To many fans, it is a shock that Green fell this far in the draft, but his size limitations (6'2" 250 lbs) and his role in the Pistol offense in college were factors in his draft position.
Looking exclusively at the stat sheet, Green left something to be desired out on the field (three receptions, twenty-four yards) but appeared in 15 games and performed relatively well. My favorite characteristic of Virgil Green is his willingness to block and his ability to perform on special teams.
In the NFL today you can't win without players who provide depth and are willing to contribute to the team in any way possible. These players are even more valuable when found in the late rounds of the draft. Green was a receiver in high school and has the potential to improve his ability to catch the ball in years to come.
Draft Grade: B+
Jeremy Beal was an interesting selection in the late rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. At the beginning of the year he was projected to be a second or third round pick due to his elite production playing at Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, though, Beal's game doesn't quite translate to the NFL level.
Beal is an undersized defensive end and lacks the athletic ability to stand up and play as a linebacker. Beal was assigned to the practice squad after the preseason and will fight for a roster spot in upcoming years. This pick wasn't a complete loss, though, due to the round that he was picked in.
Draft Grade: C-
Chris Harris is a diamond in the rough, plain and simple. He broke the starting line up in week 6 against the Miami Dolphins, the same week in which Tim Tebow took over as the starting quarterback. Harris mostly played on the nickleback position this year but covered elite pass catchers such as Wes Welker and Antonio Gates.
Harris produced more tackles in his rookie season that first round pick Patrick Peterson and was a crucial part of Denver's 7-4 finish. In the upcoming years, Broncos fans can expect to see Harris' role expand as he has the ability to play on the outside as well.
This signing has to be the best undrafted free agent signing of the year. Harris looks to be a valuable piece of the Denver Broncos' franchise. Expect big things out of this young defensive back.
Draft Grade: A+
You can also find our exclusive interview with Chris Harris here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1042045-chris-harris-interview-denver-broncos-star-udfa-talks-rookie-season
As the old adage goes, dynasties are built through the draft. The Denver Broncos 2011 NFL draft was a little hit-or-miss.
Nevertheless they are headed in the right direction. The EFX regime seems to have the right idea, and fans should expect them to build upon this success.
Even some of the miss selections in this past year's draft have potential. Players should benefit from having their first real offseason to prepare.
Final Draft Grade: B+