Denver Broncos' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade
Every year, every NFL franchise enters the draft with high hopes. Every team has aspirations to find a franchise player such as a Peyton Manning.
Unfortunately, while some teams do find their franchise players through the draft, many teams also find players who don't come close to living up to their expectations.
The Broncos have had their share of ups and downs through the NFL draft over the past decade. While great players have been found, many "busts" have also been found along the way.
Here are the Broncos' best and worst picks from 2004-2013.
DE Elvis Dumervil: Round 4, Pick 126 in 2006
As far as value picks are concerned, the fourth-round selection of Elvis Dumervil in the 2006 NFL draft may be the best pick the Broncos have made over the past 10 years.
In seven seasons with the team, Dumervil racked up 63.5 sacks, including a 17-sack season in 2009 that led the entire NFL. Dumervil was named a first-team All-Pro in 2009 and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times while a member of the Broncos.
Though Dumervil stands at just 5'11", his skills as a pass-rusher have been dominant ever since he was a star at the University of Louisville. In his senior season at Louisville in 2005, Dumervil broke the NCAA single-game sack record when he posted six sacks versus the Kentucky Wildcats.
As far as draft picks on defense are concerned, this was one of former head coach Mike Shanahan's best picks in his 14-season tenure with the team.
DE Elvis Dumervil: Fourth-Best Pick Since 2004
TE Richard Quinn: Round 2, Pick 64 in 2009
Richard Quinn was a member of one of the worst draft classes in Broncos franchise history—Josh McDaniels' 2009 draft class.
In McDaniels' first draft class as head coach of the Broncos, he drafted three guys who were flat-out busts in the second round—tight end Richard Quinn, safety Darcel McBath and another player to be named later on in this list.
McDaniels drafted Quinn with a second-round draft pick so he could be an extra blocker.
Yes, you read that right. McDaniels drafted Quinn so he could be an extra offensive lineman in the Broncos offense.
Quinn played at North Carolina, and in three seasons with the Tar Heels, he made a total of 12 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
In two seasons with the Broncos, Quinn played 29 games and started four of them, where he made a total of one reception for nine yards.
Yes, one gets the notion that Quinn is on the team for blocking reasons, but if you hope to excel at the professional level, you're going to have to learn how to develop versatility and contribute in both the blocking game and the receiving game.
After McDaniels was fired, new head coach John Fox released Quinn with an injury settlement in August 2011.
The pick made little sense in 2009, and five years later, it makes even less sense.
TE Richard Quinn: Fourth-Worst Pick Since 2004
OT Ryan Clady: Round 1, Pick 12 in 2008
Mike Shanahan's last great draft selection as head coach of the Broncos was none other than tackle Ryan Clady.
Though Clady missed almost the entire 2013 season with a Lisfranc injury, he has been one of the most consistent and durable Broncos since debuting with the team in 2008.
In Clady's rookie season of 2008, the offensive tackle gave up less than a sack on the quarterback and was named to the All-Pro Second Team. He was the only starting offensive lineman to give up less than a sack on the season.
It is worth adding that in 2008, quarterback Jay Cutler threw the football 616 times. That was the second-most of any quarterback that season and the 23rd-highest mark of all time.
Since that season, Clady has been named to the Pro Bowl three times and has been named to the All-Pro First Team on two occasions.
In 2013, Clady signed a five-year deal with the Broncos. Clady will return from injury in 2014 to protect QB Peyton Manning's blind side.
OT Ryan Clady: Third-Best Pick Since 2004
CB Alphonso Smith: Round 2, Pick 37 in 2009
The other member of Josh McDaniel's 2009 draft class is none other than cornerback Alphonso Smith.
Smith was a highly touted second-round pick who was expected to become the starting cornerback opposite of Champ Bailey that the Broncos had been looking for for years.
Instead, Smith lasted just one season with the team, where he played 15 games, starting zero of them, and made 14 tackles, with three pass deflections and zero interceptions.
The second-round draft pick fell so quickly out of favor in Denver that McDaniels—the guy who drafted Smith—traded him to the Detroit Lions in 2010 for tight end Dan Gronkowski.
The Broncos traded a first-round draft selection in 2010 in order to select Smith in 2009. That pick was used by the Seattle Seahawks to select eventual Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas.
Picks such as this one and the Richard Quinn selection set back the Broncos a couple of years. McDaniels wound up being fired by the Broncos before the 2010 season came to a close.
Smith would end up playing three years with the Lions. He has been a free agent since 2013.
CB Alphonso Smith: Third-Worst Pick Since 2004
WR Demaryius Thomas: Round 1, Pick 22 in 2010
Though 2009 was a complete disaster of a draft for Josh McDaniels, 2010 was a better one.
McDaniels did have a hiccup with the selection of quarterback Tim Tebow with the 25th overall selection, but he drafted two receivers who would end up leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl just three years later—Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Thomas was selected in the first round with the 22nd overall selection. Although the selections of Thomas and Decker didn't pay immediate dividends, as both receivers struggled through injuries during their rookie seasons, Thomas started to flash his potential late in the 2011 season.
With Tebow at quarterback, Thomas managed to emerge as one of the better receivers in the NFL. Over the last five weeks of the season, Thomas caught 25 passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns.
In the Broncos' upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round of the 2012 NFL playoffs, Thomas caught four passes for 204 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Since then, Thomas has cemented himself as one of the game's premier receivers with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and was named a second-team All-Pro following the 2013 season.
In Super Bowl XLVIII, Thomas established a Super Bowl single-game record with 13 receptions.
Thomas will return as the Broncos' No. 1 receiver in 2014.
WR Demaryius Thomas: Second-Best Pick Since 2004
DE Jarvis Moss: Round 1, Pick 17 in 2007
This was one of those Mike Shanahan drafts that did absolutely nothing for the team except hamper it.
If one has to wonder why the Broncos faltered so much down the stretch late in the regular season, maybe it pertained to the team's lack of depth due to bad selections such as this one.
In 2007, the Broncos drafted defensive end Jarvis Moss out of the University of Florida with the 17th overall selection.
In four injury-plagued and unproductive seasons with the franchise, Moss played a total of 34 games, made a total of 29 tackles and racked up 3.5 sacks. He started just one game with the Broncos, although he was supposed to be the team's franchise defensive end over the next decade.
Midway through the 2010 season, the team released Moss. He would end up signing with the Oakland Raiders, where he played out the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He racked up 2.5 sacks in 19 games with the team.
Moss has been out of football over the past two seasons. This is the perfect example of a guy with freakish size at 6'7" who had a great performance in the national championship game (two sacks) in his final season at Florida. Because of his size and a few great performances in big games, Moss was overrated entering the draft.
DE Jarvis Moss: Second-Worst Pick Since 2004
LB Von Miller: Round 1, Pick 2 Overall in 2011
Von Miller may have played only three seasons thus far into his Broncos career, but there is little doubt that he is one of the Broncos' best selections in recent memory.
Miller entered a franchise that was coming off a 4-12 season in 2010. He is one of the main reasons why the Broncos have rebounded since then, resulting in three straight AFC West division titles.
Miller was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011, has been named to the All-Pro team twice and was selected to the Pro Bowl on two occasions.
In 2012, Miller established himself as one of the game's best playmakers on defense when he racked up 18.5 sacks. This broke the previous Broncos franchise record of 17 set by Elvis Dumervil in 2009. Miller finished second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Miller was slowed down by a six-game suspension to start out the 2013 season and an eventual ACL tear in December resulted in him missing the Broncos' entire playoff run.
In spite of this, Miller has been the Broncos' best pick since 2004 and will look to rebound in 2014 as the Broncos look to win a championship.
LB Von Miller: Best Overall Pick Since 2004
RB Maurice Clarett: Round 3, Pick 101 in 2005
It's not that the Maurice Clarett selection is the worst selection for the Broncos over the past 10 seasons. It's that it's one of the worst draft picks in NFL history.
Long story short, Clarett established himself as one of college football's best players in his freshman season of 2002 at Ohio State. Clarett led the Buckeyes to a national championship game victory and decided that he was ready for the NFL following OSU suspending him for the 2003 season.
Clarett was eventually dismissed from OSU, where he then attempted to declare for the 2004 NFL draft. The issue was, Clarett had spent only two years out of high school—NFL rules require a player to have spent at least three years out of high school before declaring for the draft.
Clarett failed in his attempt to enter the 2004 draft, so he had to wait for the 2005 draft before he could become eligible.
For those who are counting, by the time the Broncos drafted Clarett in 2005, he had gone two-and-a-half years without playing any football.
Not a single draft expert projected Clarett to be drafted in the first three rounds. Back in 2005, the first three rounds were done in a single day. The Broncos held the final pick of the day with the 101st overall pick.
Head coach Mike Shanahan had developed a reputation as a guy who could mold a 1,000-yard rusher out of anybody. Up until that point, Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis and Reuben Droughns had all rushed for 1,000-yard single seasons under the coaching of Shanahan.
With the exception of Portis, all running backs were either late-round draft picks or little-known free agents signed by the Broncos.
There is no reasonable explanation for this pick other than Shanahan's ego. It was once believed that anybody could run for 1,000 yards behind the Broncos offensive line, and there is little doubt that this fueled Shanahan's ego.
What this also fueled was the selection of Clarett. If anybody could run for 1,000 yards in Shanahan's system, that would mean Clarett could too, right?
Clarett didn't play a single game for the Broncos. That includes the preseason. Clarett played zero actual games for the franchise.
He was slow to recover from an injury and showed up to training camp weighing 248 pounds. Upon being released on waivers in 2005, no NFL team expressed interest in signing him.
This selection was not only the worst over the past 10 years for the Broncos, but also the worst in franchise history.
RB Maurice Clarett: Worst Draft Pick Since 2004