With the Denver Broncos playing for a top-five, possibly top-three, draft choice over the last three weeks of the season, this only serves as a reminder of how bare the cupboard has been recently. While we can look back for the entire decade to determine how well the Broncos have or have not drafted, the 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts serve as a good indicator for a franchise in flux.
1st Round: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
2nd Round: Eddie Royal, WR, Virginia Tech
4th Round: Kory Lichtensteiger, C, Bowling Green
4th Round: Jack Williams, CB, Kent State
5th Round: Ryan Torain, RB, Arizona State
5th Round: Carlton Powell, DT, Virginia Tech
6th Round: Spencer Larsen, ILB, Arizona
7th Round: Josh Barrett, S, Arizona State
7th Round: Peyton Hillis, FB, Arkansas
This turned out to be Mike Shanahan's last draft as the Denver Broncos' head coach.
Ryan Clady has turned into a mainstay on the Denver Broncos' offensive line, starting every game the Broncos have played during the regular season since 2008 (45). A torn patella tendon in April put that all in jeopardy, but Clady came back earlier than expected. He was 2009 Pro Bowl selection.
Eddie Royal electrified the Broncos in his rookie season, finishing second behind Brandon Marshall in catches (91) and receiving yards (980). But Royal failed to follow that up in 2009, as Josh McDaniels was unsure on how to use him. He moved to the slot position this season and has put up decent numbers (57 rec, 605 yards, 3 TD) in a receiving corps dominated by Brandon Lloyd.
Kory Lichtensteiger worked well when the Broncos ran a zone-blocking scheme for its running game, but when Josh McDaniels came, Lichtensteiger was a bit small for a center to work in the new system. He moved to the Vikings in 2009, and is now with Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins.
Jack Williams spent a season and a half with the Broncos before being cut in November 2009. He joined the Lions shortly thereafter and then tore his ACL. He has yet to resume play. Ryan Torain spent a season with the Broncos, missed all of 2009 and is now with the Washington Redskins. He just rushed for 173 yards last weekend.
Peyton Hillis was traded to the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn back in March. Quinn has yet to play for the Broncos, while Hillis just surpassed the 1,000 yard mark.
1st Round: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
1st Round: Robert Ayers, LB, Tennessee
2nd Round: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
2nd Round: Darcel McBath, S, Texas Tech
2nd Round: Richard Quinn, TE, North Carolina
4th Round: David Bruton, S, Notre Dame
4th Round: Seth Olsen, OT, Iowa
5th Round: Kenny McKinley, WR, South Carolina
6th Round: Tom Brandstater, QB, Fresno State
7th Round: Blake Schlueter, C, TCU
Under new management, the Denver Broncos saw Josh McDaniels put his touch on the NFL Draft.
Knowshon Moreno has collected over 1,000 total yards from the line of scrimmage in his first two years and could surpass 1,000 yards on the ground with a strong finish over the last three games of the season. Robert Ayers struggled in his transition to the NFL, but he has shown improvement in his second season. A broken foot kept him out of five games this season.
Josh McDaniels traded a 2010 1st round draft choice to move up in the second round to select Alphonso Smith. Smith never lived up to the expectations placed on him and was traded to the Detroit Lions for TE Dan Gronkowski before the start of the 2010 season.
Sadly, Kenny McKinley committed suicide during the 2010 season, suffering depression and financial issues during the lead up.
1st Round: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
1st Round: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
2nd Round: Zane Beadles, G, Utah
3rd Round: J.D. Walton, C, Baylor
3rd Round: Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota
5th Round: Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State
6th Round: Eric Olsen, C, Notre Dame
7th Round: Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California
7th Round: Jammie Kirlew, DE, Indiana
We still have a long way to go to determine how well this draft worked for the Broncos, but it will forever be known as the "Tebow Draft." McDaniels gave up a second, third and fourth round pick to select the quarterback--and then he never gave any meaningful playing time to Tebow before being fired. Demaryius Thomas' rookie season has experienced setbacks due to injuries, but Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton have been solid starters as rookies. Perrish Cox has been charged with sexual assault.
Where will the Denver Broncos look come April? Obviously, that all depends on who becomes the new head coach and the new general managers. However, it is quite clear that there are two areas of need. The first is at cornerback. Champ Bailey's impending departure appears to grow more certain with each passing day, which would leave a gaping hole in the secondary. This year, the cornerback class is strong, and the Broncos could have a chance to select LSU' Patrick Peterson or Nebraska's Prince Amukamara should both declare for the draft.
The Broncos could also use help on the defensive line, as the rush defense is 31st overall. In SB Nation's NFL mock draft from a few weeks ago, several defensive linemen went early: Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, Auburn DT Nick Fairley, Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers and North Carolina DE Robert Quinn.
The Denver Broncos shouldn't have a pick this high very often, so it would behoove them to make a wise choice in April.