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Tom Nalen deserves the nod eventually. (Denver Post)

Diamonds in the Mile High Rough

So here we are talking about April’s upcoming NFL draft and agonizing over who the Broncos will take with the No. 2 overall pick. Heck, we’re even struggling with whether or not we want our Broncos to trade the pick and bump our number of overall picks up from 6 to 8 or even to 9. Trust me, as a guy who has predominantly orange blood coursing through his veins, I get agita (it’s Italian for any stomach ailment with which one might be afflicted) just thinking about what the Johns are going to do at No. 2.

Let us think a little unconventionally, though. I read Jim Saccomano’s blog on from last Thursday, February 17th entitled “Late Selections as Vital as Early Ones” and he sheds some light on a few great examples of all-time great Broncos either selected in the late rounds or were free-agent rookie signings.  Mentioned in the blog are the great late round picks such as:

Karl Mecklenberg (13 RD in 1983) – A multiple time pro-bowler, Mecklenberg played all positions in the front-seven. He led the Broncos defense to three Super Bowls and is a distinguished member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. IMHO, Mecklenberg should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Tyrone Braxton (who was almost “Mr. Irrelevant” in the 1987 draft, 334th overall) – “Chick” was a Pro-Bowler in 1996 and was part of four Super Bowls. In 1996, he picked off 9 passes.

Tom Nalen (218th overall in 1994) – Nalen is a guy who has garnered serious consideration for Canton when he becomes eligible. He was the anchor on arguably the best offensive line in the NFL from 1995 to 2002. A 5-time Pro Bolwer, Nalen amassed 188 starts in 194 games and, of course, 2 Super Bowl rings.

Willie Brown (undrafted in 1963) – Brown led the AFL in interceptions in 1964 as a Bronco and was then traded to the enemy (Oakland) in 1966 and became a Hall of Famer. Emblazoned in the memory of many of us old enough to remember was that great image (thanks to NFL Films) of Willie returning a Fran Tarkington interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XI.

Rod Smith (undrafted 1994) – Rod was one of the best wide receivers in the game during his tenure in Denver not to mention one of the greatest leaders – on and off the field – that the Broncos ever had. He retired with career numbers of 849 receptions, 11,389 yards, and 70 touchdowns - the best statistics ever by an undrafted WR. Smith also went to three Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls.

There are countless other Broncos who were either drafted in late rounds or completely un-drafted who turned out to be integral parts of a great deal of success in the history of Denver Broncos football. So before we reach for the Mylanta in advance of the 2011 NFL Draft, keep in mind that the activity in the days following the draft will be just as important to the restoration of Broncos greatness. Either way, the Broncos front office have their work cut out for them.

Keep the faith!

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Tags: Denver Broncos Draft Fran Tarkington Karl Mecklenberg Rod Smith Tom Nalen Tyrone Braxton Willie Brown

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