The wait is finally over. The much anticipated 2012 NFL Draft begins this Thursday night, and the NFL will once again reign supreme over the sporting world. Months and months of media speculation and debate will be rendered moot once the draft begins and chaos ensues. It is a very unique event and it has become the spectacle of the NFL offseason.
In honor of the occasion, here is a list of The Top 10 Denver Broncos’ draft picks of all-time:
10) Karl Mecklenburg, LB
Drafted: 1983 – 12th Round
Mecklenburg played his entire 12-year career in Denver where he was elected to the Pro Bowl 6 times. He was on 3 AFC Championship teams and played in 180 regular season games. He finished his career with 79.0 sacks, 1104 tackles, and 16 forced fumbles.
9) Tom Jackson, LB
Drafted: 1973 – 4th Round
Jackson is well known around the NFL due to his work covering the league for ESPN, but prior to that he was a stalwart for the Denver defense throughout 14 seasons from 1973 to 1986. He won 2 AFC championships while wearing the Orange and Blue, played in 191 games, and was a 3-time Pro Bowler.
8 ) Louis Wright, CB
Drafted: 1975 – 1st Round
Wright was the best cornerback ever to suit up for the Broncos prior to Champ Bailey coming to town. He anchored the defensive backfield during his 12-year stint in Denver that included 2 trips to the Super Bowl and 5 Pro Bowl appearances.
7) Billy Thompson, CB/S/PR
Drafted: 1969 – 3rd Round
Thompson played 13 seasons in Denver and went to the Pro Bowl 3 times. He played in 179 games, returned 203 kicks, and played in the Super Bowl following the 1977 season.
6) Steve Atwater, S
Drafted: 1989 – 1st Round
Atwater is known as one of the fiercest hitters ever to play the game. He was elected to a staggering 8 Pro Bowls during his 11-year career, 10 of which were for the Broncos. Atwater played in 3 Super Bowls with Denver, winning 2, and he had one of his best games as a pro in Super Bowl 32.
5) Dennis Smith, S
Drafted: 1981 – 1st Round
Dennis Smith was a nasty hitter himself and helped mentor Steve Atwater when they played together later in his career. He played in 3 Super Bowls and 6 Pro Bowls during his stellar 14-year career with the Broncos. He finished with 1,152 tackles and 30 interceptions.
4) Floyd Little, RB
Drafted: 1967 – 1st Round
Finally an offensive player appears on this list! Floyd Little was simply known as “The Franchise” during his 9-year career for the Broncos that spanned from 1967 to 1975. Little led the AFL in rushing for six straight seasons and was a member of the inaugural Broncos Ring of Fame class in 1984. He played in 5 Pro Bowls, amassed 6323 rushing yards and 52 touchdowns, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
3) Randy Gradishar, LB
Drafted: 1974 – 1st Round
Gradishar made 7 Pro Bowl appearances during his 10-year career that included a trip to the Super Bowl following the 1977 season. He won the 1978 Defensive Player of the Year award and is considered by many to be the greatest Broncos’ defender ever to play. He finished his career with an astonishing 2,049 tackles which was an NFL record at the time. If he wouldn’t have retired sooner than expected he almost certainly would be in the Hall of Fame today. As it stands now, Gradishar has been nominated several times and was a finalist twice, but has yet to hear his name called by the Hall.
2) Terrell Davis, RB
Drafted: 1995 – 6th Round
Some may consider this a tad high for a player who managed only 7 seasons during his entire NFL career, but no player in NFL history has accomplished more in less time than Terrell Davis. Davis was the missing piece to a championship puzzle that took the Broncos organization 38 years to put together. He finished with 7,607 rushing yards, 65 total touchdowns, an NFL Most Valuable Player award, a Super Bowl MVP trophy and 2 Super Bowl rings. Davis is one of only 6 players in the history of the game to have a 2,000-yard rushing season, and he holds an NFL playoff record with 7 consecutive games of 100-yards rushing. Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame.
1) Shannon Sharpe, TE
Drafted: 1990 – 7th Round
The top spot on this list goes to Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. He played 12 of his 14 years with the Denver Broncos and was pivotal during their run to back-to-back Super Bowl Championships in 1997 and 1998. When Sharpe retired he held NFL records for a tight end in regards to receptions, yards, and touchdowns. There is really no need to say much more than that.
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