John Elway’s Draft Trends: First Pick is Defense

Cameron Parker
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after being named the Super Bowl MVP after beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after being named the Super Bowl MVP after beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

John Elway started drafting well since he came into the league in 2011 with his first pick, Von Miller. The 2011 NFL Draft could go down as the best draft of all-time. Elway’s first pick of the Broncos era in Von Miller would trickle down as a foundation establishing a defensive first team. Another solid draft picks in 2011, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin (Franklin still made an impact when Ryan Clady was injured), Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. Missed in Von Miller draft for the Elway and the Broncos, Elway signed Chris Harris Jr. as an undrafted free agent; now is a top five cornerback in the league.

2011 NFL Draft:

  1. Von Miller
  2. Rahim Moore
  3. Orlando Franklin
  4. Nate Irving
  5. Quinton Carter
  6. Julius Thomas
  7. Mike Mohamed
  8. Virgil Green
  9. Jeremy Beal
  10. UDFA – Chris Harris Jr.
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

Broncos’ fans were frustrated in the 2012 when Elway passed on Dont’a Hightower and Doug Martin taking Derek Wolfe in the second round. Also in the second round, fans were upset with the pick of Brock Osweiler moving on from LaVonte David. The 2012 NFL Draft for the Broncos is the best ever in Elway’s tenure as Vice President and General Manager replacing the fan’s love of David aside and drafting Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson. 2012 NFL Draft was single-handedly responsible for the Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers, yet four of the 2012 NFL Draft Broncos picks left in free agency, but make no mistake of its impact.

2012 NFL Draft:

  1. Derek Wolfe
  2. Brock Osweiler
  3. Ronnie Hillman
  4. Omar Bolden
  5. Philip Blake
  6. Malik Jackson
  7. Danny Trevathan
Oct 4, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos nose tackle Sylvester Williams (92) celebrates after sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (not pictured) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos nose tackle Sylvester Williams (92) celebrates after sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (not pictured) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

In John Elway’s time with the Broncos, there was one draft that was not his best; however, the 2013 NFL Draft had a few positive picks that also impacted the Super Bowl 50 roster. Sylvester Williams, out of North Carolina was Elway’s first pick in that draft followed by maybe the worst bust in his era, Montee Ball. Ball was passed in the draft ahead of LeVeon Bell, but that draft year Elway would draft Ball’s successor. CJ Anderson was the undrafted free agent out of the crop of available players who made a significant impact on the field. Anderson’s production late last season and the year after earned him the bell cow contract he deserved. One of the under-the-radar moves in the 2013 draft is Kayvon Webster who came into his own as a special teams ace under Gary Kubiak’s regime.

2013 NFL Draft:

  1. Sylvester Williams
  2. Montee Ball
  3. Kayvon Webster
  4. Quanterrus Smith
  5. Tavarres King
  6. Vinston Painter
  7. Zac Dysert
  8. UDFA – CJ Anderson
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

The defensive player continued in the 2014 NFL Draft as the Broncos solidified a secondary. Elway had signed Aqib Talib, TJ Ward and DeMarcus Ware in the offseason, building a powerhouse defense. Selecting Bradley Roby was not a need, but Elway and Broncos did not waver drafting the best player available with red flags and a chip on his shoulder. The later rounds were as impressive as the first couple picks for Elway. Elway selected Roby and Cody Latimer in the second round as the replacement for Eric Decker, but Latimer had injuries limiting his role till 2015 where his role expanded. Matt Paradis is the starting center for the Denver Broncos and continued to get better as the season wore on. Michael Schofield saw his role expand at tackle, but his production has now put him on the bubble entering training camp this year. In the linebacker spot, Corey Nelson added valuable depth to position that saw Lamin Barrow leave the roster, but yet the Broncos had another undrafted free agent make the roster in Shaquille Barrett and has balled out earning a backup spot.

2014 NFL Draft:

  1. Bradley Roby
  2. Cody Latimer
  3. Michael Schofield
  4. Lamin Barrow
  5. Matt Paradis
  6. Corey Nelson
  7. UDFA – Shaquille Barrett
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Confetti falls as Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (56) celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Confetti falls as Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (56) celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

Elway continued to add to his best player available resume by his most recent NFL Draft last year. Shane Ray, much like Roby, could see his role expand once Ware leaves after this year or next. Ray had red flags like Roby and a chip on his shoulder making his impact known during the season spelling Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. This 2015 NFL Draft could have a big impact in the 2016 season as Jeff Heuerman could see the same impact as Julius Thomas had while in orange and blue. Max Garcia will certainly be the starter unless the Broncos make a move in this year’s draft. Their quarterback of the future could be on the roster in Trevor Siemian. Siemian needs to groomed more, but can beat out Mark Sanchez if continues to improve. Ty Sambrailo has been injured, but talent is there to possibly be a backup to Russell Okung or Donald Stephenson. Darius Kilgo has the beef to be a replacement for Sylvester Williams, but needs to show he can flash in games for Broncos to consider him. The Broncos 2015 NFL Draft are another key for the future for John Elway.

2015 NFL Draft:

  1. Shane Ray
  2. Ty Sambrailo
  3. Jeff Heuerman
  4. Max Garcia
  5. Lorenzo Doss
  6. Darius Kilgo
  7. Trevor Siemian
  8. Taurean Nixon
  9. Josh Furman

The Denver Broncos will begin life after Peyton Manning on Apr. 28 and John Elway will continue to draft the player that best fits the Broncos’ system. Fans have to be elated Elway has shown a multi-faceted model to be successful in the NFL Draft and free agency.

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