What if the Denver Broncos hadn’t drafted Tim Tebow?

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FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos looks on after the Broncos lost 45-10 against the New England Patriots during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It’s been nine years since the Denver Broncos drafted Tim Tebow. But, what if they hadn’t traded up to select the Florida quarterback?

In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos originally had the 14th overall pick. They traded that pick away to the Seattle Seahawks for a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft which turned into cornerback Alphonso Smith. The Seahawks selected safety Earl Thomas with the acquired first-round pick.

Denver received the 22nd overall pick in a trade with the New England Patriots and took Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. That turned out to be a great pickup by the Broncos, as Thomas recorded five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and scored 60 touchdowns throughout his career with the team.

It is safe to say that the selection of Thomas was a smart move by the people in charge -- Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders -- at the time.

Then came the selection of quarterback Tim Tebow out of Florida, three picks later.

The Broncos traded back up into the first round (25th overall) to take Tebow, who had a phenomenal collegiate career with the Gators. He won a bunch of awards in college:

2× BCS national champion (2006, 2008)
2× SEC champion (2006, 2008)
2× SEC Player of the Year (2008, 2009)
Manning Award (2008)
2× Maxwell Award (2007, 2008)
Heisman Trophy (2007)
Davey O'Brien Award (2007)
AP Player of the Year (2007)
Sporting News Player of the Year (2007)
2× First-team All-American (2007, 2008)
Second-team All-American (2009)
3× First-team All-SEC (2007–2009)

What a career, right? Well, unfortunately, that did not translate to the NFL. Tebow had a career completion percentage of just 47.9 percent with the Broncos and New York Jets. He spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots but did not see time on the field.

It is disappointing that the Tebow experiment did not work out. He had fire and determination to do well. But succeeding in college does not always translate to success in the big leagues. Tebow eventually took his talents to another sport—baseball.

So, what if the Denver Broncos never even drafted Tebow? Things would be so much different. Oh boy, things would be different.

Everybody remembers the 2011 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where Tebow threw a nice pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to advance to the next round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Broncos got beat by the New England Patriots the following week.

Well, it was fun while it lasted, right? That was an exciting day for Broncos Country. Despite the struggles Tebow had throwing the football, he made that play when it needed to be made.

The biggest factor in the entire Tebow experiment is an obvious one: if the Denver Broncos never drafted Tim Tebow, but instead chose to stick with Kyle Orton, who they acquired in a trade that sent Jay Cutler to Chicago, they likely would not have been in play for Peyton Manning.

To follow that up, if Manning hadn’t chosen to come to Denver to play for the Broncos, there may not have been a splash in the 2014 free agency which saw the team sign linebacker/defensive end Demarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

A lot of teams have and had average quarterbacks. Kyle Orton was just that. He was nothing to write home about. But would the Denver Broncos have pursued Manning if they stuck with Orton?

Look, it is absolutely possible that they would have, but I’m not sure.

Going back to Cutler: How would the Denver Broncos be fairing right now, had they kept the three pieces from the 2006 draft, Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Tony Scheffler? Those pieces could have ended up being phenomenal but unfortunately, were all traded away by Josh McDaniels.

So, really, if the Broncos kept Cutler, they likely would not have been in play for Manning—or Tebow.

It is a fun topic to ponder. We won’t know what would have happened if Denver didn’t draft Tebow but there are educated guesses out there.

In the end, the Broncos got the better end of the deal when they acquired Manning and went to two Super Bowls, winning one.

Next: Broncos position groups ranked best to worst

So really, dare I say it…Thank you, Josh McDaniels. The future ended up being bright for the Denver Broncos despite the not-so-great selection of Tim Tebow.