Denver Broncos: Grading John Elway’s last 5 draft classes

Denver Broncos TE Noah Fant at the NFL Draft. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos TE Noah Fant at the NFL Draft. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Garett Bolles
Dec 29, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Draft Classes – Grading 2017 Broncos draft

The 2016 Broncos failed to capitalize on a Super Bowl roster and saw their playoff streak of five straight seasons slip away. Additionally, it was the first season since 2010 that the Broncos did not win the AFC West title.

The 2016 class had some impact but the team leaned on veterans in hopes of gaining traction in 2017. The offensive line and primarily offensive tackle remained a hole for this team and Elway targeted Garett Bolles to fill that void. Here are the Broncos 2017 draft selections.

Rd 1 – Garett Bolles OT – Utah

Rd 2 – DeMarcus Walker DL – Florida State

Rd 3 – Carlos Simmons WR – Louisiana Tech

Rd 3 – Brendan Langley CB – Lamar

Rd 5 – Jake Butt TE – Michigan

Rd 5 – Isaiah McKenzie WR – Georgia

Rd 6 – De’Angelo Henderson RB – Coastal Carolina

Rd 7 – Chad Kelly QB – Mississippi

Best Pick – Garett Bolles

Bolles struggled each of his first three seasons with inconsistent play. However, what a year 2020 has been for Bolles. Bolles’s stellar season earned him a new contract and security as the team’s left tackle of the future.

Additionally, Bolles has received praise from his harshes critics throughout Broncos Country but was a notable Pro-Bowl snub this season. Bolles will look to remain a pillar for a promising offensive line in 2021 and beyond.

Worst Pick – Carlos Henderson

There were several picks to choose from, but Carlos Henderson takes the cake as the team’s worst selection from the 2017 draft class.

Henderson was supposed to be a dynamic playmaker for the offense that needed some “juice”, yet he never played a down in orange and blue. Henderson was placed on injured reserve his rookie season and was cut following a string of odd behavior before the 2018 season began.

Henderson is out of the league without appearing in an NFL regular-season game.


The 2017 draft class was by far the least impactful of the last five seasons. John Elway ended up being correct on Bolles but did not see a positive investment in his tackle until the 2020 season.

DeMarcus Walker did not gain traction until the end of the 2019 campaign for a unit that could have used his impact from the onset. Additionally, misses on receiver Henderson and cornerback Brenden Langly limited needed depth in two areas it was desperately needed.

Add on the consistent injuries of Jake Butt, the misuse of McKenzie, and the off-field issues of Kelly and this class was seemingly a missed opportunity.

Grade – D

The grade is elevated by the phenomenal play of Bolles and the rotational impact of Walker. However, without Bolles’s turnaround, this group would have been a real dud.