Fourth round: Julius Thomas, 2011
Looking across fourth-round picks made by the Broncos over the last 10 years, there’s not much to choose from, at least in the form of positive selections. But Julius Thomas gets the nod here with the only other real competition for the honor going to Max Garcia.
Thomas was a raw talent when drafted out of Portland State in 2011 and he likely would have never transformed into the talent that he did if not for the benefit of catching passes from Peyton Manning.
Here’s a telling statistic. In two seasons playing with Manning, Thomas caught 108 passes for 1,277 yards and a whopping 24 touchdowns. In three full seasons thereafter with both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, he caught 117 passes for 1,124 yards and just 12 touchdowns.
In 2013 and 2014 with Denver, Thomas was one of the game’s best red-zone threats. He and Manning built a connection that led to a lot of big plays and a lot of points. It also helped Thomas land a five-year, $46 million deal with the Jaguars as a free agent in 2015.
Thomas’ career ended quietly following the 2017 season but he had two great years with the Broncos and was the best pick made by the team in the fourth round over the last 10 drafts.