The Denver Broncos have never held the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in franchise history. That hasn't prevented the #1 overall picks in the NFL Draft from making an impact on the franchise. As a matter of fact, the Denver Broncos' entire franchise legacy depends largely on two former #1 overall picks in particular, and it's safe to say that the three former #1 overall picks that have suited up in orange and blue have played on the best teams in Denver Broncos history.
But which former #1 overall picks in the NFL Draft have suited up for the Denver Broncos? How did the Broncos acquire them?
Let's take a look at these former #1 overall picks, and take a little trip down memory lane.
Former #1 overall draft picks to play for the Denver Broncos
1. John Elway, QB (1983-1998)
The first former #1 overall pick to play for the Denver Broncos was John Elway, the top overall pick of the 1983 NFL Draft. Elway was the best QB prospect in an absolutely loaded class at the time, one that included fellow Hall of Famers Jim Kelly (Buffalo Bills) and Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins).
The Broncos held the 4th overall pick in the 1983 Draft and ultimately, that meant they had lost the John Elway lottery at the time. Fortunately for them, Elway didn't want to play for the Baltimore Colts and forced a trade. If the Colts didn't agree to trade him, Elway threatened he would play professional baseball for the New York Yankees, who had selected him in the 2nd round of the 1981 MLB Draft. The Yankees weren't even the only MLB team to draft Elway. The Kansas City Royals took him out of high school in 1979 as well.
The threat of playing baseball meant the Colts could either trade Elway or risk getting no value for that no. 1 overall pick. They traded Elway to the Broncos and the rest, as they say, is history.
Elway is widely recognized as the best player in Denver Broncos history. Had he not forced a trade during the 1983 NFL Draft, who knows where the Broncos would be as a franchise today? John Elway is the Denver Broncos. He never played for another NFL team, spending each of his 16 NFL seasons in Denver before ultimately becoming the Broncos' GM from 2011-2020.
Like I said, John Elway is the Denver Broncos.