To say that drafting quarterbacks has not been a strength for the Denver Broncos through the years might be a massive understatement. The Denver Broncos, if we look across the span of history, have been arguably one of the worst teams in NFL history when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. With that being said, some of the most legendary QBs in NFL history have played for the Broncos and contributed most heavily to the franchise's legacy.
To be fair, the discussion is based on a technicality. John Elway was not drafted by the Denver Broncos but never played for anyone else. He was traded to the Broncos on Draft night in 1983 because he didn't want to play for the Baltimore Colts. Despite this technicality, the Broncos' success of drafting quarterbacks isn't so much of a mixed bag as it is a, wow, those are really the best QBs they've drafted? kind of list.
Let's take a look at the post-John Elway era for the Broncos and the top 5 best QBs the team has drafted since 1998, Elway's final season with the team.
Top 5 quarterbacks drafted by the Denver Broncos post-John Elway (from worst to best)
5. Brock Osweiler, 2nd round, 2012 NFL Draft
The Denver Broncos made somewhat of a surprising decision to draft Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the same year they acquired Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning in NFL free agency.
Manning, at the time, was coming off of a missed season in 2011 and five neck procedures, so it's understandable the Denver Broncos would go after a quarterback. Unfortunately, they opted not to select players like Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins and instead went after the 6-foot-8 Osweiler, a very raw project coming out of Arizona State.
Osweiler was certainly talented coming out of college and because the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, the drafting of Osweiler seemed borderline inconsequential at the time the pick was made. Osweiler ended up sitting for his first three NFL seasons, attempting just 30 total passes from 2012-14 in mop-up duty or spot duty.
Then came the 2015 season. Peyton Manning was in the final year of his NFL career, and he was actually dealing with a significant foot injury that eventually led to the Broncos "benching" him for Osweiler. The Broncos' offense desperately needed a spark midway through that 2015 season, and Osweiler seemingly provided it.
He started seven games and helped the Broncos to a 5-2 record down the stretch. That seven-game period included a couple of game-winning drives from Osweiler, most notably a couple of dramatic wins against the Patriots and Bengals, wins that factored heavily in the Broncos earning the no. 1 seed that season.
As the story goes, Osweiler would be benched in the final week of the regular season in 2015. His benching at the time seemed like the right thing to do, but Osweiler understandably took it a little personally and decided to bolt in the 2016 offseason for Houston in free agency. He then returned to the Broncos in 2017 when the team needed a backup option, and he wound up starting another handful of games for the Broncos before playing the final year of his NFL career in 2018 with the Miami Dolphins.
The reason Osweiler landed on this particular list is thanks to the contributions he made to that Super Bowl 50 team. Although Osweiler isn't going down as one of the best QBs in Broncos history, he made a significant contribution to one of the best teams in franchise history.