1. Jay Cutler, 1st round, 2006 NFL Draft
Jay Cutler, for me, will always be the one that got away. The Denver Broncos gave up on Cutler way too soon, thanks to the hubris of former head coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels immediately alienated Cutler upon arriving in Denver and decided to trade him in a blockbuster deal with the Chicago Bears.
Cutler went on to have a solid career with the Bears, and he played one year for the Miami Dolphins before hanging up the cleats for good, but this is the best quarterback the Denver Broncos have ever drafted, and he only played three years for the team.
Flashing it back to the 2006 NFL offseason where the Denver Broncos were fresh off of a crushing defeat in the AFC Championship game at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was one of the most brutal losses of my upbringing as a Denver Broncos fan and the 2005 team is one of those "best to never win a ring" in NFL history, if you ask me. That Broncos team would have steamrolled the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, but that's another story for another day.
The Broncos were not seemingly in the market for a quarterback that offseason, but obviously Mike Shanahan and former GM Ted Sundquist felt differently at the time. The Broncos traded up in the 2006 NFL Draft where many people thought they were targeting a receiver. Jay Cutler was the team's top target after QBs like Vince Young and Matt Leinart had already gone off the board.
Cutler sat most of his rookie year just like everyone else on this list. He got the chance to play late in the 2006 season in somewhat of a controversial move by Mike Shanahan to try and jolt the team to the playoffs as they floundered to a 9-7 finish after a 7-2 start. Many people hated the decision from Shanahan at the time, but the Broncos were just one lucky bounce of the ball vs. Seattle or San Francisco away from making it to the postseason.
They did not.
From 2007-08, however, Cutler became a household name and although he was working through some struggles, the talent was obvious and he was ascending. In the 2008 season, Cutler set a franchise record (which has since been broken three times by Peyton Manning) with 4,526 yards. He made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and after the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan, all Josh McDaniels had to do was come in and maximize the tremendous core of players already in place offensively.
We all saw how that worked out. It didn't.
Although Cutler's time with the Broncos was cut short, he remains the best QB drafted by the team not only in the post-John Elway era, but probably in the entire Super Bowl era.