The 20 biggest what-ifs in Denver Broncos history

  • Blockbuster trade for Calvin Johnson?
  • Missing out on Kyle Shanahan
  • Steve Young the Denver Broncos QB?
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9. What if the Broncos don’t draft Von Miller in 2011?

It's bizarre to look back on this period in Denver Broncos history because it was such an odd time.

The NFL was in a lockout in the 2011 offseason, and there was no free agency before the NFL Draft. Teams usually address their biggest needs before the NFL Draft, but this offseason was an unusual exception. Teams went into the 2011 NFL Draft class not exactly knowing what the future would hold, but there was definitely more of an emphasis on drafting for need this particular year than in other years.

And the Denver Broncos, coming off of a dreadful 4-12 season in 2010, needed a lot. Most notably, they needed help in the pass rush department, but there were so many viable candidates for their second overall pick in 2011 that it would have been hard to mess it up in the eyes of fans.

John Elway took over the team with John Fox as his head coach. The Broncos were moving from a 3-4 defense to Fox's 4-3 look. The ideal pick seemed to be any one of Marcell Dareus, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, or Patrick Peterson. This 2011 NFL Draft class has been legendary in hindsight, including players like AJ Green, Julio Jones, and JJ Watt among many others.

Von Miller was not a slam dunk. People questioned whether he would be able to hold up off the edge at his size. His speed was enticing, but he was not a finished product as a pass rusher. The "smarter" picks at the time would have probably been Marcell Dareus or Patrick Peterson. But John Elway took Von Miller.

Similar to the way Elway himself defined an entire era of the franchise's history, so did Von Miller. He's the best draft pick the team has ever made. He's the best defensive player in franchise history, and he led the team to a victory in Super Bowl 50 as the game's MVP. It's hard to imagine an alternate reality where Von Miller is on any other team but the Denver Broncos.