The build up to this years NFL draft had to be the most hyped I’ve witnessed since being a football fan. Rightfully so. With so many high profile quarterbacks, a handful of skill position game changers, an offensive line class many gave an A heading into the draft and some special stories along the way (Shaquem Griffin for example) made for one fun weekend of names being called from a podium.
Along with all that hype, the Broncos were certainly feeling a lot of pressure to get it right. In recent years, save for 2011, the draft for Denver seemed to be more of a distant second to their work in free agency. Save for guys like Von Miller, DT and undrafted free agent Chris Harris Jr., it was the big name free agent signings that truly helped Denver win AFC West championships and lock up trips to the Super Bowl. However, because of all that free agent success, the Broncos, perhaps, didn’t do as well as they should have in the past few drafts. It was as if the free agent superstars spoiled this team and their focus shifted from building guys from the ground up. This year was different. Other than Case Keenum, Denver’s free agent pick ups are journeymen cornerbacks (Tremaine Brock) and entertaining punters (Marquette King). And Keenum is not nearly as high profile as guys like Manning, Ware, Welker and Ward. The Broncos would need to hit some home runs in this years draft but the question was, how?
At pick number 5, the idea of getting Barkley or Chubb was out of the question. Many assumed the Browns or Giants would lock up both by the time Denver was on the clock. Others wondered if they should just take a qb, giving up hope on an immediate impact guy. So trade talks surfaced like crazy. In fact, several “broncos” insiders and sources said Denver would trade out of that pick so fast it would make your head spin. Elway sat tight. Sure, the idea of trading was there. The Bills were probably still on hold when Cleveland took Denzel Ward out of Ohio State (I can’t help but think of Mel Gibson in Braveheart screaming “Hold……hold….hold……NOW,”) when Elway saw Bradley Chubb’s name still on the board. Deals were probably all but struck. But Denver saw a big time player on the board at 5 and didn’t waver. Was an edge rusher a top priority? No. They still have Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett on the roster making their need for offensive linemen and running back far greater than any position on defense. Yet, when an edge rusher from N.C. State popped up on the screen, one could almost hear a collective cheer from Broncos Country. There’s a time for need and there’s a time for a surge of energy, lightening to electrify this stagnate franchise. Elway could have panicked early and traded that 5th pick earlier (no doubt the value was high just before 6pm MT. on Thursday night). He could have succumbed to everyone saying they HAD to go Josh Allen or improve that oline with Quenton Nelson. Instead he took a guy the Broncos didn’t actually need but everyone wanted. Chubb is a difference maker. If the oline is shaky again next season I suppose I am willing to take the lumps. The Chubb and Miller duo is going to be something special for years to come. Sack record? Sure. Super bowl victories? Why not. A dynasty defense resurrected? Absolutely.
So, in the end, the Duke, John Elway, stayed cool. Just like he did under center for so many years. When times were at their most uncertain, Elway never looked rattled. On draft night 2018, Elway delivered a 4th quarter comeback, a helicopter spin for the first down and night worthy of a good ole, “this ones for Pat.”
As for the rest of the picks? I like the running back out of Oregon, Royce Freeman and the DB out of Boston College, Isaac Yiadon. 2 receivers? I suppose you have to begin replacing DT and Sanders at some point. I won’t grade any team. How can you? You won’t know how they’ve turned out for a few years yet. We are just now grading the Broncos on their pick of Miller, Williams and Roby. BUT, on paper, I think it was a success as far as drafts go.
So with their sharpened focus on this years NFL draft, perhaps the Broncos can get back into the playoffs and stay there for years and years to come.