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The time has come to finally kill the myth of the great John Elway draft

Dec 9, 2020, 6:00 AM | Updated: 9:53 am
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 01: Bradley Chubb #55 of the Denver Broncos warms up against ...
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

“John Elway is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.”

“The Broncos won the offseason.”

“Elway has returned to form in the draft.”

On “The Dan Jacobs Show,” I often have fun with silly statements like these, routinely thrown out by what I affectionately call “The John Elway lapdog, suck-up media.” I’ve come to expect such silliness from a great deal of the media, long afraid to run afoul of the great John Elway and the Broncos organization. But this weekend, I found even my good friend James Merilatt, not one usually known to cozy up to the team, repeating a stunningly false narrative, “Elway has drafted better lately…”

The Broncos may be mired in the worst stretch in the franchise’s NFL history, but they’ve done one thing remarkably well – getting false narratives out into the mainstream and repeated so often people start believing they are true. It happens a lot around here.

Remember how great the Bill Musgrave offense was going to be? It didn’t matter that no one knew what it actually was!

Or how about last year when Elway was telling everyone that Joe Flacco was a Super Bowl-winning MVP just entering his prime? In the words of the immortal George Costanza, “Remember, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

But perhaps the greatest spin job Elway and Company have delivered is the notion that after years of flat-out disastrous drafts, they rebounded and have delivered solid draft classes for the last several years.

It began after the 2018 draft. Elway wound up using 10 picks and the media went wild over his selections.

Bradley Chubb would join Von Miller and become the premier passing rushing tandem in the league. Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were the next Emmanuel and DT! Royce Freeman would be a new bell-cow back. Now, less than three full seasons later, most of those 10 picks are either gone or role players.

“But wait, Courtland Sutton is an elite wide receiver,” the lapdog media will tell you. I listened all last season as the media spouted that Sutton was, without a doubt, a top 10 receiver.

Then, I looked at this numbers. The truth is that Sutton finished in the 20-30 range in most major statistical categories, save for yards per catch, where he was 17th.

Even Chubb, the fifth-overall pick, is facing more and more scrutiny for his up-and-down play in his third season. Anyone remember him making an impact play on Sunday night against the Chiefs? I don’t.

How about the 2019 draft? At one point, I thought this might turn out to be Elway’s best effort.

Dalton Risner looked like a star guard, Drew Lock was going be the quarterback of the future and Noah Fant was supposed be our version of a Travis Kelce-type playmaker tight end.

While the jury is still out, Risner has regressed after a promising rookie season, Fant has been injured and still shows more potential than production, and Lock’s season becomes more disastrous with each passing week. (Is it unfair to use the word passing and Drew Lock in the same sentence?)

Finally, in what might be the most disappointing of the three drafts, something appears to be amiss with the toys Mr. Elway selected in 2020. Despite having foundational needs at several positions, Elway looked like a 13-year-old kid drafting a team on Madden, taking wide receivers, each with their own history of drops, with his first two selections.

Given, K.J. Hamler has missed some time with injury, but the two prized receivers have combined for a whopping three touchdowns and one 100-yard receiving game this year. Whether it be due to his practice habits, penalties or frequent dropped passes, Jerry Jeudy has clearly fallen out of favor with the team, as evidenced against Kansas City when he received zero targets through the first three quarters in a tight game against the Chiefs.

He finished the game with one catch for five yards on 49 snaps. Hamler added two more catches for 16 yards and another one of his trademark drops late in the game. The overhyped, underperforming wideout duo isn’t alone in the class. The team has gotten nothing to speak of from the other seven guys drafted either, though we can give Michael Ojemudia a gold star for effort.

Remarkably, perhaps the best player the Broncos have added coming out of college since “Elway started drafting better” wasn’t drafted at all – Philip Lindsay.

The time has come to lay the false narrative to rest. Much like “Vic Fangio’s great Broncos defense,” the myth of John Elway’s great drafts needs to die once and for all.


Listen to The Dan Jacobs Show weekend mornings on The Fan

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The time has come to finally kill the myth of the great John Elway draft