On April 26, 2018, John Elway faced a a fateful decision. Holding the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, the Broncos general manager had the chance to select a franchise-altering player.
That’s what a top-five pick is supposed to turn into. It certainly did the previous time that Denver was in that type of a situation, as they took Von Miller with the second-overall pick in 2012.
That selection turned into the greatest defensive player in franchise history. That choice helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
Perhaps based on that success, or maybe traumatized by the selection of Paxton Lynch in the first round two years earlier, Elway selected Bradley Chubb at No. 5. It was a mistake, a fact that was never more evident than it was on Sunday.
Chubb has been a fine player in Denver. As a rookie, he recorded 12.0 sacks. And this season, after recovering from a torn ACL that ended his 2019 campaign, the outside linebacker earned a Pro Bowl invite.
The player he replaced, however, has been even better. That’s what makes the pick so bad.
Had the Broncos not selected Chubb, they most likely would’ve kept Shaq Barrett. Since leaving Denver, the pass rusher has recorded 27.5 sacks in two seasons.
On Sunday, he helped propel the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, sacking Aaron Rodgers three times en route to a 31-26 victory. Chubb was home for the playoffs for a third straight season; the Broncos are 18-30 since he joined the team.
That’s the first part of what makes the selection so bad. Denver already had a player in place to fill that role. They didn’t need an upgrade.
But that’s only a part of the story. The player the Broncos passed on in order to select Chubb makes it even worse.
On Sunday, Josh Allen led the Bills to the AFC title game. Buffalo took the quarterback two picks after Denver selected Chubb.
Had Elway played his cards right, the Broncos could’ve had Josh Allen and Shaq Barrett. Instead, they have Bradley Chubb. Denver could’ve had a rising star at quarterback, a player who was one game away from the Super Bowl, and a dominant pass rusher, one who is one win away from hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. Instead, they have a guy who has recorded 8.5 sacks in his last 18 games.
That’s the kind of decision that changes the course of a franchise, for better or worse. In the Broncos case, it was the latter.
Drafting Allen and retaining Barrett would’ve set the Broncos up for a decade at the two most important positions in football. And it was right there for the taking.
John Elway blew it. The 2018 NFL Draft was his ultimate miss.
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