Even without a first-round pick, Broncos draft can have a big impact

Apr 22, 2022, 6:34 AM
7 Sep 1998: Running back Terrell Davis #30 of the Denver Broncos in action during the game against ...
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Allsport)
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The NFL Draft is one week away and there is less excitement around the draft for Broncos fans. This is mainly due to the Broncos not having a first-round selection, which was traded as part of the Russell Wilson blockbuster.

The NFL Draft is a major event, but the draft itself can lose sizzle when your team is not picking in the first-round. However, just because the Broncos don’t have a first-round pick doesn’t mean they can’t have an impactful draft class.

Since 1994, the Broncos have had four drafts in which they did not use a first-round pick. All four times, the Broncos walked away with some of the best players to ever wear orange and blue.

Leading up to the 1994 draft the, Broncos traded their first-round pick to the Vikings as part of a package for offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman. Even though Denver was quiet in round one, that draft included linebacker Allen Aldridge (second round), linebacker Keith Burns (seventh round) and center Tom Nalen (seventh round); as a bonus, they signed wide receiver Rod Smith as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Aldridge, Burns, Nalen and Smith were all major contributors to the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl Championships in 1997 and 1998. (Aldridge only 1997, he signed with the Lions prior to 1998).

The 1995 draft would be the second straight season the Broncos did not have a first-round draft pick. In this draft, the Broncos would struggle to find impact players until the sixth round when they drafted running back Terrell Davis. Following Davis, the Broncos would find another diamond in the rough in the seventh round with tight end Byron Chamberlain.

Davis would become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. Chamberlain would play nine years in the NFL including six in Denver.

Between 1994 and 1995, the Broncos did not have a first-round draft pick and managed to find four starters for their Super Bowl winning roster (Aldridge, Nalen, Smith, Davis) and two valuable backups and special teamers (Burns and Chamberlain).

In 2005, the Broncos traded away their first-round pick (25th) in a package to Washington. Without it, and in desperate need of secondary help after getting torched by Peyton Manning in back-to-back playoffs, trading away the first-round pick might not have been smart. In the end, it was a good move.

The Broncos spent their first three draft picks on cornerbacks. They picked Darrent Wiliams (second round), Karl Paymah (third round) and Dominique Foxworth (third round). Paymah was decent player, but Williams and Foxworth is where the Broncos found what they were looking for.

Williams started nine games for the Broncos and was named to the All-Rookie team and Foxworth started seven games. There was a lot expected of Williams and Foxworth as they were placed in a secondary with veterans Champ Bailey, John Lynch and our very own Nick Ferguson.

The Broncos were looking to take that next step in 2005. With a steep learning curve, Williams and Foxworth helped the Broncos become the first team to beat Tom Brady in the postseason on their way to the AFC Championship Game.

In 2012, on the night of the first-round, the Broncos traded their first-round pick to the Patriots for additional picks. In that draft, the Broncos selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe (second round), quarterback Brock Osweiler (second round), running back Ronnie Hillman (third round), defensive tackle Malik Jackson (fifth round) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (sixth round).

These five players all ended up starting games in the Broncos Super Bowl 50 season. As much as we love the big names of Peyton Manning, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib, without the 2012 draft class, the Broncos would not have won Super Bowl 50.

First-round picks are exciting, but the Broncos have had some of their better drafts in years in which they did not have a first-round pick. The 1994, 1995, 2005 and 2012 Broncos drafts did not feature a first-round pick, yet all four drafts contributed to some of the most successful seasons in Broncos history. These four drafts are better than many of the years the Broncos had a first-round pick.

With Russell Wilson in town, expectations are Super Bowl. Even without a first-round pick, the Broncos can have a draft that helps them achieve their ultimate goal. While the Broncos won’t be in the first round, Broncos Country should be paying close attention to the Broncos upcoming rookie class.



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Even without a first-round pick, Broncos draft can have a big impact