FanPost

PSST...The draft is really important (The Broncos Edition)

From the FanPosts. -Chris

In case you missed the first two posts in this series of posts about the importance of drafting and the AFC West you can find the the proceeding stories with the links below.

The stories about the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders were a contrast in draft success. The Chargers have had a lot of it, the Raiders have had virtually none. The regular season records of both these teams reflect these facts.

The Denver Broncos fall somewhere in the middle. This had to be rewritten after I actually reviewed the 10 year draft history.

The Denver Broncos (with the exception of two drafts in 2002 and 2006) gave the Oakland Raiders a run for their money when it comes to ineptitude and the draft.

Denver Broncos

Mike Shanahan was the Denver Broncos from 1995- 2008. During that time he worked with two GMs. The General Manager we're concerned with is Ted Sunquist who was acting General Manager of Denver from 2001-2007. He was let go by Shanahan after the 2007 season.Shanahan followed Sunquist out of the door in 2008.

Like the Raiders, the Broncos had a very stable front office for the time period we are looking at. Shanahan was a guiding force for 8 of the 10 drafts we are reviewing.

Denver could also be considered somewhat of an outlier for the premise that the draft is the best indicator of future success.The Broncos simply did not draft well during this time. Even so, Denver had a much better record than Kansas City. By the number of Pro Bowlers and All Pros (which we'll see tomorrow) KC out-drafted Denver by a comfortable margin.

Denver made a living from 2001-2010 with free agents, scheme and a solid coaching staff that got the most out of their players. And Denver had a winning record from 2003 even with sub-par drafting.

You have to give them their due.

The Bronco draft history is horrible in comparison to San Diego and bad when compared to KC. Denver still made the playoffs four times out of 9 times from 2003-2011. Twice as the division champs. Twice as the AFC Wildcard.

It also goes to show that there are so many variables in football that there is no specific set of statistics or facts that can be used to predict outcomes. Unlike in the NBA (where the draft is virtually EVERYTHING), the NFL draft is just one piece of the puzzle. It may be the most important piece. But teams like the Broncos found a way around it, sort of.

At the end of the Shanahan era in 2009, Josh McDaniels took over as head coach and Brian Xanders took over as GM. They only had two drafts together at the helm of the Broncos.

McDaniels and Xanders will always be remembered for the 1st round selection of Tim Tebow in 2010 but they did have 18 other picks as well.

To be honest, it's hard to judge how well or poorly McDaniels/Xanders did in the draft. The team has undergone two radical scheme changes in the past 4 years which hurts draft picks. The first McDaniels/Xanders draft ,2009, was part of arguably the worst NFL draft class of all time. The Broncos managed to get 2 starters out of the 2009 class which is as good as any other team in the division did.

In 2010 you had a trade up to get Tebow, who did manage to win a playoff game just one year later as the worst throwing QB to ever win a playoff game.

They selected Demaryius Thomas in 2010 who looks to have a ton of potential. He was touted as being raw when he came out so this is the year we should really see what he is all about.Denver also selected two starters on the offensive line in 2010.

The Broncos most talented pick of 2010, Parrish Cox, came with lots of red flags that turned into rape allegations. He is no longer with the team.

Still, the McDaniels drafts look to have been solid if not spectacular. Time will tell.

For the rest of the decade the Broncos were a strange team. By the numbers they didn't draft nearly as well as KC, though they drafted better than Oakland. On the other hand, they were the only team in the division to have two draft classes better than San Diego's corresponding classes in 2002 and 2006 prior to 2008.

Don't take my word for it. Here's the facts:

Once again, to clarify things a bit, I've correlated the team's record from two years after the corresponding draft class. I've also limited the players on the list to those who played in at least 16 games for the team that drafted them. Starter also means 16 starts over their career with the team.

Draft History Legend:

  • * = Starter (Must have started 16 games with team to qualify)
  • + = Pro Bowler
  • # = All Pro
  • S = still with the team

Denver Broncos Draft History (2001-2010) / Regular Season Records (2003-2011)

2001 Draft Class / 2003 Record 10-6

2003 2nd in AFC West, AFC Wildcard Team, Wildcard Round Loss

  1. Willie Middlebrooks, DB
  2. Reggie Hayward, DE *
  3. Ben Hamilton,G / C *

2002 Draft Class / 2004 Record 10-6

2004 2nd in AFC West, AFC Wildcard Team, Wildcard Round Loss

  1. Ashley Lelie, WR *
  2. Clinton Portis, RB * +
  3. Sam Brandon, DB
  4. Chris Young, DB
  5. Monsanto Pope, DT *

2003 Draft Class / 2005 Record 13-3

2005 AFC West Champs, Conference Championship Loss

  1. George Foster, OT *
  2. Terry Pierce, LB
  3. Quentin Griffin, RB

2004 Draft Class / 2006 Record 9-7

2006 3rd in AFC West

  1. DJ Williams, LB * S
  2. Tatum Bell, RB *
  3. Darius Watts, WR

2005 Draft Class / 2007 Record 7-9

2007 2nd in AFC West

  1. Darrent Williams, DB *
  2. Karl Paymah, DB
  3. Chris Myers, G *
  4. Paul Ernster, K/P

2006 Draft Class / 2008 Record 8-8

2008 2nd in AFC West

  1. Jay Cutler, QB * +
  2. Tony Scheffler, TE *
  3. Brandon Marshall, WR * +
  4. Elvis Dumervil, DE * + # S
  5. Chris Kuper, G * S

2007 Draft Class / 2009 Record 8-8

2009 2nd in AFC West

  1. Jarvis Moss, DE
  2. Tim Crowder, DE
  3. Ryan Harris, OT * S
  4. Marcus Thomas, DT *

2008 Draft Class / 2010 Record 4-12

2010 4th in AFC West

  1. Ryan Clady, OT * + # S
  2. Eddie Royal, WR *
  3. Kory Lichtensteiger, C
  4. Spencer Larson, FB/LB
  5. Josh Barrett, DB
  6. Peyton Hillis, RB

2009 Draft Class / 2011 Record 8-8

2011 AFC West Champs, Divisional Round Loss

  1. Knowshon Moreno, RB * S
  2. Robert Ayers, DE / OLB * S
  3. Darcel McBath, DB
  4. Richard Quinn, TE
  5. David Bruton, DB S

2010 Draft Class / 2012 Record ????

  1. Demaryius Thomas, WR S
  2. Tim Tebow, QB
  3. Zane Beadles, OG * S
  4. JD Walton, C * S
  5. Eric Decker, WR S

Denver has been the second most consistent team in terms of wins in the division over this span of time the despite these pedestrian draft totals. They have managed a respectable 77-67 (534 %) from 2003-2011.

The draft numbers:

  • 22 Starters
  • 5 Pro Bowlers
  • 2 All Pros
  • 2 AFC West Championships
  • 2 AFC Wildcard Berths
  • 11 12 of the 79 draft picks during this time are still with the team

Not quite Raider bad, but nowhere near Chargers good either.

I came into this post thinking that Shanahan was the master of the UDFA's, which is not really accurate. The Broncos had a number of UDFA's start for them from 2001-2011. Rod Smith was a Pro Bowl receiver that Shanahan brought in as a UDFA in 1995.

Once you get past Smith, the biggest success for Shanahan in the UDFA market was Matt Lepsis a solid swing RT that could play the left side and ended up playing for Denver for 9 years from '98-'07.

The other Denver Pro Bowl UDFA, TE Dwayne Carswell, actually predates the Shanahan regime.

Other notable UDFA's that started for Denver and were brought in by Shanny include: Steve Herndon (OG / 1 year starter), Donnie Spragan (LB, 2 year starter), Lenny Walls (CB, 1 year starter), Kelly Herndon (CB, 2 year starter), and Erik Pears (OT, 2 year starter)

That's not a bad list, but I wouldn't call it world beating either. As Brskr pointed out in the San Diego version of these posts, AJ Smith brought in Gates, Cooper, Dielman and Osgood as UDFA's.

My thought that Denver was the best in the division at finding UDFA was flat out wrong.

So where did Shanny and Sundquist find their players? Where every crappy drafting team goes, free agency and/or trades.

You have to give it to Shanahan. Here's the Free Agent acquisitions that Shanahan was involved in that made the Pro Bowl during the years we are looking at from 2003-2008.

  • Champ Bailey, CB, drafted by Washington, 7 Pro Bowls with Denver, 3 All Pro Years
  • Jake Plummer, QB, drafted by Arizona, 1 Pro Bowl with Denver
  • John Lynch, S, drafted by Tampa Bay, 4 Pro Bowls with Denver
  • Casey Weigman, C, UDFA from KC, 1 Pro Bowl with Denver

From 2001-2008 Shanahan drafted 5 Pro Bowlers. While from 2003-2008 Shanahan and Sundquist found 4 Pro Bowl free agents or traded for them.

For perspective from 2003- 2008:

San Diego had 2 Pro Bowl imports: Donnie Edwards, Lorenzo Neal ( All Pro two years).

Kansas City had 3 Pro Bowl imports: Willie Roaf (All Pro one year), Priest Holmes (All Pro 3 years), Trent Green

Oakland had 1 Pro Bowl import: Derrick Burgess.

Full disclosure on the free agency front, Shanahan used about the same amount of imported players as KC and Oakland according to Pro Football Reference.com

Divisional Imported Starter from 2003-2008

  • Denver started 54 imported players (16 offense, 38 defense)
  • KC started 53 imported players (31 offense, 22 defense).
  • Oakland used 58 imported players (34 offense, 24 defense)
  • San Diego brought up the rear with 38 imported (19 offense, 19 defense).

Denver relied on imports slightly more than KC and slightly less than Oakland. The Shanahan/Sundquist team were simply better at identifying and signing quality players from outside their organization than either Al Davis or Carl Peterson.

So to recap. The Bronocs were not a very good drafting team. They were, however, significantly better at finding quality free agents. They had the most stable coaching staff in the division during this time period. Denver also enjoyed playing in a weak division with Kansas City and Oakland to beat up on for most of the decade. What did it mean in terms of wins and losses?

The years we are looking at 2003-2011

  • 77-67 (534%)
  • 2nd in the division 5 out of 9 times.
  • 2 Division championships
  • Finished 3rd in the division once, finished 4th in the division once.
  • 4 trips to the playoffs, 2 playoff wins, 0 Super Bowls

Good enough to compete. Not good enough to wrest control away from the Chargers. Keep that in mind next year when free agency rolls around. The most successful free agent acquisition team in the division simply could not compete with the team with the best drafts

We'll take a look at what the future holds for Denver on Friday.

Tomorrow's post, the Kansas City Chiefs. I suggest you bring tissues and a airsick bag. It's going to be ugly.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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