Up next in our Draft Grader series are those Denver Broncos who, before John Elway rode to the rescue and Peyton Manning ousted Tim Tebow, were dealing with Mike Shanahan’s final draft class and the first (and only) two of Josh McDaniels.
Suffice to say some of these grades aren’t going to be pretty.
As usual, every pick gets a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how the Broncos drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
Some will tell you they got a sixth round talent in the first.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Ryan Clady, T (12th overall pick in 2008): After not giving up a sack as a rookie, people jumped to the conclusion that Clady was the next great left tackle of the league. He wasn’t, but he has proved an above average one (and a much better pass protector, to boot) despite something of a down year in 2011 where he got beat far more than we’re accustomed to seeing. A better left tackle than Peyton Manning has been used to playing with.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Spencer Larsen, LB/ FB (183rd overall pick in 2008): Something of a jack of many trades, Larsen is one of the league’s worst lead blockers, but has proved a valuable special teamer over the years. Has contributed more than you’d expect out of a sixth rounder.
Peyton Hillis, RB (227th overall pick in 2008): Blame the McDaniels regime for not getting the most out of Hillis. As a rookie, he was extremely productive when injuries forced the Broncos to rely on him, picking up a +9.6 grade in his 355 snaps. Unfortunately, the new regime wasn’t a fan and he played just 84 more snaps before being traded away. A waste of talent, though through his efforts as a rookie and getting something in return via trade, more than you normally get out of a seventh round pick.
Demaryius Thomas, WR (22nd overall pick in 2010): Thomas has had to overcome some injury problems and some poor QB play, but his talent has shone through at times and you expect him to be a big benefactor with Manning coming into town.
Tim Tebow, QB (25th overall pick in 2010): Say what you want about Tebow, but he played his part in the team making the playoffs. Very raw/poor as a passer, his athletic ability opened up a stagnant Broncos offense and created some very memorable NFL moments.
0.0: It could have been worse
Eddie Royal, WR (42nd overall pick in 2008): His breakout rookie year never really developed into a consistent career at the receiver spot, making Royal something of a disappointment as a receiver. Saves himself with some electric work as a returner.
Kory Lichtensteiger, G (108th overall pick in 2008): A perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme the Broncos ran, his usefulness went out of the window when the Broncos canned Shanahan.
Jack Williams, CB (119th overall pick in 2008): Never really worked out for Williams who was cut loose after 192 snaps with Denver. You wonder if he wouldn’t have been pushed so far down the McDaniels depth chart if not for one particularly crazy trade.
Ryan Torain, RB (139th overall pick in 2008): Injuries really limited what he could do with Denver, with new coaches not prepared to take a chance on him getting healthy. Has since shown a lot of talent but proven quite fragile.
Carlton Powell, DT (148th overall pick in 2008): Another one of the players whose face didn’t fit in with new management. Cut a year after being drafted.
Josh Barrett, S (220th overall pick in 2008): Looked out of his depth when he got on the field as a rookie, and while he stuck around, was eventually let go when injured.
Robert Ayers, DE (18th overall pick in 2009): The least worst pick from 2009, Ayers often looked miscast in McDaniels’ 3-4, but has turned into a solid defensive end in Denver. May never be an elite pass rusher, but holds the fort down on early downs while others handle that responsibility.
David Bruton, S (114th overall pick in 2009): Hasn’t developed into a starter, but has a role on the team in providing decent depth and contributing on special teams.
Kenny McKinley, WR (141st overall pick in 2009): Sadly, took his life after multiple injuries.
Tom Brandstater, QB (174th overall pick in 2009): Was buried on the depth chart after the 2010 draft and eventually released.
Eric Decker, WR (87th overall pick in 2010): Will get a chance to show what he can really do now that he has a more conventional quarterback behind center.
Perrish Cox, CB (137th overall pick in 2010): Off the field problems ended a promising Broncos career.
Eric Olsen, C (183rd overall pick in 2010): Waived after a year with the team.
Syd’Quan Thompson, S (225th overall pick in 2010): Looked like the Broncos could be onto something after a promising rookie year, but after missing all of 2011 with a torn Achilles tendon, could struggle making the roster under a coaching staff that isn’t invested in him.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Knowshon Moreno, RB (12th overall pick in 2009): Mike Shanahan doesn’t draft running backs in the first round? “Well, forget that” says Mr. McDaniels who goes out and does so, making all of Denver wish that he’d followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Moreno has been a disappointment, not getting on the field enough and rarely testing defenses. Broncos rushing attack got better when he wasn’t on the field.
Seth Olsen, G (132nd overall pick in 2009): Waived after a year with the team. Not what you’d expect out of a fourth round pick.
Blake Schlueter, C (225th overall pick in 2009): Cut before the start of his rookie season, he wasn’t even deemed worth a practice squad spot.
Jammie Kirlew, DE (232nd overall pick in 2010): Cut before the start of the 2010 season.
-1.0: What a waste!
Darcel McBath, S (48th overall pick in 2009): Viewed as a reach at the time, McBath went on to play just 293 snaps for the Broncos. Even with some good work on special teams, this was a colossal waste.
Richard Quinn, TE (64th overall pick in 2009): Eyebrows were raised when a purely blocking tight end was taken in the second round and understandably so. Quinn would go on to play even less than McBath, registering just 249 snaps in another case of bad overdrafting.
Zane Beadles, G (45th overall pick in 2010): Seemed to progress at guard as his rookie year went on, but was abysmal in his second year in such a way that you wonder if he could ever turn the corner. Our fourth-lowest ranked guard in 2011, he’s poor in pass protection and nearly as bad in the run game.
J.D. Walton, C (80th overall pick in 2010): Our fourth-lowest ranked center in the league as a rookie, stepped it up and earned the lowest grade of all his peers in 2011. A poor player who struggles massively in the run game.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Alphonso Smith, CB (37th overall pick in 2009): The pick that in some ways defined McDaniels’ frivolous attitude when it came to drafting. He saw him as a first round talent, so traded away a future first. But when he didn’t enter the league playing like one of the league’s best, faith was quickly lost and he was then traded away for Dan Gronkowski, a former seventh-rounder. This was the perfect storm in terms of making a pick as bad as it can be, and the sad thing for Smith is, he had little to do with it. You draft a player that you think is a first-rounder, you don’t give up on him after a year.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in this draft.
You almost have to ignore parts of the 2008 draft because of the wholesale changes that followed, but it should be noted that more players drafted in ’08 have gone onto have success than both 2009 and 2010 combined. That has a lot to do with one of the worst draft classes of all time in what Denver did in Josh McDaniels’ first year in charge. Adding a little bit more context, Denver had just traded away their franchise quarterback and, in the end, got a solid defensive end and … well, that was it. Blame the scouts or blame the coaches, but drafting that many players and failing so spectacularly on so many is utterly inexcusable.