Draft Grader: Denver Broncos

The Super Bowl runner-up Denver Broncos take their turn in our Draft Grader spotlight.

| 3 years ago

Draft Grader: Denver Broncos

draftgraderDENfeatDraft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the college side of things, though that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.

For me, though, that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year, I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries, and a host of other things.

Up next? Well we’re moving in draft order so it’s the Denver Broncos


+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round

Not here …

+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!

Von Miller, ER (2nd overall pick in 2011): You expect a very good player with the second overall pick of any draft. But Miller is more than that, arguably developing into the best pass rusher in the entire league. His career grade of +171.6 is stunning in itself.

+1.0: The scouts nailed it!

Demaryius Thomas, WR (22nd overall pick in 2010): It took Thomas a while as he waited for a legitimate quarterback to start throwing him balls. Since then, he’s exploded into a true playmaker, capable of turning screen passes into big games while having the ability to get deep on defenders.

Eric Decker, WR (88th overall pick in 2010): Not the dynamic weapon Thomas would become, Decker nonetheless offered just as much value. Career grade of +21.9 highlighted by two strong years.

Orlando Franklin, OL (46th overall pick in 2011): Has been moved to guard this offseason but was largely the perfect right tackle for the Broncos’ often quick-hitting passing attack. May have been shown up in the Super Bowl but can impose himself in the run game.

+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor

Julius Thomas, TE (129th overall pick in 2011): If he can repeat his 2013 season this grade will be higher. Thomas isn’t the kind of blocker that can be classified as a complete tight end, but is such a threat as a receiver that he’s already paid his selection back.

Virgil Green, TE (204th overall pick in 2011): For a late sixth-rounder to still be contributing warrants acknowledgement. Has managed 801 decent enough snaps in three years while contributing on special teams.

0.0: It could have been worse

David Bruton, S (114th overall pick in 2009): Gets something back for becoming one of the best special teamers in the league, but hasn’t done enough on defense to be worth more.

Kenny McKinley, WR (141st overall pick in 2009): Spent his first year contributing on special teams before committing suicide a year later.

Zane Beadles, OG (45th overall pick in 2010): Too often didn’t live up to his draft slot, despite playing 4,878 snaps (missing just nine the past three years). Has developed the longer he’s been in the league and is by no means a liability, but with a 45th overall pick you might need a tad more to get a positive.

Perrish Cox, CB (138th overall pick in 2010): Impressed in flashes as a rookie but an off the field accusation of sexual assault (which was later disproved) all but ended his career in Denver.

Eric Olsen, OC (184th overall pick in 2010): Sixth-rounder lasted a year with the team before being released.

Syd’Quan Thompson, CB (226th overall pick in 2010): Would ply 217 snaps on defense before missing his entire sophomore season on injured reserve before being released.

Rahim Moore, S (45th overall pick in 2011): Most infamous for his misjudgment of Joe Flacco’s postseason deep ball but Moore isn’t just that guy. Playing a useful 2,387 snaps in three years he’s developed into a solid starter. By no means terrible and about what you’d expect here.

Quinton Carter, S (108th overall pick in 2011): Fourth-rounder who looked out of his depth in his 863 snaps on defense chiefly as a rookie before missing most of his next two years on injured reserve.

Mike Mohamed, LB (189th overall pick in 2011): Spent most of his first two years on the practice squad before being released.

Jeremy Beal, LB (249th overall pick in 2011): Spent two years with the team but had more time on injured reserve than the field.

-0.5: That pick was not put to good use

Knowshon Moreno, RB (12th overall pick in 2009): Finally came around in his fifth year but not enough that it completely washed the stink off his first four. Surprising really that he would feature on 2,496 offensive snaps, but of a 12th overall pick you’d expect a bigger contribution.

Robert Ayers, DE (18th overall pick in 2009): If Ayers had been selected lower this pick may have been better. But he was drafted 18th overall and his output has not been anywhere near where you’d expect a first-rounder to be.

Seth Olsen, OT (132nd overall pick in 2009): Fourth-rounder lasted just a year with the team before being cut.

Tom Brandstater, QB (174th overall pick in 2009): Another who would last just a year with the team before being cut.

Blake Schlueter, OC (225th overall pick in 2009): Didn’t make it to the regular season of his first year, getting cut before the season opener.

J.D. Walton, C (81st overall pick in 2010): Looked to finally get it in 2012 before injury ended his season. Unfortunately that small sample didn’t make up for how poor Walton was in his first two years in the league. Would end his time in Denver with a -43.4 grade.

Jammie Kirlew, DE (233rd overall pick in 2010): Seventh-rounder who wouldn’t make the regular season.

Nate Irving, LB (67th overall pick in 2011): Was expected to land a starting job but injuries and the form of others have limited him to just 404 career snaps on defense. A shame really because as his +5.1 grade would suggest he’s looked good during those snaps.

-1.0: What a waste!

Tim Tebow, QB (25th overall pick in 2010): He led the team to the playoffs and that is the only thing somewhat salvaging this grade. While he was an incredibly erratic passer and the media obsession created numerous issues, he did make plays that were pivotal in the team turning a disastrous season into a winning one.

-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!

Alphonso Smith, CB (37th overall pick in 2009): Not helped by the team trading up for him, Smith would play 151 snaps as a rookie before being traded away for Dan Gronkowski and a selection of magic beans. Seemed rash to give up on him so soon.

Darcel McBath, S (48th overall pick in 2009): 293 snaps out of a second-round safety is in no way good enough. A new coaching staff might mitigate this pick but lasting just two years with the team remains unacceptable.

Richard Quinn, TE (64th overall pick in 2009): Part of the worst second round a team has ever had. Quinn was a blocking specialist who was seen as a reach at the time and would go onto play 247 snaps for the team. Terrible selection.

-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!

Close …


Here are the teams we’ve covered so far:

HOU | IND | JAX | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | SL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Rick S.

    I know Chris Harris was an UFA, but he’s gotta be a +2….

    Considering that Denver essentially traded the rights to Earl Thomas for Alphonso Smith, this pick could be considered a -2.5…

    • [email protected]

      More teams should do what Seattle does with their safeties, its tough enough to find an Earl Thomas without expecting him to be Kam Chancellor at the same time. The interchangable safety thing that most teams try to do is unrealistic, the position demands too many different attributes.

  • Jason Williams

    The one thing about Tebow and that season was the TIMING of when he would make great plays.

    Against the Bears, he was putrid for 3 and a half quarters and then all of a sudden he couldn’t miss.

    Against the Dolphins (first start?) he made one awful throw after another until the touchdown throw that either tied the game or got them within a FG.

    So it was clear that he did have the ability to make a big play but the fact that he couldn’t make those plays during the first three quarters always made me write him off as a guy I didn’t want on my team.

    • Fintasy

      Tebow wasn’t flashy, but the results he achieved were undeniable. Looks like PFF isn’t seeing the big picture.

      • bobrulz

        I think -1.0 is very generous considering he only lasted 2 years with the team. He was a 1st round pick, not a 4th round pick.

        • Christopher

          Again, when you’re replaced by a TOP 5 ALL-TIME GUY, how are you a failure? The only QBs back then who wouldn’t have been replaced by Peyton were Tom Brady & Aaron Rodgers. One could say a team with a high pick investment in a QB wouldn’t have taken on Peyton’s services either, but a team whose regime drafted said QB, *&* had that QB lead them to the playoffs in his 1st 16 starts would keep said player. Tebow’s draftor was fired & Elway added Manning…to me this has little to do with Tebow.

          And if we’re doing serious cost-analysis, Peyton Manning has to win a Super Bowl. Tim Tebow already proved, running around like a chicken on fire, he knew how to guide a mediocre team to football glory. Imagine him with a real 1st-team-rep offseason? Sure, it may’ve gone to hell, but replacing Tebow’s obvious production (completion % notwithstanding) after such an investment means the replacement HAS to progress much higher than that 1st-round-pick QB. Peyton hasn’t done so.

          • bobrulz

            This is an absurd argument. How does Peyton’s quality as a quarterback have anything to do with Tebow’s? Just because Peyton is a top 5 QB of all time doesn’t mean Tebow would’ve kept the job otherwise.

            Go back and watch those 2011 games. The defense kept that team in the game, and Tebow was often bailed out by two very talented developing receivers, particularly Demaryius Thomas. For long stretches of almost every game, the offense was stuck in the mud. Only creative playcalling, some sheer Tebow willpower (I think he’s a great case study for those “intangibles” that stat geeks hate so much), a great defense, and a weak schedule and division kept that team competitive. The Broncos were lucky that the rest of the division was awful, and the only truly good team that the Broncos beat all year were the Steelers in the wild card round, who had a very beat up defense (and perhaps a warning of the cracks – or is it wrinkles? – that would become obvious in the next season). They were straight up destroyed by the great teams.

          • Christopher

            Defense was ranked 24. How did they keep them in the games exactly? & you act like the Tebow-led #1 running attack had nothing to do with burning the clock & keeping the defense fresh to begin with.

            And Elway only promised Tebow the job going into training camp. The problem I have with that & your argument is people believe getting to the playoffs happens all the time, & WINNING in the playoffs is a lark or a fluke. Denver were the 2nd worst team the year before the Tebow playoff year, & were 1-4 before he came in (they just kept going with “best chance to win” Kyle Orton, who’s started 70 games, not one of them in the playoffs). People also forget Tebow’s started a grand total of 16 games, & has NEVER had an offseason or training camp as the #1 QB (between ’10 & ’11 was the lockout). To me, Tebow would’ve improved on his awful 47% completion rating, & if he did as well as he did (YES, I think a QB is the absolute X-factor in team success, call me crazy), can you image him with a little more (or a LOT) seasoning? Alex Smith failed for precisely 5 years, but the SF organization were committed to getting something out of that !@#$ high pick, so they stuck with him (& Smith’s QB rating was below Tebow’s (playoffs included) his 1st three years, & on par the 1st 5). Aaron Rodgers sat & watched for 4 years. I’m not saying Tebow will ever be Aaron Rodgers, what I am saying is, the NFL has a habit of rewarding QBs who look “appropriate” throwing the ball (Palmer, Stafford, Cutler), who fail to make the playoffs year after year (or fail once there, a la Dalton). Sam Bradford STILL being a starter whilst Tebow is unemployed is incredibly funny to me.

            Anyway, I *did* watch those games, very closely. Fox & McCoy (as you well know) literally almost wouldn’t let him throw, until it was the 4th Q., & then he posted the best rating in the league. Granted, something is weirdly wired about the kid, that he seems too hyped up as he throws (that “FB playing QB” mentality he brings), & he’s wildly inaccurate, but come pressure-time, he seems to calm down (Jeebus!) & really gets focused on throwing well. So maybe Fox & co. wanted to limit the wild accuracy damage, & wanted SOME gains out of plays (i.e., runs). I just thought he was stifled (I’ve heard from a few credible QB gurus (do Young & Dilfer count?) that you need to get in a rhythm, & lord knows the Denver offense that year wouldn’t do that). Look, I’ll frame it for you this way—Elway & company were sick of the incomplete passes, but they were also sick of Tebow being too protective of the ball (“Let ‘er rip!”, as Elway admonished for the playoff game). So Pittsburgh defended the run in the playoffs (again, that run game was Tebow & Mr. Cast-off Willis McGahee), & Tebow threw up a bonkers passer rating & 316 yards, FROM THE START OF THE GAME (as for “beat-up defense”, I remember Clark, Keisel, & Hampton being out, 2 run stuffers. Am I missing someone?) But then Tebow gets beat on the road in the playoffs by THE defensive genius in his 16th start, & he hasn’t played since. To me this makes no sense. Kid is good clay to work with, had a nice success as an NFL idiot, & I swear I’d take him over Peyton in a big game. The difference is, Peyton gets you to that big game easier.

            I guess my point is, any other team but Seattle doesn’t start Russell Wilson so soon & put their trust in him (& yes, that defense was insane, & yes, Wilson is better than Tebow). I just see this nauseating groupthink in coaching circles, best exemplified by Rex Ryan riding “credible throwers” Mark Sanchez & Geno Smith straight out of the playoffs in lieu of Tebow 2 years running, *especially* when he had a really good defense. Tebow sucks in practice, we get it. Damn spiffy those last 10 minutes though.

      • Christopher

        That’s my favourite things scouts & now stat “nerds” (sorry) forget—making the playoffs is a big, big deal, & winning inside them is even greater. But no, we just need “efficient” guys like Andy Dalton who clearly choke in big pressure situations (won’t even bring up Peyton Manning, though obviously he’s great…in the regular season), or we veer towards “gods” like JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf, ignoring the Kurt Warners of the world. There’s only so many Tom Bradys & Aaron Rodgers, & the evaluators even almost messed THOSE up.

    • Christopher

      I *could* argue the “cloud of dust” offense of Fox & McCoy really hindered Tebow getting in a flow (the 1st 3 quarters), but then one could argue they were mitigating risk by only exposing Tebow’s throwing to the 4th quarter. However, if Tebow did one thing well, it was be almost TOO cautious in keeping interceptions down—so a guy who can run well, is a very good leader, who makes plays in pressure situations, has *some* passing ability, & wasn’t given the requisite reps to get better to me seems like a good couple year bet, especially considering the investment. But no, Tebow got 16 games, was replaced by a fluke free agent who happened to be a top-5 all-timer, went to a team where the head coach was irrationally (& heavily) invested in his starter, & now Tebow, often voted the most popular athlete in America (further complicating things) cannot get a job, hence, “failure”. It just doesn’t add up. Your last 2 games were playoff games & *I’m* playing the same amount of professional football as you?

  • Brian Bigger

    Surprised a little the Demaryius Thomas is not in the 1.5 category. He is one of the top receivers in the league.

  • Frank Yi

    It’s interesting to see the disparity, in which only two of McDaniels picks had positive grades, and only one of Elway’s picks has a negative grade (which, given his performance could go up). Thomas’s grade will probably improve with time, given that he only has had 2 productive seasons and was a first round pick. Chris Harris was definitely a steal, and the Alphonso Smith selection was just a pure disaster. Agreed with Rick. Given what they could have had, that grade could be much lower

  • AldenBrown

    The sexual assault charges against Perrish Cox were not “disproved.” A finding of not guilty simply means that the jury could not conclude that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defendant has no burden to prove his innocence. Cox later settled a civil suit with the victim out of court, which would be a strange thing to do if the allegations had been “disproved.” Given that: (1) Cox denied having sex with the victim, acknowledging that the victim was passed out and that only someone who was “sick” would have had intercourse with her; and (2) she became impregnated with his child at that time, it would be very difficult for Cox to “disprove” the allegations. It would be more correct to say simply that Cox was acquitted of the criminal charges and settled the civil case.

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand

    Tebow should be closer to the -1.5 category. Looking objectively, getting only a season and a half out of a first round QB, and having that season and a half be ineffective, the rest of the team stepping up to compensate for his ineffectiveness shouldn’t propel him to a higher grade. It’s part of the bias that comes from people wanting to attach wins and losses to a single player in a team sport.

    • Christopher

      Defense ranked 24 that year, & Tebow & cast-off/has-been McGahee posted the #1 running game. How exactly did the rest of the team step up, other than Prater doing Prater things in thin air? I’m confused, a more “competent” QB like Kyle Orton led them…where, exactly?

      And I love the dismissal of, yes, a leadership factor. If you think your QB is 1)tough 2)going to find a way to pull out a game, you step up yours a bit.

      The Broncos stumbled into Peyton Manning, hence Tebow’s “year & a half”. IMO, if Tebow can post a QB rating (playoffs included) one point behind Andrew Luck, *&* take the 2nd worst team (the year before) to the 2nd round of playoffs, WITH no offseason (that was the lockout year), & no 1st team reps till week 6, I have a feeling he’d improve as a passer. It tends to happen with reps, reps Tebow strangely wasn’t given till the 4th quarter of games (in which he produced the best passer rating in the league).

  • PedophileStateNittanyLiarz

    David Bruton, S (114th overall pick in 2009): Gets
    something back for becoming one of the best special teamers in the
    league, but hasn’t done enough on defense to be worth more.

    He was drafted AS a special teamer, nothing more. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Like his mentor, McDaniels values players differently. Bruton has been ever bit what the Broncos who drafted him hoped he’d be. And yet you have him rated the same as a guy who killed himself before catching a single pass!
    What an absolute joke this article is.

  • PedophileStateNittanyLiarz

    ” Impressed in flashes as a rookie but an off the field accusation of
    sexual assault (which was later disproved) all but ended his career in

    It is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE that the IGNORANT SCUMBAG who wrote this article says they were “disproved.” The fact that the child’s DNA proves that the rape victim’s child was his PROVES that in fact he WAS guilty!

    You ought to have to resign over writing something so pathologically wrong! Khaled, you are absolute scum!

    • [email protected]

      Relax. Its a simple mistake.

    • InternetToughGuysAreSilly

      He was proven in court to be NOT GUILTY. Him being the father of the child only proves they had sex not rape. Perrish Cox simply didn’t remember having sex but guess what……neither did the woman! Two drunk and high people having sex that neither remembers is not a crime.

      You ought to quit your job (judging by your ignorant overreaction I can’t imagine you have one though) for posting such nonsense and spitting in the face of our justice system. You are absolute scum!