Mike Shanahan, The Broncos and The Draft -- 1998

For the first time in team history the Broncos prepared for the 1998 NFL Draft as the defending Super Bowl Champions.  That means a lot of low round draft picks, and a lot of busts and fliers.  The 1998 draft is a perfect example, and one most Bronco fans would probably like to forget.

Let's take a look at each pick, and how their career ended up.  At the end, I'll grade the draft and give my opinion.

1st Round -- Pick 30(30) -- Marcus Nash, WR(Tennessee) -- Marcus Nash was a tough prospect to gauge coming out of Tennessee.  Nash was thought to have a lot of potential, would disappear for games at a time while a Volunteer.  When drafted with the last pick of the first round, Nash was expected to be the deep, down-field threat to team with Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe.  It was another example of Shanny taking a flier on a guy with a lot of questions, but tremendous upside.  Unfortunately, it didn't work out for Nash, who caught all of 4 passes in his career with the Broncos.  After being traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1999, Nash signed with the Ravens for the 2000 season, earning his 2nd Super Bowl ring.  Nash was completely out of football for 2 seasons, before joining the Arena Football League in 2003.  Nash found renewed success indoors, going on to star in the AFL, and being called the "Jerry Rice of the Arena League".  In 4+ seasons in the AFL for three teams Nash has caught 515 passes, compiling over 6000 yards and 147 TDs.  He was named Offensive Player of the Year in 2004.  Add Nash to the list of players that went on to succeed after Denver, and his 2 Super Bowl rings is ultra impressive for a guy that played in 7 career games.

2nd Round -- Pick 31(61) -- Eric Brown, S(Mississippi St.) -- Brown was brought on board to eventually replace Steve Atwater and Tyronne Braxton in the aging Denver secondary.  While showing flashes during his tenure with teh Broncos, Brown would also have to be condsidered a draft-day disappointment.  Brown played four seasons with the Broncos, starting off and on during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  After 2001, the Broncos decided to let Brown leave in free-agency, replacing him with Kenoy Kennedy.  Brown went on to sign with the expansion Houston Texans, where he started at safety form 2002-2004.  Brown was not resigned after the 2004 season, and ended up with the Washington Redskins in 2005, though he did not make the team.  Known as a physical safety, Brown couldn't seem to stay healthy and always seemed to be dinged up.  Brown ended his career with 465 total tackles and 9 career INT's.

3rd Round -- Pick 30(91) -- Brian Griese, QB(Michigan) -- Brian Griese was going to be the guy.  The one to replace the Legend.  He had the brains.  He has the arm.  He had the bloodlines, the son of a Hall of Fame quarterback.  It seemed he had it all.  Except for the most important thing, a love and passion for the game of football.  It started well enough for Griese, who took over the controls of the Broncos during the pre-season of 1999.  In a year muddled with injuries, along with the hangover of two titles, Griese fared pretty well, throwing for over 3000 yards and 15 TD's.  It got even better in 2000 when Griese completed 64% of his passes, throwing 19 TD's and only 4 picks in 10 games.  It earned Griese a huge extension from the Broncos, and was also the beginning of the end.  Injuries became the norm, as well as an alienation in the locker room.  Questions about his heart and dedication started to fly.  Quarterbacks in the NFL can overcome alot.  One thing they cannot overcome is a lack of repect from their teammates in the locker room.  It took time, but slowly Griese's performance, combined with outspoken teammates questioning Griese, who was the polar opposite of John Elway in the huddle, were enough to take him down.  Griese was released after the 2002 season, making way for Jake Plummer.  Since, Griese has played for 3 more teams, each with mixed success.  It seemed Griese had found a home in Tampa Bay with Jon Gruden in 2004-2005, but a knee injury ended his '05 season, and led once again to his release.  After spending 2007 in Chicago, Griese will return to Tampa for 2008.

4th Round -- Pick 30(122) -- Curtis Alexander, RB(Alabama) -- A complete zero would do well to describe Alexander's career in Denver.  Aleaxander didn't make the squad out of training camp, spending the 1999 season on the practice squad.  He went on to spend time in every league possible.  He spent 2000 with the Dolphins, 2001 with the Buffalo Bills and in the XFL, before heading to Canada in 2002.  Alexander also spent time in NFL Europe, playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy.  Not a good pick, in any scenario.

5th Round -- Pick 30(152) -- Chris Howard, RB(Michigan) -- Unlike Alexander, Howard actually saw action in real NFL games, just not for the Broncos.  After not making the team out of training camp, Brown was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, spending parts of 3 seasons with the Jags.  His career totals in 22 games -- 41 carries for 123 yards.

6th Round -- TRADE -- The Broncos traded this pick during the 1996 draft to the Jets as part of the deal to get the Jets 3rd round pick, which the Broncos used to select Dan Neil

7th Round -- Pick 11(200) -- Trey Teague, OL(Tennessee) -- The Broncos traded a 7th round pick in 1999 to Philly for the right to draft Teague, who easily became the best pick for the Broncos in 1998, and that's not a good thing.  Teague slowly worked his way up the depth chart before getting his big break in 2001, starting all 16 games for the Broncos.  Wisely, Teague turned that success into a big free-agent contract from the Buffalo Bills, where playing center, Teague started 60 out of 64 games for the Bills.  His contract wasn't renewed after the 2005 season, and Teague spent 2006 with the Jets, seeing no action while being inactive every week.  He was released on February 21st and looks to be at the end of 10-year career, decent by any standards, especially for a 7th rouond selection.

7th Round -- Pick 30(219) -- Nate Wayne, LB(Mississippi) -- Some will say Wayne was the best pick of the draft for the Broncos, unfortunately Shanny didn't give Wayne a chance to show it.  After only two seasons in Denver, Wayne was traded to Green Bay during the 2000 draft for a 4th round pick that became Ben Hamilton.  The trade worked out well for the Packers as well, with Wayne becoming a team leader on defense.  Injuries have hampered Wayne the past couple of seasons, with Philadelphia and Detroit, but Wayne recently signed a contract with New Orleans for the 2007 season.  If you want to keep up with Wayne, you can do so via his website.

Guru's Take -- It is undoubtedly a challenge to draft players late in every round.  You need to really count on your scouting and talent evaluators to get get it right.  It is somewhat amazing to me how successful the Broncos have remained despite let-downs in drafts, such as 1998.  Of the seven players selected, only 2 played at least 4 seasons with the Broncos, and not one spent what would be considered their best season in Denver.  Teams trying to win Super Bowls tend not to have time to wait on player development, but 0 for 7 is not a good average, no matter what the expectation.

Guru's Grade -- D

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