The NFL draft is, at the very least, an extremely tricky business. At most, it's nearly impossible business. Over the past couple of days I have been scouring through years and years of draft classes and it has become clear that for all the work and the preparation that goes into preparing for a draft, the true skill seems to be what happens behind closed doors on draft day. It seems to be in those who can adjust and adapt quickly to an ever changing and evolving draft board while trusting their team to handle trade calls and decipher what is real from what is just a smokescreen.
It's an epic battle of chess. Soduku with people's lives. The biggest stage in which to mentally out maneuver and outsmart 31 other teams full of other experts and analysts. Like in any battle there are winners and there are those left out in the cold wondering just how everything went so wrong. For many professionals in the NFL, their Superbowl occurs in late April when the decisions they make on primetime ESPN will be remembered and evaluated for years to come.
Often times, it seems the winners are those who, when the clock settles on them, have a solid plan to execute, a bit of ice running through their veins, and sweet deal lined up with Lady Luck. So, the question that is levied on every NFL team after they draft, especially years into the future, is where they one of the winners or did Lady Luck simply pass them by?
After landing only two starters and a couple of role players in the 2004 NFL Draft the only way to describe the results were disappointing. In 2004 the Broncos once again enjoyed a solid 10 win season before getting destroyed once by the Indianapolis Colts 49-24 in the Wildcard round.
The Broncos had a limited number of draft picks in the '05 draft so they traded their 1st rounder (#22) to the 49ers for their 37th and 68th picks overall. The NIner's turned that #22 pick into Jason Campbell.
After that trade, which by draft values is pretty much a wash, and some other maneuvering the Broncos were armed with 6 picks, with none in the first round, four in the 2nd and 3rd, and one in the 6th and 7th. Now for the down and dirty... just where did the Broncos go with these options?
|2||56||Darrent Williams||CB||Oklahoma State|
|3||76||Karl paymah||DB||Washington State|
|3||101||Maurice Clarett||?||Ohio State|
|7||239||Paul Ernster||K||Northern Arizona|
1. Darrent Williams - CB - Oklahoma State
The story of Darrent Williams is as special as it is tragic. An astoundingly gifted athlete out of Oklahoma State, Williams earned himself a starting role as the Broncos CB his rookie season. In his first twelve games D. Will had 49 solo tackles, forced and recovered one fumble and had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown against the Raiders. He even recorded a sack. In '06 D. Will played in 15 games and recorded 4 more interceptions for the Broncos and another touchdown.
Then, on January 1st, 2007 Darrent Williams was gunned down outside of a nightclub in Denver, forever ending his promising career in the NFL. Many of us remember the news that morning. One can only speculate exactly where Darrent William's career would have gone in the future, but his was a bright star that was snuffed out too soon.
"I think everybody feels about Darrent the way I do because I don't think there was a guy who wasn't his friend. It's just the way he lived life. He had a smile on his face. You never know why God takes somebody, but I know thing -- he got somebody very special." - Mike Shanahan
R.I.P. D. Will. Bronco Country always remembers.
2. Karl Paymah - CB - Washington State
Karl Paymah is one of those guys that put in some serious time for the Broncos relatively under the radar during his career. Playing behind guys like Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams will do that I suppose. Paymah recorded 101 tackles and a handful of interceptions as a Bronco from 2005 to 2008. In 2009 Paymah signed with the Vikings for one season and finished his career with the Texans on a one-year deal in 2010. I would consider Paymah a solid 3rd round backup CB for the Broncos.
3. Domonique Foxworth - CB Maryland
For those of you keeping count, Foxworth makes it five defensive backs taken in the first five rounds over the '04 and '05 drafts. Apparently Shanahan was desperately trying to find someone to shut down the side opposite Champ Bailey. Foxworth saw considerable time as a Bronco during the '05-'07 seasons amassing 173 tackles, 3 interceptions, and a few forced fumbles before being traded to the Falcons for a conditional 7th rounder in 2009 (which was later traded to the Lions).
Foxworth eventually revitalized his career as a Baltimore Raven. In March 2012 Foxworth was elected president of the NFLPA.
4. Maurice Clarett - ? - Ohio State
I'd be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to this bio. Clarett's history, from college until his short stint in the pros is anything if not fascinating. Clarett, who was formerly a USA Today High School player of the year had his pick from some very impressive D1 schools. After settling on Ohio State Clarett was soon in deep trouble after altercations with his coaches, with the faculty, and eventually with the police.
In 2003 he was dismissed from Ohio State, after which he promptly sued the NFL to gain access in the '04 NFL Draft. Initially his case was upheld. If only that had remained true. The United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit (the honorable Sonia Sotomayor) overturned that case and chose to disallow Clarett's entrance into the NFL Draft. For Clarett, however, the damage had been done and he was unable to return to the NCAA as he had already signed an agent (a man who also represented Marion "Suge" Knight, another fascinating storyline involving Dr. Dre and Tupac).
While many experts projected Clarett as a 6 or 7th rounder at best, perhaps even an undrafted talent, the Denver Broncos shocked the world by taken him with the 101st pick, the final pick of the 3rd round on the first day of the draft. Here are some names picked after Clarett: Kyle Orton, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, and Darren Sproles.
To say Clarett was simply a bust is to grossly underestimate how poor of a pick this was. The Broncos tried to salvage his career in training camp and wisely offered him a very attractive incentive laden contract to replace his guaranteed money rookie contract. Unless those incentives involved picking up takeout pizza he never came close to fulfilling any of them and was eventually released on August 28th, 2005, ending his short four month career in the NFL and leaving him in terrible debt.
Clarett, quite possibly the greatest draft bust in Bronco history, left us with one nugget of wisdom: "It's a humbling thing being humble." Keep it real Maurice.
5. Chris Myers - G - Miami
Chris Myers saw little action as a Bronco, filling in where needed during his rookie season before being traded to the Houston Texans for a 6th round pick in the '08 draft. He has continued on to have a very successful career with the Texans and recently signed a 4-year, 25 million deal with 14 million guaranteed.
6. Paul Ernster - K - Northern Arizona
The final draft pick of the '05 draft was a kicker. Paul Ernster saw little action in 2005 but enjoyed significant playing time in 2006 kicking 80 punts for an average of 41.7 yards (compare to 2011 Britton Colquitt 101 punts for 47.4 average). Ernster played for Cleveland and Pittsburgh in his 3 year career before leaving the NFL for good in 2008.
And there you have it. The '04 and '05 drafts. In 16 picks the Broncos have only one current roster player in DJ Williams and zero Pro Bowlers. So the question is levied to you reader, during two critical season in which the Broncos made the playoffs, did our draft picks set us up for success?