Considering the talent the Broncos acquired through the 2006 and 2008 drafts, the 2007 draft class is just strange, between the fewer picks (due to trades) and large number of mispicks (some consider this draft a key factor in the beginning of Shanahan's demise).
While this will be a shorter list, these four players affected the Broncos future, both good and bad, let's see how.
The 2006 season was one filled with transition, possibly the most since Elway left. Long time starter Jake Plummer was benched after starting 7-4 and replaced by rookie Jay Cutler. Cutler and the Broncos finished 2-3 but he showed plenty of potential and fans were expecting a good draft class would be the final thing that would help the Broncos reach the playoffs. The offense had the tools to succeed behind young guns Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Mike Bell and Javon Walker, but the defense lacked weapons and Shanahan went into the draft looking to fix that and make the playoffs, instead between the misjudge of talent and plenty of reaches lead to a draft that began Shanahan's fall from grace.
Here is how the draft played out:
|3||70||Ryan Harris||OT||Notre Dame|
Jarvis Moss - The Broncos really liked what they say from Moss, despite being a bit light for defensive end, and traded up with the Jacksonville Jaguars to the 17th overall pick to select him, trading their 1st, 3rd and 5th to move up four spots from 21. Many felt Moss had the potential to be a 1st round pick, but between some character concerns and issues dealing with beating initial blockers caused some scouts to question his floor and whether his ceiling was worth it. These notes, and the cost the Broncos paid, laid out high expectations for Moss as a rookie, sadly he did not live up to that potential early. His rookie year he only played in 6 games and recorded 1 sack, 9 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Despite early struggles he showed a little something and got more playing time his 2nd season and despite improving his stats (2.5 sacks, 10 tackles) he did so in more games, playing in 12, and was rarely an impact player, disappearing for games at a time. Moss was never able to even reach his sophomore benchmark again, and was released by the Broncos during the 2010 season and is currently playing for the Oakland Raiders. During his Broncos career he totaled 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 21 tackles. Moss was ranked as the #2 Broncos Bust by our own John Bena.
Tim Crowder - In the 2nd round the Broncos again selected an outside pass rusher. Coming off a solid collage career at Texas, Crowder was seen as a physical beast who could get after the quarterback while being athletic enough to play the run and in coverage. Despite being well rounded, he didn't excel at anything and was considered the opposite of Moss, Crowder had a high floor and low ceiling. By the end of his rookie year he showed that he was more ready to play at the NFL level than Moss was, racking up 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 13 tackles and a defensive touchdown off of a fumble recovery. But between injuries and inconsistent play, he struggled his 2nd season recording only 1 tackle in 2008. Both Crowder and Moss entered the 2009 season on the border of being released by new coaches Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan and during the pre-season Moss outplayed Crowder. Because of this, and that Moss was a better fit in the new 3-4 defense, Crowder was released after just two seasons with the Broncos and was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His first two seasons in Tampa were solid (recording 7.5 sacks, 58 tackles and 1 forced fumble in two seasons) but in 2011 he struggled with injuries and poor play and was released this past off-season. Injuries and inconsistency ruined what looked like a solid career.
Ryan Harris - The first, and only, offensive selection for the Broncos in the 2007 draft, Harris was brought in to compete for a starting tackle job because the Broncos had struggled there. Despite being seen as just an average-sized prospect, Harris was known for having great foot-and-hand work that compensated for his average size and strength. After a quite rookie year Harris seized the starting job in 2008 where he started 16 games and provide strong right side protection to complement 2008 rookie left tackle Ryan Clady, allowing only 1.5 sacks over the whole season. Sadly injuries caused Harris to miss time in 2009 and after starting 8 games he was placed on IR December 9th. In 2010 he retook his starting job but was never able to get back to his 2009 form, but still played solid. Entering 2011 he was a free agent and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on a 1-year contract. Once again Injuries struck and he was forced to have back surgery and was release just one month after signing his new contract. After resting most of the season he returned to the Broncos as insurance for the injured Chris Kuper, but never saw the field. Like Crowder, Harris was never able to return to his sophomore level due to injuries and is currently fighting for a job in the NFL.
Marcus Thomas - Enter the draft Thomas was seen as a mixed-bag prospect, he had a number of character and work ethic issues hovering over him, but he had the size and strength to be a starting defensive tackle. Those nagging problems saw Thomas dropping down draft boards and he fell into the Broncos hands in the 4th. The Broncos needed depth at defensive tackle and potential long term starter, and they felt Thomas was that player. In his rookie season he showed he had the potential to be that player they needed, grabbing an interception to go along with 14 tackles and 1 forced fumble. The following years saw Thomas' role shrink as the Broncos moved to the 3-4 and Thomas struggled to fit in, despite being a solid DT prospect in the 3-4. In 2011 with the return the 4-3 under new head coach John Fox, and a new contract, Thomas was able to seize back his starting job and recorded his best year of his career. This off-season the Broncos and Thomas are currently in negotations for a new contract but the sides are still apart since Thomas is looking for a long term contract.
The 2007 Season - Despite both the offense and defense seeing improvement in 2007, the defense didn't make the strides they needed to. Add in a tough schedule and you have a recipe for a team that underachieved despite having talent on both sides of the ball. Finished 7-9 at the end of the season doesn't tell the story of a season filled with more ups-and-downs than I care to count. A truly bi-polar season that displayed some of the coaching issues that were becoming apparent in the Shanahan regime.
Legacy - The 2007 draft will always be remembered for the Jarvis Moss selection, and the inconsistent play of Tim Crowder and Ryan Harris also mar this draft. But it wasn't without good signs. Moss had a successful season in his rookie year, and Harris and Thomas have all played a number of years as starters here in Denver and look to still be part of the team in 2012. In the end, I really have to rate this a D, the only saving grace would be Thomas and Harris, but an F isn't unreasonable because of the cost the Broncos paid to select Jarvis Moss.