Denver Broncos History: The 2008 Draft

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos lays on the ground in front of teammates Orlando Franklin #74 and Ryan Clady #76 after drawing a roughing the passer call against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field on September 25, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

This particular segment of the Broncos Draft History was bittersweet. It saw some solid players chosen who became integral parts of the Broncos roster, while at the same time it gave rise to a season which marked the end of the Mike Shanahan era in Denver.

Take a jump & see how these players panned out.

The 2007 Denver Broncos season was one marked by ups and downs. A 2-0 start was followed by a 3-game losing streak. Denver then won three of the next five games to even their record at 5-5-0. The Broncos then went 2-4 in their final six games. A loss to Houston in Game 14 and a subsequent loss to San Diego in Game 15 eliminated the Broncos from playoff contention. The 7-9-0 final regular season record marked Denver's first losing season since 1999.

Here is how the 2008 draft board fell for the Broncos:

Round Overall Pick Player Position School
1 12 Ryan Clady Tackle Boise State
2 42 Eddie Royal Wide Receiver Virginia Tech
4 108 Kory Lichtensteiger Center Bowling Green
4 119 Jack Williams Cornerback Kent State
5 139 Ryan Torain Running back Arizona State
5 148 Carlton Powell Defensive Tackle Virginia Tech
6 183 Spencer Larsen Linebacker Arizona
7 220 Josh Barrett Strong Safety Arizona State
7 227 Peyton Hillis Fullback Arkansas


Ryan Clady -- taken with Denver's natural pick, this was a move designed to bolster the offensive line. Clady was scouted as having the ability to contribute right away and be able to anchor the offensive line for years. He finished 3rd in voting for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Clady earned recognition for setting an NFL record by surrendering only 1/2 of a sack in his first 20 starts. He was voted to the 1st-team All Pro after his sophomore season. Sporting News ranked him as the #1 offensive tackle in 2009. He has started every game of every season since being drafted -- despite having injured his patella tendon in April of 2010. This was a solid pick by Shanahan.

Eddie Royal -- another early offensive pick, Royal was expected to be taken high in the draft due to his exceptional return skills -- he was compared by many to Devin Hester in this regard. He was projected to be a slot receiver who would excel when getting the ball in open space. He looked impressive in his rookie season, catching 91 balls for 980 yards with 5 touchdowns. He added 740 yards through returns. His sophomore season was a struggle as he fell behind Brandon Marshall and Jabar Gaffney. Some of this may have been the result of the transition from the Cutler-led Shanahan offense to the Orton-led McDaniels offense. Royal bounced back to a more productive season in his third year, but his productivity dropped in a big way during his fourth season -- partially due to having missed four games with injuries. On March 15, 2012, he signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent. As a Bronco, Royal appeared in 57 out of 64 games with 45 starts. He caught 206 catches for 2107 yards with 9 touchdowns. He rushed 25 times for 219 yards. He returned 81 punts for 967 yards with 2 touchdowns and added 57 kick returns for 1375 yards and 1 touchdown. Royal showed flashes of greatness but struggled with consistency. Only time will tell if this was a result of working under three different coaches -- Shanahan (2008), McDaniels (2009-10), Fox (2011) -- or is simply the sign of an inconsistent talent.

Kory Lichtensteiger -- was picked 108th overall in the draft. He was described by scouts as a good athlete with good intangibles but was considered to be slow with limited abilities. He was projected to be a good practice squad pick that could develop into a backup center who could also fill in at guard. He was unable to break into Denver's active roster and was waived on September 4, 2009. He was claimed off waivers by Minnesota but waived less than a month later. He sat out the 2009 season. He signed a future contract with Washington on January 10, 2010 (under the coach who had originally drafted him) and became their starting left guard. Lichtensteiger tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 6 and ended the season on the injured reserve list. He recently signed his tender offer with the Redskins. Lichtensteiger was a potential backup who could never crack the Broncos active roster.

Jack Williams -- the Broncos traded Ashley Lelie to Washington in a three-team trade with Atlanta on August 23, 2006. The Broncos received a 3rd round pick in 2007 which became Ryan Harris and a 4th round pick in 2008 which became Jack Williams. Scouts saw Williams as a player with excellent speed, quickness, instincts, discipline and intangibles but worried that he was undersized and would struggle with taller receivers. He was drafted to provide insurance in case Hamza Abdullah, Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymah were lost to free agency or trade. He was on the active roster for 14 games in 2008 and 7 games in 2009. He was on Detroit's active roster for 1 game in 2009. He has been a free agent since 2009 and cannot be considered a productive pick.

Ryan Torain -- Denver traded Gerard Warren to Oakland on August 20, 2007 for a conditional 5th round pick in 2008. That pick became Ryan Torain. Torain was seen by scouts as a running back that would thrive in a zone blocking offense. His upside included an ability to hit the hole hard, a willingness to lower his shoulder into defenders to pick up extra yards and being a good receiver out of the backfield. His biggest weakness was seen as the tendency to take a false step which hindered his speed at the second level. He was the fourth offensive player taken by Denver out of its first five picks. He appeared in only two games in his rookie season and tore an ACL in the second one. After finishing the season in the injured reserve list, he was waived/injured on August 12, 2009. He cleared waivers and reverted to the injured reserve list, but was released with an injury settlement on August 16, 2009. He sat out the entire 2009 season before being picked up by Washington in 2010 (by the coach who had originally drafted him). Although he appeared in 19 games in 2 seasons with 12 starts for the Redskins and was expected to be the replacement back for Clinton Portis, Torain was waived on December 27, 2011. Overall, he would have be characterized as an injury-prone, disappointing pick.

Carlton Powell -- was scouted as being strong enough and quick enough to beat double teams and good at keeping his eyes on the opposing quarterback. He was criticized by scouts for running too high and getting pushed out of his lane. He ruptured an achilles tendon during the off season and was placed on the physically unable to perform list on August 25, 2008. He was never able to break into the Broncos active roster after his recovery and was waived on September 4, 2009. He was claimed by Cleveland and placed on their practice squad but was waived by the Browns less than a month later. The Broncos re-signed him to their practice squad on November 3, 2009. He was signed off the Broncos practice squad by Tampa Bay on May 18, 2010 but was released in September of 2010. He signed with the New York Jets in January of 2011 but was waived in August of 2011. He signed with Atlanta in August of 2011 and was released two months later. He was re-signed to Atlanta's practice squad in December of 2011. An overall disappointing pick who has been unable to break into any team's active roster.

Spencer Larsen -- the Broncos traded Chris Myers to Houston on March 17, 2008 for a 6th round draft pick. That pick was used on Larsen. Listed as a linebacker by many scouts, he was used as both a linebacker and a fullback by Denver. He was a quietly dependable player who appeared in 50 games with 15 starts. He carried the ball 17 times for 62 yards and added 14 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Larsen also had 4 kick returns for 57 yards. He was primarily used as a blocking back when on the offensive side of the ball. As a linebacker, he recorded 38 tackles (33 solo). He signed with New England as a free agent on March 22, 2012. Overall, this was a solid pick by Shanahan.

Josh Barrett -- this was Denver's natural 7th round pick. Barrett was seen by scouts as having lots of positives: great speed, good at forcing receivers off their routes, good range, able to get back into deep coverage, good size when coming up for run support, aggressive, high energy, and a reliable open field tackler. He did have some noticeable weaknesses: a tendency to get beaten on deep throws, trouble when trying to shadow receivers, easily fooled by play action and a need to show better instincts. He was unable to break into the active roster during training camp and was waived on August 30, 2008. He cleared waivers and was re-signed to the practice squad. Barrett was added to the active roster for the last six games of 2008 and garnered starts in the last three. During these appearances he had one interception with a 34-yard return and 11 tackles (4 solo). He logged 10 tackles in 14 appearances (no starts) in 2009. Barrett was waived/injured due to a shoulder injury on August 5, 2010. New England claimed him off waivers but he was placed in the injured reserve list and sat out the 2010 season. Barrett had 4 starts in five games for the Patriots in 2011 and logged 12 tackles. Despite his tremendous upside, he has not yet appeared to have lived up to his pre-draft expectations.

Peyton Hillis -- Denver traded the rights to quarterback Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay on March 3, 2007 in return for a conditional pick in the 2008 draft. That pick ended up being the 7th round pick used on Hillis. Hillis was scouted as a probable late round pick who was considered to be faster and more athletic than most fullbacks. He was seen as a good receiver out of the backfield and a decent blocker. Scouts saw him as being a force on special teams who could fit in well with a West Coast offense. He was considered to have some weaknesses: he lacked the bulk of a true NFL fullback, needed to improve his blocking skills, was not considered to have the power to be a consistent short-yardage threat, was not seen as an elusive runner and there were questions about his durability. Hillis became the Broncos starting running back in Week 11 against Atlanta -- due the running back corps being decimated by injuries. He had 10 carries for 44 yards and 2 touchdowns. He tore a hamstring in Week 14 in a game against Kansas City and ended the season on the injured reserve list. He finished his rookie season with 10 appearances (4 starts), 68 carries for 343 yards and 5 touchdowns, 14 catches for 179 yards and 1 touchdown. His 343 rushing yards made him Denver's leading rusher in 2008. Despite being very popular with the fans, he drew very little playing time in 2009 under 1st-year head coach Josh McDaniels. There were many theories advanced regarding what soured the relationship between the two, but nothing was ever confirmed. On March 14, 2010, he was traded -- along with a conditional 6th round pick in the 2011 draft -- to Cleveland for quarterback Brady Quinn. Injuries to Cleveland's starting running backs again gave Hillis the chance to start and he went on to a career year, rushing for 1177 yards and 11 touchdowns. He became the cover player for the 2012 edition of Madden football due to his efforts. A variety of issues in 2011 -- which many blame on the Madden curse -- led to Hillis to having a less productive year and falling out of favor in Cleveland. The Browns let him go in free agency and Hillis signed with Kansas City on March 14, 2012. He was a dependable backup who was able to step up when the starters were injured.

The 2008 Broncos finished 8-8-0 and in a tie with San Diego for 1st place in the AFC West. Three straight losses at the end of the season helped insure that the Broncos would lose the tiebreaker with the Chargers. The offense ranked 2nd in the NFL in terms of gaining yards but struggled to put points on the board -- finishing 16th in that category. The offense was hampered by devastating injuries to their running back corps with Selvin Young, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Andre Hall, Peyton Hillis and P. J. Pope all ending up on the injured reserve list. The defense was abysmal ranking 30th in points given up and 29th in yards surrendered. The Broncos ranked 31st in take away/give away ratio. Add in a draft in which six of the nine draft picks were spent on the offense and the writing on the wall became clear: Mike Shanahan was done in Denver.

The 2008 NFL Draft marked the beginning of the end of the Shanahan era in Denver. The solid acquisition of Clady, Larsen, and Royal, added to the productive pick of Hillis tends to balance out the misses on Lichtensteiger, Williams, Powell and Barrett. I would rank this draft as a C. What is your grade MHR?

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