Denver Broncos History: The 2009 Draft

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 27: Robert Ayers #91 of the Denver Broncos hits Tavaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks as he throws a pass during the preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 27, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)

The 2009 Denver Broncos draft was a historic one -- it was the first draft since 1995 that was not orchestrated by Mike Shanahan. Rookie head coach Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders had taken over the reins of the Broncos and their first draft met with mixed reviews.

Take a jump and see how these players panned out.

The 2008 season was a turbulent one for the Broncos. The offense excelled at gaining yards, but struggled to translate those yards into points. The running back corps was decimated by injuries, placing six running backs on injured reserve. The defense was abysmal, ranking 29th in yardage surrendered and 30th in points given up. In addition, the Broncos ranked 31st in the take away/give away ratio. Nevertheless, the Broncos managed to finish the season at 8-8-0 and in a tie with San Diego for 1st place in the AFC West. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost the playoff tiebreaker with the Chargers. Shortly after the season, Denver's "head coach for life," Mike Shanahan was fired, bringing a long, two Super Bowl winning era to an end.

Here is how the 2009 draft board fell for the Broncos:

Round Overall Pick Player Position School
1 12 Knowshon Moreno Running Back Georgia
1 18 Robert Ayers Defensive End Tennessee
2 37 Alphonso Smith Cornerback Wake Forest
2 48 Darcel McBath Defensive Back Texas Tech
2 64 Richard Quinn Tight End North Carolina
4 114 David Bruton Defensive Back Notre Dame
4 132 Seth Olsen Guard Iowa
5 141 Kenny McKinley Wide Receiver South Carolina
6 174 Tom Brandstater Quarterback Fresno State
7 225 Blake Schlueter Center Texas Christian

Knowshon Moreno -- this was Denver's natural 1st round pick. Moreno was highly regarded by scouts who praised his atheleticism, speed, size, vision, ability to hit a hole and gain yards after contact. He was regarded by some scouts as being the best running back in the 2009 class. His NFL career got off to a rocky start that was marked by an eight-day holdout. He approached the mother of the late Darrent Williams to request permission to wear Williams' #27 in order to honor Darrent. He started his career strongly, appearing in 16 games with 9 starts. He rushed 247 times for 947 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also had 28 catches for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns. His sophomore season was slowed by injuries which kept him out of three games. His production fell off (779 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing, 372 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving). In 2011, he lost his starting job to Willis McGahee then tore an ACL in a Week 10 game against Kansas City. He ended the 2011 season on the injured reserve list. Moreno has been widely criticized by many fans as being a bust, but his advocates suggest that he is perhaps better used as a situational player -- especially as a receiving back circling out of the backfield.

Robert Ayers -- on April 2, 2009, the Broncos traded quarterback Jay Cutler, and a 2009 5th round pick to the Chicago Bears for a 2009 1st round pick, a 2009 3rd round pick, a 2010 1st round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton. The 2009 1st round pick was used to acquire Ayers. Ayers had impressed scouts with his speed and quickness in evading offensive tackles. Scouts were also impressed by his ability to move back and play as a linebacker. He was criticized for his lack of size and was commonly projected to be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. Ayers started his career slowly, earning only 1 start in 15 games. As a rookie, he logged 14 tackles (10 solo), and 2 fumble recoveries -- one of which he returned for a touchdown. There were many who wanted to declare him a bust after one season, given that the Broncos had used a 1st round pick on him. He improved during his sophomore season -- perhaps due mostly to the absence of the injured Elvis Dumervil. He had 10 starts in 11 games, logged 32 tackles (25 solo), 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defensed and 1.5 sacks. The return of Dumveril helped Ayers in 2011 where he logged 13 starts in 16 games, 3.0 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 25 tackles. Overall, he appears to have been a decent pick who is duplicating his slow start and progress in college in his NFL play.

Alphonso Smith -- on April 25, 2009, the Broncos traded the 2010 1st round pick acquired from Chicago to move up and select Alphonso Smith in the 2nd round. Smith had been projected by many scouts to be a late 1st round/early 2nd round pick. Lack of size was considered to be his biggest weakness. His positives were seen as: quickness, great instincts, and rarely being caught out of position. He was described by many as being a "ball hawk." However, he did not perform well at Wake Forest's Pro Day, nor at the NFL Combine and many people thought his draft stock would fall. As a rookie, he appeared in 15 games (no starts) for Denver. He tallied 3 defensed passes, 7 tackles and little else. He was widely panned by fans as being a bust. He was traded to Detroit on September 4, 2010 for tight end Dan Gronkowski. As a Lion he logged 11 starts in 23 games, intercepted 8 passes -- returning 2 for touchdowns, recorded 14 passes defensed, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 fumbles, and logged 52 tackles (41 solo). This looks like a decent pick which the Broncos gave up on too soon.

Darcel McBath -- this was Denver's natural 2nd round pick. The scouting reports on McBath pointed out his strengths as: a defensive back with the build of a strong safety, good at closing on running plays, good at attacking receivers over the middle, a solid tackler with the speed to jump routes, good at reading the eyes of the quarterback, good hands for interceptions and able to move through traffic to reach the ball carrier. He was criticized for being only an adequate height for a safety, depending on the play being front of him to play his best, lacking lateral quickness to stay with fast tight ends and receivers in space, able to become tied up by blockers and not being a dominant hitter. He appeared in 13 games (no starts) as a rookie and recorded 2 interceptions along with 3 passes defensed and 13 tackles (9 solo). A broken forearm in Week 14 landed him on the injured reserve list. He only appeared in 7 games (1 start) in 2010 and posted only 15 tackles (all solo) and 1 pass defensed. He was waived on September 4, 2011. Jacksonville signed him off waivers on December 12, 2011. He appeared in just one game for the Jaguars. McBath seems to have been a pick with potential that never quite panned out.

Richard Quinn -- the Broncos traded two 3rd round 2009 picks to the Steelers for a 2009 2nd round pick and a 2009 4th round pick. Incidentally, one of those 3rd round picks was used by Pittsburgh to pick WR Mike Wallace. Scouting reports portrayed Quinn as a solid, blocking tight end who was as good a blocker as most offensive linemen. He was quick off the snap and able to gain leverage on defenders, driving them off the line of scrimmage. He had the ability to get to the second level and was a good blocker in space. As a receiver, he was able to run through arm tackles. His weaknesses included: only marginal hands when catching passes, lack of straight-line speed, inability to gain separation when running routes, a tendency to round off his routes and an inability to consistently catch balls which were thrown outside his frame. He appeared in 29 games (4 starts) for the Broncos during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He caught 1 pass for 9 yards and returned 1 kick for 19 yards. He was waived/injured on August 22, 2011, cleared waivers then put on the injured reserve list. He was released with an injury settlement on August 26, 2011. He was signed by Washington on December 13, 2011 and appeared in only 1 game for the Redskins. He has been panned by many fans as having been a wasted pick.

David Bruton -- this was Denver's natural 4th round pick. Bruton was scouted as being a hard hitting safety with solid speed and a nose for the ball, good at forcing turnovers, and a solid tackler. He was also described as struggling in coverage and was projected to be locked into a safety position. Most reports saw him as being taken in the 3rd round. He appeared in 45 games (4 starts) in his first three years with Denver. He has recorded 5 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble and 31 tackles (19 solo). He seems to be a dependable backup who can perform adequately without being a stupendous player.

Seth Olsen -- this was the other pick acquired in the trade with the Steelers that also landed Richard Quinn with the Broncos. He was not a widely known athlete -- it was hard to find a scouting report on him. He was scouted as a fundamentally sound player with good size who was best as a run-blocker, had good short-distance quickness, good intangibles and could substitute as a tackle. His biggest weakness was seen as being an average athlete with a limited upside who brought durability concerns with him. Olsen appeared in just 3 games as a Bronco in 2009 and was waived during the final cuts in September of 2010. He did not play at all in 2010. He was claimed by Indianapolis on September 12, 2011. He appeared in 6 games (1 start) with the Colts but was benched during the second quarter of his start due to being consistently beaten by defenders. From all appearances, this was a wasted pick.

Kenny McKinley -- on April 25, 2009, the Broncos traded a 2009 5th round pick and a 2009 6th round pick to the Ravens to move up in the 5th round of the 2009 draft (the Baltimore pick, interestingly enough had come to the Ravens from the Browns through the Eagles and then through the Patriots). Scouts saw McKinley as being extremely quick off the snap, a great route runner with breakaway speed, a good prospect for a slot receiver and special teams contributor. He had two major weaknesses: his relatively small size and concerns about a rash of injuries which occurred late in his college career. He was projected to be picked in the 4th or 5th round. He appeared in 8 games during his rookie season -- primarily used as a kick returner. He returned 3 punts for 32 yards and 7 kick offs for 158 yards. He was placed on the injured reserve list on December 28, 2009. He was not able to rehab well enough to get off the injured reserve list, a situation which contributed to his falling into a severe depression over not being able to play and a mounting problem with debt. Tragically, he was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on September 20, 2010. McKinley was a promising pick whose career was derailed and ended by injury and depression.

Tom Brandstater -- In yet another draft day trade, the Broncos traded a 2009 7th round pick and a 2010 5th round pick to move up in the 6th round to take Brandstater. Brandstater was originally scouted for the 2008 draft but was not drafted until 2009. Scouts saw him as a player with good intelligence and size, adept at handling the ball, able to move well in the pocket, good poise and arm strength, accurate when throwing short and middle range passes. His weaknesses included: poor mechanics, inaccurate on deep throws, not showing patience to go through reads, a tendency to telegraph his passes, struggles with pre-snap read and not overly athletic. Though he was drafted in 2009, he did not see the field in two seasons with the Broncos and was waived on June 4, 2010 after Denver had acquired Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow. He was claimed off waivers by Indianapolis, waived, re-signed to the Colts practice squad then released on September 29, 2010. He was signed to the Miami practice squad on November 15, 2010, signed to a contract at the end of the 2010 season, then released on August 5, 2011. Brandstater signed with Dallas in August of 2011 but was waived a month later. He was signed to the St. Louis practice squad in September of 2011, promoted to the active roster, released, re-signed to the practice squad, and re-promoted to the active roster. He came off the bench to make his NFL debut in Week 17 against San Francisco. His debut resulted in two incomplete passes. This was not a productive pick.

Blake Schlueter -- this was Denver's natural 7th round pick. Schlueter was scouted as a strong run-blocker with good leverage. However, he lacked the prototypical size of an NFL lineman and tended to overextend himself which allowed defenders to unbalance him. He was waived on September 1, 2009. Seattle signed him to their practice squad on September 7, 2009 then released him on September 15. He was signed to Atlanta's practice squad on November 24, 2009, re-signed to a future contract in January of 2010, then released in September of 2010. He has not landed with a team since his release by the Falcons. This was a wasted pick.

The 2009 season was one that was rocked by turmoil. First, Mike Shanahan had been fired and replaced by New England Patriots' Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. This was quickly followed by a breakdown in the relationship between McDaniels and starting quarterback Jay Culter which led to Cutler's being traded to the Chicago Bears. Cutler was replaced by Bears quarterback Kyle Orton -- almost an afterthought thrown into the trade. Despite all of this, the Broncos exploded for a 6-0 run to begin the season. This fast start was fueled by an stingy defense which surrendered only two touchdowns (both by 1-yard rushes) in its first four games. After the bye week, a stunning 30-7 loss to Baltimore started the first of two four-game losing streaks and the Broncos stumbled to their second 8-8-0 finish in two years and a 2nd place finish in the AFC West. This was due in part to the drafting strategy used by McDaniels.

The 2009 NFL Draft was the first by rookie head coach Josh McDaniels. In retrospect, this draft proved to be a poor one. Although Ayers is proving to have been a good pick and Moreno and Bruton are showing some promise, the rest of the draft class has not fared well. Quinn, Olsen, Branstater and Schlueter have to be considered wasted picks. The Smith pick has to be considered a wasted one, not because he is not a good player but because McDaniels gave up on him too soon. I would rank this draft as a C. What is your grade MHR?

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