For the Denver Broncos, 2009 had been an experiment, and the 8-8 ending and 3 game skid out of the playoff picture turned 2010 into an emergency for the young head coach Josh McDaniels. Heading into the 2010 draft, the team was looking for ways to improve the 12th ranked defense and 20th ranked offense from the season before, and hoping to avoid the offseason turmoil that marked 2009 and the legitimate belief that with the right decisions, the playoffs could be a reality.
The 2010 season would end up as far from the playoffs as Denver had ever been in their history, but before we get to that, lets meet the last gasp draft class of the short McDaniels Era.
The McDaniels/Xanders draft era would become known for its trading and manipulation of draft picks, largely because of the effort displayed in the 2010 draft. The first two picks alone involved, via trade and swap, picks #11, #13, #22, #24, #25, #43, #70, #87, #113 and #114.
|1a||22||Demaryius Thomas||WR||Georgia Tech|
|5||137||Perrish Cox||CB||Oklahoma State|
|6||183||Eric Olsen||OC||Notre Dame|
Demaryius Thomas: Thomas was considered a high risk/reward pick coming out of a run-first spread-triple-option offense where he was often single covered, but where he also showcased elite size, strength and YAC ability. He also went untimed for speed leading up to the draft, which further exacerbated the risk of the pick. He spent his rookie year moving on and off the injury report, missing six games, and then during the 2011 offseason, he tore his achilles tendon, but made a quick recovery to join the team prior to the start of the 2011 season. While his production in both seasons was inconsistent, he will forever be known for his tremendous play in overtime of the January 8th AFC Wildcard Playoff game, where he caught the gamewinning 80 yard score, setting a record for the shortest OT in history at 11 seconds, and the longest playoff TD as well. While Thomas' early career is defined primarily by his injuries, his potential still seems sky high.
Tim Tebow: After spending his rookie season rotating in and out of specialized "swamp packages" designed to primarily utilize his running strengths in the redzone, Tebow finally snagged the starting job in the middle of the 2011 season. Almost despite himself sometimes, Tebow managed to lead the Broncos to multiple 4th quarter comebacks, sparking a wave of interest and enthusiasm from Broncos' Country that hadn't been felt since the Shanahan Era, and moving the Broncos back to a place of relevance in the AFC West. However, in spite of a 6 game winning streak and a playoff win, losing 4 of the last 5 games of the season, including being utterly outclassed twice by the Patriots, led to a lack of confidence in what Tebow's future with the team might hold. With the arrival of Peyton Manning during 2011 Free Agency, Tebow and a seventh round pick were traded to the New York Jets for 4th and 6th round picks in 2012.
Zane Beadles: While a LT in college, Beadles was primarily considered a Guard prior to the draft, and was labeled as intelligent, versatile and "technique conscious." That versatility was immediately called upon as he first replaced Clady in the lineup at LT, and then replaced Harris at RT, before moving to the inside, where he would stay for the rest of the season, and for the forseeable future. During that rookie season he was named to the Sporting News All-Rookie Team. The offensive line as a whole struggled more in 2011, and Beadles was not immune to that, however there are no indications coming from Dove Valley that he is anything but entrenched at the LG spot going forward. Beadles appears to be developing on track and looks to be a solid link in the OL chain.
J.D. Walton: Labeled a trashy, intelligent and crafty player, he was also considered to be an immediate starter before the draft to whomever should acquire his services and he didn't disappoint. He hasn't missed a start so far in his career, and in a short time managed to earn the nickname "trashcan" for his trash-talk to opposing tackles and noseguards. He too struggled in 2011 after a solid rookie campaign, but held up well during the mid season scheme changes that involved disparate differences in snapping and calling line protections for two different styles of QB. 2012 promises to bring a third variant with the advent of a Peyton Manning offense, but all signs indicate that Walton should be up to the challenge.
Eric Decker: Decker had the look of an immediate starter in the draft, as a physical, quick route runner with strong hands who could catch in a crowd. And while he looked good in training camp, he had difficulties throughout his rookie campaign holding onto the ball and running accurate routes. These problems followed him into 2011, but he soon found his groove in the slot receiver position, where he displaced the often injured Royal. Manning and company have already revealed that the new offense will call for an expanded role for Decker, including lots of motion and mismatches, and possibly some wingback action. With Peyton Manning throwing the ball, Decker's future appears to be in his own hands at this point.
Perrish Cox: Off-field concerns dropped Cox into the 5th round from the first/second, and he showed in his rookie year that he did indeed have the talent to make the pick pay off. However, after an impressive 2012 season, Cox would run afoul of the law, becoming involved in a sexual assault case in Colorado that would spell the end of his Denver career. Eventually he would be acquitted and then signed with the 49ers to a two year deal. The 49ers defense will give Cox a chance to look very, very good, and some may say that for Denver he was "the one that got away." However, most Bronco fans will probably still say, "good riddance."
Eric Olsen: Drafted as depth on the offensive line at OC and OG, Olsen brought a knowledge of McDaniels system and methods with him from his time under Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame. But with a coaching change that dismantled that particular scheme, Olsen was waived to pursue work elsewhere. He would join the Redskins as a practice squad player for the majority of 2011, and most recently signed with the Saints as playoff roster insurance, but his future is anything but set.
Syd'Quan Thompson: Projecting as a slow, small special teams prospect, Syd'Quan, or "Squid" overcame those limitations to establish himself as a feisty, fearless and physical player during his rookie year, and even managed to cement a role as a key reserve heading into 2011 after notching 2 INTs in 13 games. He also got experience returning kicks and in every phase of special teams, however an Achilles' Tendon tear sidelined him during the 2011 preseason, and he hasn't been heard from since. He will have his work cut out for him to even make the roster, and may end up being a victim of circumstance and injury.
Jammie Kirlew: Kirlew was a developmental rush OLB type coming out of Indiana, after spending all his time with his hand in the dirt, rushing the passer. Whether he got much development during the final throes of the McDaniels regime is hard to say, but he would end up spending the entire season on the practice squad, before being waived by the new coaching staff. The Bills would add him as a DE prospect, only to waive him in 2011. The Jaguars quickly picked him up and added him to their practice squad, and then moved him to the active roster where he still remains. The arc of his career indicates that he isn't long for this league, and he is most certainly little more than history in Denver.
All told, this group of youngsters provided 5 players still on the current roster, and solid starts from a couple of others. However, a 4-12 record coupled with a videotaping scandal left the team once again in the doldrums of coaching and scheme change. Lightning rod QB Tim Tebow would provide perhaps the greatest early impact, in terms of fan enthusiasm, but with his departure, the long term impact of the 2010 class comes down to the contributions to the OL and WR corps. While it is too early to say how many of these remaining players will fare in their careers, it perhaps isn't too early to say that the draft as a whole factors heavily into the near term future of the Broncos on offense. My grade, Above Average. A solid B.