The Broncos 1st Round Draft Pick History

Denver Broncos Linebacker Von Miller Sacks QB Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011. The Broncos beat the Bengals 24-22. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A first round pick in the National Football League can make or break a draft for a team and specifically a General Manager. Why? Because this selection is supposed to become a Pro Bowl caliber player and better be a starter as a Rookie. A top ten pick had better be a difference maker or a play-maker to boot. The kind of player that the opposing team has to account for in their game plan.

Today, we will study how the Denver Broncos have done with this selection in the franchise’s history.

As with the other posts in this series, our starting point comes from Chad Reuter, who developed a chart for draft pick success rates. Former Bronco GM Ted Sundquist promoted it on his website thefootballeducator.com. Reuter’s chart states that picks 1-10 have a 70%, picks 11-20 a 50% and picks 21-50 a 35.3% success rate. A successful draft pick, according to Reuters, is defined as a player that has made 56 or more starts in his first five years. 80 regular season games would make up that 5 years if you were curious, meaning he would start 70% of the scheduled contests of he were to maintain his health. Perhaps that is where Chad got his measurement. I intend to go a few steps further.

In order to compare apples to apples, I will come back to break down the three tiers that Mr. Reuter has labeled, but I also want to compare the Broncos NFL history (post AFL merger) against the rest of the league in the same time period. In my other posts of this series, I used the ten year period of 1998-2008. Since a 1st Round pick is supposed to start right away, my study will encapsulate 1967-2011. Included in the comparison will be Pro Bowls, All-Pro seasons, number of years as the primary starter at their position, the number of games played and starts.

From 1967-2011, 1296 players were drafted in the 1st Round throughout the NFL. In the same time span, the Broncos chose 38 players.

Pro Bowls

463 first round picks in league history made at least one Pro Bowl (35.7%)
14 Broncos made at least one Pro Bowl (36.8%)


122 first round picks in league history made 5 or more Pro Bowls (9.4%)
7 Broncos made 5 or more Pro Bowls (18.4%) (Steve Atwater, 7)
8 first round picks in league history made 10 or more Pro Bowls (0.6%)
No Broncos made 10 or more Pro Bowls (0%)

All-Pro

222 first round picks in league history made All-Pro status (17.6%)
12 Broncos made All-Pro status (31.5%)

29 first round picks in league history made All-Pro status 5 or more times (2.2%)
4 Broncos made All-Pro status twice (Steve Atwater, Louis Wright, Randy Gradishar and Riley Odoms)
10 first round picks in league history made All-Pro status 10 or more times (0.7%)

Hall of Fame

50 first round picks in league history were inducted into the Hall of Fame (3.8%)
1 Bronco was inducted into the Hall of Fame (2.6%)

Primary Starters


1164 first round picks in league history were the Primary Starters at their position (89.8%)
30 Broncos were the Primary Starters at their position (78.9%)


219 first round picks in league history were the Primary Starters at their position for 10 or more years (16.8%)
5 Broncos were the Primary Starters at their position for 10 or more years (13.1%) (Dennis Smith, 13)


452 first round picks in league history were the Primary Starters at their position from 5 to 10 years (34.8%)
10 Broncos were the Primary Starters at their position from 5 to 10 years (26.3%)


489 first round picks in league history were the Primary Starters at their position from 1-4 years (37.7%)
15 Broncos were the Primary Starters at their position from 1-4 years (39.4%)

Games started


35 first round picks in league history started 200 or more games (2.7%)
No Bronco ever started 200 or more games (0%)

154 first round picks in league history started 150 or more games (11.8%)
5 Broncos started 150 or more games (13.1%) (Dennis Smith, 170)

403 first round picks in league history started 100 or more games (31%)
10 Broncos started 100 or more games (26.3%)

581 first round picks in league history started 75 or more games (44.8%)
15 Broncos started 75 or more games (39.4%)

726 first round picks in league history started 56 or more games (56%)
20 Broncos started 56 or more games (52.6%)

Games played


1 first round pick in league history played in 300 or more games (Jerry Rice, 303)
9 first round picks in league history played in 250 or more games (0.6%)
62 first round picks in league history played in 200 or more games (4.7%)
3 Broncos played in 175 or more games (7.8%) (Trevor Pryce, 187)

268 first round picks in league history played in 150 or more games (20.6%)
6 Broncos played in 150 or more games (15.7%)


622 first round picks in league history played in 100 or more games (47.9%)
15 Broncos played in 100 or more games (39.4%)

Bust

183 first round picks in league history played less than 50 games (14.1%)
3 Broncos played in less than 50 games (7.8%) (Ted Gregory, Marcus Nash, Steve Schindler)

15 first round picks in league history never played a game (1.1%)
Every Broncos first round pick has played at least 3 games (0% Total Busts)

Going back to Chad Reuter’s chart, players drafted in the top 10 have a 70% success rate.
5 of the 6 Bronco players drafted in the top ten started at least 58 games (83.3%). The only exception is Von Miller, but since he has started all 15 games he was available, he only has to average a little over 10 games in the next 4 seasons to hit the mark. Chances are good that he will accomplish that provided he maintains his health.

Reuter claims that picks 11-20 have a 50% success rate. 13 of 19 Bronco players started at least 56 games (68.4%)

Picks 21-50 have a 35.3% success rate. Now we know the first round ends at the 32nd pick, but I went ahead and checked through the second round, all the way to the 50th pick. 11 out of 44 Bronco players started at least 54 games. (25%)


So what does this all mean? Bronco first round picks are above the league median as far as Pro Bowl representation. The All-Pro selections and Hall of Fame nods are lower than the average, but those are controlled by the media and are out of the player’s control. The Broncos were 11% below the average as far as players who were the primary starters at their position, but they were able to get a good return on 1 to 4 year primary starters with their picks. They also were 4-5 points lower than the median for Games started and Games played. However the Bust rate was half of the league standard. If those three players hadn’t been Busts, the numbers across the board would have been very close. But look at it this way, three duds in 44 years is not too bad at all.

Go Broncos!

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