Good morning, Broncos Country.
When Pat Bowlen named John Elway Vice President of Football Operations and the General Manager for the Denver Broncos in January of 2011, the franchise was in complete disarray. After the short-lived and failed reign of Josh McDaniels, the Broncos were destitute and their roster lacked the talent necessary to compete at a championship level. Who better than Elway to lead the team into the light and out of one of its darkest chapters?
The fortune of the Broncos quickly turned around with Elway calling the shots. A handful of prized free agent acquisitions, a revamped coaching staff and front office, as well as the drafting of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller provided the spark necessary to ignite the Broncos into one of the league’s most formidable teams. Truly, what Elway was able to do in such a short period of time is nothing short of remarkable.
In just six years leading the Broncos' front office efforts, Elway has compiled a list of accomplishments that most general manager's wish they could do in a lifetime. Five division champions, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory. Yet, if there was ever a valid criticism given against Elway and his staff, it always would reference their struggles to find high-quality, impact and long-term players in the NFL Draft.
The research by Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus, who formulated his own WAR (Wins Above Replacement) model that measures the individual impact drafted players had during the seasons they were with their original team over the past five years. The Dallas Cowboys lead the way, with young stars such as Ezekiel Elliot, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Dak Prescott propelling them to the top of the rankings.
Unfortunately, Eager’s analysis wasn’t too kind to the Broncos, and reinforces the notion that the Broncos certainly struggle finding quality players in the NFL Draft. In the five drafts they analyzed, only Derek Wolfe and Matt Paradis are players still with the team who rank among PFF’s Top 100 players.
Derek Wolfe and Matt Paradis are the only current Broncos to squeak into the top 100, ranked 90th and 91st, respectively. Wolfe has posted 18 sacks and 98 total QB pressures over the past two seasons combined, and Paradis’ 90.4 overall grade last season ranked No. 2 among all NFL centers.
Wolfe is the only player from the team’s 2012 Draft Class who is still on the roster. The 2013 Draft Class was certainly Elway’s worst to date — headlined by Sylvester Williams and Montee Ball, none of the seven players he and his staff selected are with the squad. Over the past few years, Elway’s drafts have seemed to improve, but last year’s class (2016) and the year prior (2015) still have a lot of proving to do on the field in order to render them successes.
The draft is the ultimate crapshoot, there is no debating that. With Broncos routinely picking at the end of each round, it is a bit harder to find those blue-chip players. They have landed some great players. However, there is no denying the team has floundered, especially in the second and third rounds with finding players who can be difference makers upon entering the NFL.
While I agree with the notion that Elway’s drafts leave a lot to be desired, I disagree with Eager’s analysis and model that ranks the Broncos as one of the least successful teams in the NFL at drafting. They have by no means been perfect, but I have a hard time believing that they constitute as some of the worst over the past five years.
What do you think Broncos Country? Sound off in the comments and tell us how you feel about Pro Football Focus’ ranking.
As always, thank you for reading and here is today’s offering of Horse Tracks.
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