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HT: The Denver Broncos’ most memorable draft moment

Every franchise has that one moment that, for good or ill, the organization and fans will never forget. For the Broncos, that would be...

Denver Broncos Introduce First Round Draft Pick Von Miller Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The primary appeal of the NFL draft, as with any major sport’s rookie selection system, is pretty simple: the right decision can change your team forever. The right player can bring victories, playoff games, and beautiful shiny things in trophy cases. Best of all, that franchise-changing player brings with them the joy of triumphs and, later, the satisfaction of the memory of that joy.

ESPN gathered submissions from its NFL Nation writers, assembling the 32 stories that arguably stand as the defining draft moments of each NFL franchise. Some of these moments foreshadowed future glory- like the first two picks of the Baltimore Ravens’ existence (technically). In No. 4 pick tackle Jonathan Ogden and No. 26 pick linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens gained two first-ballot Hall of Famers.

The team with the best claim to having the best draft story might just be the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers’ 1974 draft class is arguably the greatest of all time, as they landed four future Hall of Famers in Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. These four formed the core of the Steelers dynasty that dominated the latter half of the 1970s.

And of course, not all the stories bring the warm-and-fuzzies. The Cincinnati Bengals will always be haunted by their decision to turn down 9 picks, including two 1st rounders, in order to draft Akili Smith, who busted harder than Trent Richardson. The New York Jets likely feel similarly about passing on Dan Marino in the 1983 class. And you better believe that the Jacksonville Jaguars wish they could forget the day that they passed on Russell Wilson in favor of punter Bryan Anger.

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Within the AFC West, the Chiefs are likely the team with the biggest single regret: NFL Nation writer Adam Tiecher selected the 2013 draft for the Chiefs. After a dismal season, they held the 1st overall pick in the draft for the first time in the history of their franchise... and there was not a franchise quarterback to be found. Ouch. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher has been cold comfort for a team still struggling to find postseason success of any significance.

The Chargers’ most memorable draft is an odd one: their 2004 decision to draft Eli Manning, who had already stated he did not want to play for them. It turned out well enough for them: they swapped Manning for Philip Rivers and he’s still going for them at age 38. Sure, they missed out on the two Super Bowl championships that Eli achieved with the Giants, but Rivers is far from being the main reason for that lack of glory.

Washington Redskins v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Paul Gutierrez selected the Raiders’ 1982 decision to draft Heisman trophy winning running back Marcus Allen as the most significant draft moment for their franchise. Allen’s list of accomplishments is a long one, including rookie of the year, Super Bowl and league MVP nods, and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But it’s the Denver Broncos’ most memorable draft moment that might just be the strangest within the AFC West. Like with the Chargers, the player that changed the Broncos’ course the most was drafted by a completely different team. The Indianapolis Colts famously selected John Elway 1st overall despite knowing that he didn’t want to play for them, and when Elway doubled down on his position, the Broncos were waiting in the wings.

The Broncos gave up their 1983 4th overall selection, offensive lineman Chris Hinton, as well as backup quarterback Mark Hermann and their 1984 1st round pick, and gained one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The arrival of Elway took the then-uncharacteristic spate of success the team enjoyed in the late 1970s and turned it into a new standard of excellence. He combined the strange arrival method that Philip Rivers would later repeat with the postseason glory that Marcus Allen enjoyed with the Raiders... except he delivered both to a degree that neither Rivers nor Allen could match.

2011 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The advent of Von Miller in 2011 was another important moment in Broncos draft history, but he could win another Super Bowl MVP nod and the moment he became a Bronco still wouldn’t compare to the drama and significance of John Elway’s first moments in orange & blue.

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