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Broncos 2016 draft class turned out better than people think

Paxton Lynch casts a dark cloud over an otherwise solid 2016 NFL Draft class for the Denver Broncos.

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This topic might seem to come from left field, but it was spurred by a 2016 regrade post by Dan Brugler of The Athletic. He gave the Denver Broncos a ‘C’ for the draft class. I felt like that grade put too much emphasis on the miss of Paxton Lynch and less on the hits the Denver Broncos made with every other pick in that draft.

Grade: C

1 (26) Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (Seahawks)
2 (63) Adam Gotsis, DL, Georgia Tech
3 (98) Justin Simmons, S, Boston College
4 (136) Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
5 (144) Connor McGovern, OG/C, Missouri
6 (176) Andy Janovich, FB, Nebraska
6 (219) Will Parks, S, Arizona
7 (228) Riley Dixon, P, Syracuse (Giants)

Six players remain with the team and five of those are potential starters this season. I’d say that is a pretty damn good draft.

Adam Gotsis has developed into a run stuffing beast inside, while Justin Simmons and Will Parks have emerged as starters on defense. Parks might be the biggest value pick in that draft at this point. Both Connor McGovern and Andy Janovich are at the top of the depth chart at their position, while Devontae Booker is a good number three running back. Even Riley Dixon netted a seventh round conditional pick in a trade for the Broncos.

So where is this ‘C’ grade coming from?

Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic made this grade almost entirely about Lynch. The miss there and the subsequent wasted seasons with Trevor Siemian languishing as the starter does make it easy to overlook the rest of the class.

Beat writer’s take: The Paxton Lynch Experiment will go down as one of the greatest draft failures in Broncos history — and rightfully so after Denver traded up to get a quarterback that lost three offseason competitions, including one to Chad Kelly for the backup job. Beyond Lynch, the Broncos selected three players who morphed into starters (Adam Gotsis, Justin Simmons and Connor McGovern), a fullback/ace special-teamer they love (Andy Janovich) and a safety/dime backer (Will Parks) who has shown his potential but also his shortcomings. Devontae Booker never became the workhorse back they expected, and they traded punter Riley Dixon after two lackluster seasons. The result: A so-so class that is overshadowed by the disaster in the first round — a disaster that has stymied the entire franchise for the past three years. — Nicki Jhabvala

I would say she was half right and half wrong in this analysis. When you miss on a quarterback in the first round, it hurts. But any time you lose a quarterback like John Elway or Peyton Manning without a solid replacement there, its going to hurt. It hurt the Broncos in 1999-2002 and it hurt the Broncos in 2016-2018.

However, the draft class is far from “so-so”. Here is why I’d give at least a low ‘B’ for the 2016 Broncos draft class.

The 2017 Broncos draft class netted just one starter in Garett Bolles, but it is rarely mentioned as one of the more terrible draft classes of the John Elway era - like the 2013 and 2015 classes. Maybe Jake Butt emerges as a starter some day. Maybe DeMarcus Walker is a thing. Maybe Brendan Langley is actually a wide receiver. Or maybe that draft class was terrible too, but we’ll say this class is a ‘C’ grade for this exercise. The Broncos got a starter in the first round and some potential in the later rounds. Not quite the monumental failures we saw from 2013 and 2015, but not very good either.

Stacking that up against the 2018 Broncos draft class and you’ll find what an ‘A’ grade really looks like. Bradley Chubb and Courtland Sutton are going to be stars in the NFL, while many of the picks after them look like potential NFL starters as well. But for arguments sake, I see, at best, five or six starters from this draft class. That’s only slightly better than the 2016 draft class. The ‘A’ grade is for the superstar potential of the first two picks, while the 2016 B grade is knocked by the whiff in the first round.


How would you re-grade the Broncos 2016 draft class?

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