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Here’s how John Elway has neglected the tackle position

No team has less draft capital invested in its offensive tackles than the Denver Broncos. What is John Elway doing?

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The current Bronco active roster has four players listed as offensive tackles (or as G/T). Garett Bolles, Elijah Wilkerson, Calvin Anderson and DeMar Dotson. If you look to the extended roster you find three more offensive tackles on the practice squad: Quinn Bailey, Darrin Paulo and Jake Rodgers. You also have Ja’Wuan James on the op-out list.

That’s eight players. Only three who were drafted and one of those who was drafted is not playing this year because of the pandemic. Bolles was drafted in the first round and Jake Rodgers was drafted in the 7th round. So to sum up, of the players currently available to play offensive tackle for the Broncos only two were drafted and one those was taken with the 225th overall pick.

This is not to say that you cannot become an elite offensive tackle in the NFL if you are drafted in the 7th round, or are an undrafted college player. However, players like Jason Peters, who has a chance at the Hall of Fame when he retires, are exceedingly rare. Peters was undrafted out of college. So I wanted to see how much draft capital Denver has invested into the offensive tackle position over the last nine drafts. I am going to do this using the average career AV by draft slot as a measure for how much capital each spot in the draft is worth. We are just going to call this “units”.

If you look at the nine drafts that John Elway has led for the Broncos, the Broncos have drafted exactly four players who were taken to play offensive tackle. Vinston Painter (who never took an offensive snap for the Broncos), Michael Schofield (who started 13 regular season games and three post-season games for us at RT - all in 2015), Ty Sambrailo (who started seven total games at offensive tackle for the Broncos over two seasons) and Garett Bolles (who has started every game for us at LT during his 3+ NFL seasons). Ty Sambrailo was the last player drafted by the Broncos to start a game at RT. He did so in the 2016 season in our overtime home loss to the Chiefs.

Since Sambrailo started at RT for the Broncos, these players have started at RT:

  • Donald Stephenson
  • Menelik Watson
  • Jared Veldheer
  • Cyrus Kouandjio
  • Ja’Waun James
  • Elijah Wilkinson
  • Jake Rodgers

None of those guys were drafted by the Broncos (admittedly we did sign Wilkinson as an UDCFA).

I think it would have been wise to use some middle or late round picks on players who could be developed as offensive tackles. Have other teams done this? Let’s look at the draft history.

There have been 196 players taken who were listed as either offensive tackles or OL in the draft tracker at I changed Vinston Painter from “G” to “T” since he did play tackle in his 12 career offensive snaps. The Broncos are 21st in investment in the offensive tackle.


Rank TEAM Picks Units
1 NYG 10 83.6
2 MIA 7 76.6
3 LAR 10 65.4
4 JAX 5 63.7
5 KAN 5 58.7
6 MIN 10 57.9
7 TEN 5 54.3
8 BAL 8 50.0
9 PHI 7 46.8
10 HOU 8 46.5
11 LV 7 45.9
12 WAS 5 45.3
13 TAM 6 44.6
14 NOR 6 42.6
15 CLE 7 42.1
16 ATL 4 41.9
17 NYJ 8 40.0
18 SFO 8 35.5
19 DET 4 34.2
20 NWE 7 32.3
21 DEN 4 31.5
22 ARI 8 31.1
23 CIN 5 28.5
24 LAC 3 26.4
25 BUF 4 25.0
26 CAR 4 22.7
27 IND 8 21.8
28 GNB 7 21.3
29 PIT 6 21.0
30 DAL 3 15.7
31 SEA 5 11.7
32 CHI 4 3.8

I was surprised to see it that high, but half of that is Garett Bolles (15.5). I was floored by how little the Chicago Bears have invested in offensive tackles. During this time period they spent one 5th, two 6th and one 7th round draft pick on offensive tackles. Interestingly two of those four picks ended up being pretty good players in Jordan Mills (who has started 84 NFL games and is currently starting at RT for the Cardinals) and Charles Leno, Jr. (who has started 81 NFL games is currently the starting LT for the Bears).

Now we can all lament about positions not drafted, but when John Elway has had as little success with free agent RT’s as he has had, it would seem to make sense for him to have invested some middle and late round picks in the position. This is even more glaring when the putative starter at RT heading into the season has a history of injuries that have cost him large chunks of seasons.

Building an offense around Drew Lock that has plenty of weapons is great, but if Drew Lock (or whoever is taking snaps for us this week) has no time to throw it doesn’t matter how many weapons you have.

Elijah Wilkinson has been one of the worst starting offensive lineman in the league through he first three games, and yet, somehow, Demar Dotson has yet to take the field in a Bronco uniform. It would also appear that Calvin Anderson and/or Jake Rodgers are also not the answer. Otherwise they would have played already. So we have the worst starting RT in the NFL with no better options currently on the roster. Lovely. That just fits 2020 perfectly.