The Denver Broncos have had a roller coaster ride throughout the past decade of football. From 2011-2015, they were a playoff team and at one point, even a championship-winning team. Post Super Bowl 50 brought some less exciting seasons. From 2017-2020, the Broncos couldn’t muster a winning season. Denver has had its ups and downs over the past 10 years and the same goes for the NFL Draft. The Broncos’ have surely had their draft busts who couldn’t live up to the expectations as well as their early-round or late-round diamonds who have had a phenomenal impact on the Broncos. Today, we’ll be looking at those draft selections who have been the most beneficial and the most impactful as we explore the best Denver Broncos draft selections of the past decade from each round. To clarify in the likely scenario of confusion, we will explore the best Broncos draft pick from each round using the picks from the last decade (2010-2019). Without further ado, let’s get into it!
1st Round: OLB Von Miller (2011 NFL Draft, Rd 1/Pk 2)
This is a no-brainer right here. Von Miller, the sure-fire Hall of Famer, is the obvious choice for the best Broncos’ 1st-round pick of the past decade. There is no debate here. Miller is an 8-time Pro-Bowl member, a 3-time All-Pro member, a member of the All-2010s Team, a Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP, and career leader in sacks for the Denver Broncos. He totaled 10.0 or more sacks in 7 out of his 10 seasons with the Broncos. There is not another Broncos’ player that comes close to reaching Miller’s impact in the 2010s. The next best choices would be WR Demaryius Thomas or OLB Bradley Chubb, but none come close to the explosive pass rusher that will go down in history as a legend of the 2010s decade.
2nd-Round: WR Courtland Sutton (2018 NFL Draft, Rd 2/Pk 40)
It’s understandable if you went in a different direction from Courtland Sutton for the best Broncos’ 2nd-round pick of the past decade. Sutton has only played in 2 full seasons. However, in Sutton’s rookie year, he was sitting behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. When the time came and both of them were traded away, Sutton stepped up and made his impact. He lived up to all expectations as the WR1 of the Denver Broncos in his sophomore year. With 3 different quarterbacks throwing him the ball (Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen), Sutton managed to put up over 1,000 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns, over 70 receptions, about 15 yards per reception, and around 70 receiving yards per game. Those are some Pro-Bowl numbers given the fact that Sutton was selected into the Pro-Bowl in 2019. His physical build will benefit him even more in future years. He’s 6’4” and consistently plays well in contested catch scenarios. It’s easy to overlook him due to his injury in week 2 of the 2020 season but due to the failure of many other Broncos’ 2nd-round picks, the wide receiver out of SMU gets my vote for the best Broncos 2nd-round pick of the decade.
3rd-Round: S Justin Simmons (2016 NFL Draft, Rd 3/Pk 98)
The 2016 NFL Draft was the event directly after the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. It was in this draft that the Broncos probably made their worst draft decision of the 2010s in Paxton Lynch but they arguably made their best as well in Justin Simmons out of Boston College. Widely regarded as a top 3 safety in the league currently, Simmons was everything you wanted and more in a back-end 3rd-round selection. Many people attempt to make the case that the Simmons’ selection was more beneficial than drafting Von Miller in 2011, although that will be a discussion for a later time. Simmons has consistently had above-average seasons throughout recent years. His best statistical year was 2019 despite being snubbed from the Pro-Bowl that season. In 2019, he allowed a completion percentage of 52.8 as well as a 43.6 passer rating, which were both career highs. He has also totaled 12 interceptions and 28 passes defended over his past 3 seasons which are numbers you don’t see often. There is so much to love about Justin Simmons and what he has in stock come the next few seasons should have all Broncos fans ecstatic.
4th-Round: TE Julius Thomas (2011 NFL Draft, Rd 4/Pk 129)
Now, over the time period of the 2010s, the Broncos haven’t really had many talents coming from the 4th-round of NFL drafts. Most of them have amounted to longtime backups or have made little to no contribution to the team. For example, WR DaeSean Hamilton, who was drafted in the 4th-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, was recently released by the Broncos. However, there is one player who was talented enough to make the Pro-Bowl twice. That player is Julius Thomas, a tight end who came out of Portland State. It’s very tricky to evaluate small school players entering the league. However, Thomas turned out fairly well, in my respective opinion. He was the first of two tight ends selected by the Broncos in the 2011 NFL Draft, the other being Virgil Green in the 7th-round. Thomas totaled 1,282 receiving yards in his time with the Broncos and as mentioned before, was birthed into the Pro-Bowl twice. In both 2013 and 2014, he put up 12 touchdowns, which, in 2014, was the most touchdowns on the Denver Broncos. In 2013, he put up more touchdowns than legendary tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and Greg Olsen. Yes, I am aware that Thomas isn’t a legendary tight end and this stat wouldn’t classify him as such, but it’s quite fascinating analyzing the talent that Thomas possessed in his relatively short time with the Broncos.
5th-Round: DT Malik Jackson (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 5/Pk 137)
Similar to the Broncos’ 4th-round picks of the past decade, 5th-round picks also lacked talent and success in the NFL. As of now, the Broncos currently contain four 5th-round picks from the past decade on their current roster, and all four were selected in the past three NFL Drafts (2019 NFL Draft, 2020 NFL Draft, 2021 NFL Draft). Two years really isn’t much time to develop extreme talent and success in the league unless you’re Patrick Mahomes. As of now, none of those round 5 selections are Patrick Mahomes or anything near it. Currently, the best Denver Broncos’ 5th-round selection of the 2010s is DT Malik Jackson. Although Jackson never made a Pro-Bowl appearance with Denver and when all is said and done, probably had a better stretch with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he put up some very solid statistics with the Broncos. He totaled 14.5 sacks, 134 combined tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 44 quarterback hits in his 4 years with the Denver Broncos. He would eventually make the Pro-Bowl with the Jaguars in 2017 when he put up 8 sacks and 10 tackles for loss during the season. With the lack of talent coming from the Broncos’ 5th-round selections of the 2010s, Malik Jackson would be my choice for the best 5th-round pick of the past decade.
6th-Round: LB Danny Trevathan (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 6/Pk 188)
The best Broncos’ 6th-round pick of the decade also comes in the 2012 NFL Draft. This selection came in the round directly adjacent to that of which DT Malik Jackson was selected in 2012. The 188th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft was LB Danny Trevathan out of Kentucky. Statistically, Trevathan didn’t put up wow-factor numbers. However, he was an important piece to the 2015 championship defense as he played alongside star defenders like OLB Von Miller, OLB DeMarcus Ware, CB Chris Harris Jr, etc. He was a starter on that team and to even be declared a starting player on the 2015 Denver Broncos is a notable accomplishment in itself. However, let’s talk about Trevathan’s numbers. In 2013, he was in the top 10 for most combined tackles in the season. He totaled 5 interceptions with the Broncos along with 18 passes defended. Sure, he went on to have and is still having an arguably better career with the Chicago Bears, but we can’t lose sight of how significant Danny Trevathan was to the Denver Broncos’ defense.
7th-Round: QB Trevor Siemian (2015 NFL Draft, Rd 7/Pk 250)
You are most likely stunned by my choice for the best Broncos’ 7th-round selection of the decade. Playing college at Northwestern, Trevor Siemian was selected by the Broncos towards the end of the 7th-round. He was one of four quarterbacks selected by the Denver Broncos from 2015-2019. Obviously, none of those quarterbacks have been the solidified answer in Denver (Drew Lock still has a chance at being so). However, I am one of many that believe Trevor Siemian deserved another chance. Siemian led the Broncos to their only winning season post-Super Bowl 50. He is also the only Broncos’ quarterback to play after 2015 that has a winning record with the team. His passing statistics were definitely questionable but he put wins on the board. In his time with Denver, he threw for 30 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and had a 79.9 passer rating. As I said, those statistics are definitely below average. However, for a 7th-round quarterback, I believe he exceeded expectations. If he was given another chance and Denver kept him instead of letting him go in 2017, I think he could have improved and maybe even became Denver’s solidified starting quarterback.
Undrafted Free Agent: CB Chris Harris Jr (2011 NFL Draft, Undrafted)
This is a pretty obvious choice. Chris Harris Jr is easily the 2nd-greatest cornerback in Broncos history and you wouldn’t have guessed that he went undrafted in 2011 based on his statistics and accolades. He currently plays for the Los Angeles Chargers after Denver opted to let him go in 2019. He is currently the best Broncos’ undrafted free agent of the decade. Harris is a 4-time Pro-Bowl member and a 1-time All-Pro member. His best statistical season was in 2014 when he put up a barrage of pass deflections. He totals 20 interceptions, 86 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, and 518 combined tackles in his time with the Broncos. He took part in the Super Bowl-winning defense in 2015 and has been a huge part of the organization throughout his time. Seeing him go was heartbreaking but when you look back on his stretch with the Broncos, he will go down as the best Broncos’ undrafted free agent of the decade.
And with that, the article comes to a close. Some of these picks were very controversial and it took a fair amount of effort to make decisions. I hope you enjoyed the article and I’m looking forward to the next one!