With the NFL Draft set to kick-off tonight, one of the teams that have a lot of eyes on them is the Denver Broncos.
To account for what to expect, one must look back and evaluate some of the most recent Broncos’ first and second-round selections.
Starting with the first round, here are the last five selections.
2015 – Edge, Shane Ray, Missouri
Working oldest to newest, Shane Ray fell to the Broncos after failing a drug test for smoking marijuana. After that, he was able to showcase his potential to the fullest, playing a crucial in the Super Bowl 50 run. He was part of a feared group of pass rushers along with Demarcus Ware, Von Miller, and Shaq Barrett.
Together, they were able to completely take advantage of opposing tackles.
Unfortunately, he suffered a wrist injury that forced him to miss significant time in multiple seasons, resulting in the Broncos failing to pick up his last year option on his rookie contract. Taken 23rd overall, had injuries not been a major factor, he may have blossomed into a full-time starter after the retirement of DeMarcus Ware. However, what could have been never materialized and he will forever be remembered as a medium impact role player on a Superbowl winning team and nothing more.
2016 – Quarterback, Paxton Lynch, Memphis
After the retirement of Peyton Manning, the Broncos were searching for a starting quarterback to replace him. Their Plan A, Brock Osweiler, decided jump ship to the Houston Texans, so they moved up in the draft to select Lynch.
The Memphis product was a big, athletic, and talented arm that ranked as the No. 3 quarterback in the draft behind Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Lynch was a complete bust, showing he had a big arm and running ability but couldn’t be trusted to learn and master the playbook. He would frequently not trust his reads and arm strength, opting to take short scrambles/sacks instead of throwing the ball downfield.
He would play only two years in the NFL, posting a 1-4 record in his starts. He was also sacked 18 times and lost the quarterback competition to Trevor Siemian two times before being released.
2017 – Offensive Tackle, Garett Bolles, Utah
In 2017, the Broncos needed a starting left tackle after the Russell Okung project had failed in Denver.
After Okung negotiated his contract with the Broncos, they had a safe out to move on after a mediocre season. When that happened, they opted into selecting Garett Bolles out of Utah with the 20th pick.
Bolles was the first tackle selected in the draft and his fate will forever be tied to Ryan Ramczyk and Cam Robinson, who were both ranked higher than Bolles on most draft boards.
Bolles has drawn the ire of the Broncos faithful for his propensity to draw holding calls, even earning the nickname Garett “Holds”. He has been on the receiving end of penalties a lot, leading the league in two of his first three seasons. Bolles has also drawn frustration because he tends to end the season on a high note where it appears his potential has been achieved, only to return to poor form to start the next season.
To end 2019, the last five games with Drew Lock under center, Bolles was graded as a Pro Football Focus top five offensive tackle in the league, drawing two penalties (both of which were ticky-tack), and only gave up a single sack over that stretch.
However, he also ended 2018 on a high note, then struggled to get out of his way to start 2019.
Bolles has potential, he’s shown he can be elite, but his inconsistency and penalties have the fan base split on bust status or picking up the final year of his rookie contract on a prove-it opportunity.
2018 – Edge, Bradley Chubb, NC State
In 2018, the Broncos selected Bradley Chubb from NC State after he inexplicably fell to them at pick No. 5. Fans are still on the debate train about if selecting Chubb over All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson was the correct selection.
Chubb set a rookie sack record for the Broncos his first year and followed that up with a torn ACL his second season. He has to jump into 2020 on a Comeback Player of the Year trajectory to remind the league who he is and solidify himself as an elite edge rusher.
2019 – Tight End, Noah Fant, Iowa
Finally, in 2019 the Broncos traded back from No. 10 to No. 20 to select the University of Iowa tight end, Noah Fant.
Fant had an up-and-down rookie season in which he battled drops, penalties, and mishaps, but went on to set the Broncos rookie record for receiving yards by a tight end. Fant will need to prove why he was worthy of a first-round selection, being a pivotal piece of the offensive puzzle for 2020.
Let’s move on to the second round, shall we?
2016 – Defensive End, Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech
Adam Gotsis was believed by many to be a huge reach in the second round in 2016. His career was that of a rotational defensive end, who was solid against the run. After the 2019 season, he became an unrestricted free agent but is not on an NFL roster at the moment.
2017 – Defensive End, Demarcus Walker, FSU
In 2017, the Broncos selected the FBS sacks leader in DeMarcus Walker. He was thought to be a good fit for the system in place during Gary Kubiak’s head coaching regime, but the sudden departure and subsequent hiring of Vance Joseph left Walker out to dry.
He was forced to play an unnatural position where he didn’t thrive and ultimately endured that for two seasons.
Under Vic Fangio, Walker recorded four sacks, and one pass breakup in 10 games (one start). Walker will have a chance in 2020 to fight for a major role along the defensive line with Gotsis and Derek Wolfe both leaving town.
2018 – Wide Receiver, Courtland Sutton, SMU
2019 – Offensive Tackle, Dalton Risner, Kansas State
2019 – Quarterback, Drew Lock, Missouri
The last two second rounds of the NFL Draft have been extremely beneficial for the Broncos, netting them a First-Team All-Rookie left guard in Dalton Risner, a hopeful franchise starting quarterback in Drew Lock, and a Pro-Bowl wide receiver in Courtland Sutton.
If the Broncos can manage to fill a couple of holes and continue the success of the last two rounds of the draft, they have a chance to be a special 2020 squad.