The NFL Draft is a guessing game. Some guys are big busts while others end up being stars and Hall-of-Famers.
The true test of the NFL front offices is finding gems in the later rounds and stealing a player that turns into a stud without other teams ever knowing. The Denver Broncos, who have struggled with early picks, have hit some home runs in later rounds.
5. Tom Nalen, 1994, seventh round
Nalen was the center on both Super Bowl winning teams and is now a part of the Broncos Ring of Fame. He was part of an offensive line that helped Denver become the place to be for running backs to gain 1,000 yards.
Nalen, who is now a radio personality in Denver, was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was on the All-Pro team twice.
4. Elvis Dumervil, 2006, fourth round
Dumervil was an undersized defensive end coming out of Louisville but he was a master of the sack. Mike
Shanahan took a chance on Dumervil in 2006 and it paid off for the Broncos up until last season.
Dumervil played for the Ravens this season after a contract mishap with the Broncos but while in Denver he recorded 63.5 sacks. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and the Broncos missed him this season.
3. Shannon Sharpe, 2000, seventh round
The Hall of Fame tight end was known more for being Sterling Sharpe’s brother than his play when he was drafted. He turned out to be much more. The three-time Super Bowl champ held all the tight end records up until recently when Tony Gonzalez broke them.
He was the “mouth” of the Broncos Super Bowl teams and was one of the best pass catchers in team history. He is also in the Ring of Fame and made eight Pro Bowls.
2. Karl Mecklenburg, 1983, 12th round
That draft is know for a pretty big trade for the Broncos that made John Elway a Bronco but Denver also picked one of the best defensive players in their history the same year. Mecklenburg was the heart and soul of the Denver defense for 10 seasons while netting 79 sacks in his career. There is not even a 12th round in the draft anymore.
Mecklenburg has never really gotten any consideration for the Hall of Fame but he should. The linebacker is in the Ring of Fame and earned six trips to the Pro Bowl.
1. Terrell Davis, 1995, sixth round
Could it be anybody else? Of course not. Davis was best player in football for a stretch and was the catalyst of the title wins. Especially the first Super Bowl where he won the MVP.
Davis’ career was cut short by knee injuries or he may have been one of the best. His career may not be Hall of Fame length but it has all the right substance. A 2,000-yard season, a Super Bowl MVP, regular season MVP and two titles are all on his resume. He is a “what could have been” situation but he is the definition of a draft steal.
There have been some other steals in Broncos history. Tyrone Braxton, who was a starter on both title teams, was drafted in 12th round for example, but these five really stand out as great players in the team’s history.
Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke
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