Photos: Ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history
More photos below.
In anticipation of today's 2014 NFL draft, we recently posted our choices for the ten worst first-round draft picks in Broncos history.
Now, we look at the more positive side of that coin: the team's top ten first-round selections. We've included greats from yesterday and today, including three players on the current squad. Count them down below.
Number 10: Von Miller
Linebacker: Texas A&M
Number 2 overall pick in 2011
This is a speculative ranking to some degree, given that Miller was a brilliant defender in his first two seasons and a giant screw-up in number three thanks to assorted minor brushes with the law and a suspension that was followed quickly by a season-ending injury. If he wants to stay on this list -- and move up -- he must return to his earlier form...and lay off the banned substances. (Whether they should actually be banned is another question.)
Number 9: Trevor Pryce
Defensive tackle: Clemson
Number 28 overall pick in 1997
Pryce was a multi-year All-Pro and member of both the Broncos' Super Bowl-winning outfits. Watching him leave Denver in favor of Baltimore in 2006 wasn't easy, but we're over it by now -- and able to appreciate anew his skills as a pass rusher and run stopper.
Continue to keep counting down the ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history. Number 8: Demaryius Thomas
Wide receiver: Georgia Tech
Number 22 overall pick in 2010
As with Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas could either move up on this list or slide off it entirely depending on his future performances. But our money's on the former rather than the latter. He's got every physical gift a receiver could want and a quarterback in Peyton Manning that's more than capable of getting the best out of him. And by still being in the league, he's already outdistanced Denver's other first-round pick in 2010: Tim Tebow.
Number 7: Al Wilson
Number 31 overall pick in 1999
The Broncos are drafting in the 31st slot in Thursday's draft, too -- and if they can get a player the caliber of Wilson, they should be mighty pleased. He made five Pro Bowls and was twice named an All-Pro. Not bad for a player who some pundits thought was too short to excel at his position.
Continue to keep counting down the ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history. Number 6: Louis Wright
Defensive back: San Diego State
Number 17 overall pick in 1975
Wright was a shutdown corner before the term was common, as well as part of the foundation for the Broncos' Orange Crush defense, which led the squad from mediocrity to its first Super Bowl appearance. He also provided the prototype for the sort of strong, big-hitting secondary players that would become a Denver specialty. Two other players on our list fit this description, including....
Number 5: Dennis Smith
Defensive back: USC
Number 15 overall pick in 1981
The Broncos Ring-of-Famer made the Pro Bowl six times and deservedly so. He was not only a great defender, Hoovering up thirty interceptions over the course of his career, but as his fifteen career sacks demonstrate, he was also a force when called upon to blitz.
Continue to keep counting down the ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history. Number 4: Ryan Clady
Offensive tackle: Boise State
Number 12 overall pick in 2008
Quite simply the most physically gifted offensive lineman ever to play for the Broncos -- a left tackle who frequently masquerades as a brick wall. Clady was injured last season and missed the Super Bowl, and while we doubt he would have meant the difference between defeat and victory, there's a good chance the results wouldn't have been as ugly if he'd been able to protect Peyton.
Number 3: Steve Atwater
Defensive back: Arkansas
Number 20 overall pick in 1989
Along with Louis Wright and Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater set a standard for intimidation in the defensive secondary. His 1990 Monday Night Football collision with giant Kansas City running back Christian Okoye remains one of the biggest and most impressive hits in NFL history. Enjoy it again here.
Continue to keep counting down the ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history. Number 2: Randy Gradishar
Linebacker: Ohio State
Number 14 overall pick in 1974
Along with Wright, fellow linebacker Tom Jackson and a handful of others, Gradishar was instrumental in transforming the Broncos from a laughingstock to a legitimate championship threat. Can anyone explain to us why he isn't in the Hall of Fame? Anyone?
Number 1: Floyd Little
Running back: Syracuse
Number 6 overall pick in 1967
Floyd Little single-handedly made the Denver Broncos credible. Because the squad was so awful during his tenure, his statistics aren't as magnificent as they should have been given his ability, which explains why the Hall of Fame took so long to induct him. But Broncos fans who've been around since the beginning know him to be among the NFL's most underrated players ever. So we're definitely not going to underrate him here.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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