Lists

Broncos' Worst First-Round Draft Picks, Including One Picked by John Elway

Quarterback Paxton Lynch crying on the sidelines during a game last November.
Quarterback Paxton Lynch crying on the sidelines during a game last November. File photo
Later today, the 2018 NFL Draft will get under way, and your Denver Broncos go into the proceedings with the fifth overall selection. A pick that high brings with it huge pressure not to screw things up, and the previous performance of team boss John Elway, who hasn't drafted a single Pro Bowl-level player in the last five years (the Broncos are among only three NFL franchises to fare so poorly), doesn't inspire confidence.

Granted, the Broncos have made plenty of disappointing first-round draft choices over their history, as we documented in a 2016 list of their ten worst. But just two years later, we have to update the roster to accommodate a bust who's put what is arguably the largest stain on Elway's legacy as an executive to date.

We hope the order won't shift again anytime soon. After all, the last time Denver drafted in the top five, the squad landed Von Miller, who became a Super Bowl MVP and is on a trajectory that could very well take him to the NFL Hall of Fame. But we aren't ready to bet Mile High Stadium on it.

Continue to count down our nominees for the Broncos' ten worst first-round draft picks.


click to enlarge Tommy Maddox in Broncos orange. - FILE PHOTO
Tommy Maddox in Broncos orange.
File photo
Number 10: Tommy Maddox
Quarterback: UCLA
Number 25 overall pick in 1992

Maddox had some good years as QB in Pittsburgh, long after his Broncos days. But in Denver, he was mainly drafted because then-coach Dan Reeves was disenchanted with John Elway and seldom rose from the pine.

A rare Ashley Lelie trading card. - FILE PHOTO
A rare Ashley Lelie trading card.
File photo
Number 9: Ashley Lelie
Wide receiver: Hawaii
Number 19 overall pick in 2002

Lelie never became the big-time receiver the Broncos envisioned, and he was a grumbler, leading to his 2006 trade. Two years later, he was out of the league.

click to enlarge Tim Tebow acting as if he knows how to throw a football. - FILE PHOTO
Tim Tebow acting as if he knows how to throw a football.
File photo
Number 8: Tim Tebow
Quarterback: Florida
Number 25 overall pick in 2010

We're of two minds on Timmy. Yes, he got the Broncos to the playoffs (and won a game!) in his best season with the squad. But he was a terrible passer and a weirdly divisive presence who was disappeared from the roster at the earliest opportunity. Peyton Manning, four winning seasons and a Super Bowl championship followed.

click to enlarge Willie Middlebrooks during his Broncos stint. - FILE PHOTO
Willie Middlebrooks during his Broncos stint.
File photo
Number 7: Willie Middlebrooks
Cornerback: Minnesota
Number 24 overall pick in 2001

He was drafted with the idea that he'd become a star, but Middlebrooks was more of a journeyman. He lasted just three seasons in Denver.

click to enlarge Kelvin Clark during his collegiate days in Nebraska. - FILE PHOTO
Kelvin Clark during his collegiate days in Nebraska.
File photo
Number 6: Kelvin Clark
Offensive tackle: Nebraska
Number 22 overall pick in 1979

Clark is so little remembered for his brief stint in Denver that we couldn't even find a trading-card image showing him in a Broncos uniform. This is him sporting Nebraska red.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts