Denver Broncos Ten Worst First Round NFL Draft Picks | Westword

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

The Denver 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 arguably the largest stain on John Elway's legacy as an executive to date.
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
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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.

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Tommy Maddox in Broncos orange.
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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.
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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.

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Tim Tebow acting as if he knows how to throw a football.
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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.

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Willie Middlebrooks during his Broncos stint.
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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.

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Kelvin Clark during his collegiate days in Nebraska.
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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.

A Dan Williams trading card.
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Number 5: Dan Williams
Defensive end: Toledo
Number 11 overall pick in 1993

One of the highest Broncos picks of the team's Super Bowl era never blossomed in Denver. Williams was out in three years as well.

Jarvis Moss casting an evil eye.
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Number 4: Jarvis Moss
Defensive end: Florida
Number 17 overall pick in 2007

Moss was supposed to return the Broncos' pass rush to its former status as one of the most feared units in football. Instead, he made no impact when he was healthy, which wasn't all that often, and his attitude appeared to get progressively worse during his time with the team. A big — make that really big — disaster.

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Marcus Nash didn't spend much time in the end zone as a Bronco.
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Number 3: Marcus Nash
Wide receiver: Tennessee
Number 30 overall pick in 1998

Nash was expected to be a terror of a wide receiver. But during his first year, he only played eight games and caught just four passes for 76 yards. In year two, he appeared in just two games and caught nothing but the cold chill of disappointment from Broncos loyalists. He was subsequently traded to Miami, which dealt him to Baltimore. By 2003, he was in the Arena Football League. Grim.

An enthusiastic Ted Gregory.
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Number 2: Ted Gregory
Defensive tackle: Syracuse
Number 26 overall pick in 1988

Gregory was listed as standing 6'1", but when then-coach Dan Reeves saw that he actually measured about 5'9", he exclaimed, "I'm taller than he is!" He was promptly traded to the New Orleans Saints, where he disappeared from the league after making appearances in just three games. But while Deadspin named Gregory the eighth-worst player in NFL history (!), another Bronco miss hurt the team a lot more.

Paxton Lynch is still a member of the Denver Broncos, believe it or not.
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Number 1: Paxton Lynch
Quarterback: Memphis
Number 26 overall pick in 2016

Coming off their Super Bowl 50 win, the Broncos hoped to keep rolling. But when Brock Osweiler, Peyton Manning's designated successor (and, as it turned out, another NFL draft mistake even though he was picked in the second round), jumped to the Houston Texans, Elway anointed Lynch the quarterback of the future. Too bad he didn't have one. He turned out to be so out of his depth that two different head coaches, Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph, did all they could to keep him out of the starting lineup, and when he took the field, everyone with working eyeballs understood why. His failure to reach his potential is the biggest reason the Broncos have fallen so far so fast — and why they're drafting fifth tonight.
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