Keep Westword Free
| Sports |

Photos: Ten best first-round draft picks in Broncos history

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 Lineback: Tennessee

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

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

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.

More from our Sports archive: "Photos: Ten worst first-round draft picks in Broncos history."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.