With the much anticipated 2012 NFL Draft quickly approaching (Thurs, April 26th), this high stakes selection process has become must see TV for any die-hard football fan. Teams across the league spend countless hours preparing for this, and cross their fingers that the players they target will be available when it’s their turn to pick. It truly is like playing Black Jack in Vegas, with the odds stacked heavily against you. Try running down the list of players chosen in any draft in the last 10 years. My guess would be you haven’t even heard of 75% of the guys on that list. If anyone thinks they have the precise formula for determining if a player will hit it big at the NFL level or not, they are lying. It’s a crapshoot, and an expensive roll of the dice. For every Peyton Manning, there is a Ryan Leaf. For every John Elway, there is a Jamarcus Russell.
In this years draft, the Denver Broncos have 8 picks in the first 6 rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 are always critical in finding future stars, but don’t sleep on those later rounds. The past has proven that certain gems have been found much later in the draft. So with that in mind, here are the “Top 7″ Denver Broncos draft gems (chosen round 3 or later) of the last 30 years….
7 – Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota - Decker was selected by Denver two years ago in the 3rd round (87th overall). A very productive guy in college, and last year he showed he can be starter in this league for many years to come. With Tebow at QB, Decker had somewhat of a breakout year. Imagine his numbers in 2012 with Peyton Manning chucking him the ball. Can you say monster year ahead for Eric?
6 – Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville - Chosen with the 126th pick (4th round) in the ’06 draft, Dumervil is one of the cornerstones of our current defense. Thought to be too short to be effective at the NFL level, Elvis has proven most scouts wrong. Now paired with Von Miller on the other side, Dumervil’s best years could ahead of him.
5 – Karl Mecklenburg, LB, Minnesota - Denver chose Karl in the 12th round (310th overall) back in 1983, a mere 309 picks after John Elway was selected in that same draft …….12th round? It has been years since the draft even had 12 rounds. Mecklenburg would go on to play in 6 Pro Bowls and register 79.5 sacks, 2nd in team history.
4 – Jason Elam, K, Hawaii - Kickers are rarely selected as high as the 3rd round (70th overall in 1993), but Elam proved to be worth it. Over the course of his career, he nailed 81% of his field goals, and made 3 Pro Bowls. He also shares the record for the longest field goal made (63 yds). This guy was as good as there was in the late 90′s, and has 2 Super Bowl rings to show for it.
3 – Tom Nalen, C, Boston College - One of the more unheralded Broncos because he was an offensive lineman, but he was extremely valuable. Nalen was chosen in 7th round (218th overall) in 1994, and then went on to start in 188 games for Denver through 2008. He made 5 Pro Bowls, and 6 different running backs ran for 1,000 yards behind him and his offensive line.
2 – Terrell Davis, RB, Georgia - Chosen with the 196th pick overall (6th round) in 1995, it is safe to say T.D. is one of the biggest steals in NFL history. Davis battled injuries at Georgia, and was thought to be too slow to be a great NFL running back. In his first 4 years as a Bronco, Terrell ran for 6,413 yards, 56 TD’s, was the 1998 NFL MVP, and the Super Bowl MVP. Tearing his ACL and MCL in the 1999 season basically ended his career. Tragic end for someone who could have been one of the all time greats in NFL history.
1 – Shannon Sharpe, TE, Savannah State - Shannon, who at the time was better known as Sterling’s little brother, was selected 192nd overall (7th round) in 1990. He played at a very small college, and was actually drafted as a wide receiver. He didn’t have great speed, and was too big so he was quickly moved to tight end. Sharpe made 8 Pro Bowls, caught 815 balls, and was the first TE ever to amass 10,000 yards. One of the greats at his position, Shannon was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
On a bit of a side note, one guy who should also be mentioned here is Rod Smith. The reason he isn’t on this list anywhere, is well, because he wasn’t even drafted! Rod was signed by the Broncos in 1994 as an undrafted free agent. Coming from Missouri Southern State, Rod was given a chance, and I think he capitalized on that chance….849 receptions, 11,389 yards, and 68 TD’s. He ranks 15th in NFL history in receptions, and 16th in receiving yards. I think he did ok for not being chosen on draft day.
Denver Sports by J Simp