Continuing our “Top 7″ series is the topic of the biggest 1st round busts in Broncos history. Technically we will look at the post Elway era (1983-), and also list a player or two Denver could have chosen as an alternative. Now don’t get me wrong, it is understood that EVERY team has made huge mistakes thoughout the history of the draft. Selecting college players and projecting them into the NFL is a crapshoot, as many “can’t miss” studs did miss, and never panned out. Still, it is interesting to look back and think how the history of the Broncos could have changed forever. Without further adieu, the 7 worst 1st round picks are….(in chronological order)…..
1988 – Ted Gregory (Nose Tackle) - This defensive lineman from Syracuse was taken with the 26th pick, and was listed at 6’2″. When he arrived in Denver after the draft, his real height was 5’10″ and change. This was before players were picked at and prodded prior to the draft, like they are now. Whatever it said in the players media guide is what NFL teams went with. Dan Reeves had to cringe when Gregory showed up much shorter than advertised……players Denver could have chosen instead were Thurman Thomas (40th) or Bill Romanowski (80th). Thomas is now in the Hall of Fame, and Romo we added later in his career as a free agent.
1991 – Mike Croel (Linebacker) - This Nebraska stud was the 4th overall pick, and actually had a nice rookie season. It didn’t last long though, as he was no more than a pass rusher. Within a few years, he was history and fizzled away……a player Denver could have chosen instead includes some guy named Brett Favre, who Atlanta chose at pick #33.
1998 – Marcus Nash (Wide Receiver) - Nash was a star at Tennessee, and caught a lot of balls from Peyton Manning in his time there. This did not translate to the NFL though, as Nash didn’t have a ton of speed and never clicked at the pro level……a player Denver could have chosen instead includes Hines Ward (92nd pick), who just retired after catching 1,000 balls for the Steelers.
2001 – Willie Middlebrooks (Safety) - Middlebrooks (24th pick) was a hard hitting safety from Minnesota, and Denver loved his physical play. Unfortunately, although he could hit, he couldn’t catch anyone fast enough in order to hit him. The Broncos tried moving him to CB, but that experiment didn’t work either……players Denver could have chosen instead include Reggie Wayne (30th) or Drew Brees (32nd).
2002 – Ashley Lelie (Wide Receiver) - This Hawaii standout was tall and fast, and looked a lot like Randy Moss at times in college. When he hit the NFL, there was one small problem. He had no hands. That’s kind of a problem for a WR in the NFL. Lelie (19th pick) caught some balls, but dropped a ton as well. After a couple years, the Broncos let him go, and he bounced around the league for a few seasons before retiring……a player Denver could have chosen instead includes Ed Reed (24th), who will undoubtedly go down as one of best of all time at his position.
2003 – George Foster (Offensive Tackle) - This big man had the size and strength to excel at the NFL level. The Broncos used the 20th pick to select him, and hoped he would be their answer at tackle for years to come. Foster struggled with footwork, and therefore didn’t last long……players Denver could have chosen instead include Anquan Boldin, Dallas Clark, or Jason Witten.
2007 – Jarvis Moss (Defensive End) - Moss (17th pick) was an athletic defender from Florida, with speed to get to the QB. He struggled with injuries right off the bat, and never seemed to be healthy. When he was on the field, he never seemed to “get it”, and was released just a couple years into his career……players Denver could have chosen instead include Dwayne Bowe (23rd) or Eric Weddle (37th).
The 2012 NFL draft is right around the corner, and the Broncos need help at several positions. Just like every other team, they will make the best selections possible, and then hope for some good luck. First rounders are very important of course, but the late rounds are critical as well. Striking gold, like choosing Terrell Davis (196th pick in 1995), doesn’t happen very often.