Woody Paige grades Broncos' draft at ‘B' overall

Posted at 6:59 PM, May 01, 2017

DENVER – Beauty or Beast Broncos?

Was this the Broncos’ best draft of all time? Well, it’s certainly not the worst.

For example, Dan Reeves had a clunker in 1988 when the Broncos were amid three Super Bowl appearances – all losses. Denver’s No. 1 pick (26th overall) was Ted Gregory, generously described as a 6-foot-1, 260-pound consensus All-American nose tackle from Syracuse.

He soon arrived at the Broncos’ old headquarters north of downtown Denver, and there was a serious problem. It already was known that Gregory had blown out his knee in his last game with the Orangemen. Before Gregory put on his new orange, he was greeted by Coach Reeves, who later lamented: “I’m 6-1, and I looked down at Gregory.” Reeves believed that Gregory actually was 5-9 and weighed about 240.

Reeves then discovered that Gregory wasn’t recovered from his injury and “couldn’t play a lick.” The Broncos traded Gregory during training camp to the Saints for their own mistake No. 1 draft pick in 1987 – offensive lineman Shawn Knight, who was not a Jedi. Bust for Bust. Gregory was injured again in his rookie season, and Knight barely lasted one season with the Broncos.

Gregory later was categorized as the eighth poorest pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

But, wait. There’s more from 1988, when the Broncos should have been collecting more talent to become the No. 1 NFL team. They selected left tackle Gerald Perry in the second round. Perry was a load and a lug. He played left guard, then left tackle for only three seasons (although he did start in the Super Bowl) before being traded. Here are the rest of the Bronco’s picks in the (then) 12-round draft: cornerback Kevin Guidry, cornerback Corris Ervin, tight end Pat Kelly, guard Garry Frank, running back Mel Farr Jr., running back Channing Williams, running back Richard Calvin and nose tackle Johnny Carter.

This gets harder to believe.

None of the three running backs made the team. Carter and Frank never played for the Broncos, either.

Kelly started one game at tight end in two seasons. Guidry lasted one season, but didn’t start a game. And Ervin was let go before the opener.

It can’t get any worse than that in the Broncos’ “modern” era.

However, return to Nov. 22-23, 1959, shortly after the American Football League was created to compete against the NFL. The Broncos were one of eight original teams. The league actually held two drafts, the first in Minneapolis, when the Broncos picked 34 – yes, count ‘em – 34 players, and a second on Dec. 2 when the Broncos added 20 choices.

The Broncos’ first pick ever was Roger LeClerc. Teams were choosing “regional” players, sort of hometown hero types. LeClerc played center for Trinity – which is in Connecticut. Duh. He probably didn’t even know where Colorado was located.

LeClerc went, instead, to the Packers and played backup defensive and, primarily, as the kick.
He finally joined the Broncos in 1967 for one season.

Out of the 54 other drafted players, only one – linebacker/end Bob Hudson of Clemson – started even once for the Broncos (1960-61). A vast majority of the others never came to camp or chose to go to the NFL or became plumbers. Too bad the first name in alphabetical order, Harry Ball (really), a tackle from Boston College, decided on the Packers instead of signing with the Broncos. He was cut, anyway.

So, this will never be considered the lousiest draft no matter what happens to the eight players picked Thursday-Saturday.

I wanted to give the grade “incomplete”, but I’ll go with “B” for “Broncos” and “B” for bold and “B” for good effort of getting players of need at left tackle, defensive end, running back, slot and wide receiver, and returners, a futures cornerback and Chad Kelly, who could be the worst “chad” since the Bush-Gore election or an incredible steal.

When was the greatest Broncos’ draft?

The contenders in reverse order: 2016 (all eight players are on the roster and could be starters, and Paxton Lynch could be a star one day); 2011 (Von Miller, Orland Franklin, Julius Thomas, Virgil Green, Nate Irving, Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter in John Elway’s first draft); 1983 (Chris Hinton, Mark Cooper, Clint Sampson, Walt Bowyer, Karl Mecklenburg in the 12th round and Gary Kubiak, and Hinton was the major player in the Elway trade, which could make this top draft), and 1975 (Louis Wright, Rick Upchurch, Rubin Carter, Steve Foley, Stan Rogers).

And No. 1 Broncos draft: 1973, when the Broncos began to become a legitimate NFL team under general manager/John Ralston. The Broncos had 19 picks (two in the seventh round, 13th and the 16th rounds) and chose Otis Armstrong, Barney Chavous, Paul Howard, Tom Jackson, John Grant, Calvin Jones, Oliver Ross and John Hufnagel – who would start games for the Broncos – and three other players who would spend time with the team.

Check back in 10 years, and we’ll have a final grade on the Class of ’17. 

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