On Monday, Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway announced via Twitter that as many as 13 of the allowed 30 visits by potential draftees will visit Broncos headquarters this week.
While I certainly realize that the collective bargaining agreement and its ultimate settlement is at the forefront of media conversation these days, the draft still exists, talent still must be evaluated, and that moment will come when every NFL team makes its selections for 2011 and sets in motion roster adjustments and changes that hopefully will lead to great seasons.
So the draft is coming, and it really is right around the corner.
Much has been made of the Broncos’ brain trust taking a hard look at the quarterback position, but they are actually doing that at all positions, some just being more glamorous than others.
When it comes down to it, a team is going to draft players, and there is no way of knowing absolutely how that infusion of new talent will impact the existing roster here and elsewhere.
The last two weeks on the team website DenverBroncos.com has looked at the linebacker and running back positions. This week the offensive line is being profiled.
In Broncos history, like that of every team, there have been players who have not made it. But to build a team, you can never worry about what did not work out. You have to have a short memory that way, like a cornerback who must get burned now and then or a baseball closer who gives up the big homer.
You have to move on from whatever did not work out.
But the three positions listed above provide a clear illustration in Broncos history that players come from everywhere, that when the water begins to seek its own level, there is no stopping it. Here are six examples of guys who have been great players for the Broncos, and together they remind us all that great players are better known after they achieve greatness than before.
At running back, in 1967 the Broncos took three-time All-American Floyd Little from Syracuse. One of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Little was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
However, in 1995 the Broncos used the 196th pick in the draft, their second selection in the sixth round (not even their first sixth-round pick) to take running back Terrell Davis from Georgia. And nobody except serious draftniks and scouts even knew who he was.
But TD was the cornerstone of back-to-back world championships. Floyd Little was the sixth player taken overall, and Terrell Davis the 196th. So success can be selected anywhere. Don’t turn your nose up at a guy just because you do not know him.
At the linebacker position the Broncos in 1974 selected Randy Gradishar the pride of Ohio State. He had failed the physicals of both the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Colts, both teams feeling that a leftover injury from college made him a bad risk. So the Broncos took a flyer on Gradishar with the 14th pick overall, and his greatness still has him under consideration for veterans committee selection into the Hall of Fame.
Then, in 1983, with the very last selection made by Denver, the Broncos used their 310th overall selection to choose a nose tackle/defensive end from Minnesota named Karl Mecklenburg.
I remember vividly that the first time he came to Denver no member of the press even wanted to interview him and I used a favor with a veteran reporter to have him ask Meck a few questions, just so the NFL’s 310th choice would not feel left out.
Gradishar chosen at 14, Mecklenburg at 310. Talent comes from lots of places.
And in the offensive line, Ryan Clady was the 12th selection overall in 2008, and Clady is widely regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. But back in 1979 the Broncos displayed both sides of how it works. The number one draft choice was a tackle from Nebraska named Kelvin Clark, the 22nd pick overall.
That same season, Denver signed a free agent tackle who had been cut by the Baltimore Colts named Dave Studdard. Just a guy. Already cut once.
Clark was pretty much a total bust for the Broncos after being the 22nd overall NFL choice, and Dave Studdard became a starter and a fixture who protected John Elway in two Super Bowls (XXI and XXII). Studdard started for Denver from 1979 through 1988 despite never being drafted at all.
So Clady and Studdard run the spectrum from 12th overall pick to a street free agent signed for virtually nothing.
Remember, players all come from somewhere.
This team has had an illustrious history, second most wins in the NFL since Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984, two Super Bowl wins and six AFC titles (five under Mr. B.) And we have a hard working group of player personnel people doing everything they can to study every player.
Do not make the judgment based on how famous the player is before he gets taken.
Let the water seek its own level, and it might just fill up the pool.
Tags: NFL Draft