Mixed results highlight last three drafts

Demaryius Thomas, Tim Tebow (AP/Jack Dempsey

Denver's last three drafts spanned the final year of the Mike Shanahan era and Josh McDaniels' two seasons as coach.

Three-year breakdown:
How the Broncos have done in the draft since 2008:
Total picks: 28
2010 Starters: 7
2010 Backups: 9
Other teams: 8
Out of NFL: 4
Injured Reserve/PUP: 0

Denver's last three drafts spanned the final year of the Mike Shanahan era and Josh McDaniels' two seasons as coach.

The overall results were decidedly mixed, despite some overall aggressiveness acquiring and dispatching picks.

The McDaniels drafts, in particular, produced starters at the top of the drafts but few elite talents among that group. They also included some head-scratching moves.

Best pick: Offensive tackle Ryan Clady, 2008 (first round, 12th overall): Clady demonstrated both the size and elite movement skills for a NFL left tackle. He didn't allow a sack his first 20 pro games and made All-Pro by his second season. Recovering strength and stability after offseason knee surgery affected his 2010 performance; still Clady's expected to be full strength moving forward.

Worst pick: Tight end Richard Quinn, 2009 (second round, 64th overall): It isn't just that Quinn has one catch in two NFL seasons. It's that many talent observers could see this coming from a mile away. Quinn was largely viewed as a reach at the time of the draft (he had just 12 college receptions), and despite some upside as a blocker, he doesn't figure to ever be a factor as a complete tight end the team now covets.

2010 DRAFT PICKS

1 (22) Demaryius Thomas, WR: The first receiver taken in the draft showed flashes but couldn't stay healthy. He's now rehabilitating a torn Achilles tendon that puts his full participation in the 2011 season in real jeopardy.

1 (25) Tim Tebow, QB: The former Heisman Trophy winner exploded onto the scene as an immediate fan favorite. But he still is raw as a pro-style quarterback and will need a strong showing to unseat Kyle Orton as starter this offseason.

2 (45) Zane Beadles, OG: Began the year as a starting right tackle but lacked the skill set to be successful in that role. The move to left guard better suited him.

3 (80) J.D. Walton, C: A full-time starter, Walton went through some typical growing pains as a rookie. Walton possesses the kind of nasty disposition that should serve him well with additional experience.

3 (97) Eric Decker, WR: Fell behind due to injury in training camp but came on as the year progressed. He could have a bigger role moving forward with Thomas' injury issues.

5 (137) Perrish Cox, CB: Denver got a steal with this pick from a talent perspective. Cox was a part-time starter and major contributor but he faces legal issues that could interrupt his 2011 season.

6 (183) Eric Olsen, C: Played in only one game on the field-goal protection unit.

7 (225) Syd'Quan Thompson, CB: Good depth player showed solid ball skills playing mainly as a nickel back, picking off two passes. A good special-teams contributor, too, with eight tackles.

7 (232) Jammie Kirlew, OLB: College pass-rush demon couldn't translate skills as a pro tweener at outside linebacker.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Fox was the keynote speaker March 8 at a sports banquet benefitting Denver-area Boys Scouts. It was his first public appearance in a community-based event since his hiring.

He told the crowd that the team hoped to hit on the No. 2 pick in the draft as Carolina did in 2002 with Julius Peppers. And while he wouldn't make any predictions for 2011, Fox spoke boldly about the future, saying Denver will soon be competing for championships.

"My job is to win games," he said. "That I promise you will happen."

--Fox is known as a hands-on coach when it comes to Pro Days. He couldn't put a specific number on how many college campuses he'll visit in the coming weeks, but the number should be significant.

"That's the coach in me," he explained. "Early on, it was probably one of the reasons I didn't want to be a head coach because I didn't think you got to do it as much. But after being a head coach for nine years, you can still do all these things. And being close and understanding the players is what it's all about in any successful organization."

--Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has been releasing updates on his progress as he comes back from Achilles tendon surgery.

He wrote on Twitter last week that he had his cast removed, and since has begun rehabilitation sessions that left him "sore."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are a lot of holes. So we have a lot to do. Hopefully we can do the best we can plugging those holes this year, but it's going to take some time. And that's why we have to be good in the draft and get something done in the free-agent market." - John Elway, on the current state of the Broncos.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive tackle: The Broncos are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front so adding bodies is a necessity. The good news is that this year's draft is extremely deep on the defensive line. Dareus and Fairley will be dissected often in coming weeks.

2. Linebacker: D.J. Williams is the lone sure bet. Miller has shot up draft boards with his Senior Bowl and combine performances. His versatility in coverage and as a pass rusher, especially teamed with Elvis Dumervil should he land at weak-side linebacker, would be a nightmare for offensive coordinators on passing downs.

3. Free safety: Denver's seeking to improve the athleticism and speed overall on defense and those are traits that have been missing from the unit's deepest defender. The draft is thin up top at the position, but Peterson (6-1, 219) has the size, speed and ball-hawking ability to play the position effectively, should the Broncos choose.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--CB Champ Bailey: Potential UFA; $43M/4 yrs, $22.5M guaranteed.
--DT Kevin Vickerson: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--OG Manny Ramirez: FA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST
--DL Justin Bannan (released).
--TE Daniel Graham (released).
--NT Jamal Williams (released).



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