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Woody Paige: Denver Broncos' draft best since John Elway's first, and could pass that

April 28, 2018 Updated: April 30, 2018 at 7:50 am
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Bradley Chubb, center, the Denver Broncos' first-round selection with the fifth overall pick in the NFL football draft, poses for a photograph with John Elway, left, the team's general manager, and coach Vance Joseph on Friday, April 27, 2018, at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. p(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Edge for the Broncos could be the most exceptional since the U2 guitarist played Red Rocks in 1983 when John Elway was a rookie quarterback.

And this is the Broncos' best draft since the first year of Elway's reign as The Boss, and should surpass 2011's.

Give it an A-, although Elway said Saturday afternoon toward the conclusion of the draft, which seemed to last longer than the 30 Years War, the Broncos ultimately will be graded on "how many games we win.''

After some minor maneuvering on Day 3, the Broncos wound up with 10 picks - edge-rushing outside linebacker Bradley Chubb at No. 5 overall, two wide receivers, two running backs, two inside linebackers, one tight end, one cornerback and one offensive lineman.

 

All were positions of necessity.

In 2011 the Broncos and their rookie exec VP possessed nine picks, and chose edge-rushing outside linebacker Von Miller at No. 2 overall, two safeties, two tight ends, two inside linebackers, an offensive tackle and a defensive end. In retrospect, that group (all, except Miller, now gone) earned an "A-'' grade.

Seven eventually would become starters.

The Broncos' brass would be rapturous if a septet of starters emerges from the Class of '18.

I liked eight of the Broncos' decisions, especially after they obviously followed my advice and didn't draft a quarterback early, or ever. Case Keenum is the quarterback, and Elway won't give up on Paxton Lynch, despite his dreary, dispirited, dreadful first two seasons, punctuated by the 2016 first-round selection injuring his ankle, crying on the bench and rejecting a request to return to the game.

"Paxton is still young, and we're not kicking him to the curb,'' Elway reiterated Saturday. "He will compete with Chad (Kelly)'' for the backup job. Dreaded vote of confidence.

Despite the Broncos spending an abnormal amount of time with the four top quarterbacks - Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen - the first two went before the Broncos' turn, and the other two were snubbed (or "Chubbed'') by Elway and drifted down the draft. The Broncos would have taken Darnold.

Instead, the Broncos have Von "The Chinese Dragon'' Miller and Bradley "Astronaut'' Chubb - who is good in space.

Could MC Hammers become superior - "Can't Touch This'' - to legendary Broncos' duo sackmasters Rulon Jones and Karl Mecklenburg, "The Meck'' and Simon Fletcher, Miller and DeMarcus Ware and the premier pairing of Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who in 2012 combined for 28.5 sacks?

How about 17 and 13 this season? Can't double-team The Vonster. Plus, Shane & Shaq will be able Four Horsemen backers.

Elway told me the night before he officially returned to the Broncos that his emphasis always would be on defense.

North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb (9) plays against Pittsburgh in an NCAA football game against Pittsburgh , Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) 

In five consecutive drafts he picked defense players first, and the Broncos advanced to the postseason every season and the Super Bowl twice. When he switched to two offensive first-round choices, the Broncos went nowhere.

The Broncos selected six on offense, four on defense. Four should start or play in the rotation this year. Six had been evaluated among the deluxe dozen at their positions - Chubb (1), wide receiver Courtland Sutton (2), inside linebacker Josey Jewell (8), tight end Troy Fumagalli (12), wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (12) and versatile offensive lineman Sam "The Bam'' Jones - Highland Ranch's own (12). "Rolls'' Royce Freeman was ranked the 13th running back.

Hamilton, coach Vance Joseph said, was the premium receiver the staff coached at the Senior Bowl. Sutton didn't play because he was not a senior and had an ankle injury.

But Sutton could be what Carlos Henderson, drafted last year, was supposed to be before a meltdown in camp, an injury that cost him the entire year and a stupid marijuana arrest.

Freeman will compete as a starter - "absolutely," Joseph said. A brute, he had 5,621 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns at Oregon. Jewell is a found pearl.

The Iowa farmboy who became a Butkus Award finalist reminds me of The Football-Playing Matthews Family.

The Broncos were impressed at the Senior Bowl with cornerback Isaac "Newton'' Yiadom at the Senior Bowl. He is from Justin Simmons' Boston College and the Simmons school of defense.

The rest are prospects, projects and puzzles still to be determined.

Significantly, the Broncos have regained The Edge.

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