First-round picks are an extremely valuable currency in the NFL. For each NFL team, they represent the best chance at identifying a foundational piece who will play the first four years of his professional career on the cheap.
The Broncos have fared well choosing in the first round in recent years. They’ve selected stars such as Von Miller (No. 2 overall in 2011) and Demaryius Thomas (No. 22 overall in 2010) in round one, as well as key contributors like Bradley Roby (31st in 2014) and Shane Ray (23rd in 2015).
A week from today, we’ll see what John Elway and Co. can do with the 20th overall pick.
It’s no secret the Broncos need a left tackle; do they try to find one there? Does Denver instead decide to go with a versatile skill position player capable of receiving, running and returning like Chris Harris Jr. alluded to? We don’t know. A lot will depend on what the teams ahead of Denver do.
To get a sense of the types of players who’ve been picked at 20th overall in the past, I’ve dug up each player selected in that slot the last 15 years.
|2016||Darron Lee||LB||Ohio State||Jets|
|2014||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon State||Saints|
|2009||Brandon Pettigrew||TE||Oklahoma State||Lions|
|2006||Tamba Hali||DL||Penn State||Chiefs|
|2002||Javon Walker||WR||Florida State||Packers|
The two players who’ve had the most successful pro careers on this list are still playing. Both are members of AFC West teams.
Tamba Hali, who the Chiefs chose in 2006, has racked up 89 1/2 sacks in 11 seasons. Meanwhile, Aqib Talib has been one of the best cornerbacks (and agitators) in football since breaking into the league with Tampa Bay in 2008. Talib, who signed with the Broncos in free agency in 2014, earned his first first-team All-Pro selection in 2016.
Players drafted 20th overall have made 12 Pro Bowl appearances in the last decade and a half. Hali and Talib have combined for eight of those appearances. Kyle Long, who’s played right guard and right tackle along the Bears’ offensive line, has been to three Pro Bowls in his first four years.
The least productive players chosen 20th in the last 15 years — at least according to Pro Football Reference’s approximate value metric — were Kenechi Udeze, who was forced to retire after four seasons because of cancer; Aaron Ross, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best college corner at Texas and went on to record 11 interceptions in seven NFL seasons; and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who lasted seven season with the Lions.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the talent chosen at 20 in recent years. Identifying talent like Talib or Hali there doesn’t happen often.
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