The Broncos have the 20th overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft. What kind of value can a team get picking there?

A week from today, we’ll see what John Elway and Co. can do with the 20th overall pick.

Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) carries the ball for a touchdown after an interception during fourth quarter action against the Indianapolis Colts during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO, September 18, 2016.
Photo by Gabriel Christus
Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) carries the ball for a touchdown after an interception during fourth quarter action against the Indianapolis Colts during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO, September 18, 2016. Photo by Gabriel Christus
Aqib Talib was the 20th overall selection in 2008. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Denver Broncos)

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.

Year Player Position College Team
2016 Darron Lee LB Ohio State Jets
2015 Nelson Agholor WR USC Eagles
2014 Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State Saints
2013 Kyle Long OL Oregon Bears
2012 Kendall Wright WR Baylor Titans
2011 Adrian Clayborn DL Iowa Buccaneers
2010 Kareem Jackson CB Alabama Houston
2009 Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State Lions
2008 Aqib Talib CB Kansas Buccaneers
2007 Aaron Ross CB Texas Giants
2006 Tamba Hali DL Penn State Chiefs
2005 Marcus Spears DL LSU Cowboys
2004 Kenechi Udeze DL USC Minnesota
2003 George Foster OL Georgia Broncos
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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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.