The Denver Broncos all-time top 30 draft picks by advanced stats
April 25, 2018
It's draft day, and across the NFL, head coaches, personnel executives and scouts have compiled their draft boards, ranking the talent pool according to skills (and character) and weighing those against their team's needs.
At the Summit Daily, we decided to do what NFL war rooms are doing to prepare for the next three days: We built our own draft board, so to speak, of every Denver Broncos draft pick in franchise history — more than 650. And that includes all selections from the franchise's infant days in the then-American Football League to their recent dominant days in the modern National Football League.
But how could we do that? It's difficult enough to compare quarterbacks to cornerbacks, but how do you evaluate talent from the run-heavy offenses of bygone years to Roger Goodell's pass-happy NFL of today?
Heck, even the Bronco of Broncos, John Elway, would have trouble doing that.
But we have something now that NFL evaluators didn't have until recently: these newfangled analytics, most specifically, an all-encompassing statistic found on Pro Football Reference. It's called "Weighted Career Approximate Value," and it assigns a value to a player that allows us to compare across positions and playing eras.
As such, Weighted Career Approximate Value allows us to analyze the following:
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— Every NFL position with one common stat — no discriminating.
— Each NFL season (and, in turn, every player) as far back as possible.
This is because Approximate Value awards offensive players and defensive players points by first calculating that player's team "offense points" or "defense points." Team "offense points" and "defense points" are original calculations based on Pro Football Reference Formulas.
It's worth noting that different positions such as an offensive lineman versus a wide receiver (and so on) are awarded an individual share of Pro Football Reference's "offense team points" or "defense team points" based on different formulas for each position group.
For a more detailed explanation, visit: Pro-Football-Reference.com/blog/index37a8.html
With that, we have Pro Football Reference's list of the top 30 Denver Broncos draft picks in history, and perhaps the most interesting takeaway is that the two men who top the list, and a legend who ranks 19th on the list, all never played a single down for the Broncos. NFL Hall of Famers Paul Krause and Merlin Olsen top the list with Career Approximate Values of 113 and 112.
But neither Krause nor Olsen ever played a single down for the Broncos. Rather, the future Redskin and Viking great Krause and the future Los Angeles Rams legend Olsen were drafted by the Broncos to the American Football League through the AFL's 1964 and 1962 drafts, respectively.
But both Krause and Olsen opted to play instead for the National Football League, with the Redskins and Rams.
The story was much the same in 1965 for Dick Butkus, who was picked by the Broncos in the second round of the AFL draft, but Butkus opted to play for the NFL franchise he'd become a Hall of Famer with, the only professional team he'd ever play for, the Chicago Bears.
This all means that, according to Pro Football Reference's Career Approximate Value statistic, it's Tom Nalen who ranks as the greatest Bronco draft pick of all-time who was actually played for Denver. The center, Nalen, was a mainstay on the Broncos late '90s Super Bowl champion teams and was the last remaining player from the Broncos' Super Bowl titles to continue playing for the team.
John Elway's championship center has a Career Approximate Value of 101 according to Pro Football Reference, through 194 games played with the Broncos, after the franchise drafted him with the 218th overall pick in the seventh round of the 1994 NFL Draft.
Hey, who knows? Maybe Denver will find another diamond-in-the-rough come this weekend's seventh and final round.
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