(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The 2020 NFL Draft is upon us. Outside of actual games being played, it’s the most-exciting day for fans of the National Football League.
Tonight, we will find out if the Broncos stay at 15th overall, trade up for a big name or trade back.
If the Broncos choose to let the chips fall and take the best player available at 15, I think many fans would be good with that decision. If the Broncos decide to make a splash and trade up for a big name, Broncos Country will get wild with excitement. Lastly, if the Broncos choose to trade back, fans of the blue and orange will likely not be too happy.
Trading back is the boring route. It’s safe. It’s not splashy.
Trading back the ultimate snooze-fest of a strategy. There’s a collective yawn when your team’s first-round pick is in the 20s.
Trading back is also a proven strategy for success for the Broncos. And we owe it all to the most-hated man in franchise history.
It’s time we look back at that one time Josh McDaniels did well during his time in Denver.
The 2010 NFL Draft was the beginning of the Broncos’ resurgence to once again becoming an elite team in the NFL. From the moment the draft started, McDaniels was extremely active to the point of chaotic.
The Broncos started the draft with the 11th overall pick in the first round. After making three trades in the first round, the Broncos made their first selection at 22nd overall. With that pick, they drafted Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos had an extra second-round pick after trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins prior to the draft. The team also acquired a second third-round pick from their various trades in the first round.
Loaded with extra picks, McDaniels traded back into the first round and drafted Florida quarterback Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick. From there, McDaniels would draft guard Zane Beadles in the second round, center J.D. Walton in the third round and wide receiver Eric Decker in the third round.
With McDaniels making the decisions, the 2009 draft was laughably bad. But his 2010 draft class was really solid. It took an unusual amount of trades, but the first five picks of Thomas, Tebow, Beadles, Walton and Decker would prove to be possibly the best five-player run in Broncos draft history.
Yes, McDaniels alienated the team and didn’t make it through the 2010 season. However, those five players all contributed to the Broncos 2011 turnaround.
We can argue Tebow’s talent all day, but that team doesn’t get where they did without him. He was a first-round quarterback that led his team to a playoff victory. That is not a bust.
On the field, it may have looked weird, but Tebow was a good draft pick. He accomplished a lot more than many other first-round quarterbacks, especially when you consider the team was 1-4 when he took over as starter.
Last weekend, Broncos Country tuned in as CBS Sports replayed the 2011 Wild Card Game against the Steelers. There were the two 2010 first-round picks, drafted by McDaniels, connecting on one of the most-memorable plays in Broncos history. Decker was injured, but Beadles and Walton were also on the field for that play.
The rest of the 2010 draft was forgettable, including maybe the worst character pick of all time in Parrish Cox, but hitting on your first five picks is a rare success. The Broncos built on McDaniels 2010 draft by having an even better draft in 2011 and a solid 2012 draft. The drafts from 2010-12 were the foundation for the Super Bowl 50 victory.
Trading back is not the sexiest idea to most Broncos fans. Drafting a stud receiver or trading up to draft one of the big names is much more exciting television. The 2010 Broncos draft shows that if you have a plan and know how to identify talent you can maximize your draft, specifically those first three rounds.
Last season, everybody lost their minds when the Broncos decided to trade the 10th overall pick to the Steelers and pass on inside linebacker Devon Bush. They traded back to 20th overall and drafted Noah Fant. The extra pick the Broncos received from the Steelers would be used to select Drew Lock.
At the time, Bush was the bigger name and more exciting prospect than Fant. Broncos Country has since fallen in love with Lock and sees the potential in Fant.
If the Broncos have a plan and have identified talented players, a trade back could be a bigger benefit to the organization.
Leading up to the 2010 draft Demaryius Thomas was not discussed as a guaranteed first-round pick. Dez Bryant was the consensus best wide receiver. McDaniels traded back and still drafted Thomas ahead of Bryant.
Time has proven that to be the correct decision. In addition, in his various draft-day trades, McDaniels picked up a third-round pick that he used to draft Eric Decker. Instead of drafting Bryant at 10, the Broncos ended up with Thomas and Decker. That combination would up being the starting wide receivers to the most-prolific offense in NFL history.
Trading back worked in 2010 and again in 2019. Both drafts led to a true identity change of the team. If Elway decides to trade back, relax; it could end up being for the best.
Trading up has landed the Broncos the likes of Paxton Lynch and Shane Ray. Yikes.
Broncos Country should hate Josh McDaniels. He was a terrible head coach and even worse when it came to dealing with people. But for some reason, in April 2010, he got it right with a strategy that’s proven to work.