Denver Broncos 2016 NFL Draft Retrospective

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11, 2018: Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) warms up prior to the game on Saturday August, 11 at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The Denver Broncos hosted the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11, 2018: Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) warms up prior to the game on Saturday August, 11 at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The Denver Broncos hosted the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

How does the Denver Broncos 2016 NFL Draft class look three years later?

Coming off of a dominant victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos were in a state of major transition. Free agents were leaving the team seemingly in bulk, Peyton Manning retired, and the Broncos failed to land Colin Kaepernick despite agreeing to an offseason trade for the former 49ers quarterback. Despite John Elway’s best efforts, Denver was unable to land a veteran solution (unless you count Mark Sanchez) at the most important position on the team.

With a somewhat limited budget, the Broncos turned to the NFL Draft following the loss of Brock Osweiler and Kaepernick’s unwillingness to take a pay cut to take Peyton Manning’s job.

Original Grade

Sports Illustrated: B+

Other than saying the Broncos would be Mark Sanchez’s team week one, the prediction was pretty spot on about Denver’s draft. If only Paxton Lynch had the chance to develop under Gary Kubiak as planned…

FanSided: B

FanSided gave the Broncos an average grade due to Paxton Lynch potentially being a reach, and that proved prophetic. Other than labeling their day three picks as ‘solid’, there was not much more of the prophetic from FS.

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 26)

The Broncos were competing with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs to move up from the bottom of the first round to select the star quarterback out of Memphis. Lynch seemingly had it all. Height, weight, tools, big-time throws on tape — it was all there. One year, maybe two of some seasoning, and he would be ready for the show. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way the Broncos or Lynch had hoped.

Lynch looked solid in preseason play, solid enough that the Broncos went into the regular season with just him and Trevor Siemian on the depth chart. Lynch even played some in the regular season and put some more good throws on tape. In the 2017 offseason, the Broncos hired a new coaching staff when Gary Kubiak stepped down for health reasons. That was when Lynch’s regression began. He looked completely lost every time he took the field, and struggled through injuries. He failed to beat Trevor Siemian for a second consecutive offseason. In 2018, Lynch was cut by the Broncos before the start of the regular season. He spent all of 2018 out of football before signing with the Seattle Seahawks.

Round 2 (No. 63)

At the time of his being drafted, Adam Gotsis was a player just about nobody had heard of, and the Broncos used a second-round pick on him. Some NFL Draft analysts were insistent that teams in the early/middle portion of round three were poised to take Gotsis, and he was a favorite of Broncos DL coach Bill Kollar, so the Broncos didn’t risk anything. Gotsis has turned into a heck of a player.

He’s been the Broncos’ starting right defensive end for the past two seasons and enters his fourth year in the NFL as one of the best run defending 3-4 defensive ends in the league, at least in my estimation. Gotsis has become a better player against the pass, and the Broncos could rely on him to play even more snaps in Vic Fangio’s defense.

Round 3 (No. 98)

Even though they traded a third-round pick to move up for Paxton Lynch, the Broncos still had a third rounder among that year’s compensatory selections, and they snagged Justin Simmons at the bottom of round three.

Simmons pushed TJ Ward off the roster after just one year on the team, and took over as one of the Broncos’ starting safeties on a full-time basis in 2017. He played every single snap in 2018, and looks like he is poised to become one of the best all-around safeties in the game. Simmons didn’t miss any tackles inside the box despite playing every snap this past season, and has shown he can make plays on the ball in coverage as a deep free safety, and even played some cornerback for the Broncos when they had injury issues in 2018.

Round 4 (No. 136)

Broncos fans were clamoring for Devontae Booker, a projected second-round player in the 2016 NFL Draft, before the team ultimately decided to take him. Booker ended up leading the Broncos in rushing his rookie season with CJ Anderson struggling through injuries, and just about took the starting job in 2017 before a wrist injury sidelined him for the first three games of the season.

In three seasons, Booker has 99 receptions and has proven himself to be a very solid all-around back, but his draft status has really reflected the caliber of player he has been up to this point. Booker hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s a solid role player for the Broncos and a fine third-down back capable of starting if need be. He’s behind Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman on the depth chart, but he contributes quite a bit on game day.

Round 5 (No. 144) 

Connor McGovern has turned out to be a heck of a pick for the Broncos. One of the strongest players on the team, McGovern played a backup role his first two years in the league before taking over as the team’s starting right guard in 2018. He was dominant in the early portion of the season, but struggled a bit as the year wore along and he had to take Matt Paradis’ role at center, a position he practiced at but hadn’t played regular season ball at.

Entering year four, the Broncos are confident enough in McGovern that he is poised to be their full-time center with Matt Paradis off to Carolina to play for the Panthers. McGovern’s play will be critical for the Broncos moving forward, but he has a great situation lining up next to Ron Leary (left guard) and having Mike Munchak coach him up.

Round 6 (No. 176)

Andy Janovich wasted no time making noise in his first game as an NFL player, taking the first carry he ever got for a long touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. Janovich doesn’t get much credit, which is typical for fullbacks in modern football, but this guy is a heck of a football player.

He played just about a quarter of the Broncos’ offensive snaps this past season, but plays a huge role on special teams and should have a significantly expanded role in Rich Scangarello’s offense. We all know how well the Shanahan/Kubiak offense suits a traditional fullback, and Janovich is a guy who can not only run the ball and play special teams, he’s a great blocker and pass catcher as well. He should be (and will be) used more in year four.

Round 6 (No. 219)

“Philly” Will Parks has been a steal for the Denver Broncos as a sixth-round pick. The former Arizona Wildcats star has progressed every year he’s been with the team, picking off one pass each of his three seasons so far while playing in all 16 games, contributing on special teams and on defense. Parks played 53 percent of the Broncos’ defensive snaps last year and could be the team’s primary strong safety going into 2018. One of the biggest personalities on the team, Parks is one of the hardest workers and has a chance to really shine under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell.

Round 7 (No. 228)

Riley Dixon was solid, not great, in his first couple of years with the Broncos, but the team decided to part ways with him when Marquette King became available in 2018. They traded him to the New York Giants for a conditional draft pick. He ended up being in the top 10 this season in net punting and looks like he has a bright future in the league as a punter.

Retrospective Grade

It’s hard to look back at this class and call it a resounding success despite the fact that Denver missed on Paxton Lynch, but here we are. Every other pick in this draft besides Paxton Lynch has made an impact in the NFL, and all but Riley Dixon are still impacting the Broncos specifically. Not only are they playing, but the Broncos gained five starters from this draft along with a key role/special teams player in Devontae Booker, who was a starter his rookie season.

2019 RETROSPECTIVE GRADE. A-. . . Denver Broncos

How can you not give the Broncos an ‘A’ for this draft, even with Paxton Lynch’s failure to develop? How often is it that an NFL Draft class of this size has this many players still contributing even after three years? The Broncos nailed every pick in this draft other than Lynch, and no one should fault them for taking him considering the circumstances. This was a great draft and all of these players will be coveted in free agency if the Broncos let them make it there.

by Sayre Bedinger

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