Over the course of their nearly 55-year history, the Denver Broncos have employed an number of gifted athletes. Today, we at Mile High Huddle continue our celebration of the franchise by counting down the top-five players at each position in team history. These ratings are based off of statistical greatness and film study. Longevity will play little to no factor.
Today, we’ll be looking back at the top-five tackles in Broncos history. We won’t differentiate between left and right tackles. If you anchored either end of the Broncos offensive line, you qualify for this list. The Broncos have had a number of great tackles over the years, so if you disagree with any of these choices feel free to reach out on social media, or react in the forums.
No. 5: Matt Lepsis
(1997-2007): zero Pro Bowls, zero All-Pro seasons.
Matt Lepsis was the epitome of a lunch-pail lineman. Signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Colorado in 1997, Lepsis made little impact during the Super Bowl championship seasons, but would take control of the right tackle job in 1998 and didn’t let go until his retirement.
Lepsis was a stable for the Broncos during the Plummer seasons of the mid-2000s, and didn’t miss a single snap during on Denver’s 2004 offensive line, which shattered the NFL record for fewest sacks allowed. He started 133 NFL games for in his career, all of them with the Denver Broncos.
No. 4: Ken Lanier
(1981-1993, 1994): zero Pro Bowls, zero All-Pro seasons.
Much like Lepsis, Lanier was a gritty staple of the Broncos offensive line that never gained the national reputation he may have merited. Lanier was one of the Broncos most stable players during a number of very unstable seasons.
Lanier spent more than a decade holding down the right side of Denver’s offensive line, helping the Broncos to three AFC championships. He played all but two games of his career in Denver, playing 1993 season in Oakland. He returned to Denver the following season, riding the bench and helping lay the groundwork for championship teams down the road.
No. 3: Mike Current
(1967-1975): 1 Pro Bowl, zero All-Pro seasons.
Mike Current was not a good man. The last years of his life showed us that. However, he was an immensely impactful player on the field for the Denver Broncos. Current was drafted by the Broncos in the third round of the 1967 NFL draft, traded to the Miami Dolphins, played in two games, then was traded back. Talk about a short-term lease.
Current would man the right side of the Broncos line through nine-consecutive losing seasons, but those records certainly had nothing to do with Current’s play. He was outstanding, and was elected to the Pro Bowl for his efforts in 1969.
No. 2: Ryan Clady
(2008-Present): 4 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro seasons.
When Ryan Clady walked into Dove Valley for the first time in the summer of 2008, he walked in with an enormous weight on his shoulders. Drafted No. 12 overall out of Boise State, he was thrown into the fire immediately, becoming the Broncos starting left tackle in his rookie season. He was expected to become the next great Broncos lineman. He answered the bell.
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No. 1: Gary Zimmerman
(1993-1997): 3 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro seasons.
Gary Zimmerman only wore orange and blue for five seasons, but his impact on the Broncos and their history can’t be overstated. He ranks among the most important free agent acquisitions in Broncos history. Zimmerman was the leader of the Broncos offensive line during the most successful period in his history.
During his time in Denver, Zimmerman was elected to Pro Bowls in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and he was selected as an AP second team All-Pro in 1993 and 1995. He was a first team All-Pro in 1996. Zimmerman’s work in Denver, including two Super Bowl rings, greatly contributed to his election to the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1990s, and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of only four Broncos enshrined at Canton, OH.
Note: Including his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Zimmerman was elected to seven Pro Bowls, along with earning eight All-Pro honors. He was also voted onto the All-Decade team of the 1980s, due to his production in Minnesota.