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 defensive tackles in Broncos history. For this list, we’ll focus on defensive linemen who spent the majority of their Broncos career on the inside of the line. These big butts are the biggest of the biggest and the best of the best.
Now, the Broncos have had a number of great defensive tackles over the years, so if you disagree with any of these choices feel free to reach out on social media (Facebook, Twitter), or react in the forums.
No. 5: Rubin Carter
(1975-1986): N/A sacks, N/A tackles, zero Pro Bowls.
Drafted by the Broncos in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft, Rubin Carter spent 12 seasons in Denver as a cornerstone of the Broncos vaunted “Orange Crush” defense. His gritty, lunch-pail style, and his aggressive play made him the standard for 3-4 nose tackles.
When Carter retired, he held the record for most starts in NFL history by a pure nose tackle. Carter was one of the few players to start for the Broncos in both of their first two Super Bowl appearances.
No. 4: Greg Kragen
(1985-1993): 22.5 sacks, 708 tackles, 1 Pro Bowl, 3 All-Pro seasons.
Greg Kragen is one of the great Cinderella stories in Broncos history. He went undrafted in 1984, and tried out for the Broncos that season, only to be denied a roster spot. The following season, Kragen tried out again for Dan Reeves’ squad, making the cut his second time around.
Kragen would spend nearly a decade anchoring the Broncos defensive line, starting 116 games during his time in Denver, including three Super Bowls. Kragen was named to his sole Pro Bowl appearance in 1989, but would be selected as a first teamAll-Pro in 1989 and 1991.
No. 3: Bud McFadin
(1960-1963): N/A sacks, N/A tackles, 3 Pro Bowls.
For someone who only played in Denver for four years, and on four bad teams, Bud McFadin made a monumental impact on Broncos history. Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the first round of the 1951 NFL Draft, McFadin was an original Bronco, signed to help bring veteran stability to the new organization’s defensive line.
Although we don’t know exactly what his statistics were, we do know that McFadin was one of the few bright spots in those dark early days for the Broncos. He was both an AFL All-Star and AP All-Pro each season he played in Denver, and set the standard for Broncos defensive linemen for all time.
No. 2: Paul Smith
(1968-1978): N/A sacks, N/A tackles, 2 Pro Bowls.
Paul Smith holds the distinction of being the first player in Broncos history to last a decade in Denver. Smith was part of numerous team milestones, and helped build the organization into the juggernaut it would become. Smith played on the Broncos first winning team, their first playoff team, and their first AFC Championship team.
Smith started 86 games for the Broncos, and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 1972 and 1973. He was the second team defensive tackle on the Broncos 50th Anniversary team, and was inducted to the Bronco Ring of Fame in 1986.
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No. 1: Trevor Pryce
(1997-2005): 64 sacks, 249 tackles, 4 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro seasons.
If you ask some of the players who were veterans with the Broncos in the late ‘90s, they’ll tell you that Trevor Pryce was the greatest athlete to ever play on the Broncos defensive line. They’ll also tell you he was a bit of an oddball. He never really enjoyed football, but during his prime years in Denver, Pryce was as physically dominant as any lineman who has ever played.
Pryce dominated offensive linemen with a rare combination of size, strength, and speed that few athletes possess. If he’d mentally committed to playing football, he easily could have been an Hall of Fame player. As a Bronco, he was a first team All-Pro, four time Pro-Bowler, and Super Bowl champion.
However, Pryce’s legacy is just as much about what he wasn’t as it is what he was. His athleticism gave him a ceiling that was sky-high. He barely got his feet off the ground.
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