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Draft Rewind: Re-Evaluating The Denver Broncos 2012 Class

Finally getting back to his series, Analyst Erick Trickel takes a look at how the Broncos 2012 draft turned out for the Broncos.

When it comes to looking at previous drafts, many will tell you that it is a three-year minimum before you can truly label a class as a failure or not. Well, 2012 was four years ago. So just how well did that draft turn out for the Denver Broncos?

This series is looking at drafts from 2011-2015, all under John Elway. Of course, with looking into the past, comes hindsight. I will go back in time and give you my thoughts as if the draft just ended, and follow up with what we now know.

The 2011 season was one of many ups and downs, partially due to what was happening at quarterback. The Broncos ended up making the playoffs, and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in a fascinating ending, before getting eliminated by the New England Patriots.

This resulted in the Broncos picking later on in the first round. When draft time came, and the Broncos were up, they traded down. Not just once, they traded down twice before making their first selection.

Second Round: Derek Wolfe

Defensive Linemen, Cincinnati Bearcats

Pick Before: Linebacker Courtney Upshaw

Pick After: Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz

Thoughts at the time: While I think this is a bit of a reach, I have learned that a few others teams not only were trying to trade ahead of Denver to pick Wolfe, but a couple teams late in the first round considered him before going elsewhere. Learning that made me ease up on my “reach” thinking. Wolfe is a disruptive player on the defensive line, who can contribute in many ways. When scouting Wolfe, what really caught my eye was just how many different ways he can create disruption in the backfield and against both run and pass. There is surprising speed with Wolfe, but he won’t spin offensive linemen around and around.

There is also plenty of strength in Wolfe’s upper and lower body to put offensive linemen on their heels. Denver has their options with Wolfe and can line him up anywhere on the defensive line and just let him go.

There weren’t many better options when making this pick, but Kendall Reyes, Alshon Jeffery and Bobby Wagner all come to mind and the needs were there as well.

How it turned out: There have been plenty of ups and downs with Wolfe. His 2013 season was marred with injury and illness. 2015 saw him suspended for the first four games. However, his rookie season was really good and he flew under the radar.

When he did see the field in 2015, he stepped up and proved to be one of the best run defenders in the NFL, which he started to show in 2014. His pass rush also took a step up in 2015, especially towards the end of the season.

He earned himself a contract extension from the Broncos, and looks to build upon a great 2015 season. With another year under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and position coach Bill Kollar, there is no reason to think that Wolfe can’t build upon his performance.

2012 Grade: B

2016 Grade: A

Second Round: Brock Osweiler

Quarterback, Arizona State

Pick Before: Offensive tackle Mike Adams

Pick After: Linebacker Lavonte David

Thoughts at the time: Osweiler is my No. 2 quarterback, behind Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, and carried a late second round grade. Denver picked him up where he is valued for me. With Peyton Manning, Osweiler will be sitting for a few years, maybe his entire rookie contract.

Only way he doesn’t sit for four years is if Manning suffers another injury, or ends up retiring before hand. Sitting isn’t a bad thing for Brock, as there is a lot he needs to work on, but with John Elway and Peyton Manning, he has two perfect people to learn from/under.

There were other directions they could have gone, including a couple other quarterbacks later on in the draft in Nick Foles or Russell Wilson, both of whom are ranked close to Osweiler from me. Also, all three of the next picks were rated higher than Osweiler by me and all three could be a boost that Denver needs.

How it turned out: Osweiler ended up playing before his rookie deal expired and he played well for the most part. He ended up getting benched in a game where the whole offense was playing poorly (Week 17).

The benching upset him and when it came time for free agency, he bolted for Houston with a box of tissues, still chewing sour grapes. The benching turned out to be what was best for the team, which Brock seemingly didn’t care about.

In hindsight, it seems like what was potentially a good pick turned out to be really bad. All three of the next picks would have been a much bigger help, especially offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele. Also, Russell Wilson was selected after Osweiler and has developed into a pretty good quarterback.

2012 Grade: B-

2016 Grade: D

Third Round: Ronnie Hillman

Running back, San Diego State

Pick Before: Cornerback Josh Robinson

Pick After: Wide receiver DeVier Posey

Thoughts at the time: Hillman is a solid option for a scat back, but he doesn’t look to have what it takes to be the primary back. He is smaller and his hands are just average, plus his blocking isn’t there.

There were plenty of other, better options—both at running back and elsewhere for Denver to look at. Lamar Miller and Robert Turbin are two running backs both taken after Hillman was selected. The Broncos also moved up to snag Hillman, which doesn’t sit well with me, considering the sixth round grade I gave him.

How it turned out: Hillman has made some plays for the Broncos, both positive and negative plays. He put the work in on his blocking, which has become decent. There are concerns with him holding onto the ball.

Looking at how multiple picks after Hillman turned out, not only does it make the pick look not so good, it makes the trade look awful. Now, it isn’t all bad with Hillman, and he was the leading rusher in 2015, but a lot of that had to deal with injuries to who was supposed to be the starting back.

Hillman was brought back by the Broncos, but on a deal that makes it obvious he has to step it up or he is gone.

2012 Grade: C-

2016 Grade: C

Fourth Round: Omar Bolden

Cornerback, Arizona State

Pick Before: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin

Pick After: Quarterback Kirk Cousins

Thoughts at the time: Bolden is coming off an ACL, but is a potential steal of the draft. He was a highly rated corner before he got hurt. Many people had Bolden as a first/second round pick and a top-five corner.

His injury definitely hurt his stock, but the Broncos are taking the chance that he can not only return to form, but improve upon his old self and become a starter at corner for them, which is needed with Champ Bailey getting up there in years and looking at a potential move to safety.

How it turned out: Bolden was never able to even return to his pre-injury form. His biggest impact came as a special teams player and a returner. He saw a lot of action in 2013, but at safety, which was obviously a bad fit for him.

As a fourth-string corner, he played well, but never looked like he had starter potential. When his rookie contract was up, Bolden signed with Chicago, where former head coach John Fox presides. The Bears parted ways with Bolden in July and he currently remains a free agent.

This pick looks worse when looking at who was picked before and after him. A lot of players who earned some really good deals were drafted all around Bolden. Travis Benjamin and Kirk Cousins both will be making a good amount of money in 2016, with Benjamin on a four-year, $24 million dollar deal and Cousins on the franchise tag.

2012 Grade: A-

2016 Grade: B-

Fourth Round: Philip Blake

Offensive Linemen, Baylor

Pick Before: Wide Receiver Devon Wylie

Pick After: Defensive lineman Alameda Ta'amu

Thoughts at the time: There were many who were high on Blake, but I was not one of them. I was actually lower on Blake than where he was drafted. I didn’t see anything that was draftable with Blake except his size.

He lacked tools and fundamentals, from what I saw. After watching some of those who went after Blake, the disappointment grew. Tight ends Ladarius Green and Evan Rodriguez, offensive linemen Bobby Massie, Zebrie Sanders, Senio Kelemete and Ryan Miller; linebackers James-Michael Johnson, Tahir Whitehead, Tank Carder and Danny Trevathan all were still on the board, and there were plenty of others at corner, defensive end and receiver who all had higher ratings from me than Blake.

I won’t be surprised in Blake never finishes his rookie deal before the Broncos cut him. I don’t see any chance he does.

How it turned out: Blake spent just over a year with the Broncos before getting released. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and spent just over a year with them. He currently is in the Canadian Football League.

Denver missed badly on this one, with plenty of other players, especially offensive linemen, that went after Blake and are still in the league and some even playing at a high level.

2012 Grade: D

2016 Grade: F

Fifth Round: Malik Jackson

Defensive Linemen, Tennessee

Pick Before: Defensive tackle Josh Chapman

Pick After: Linebacker Tahir Whitehead

Thoughts at the time: Jackson is a very underrated prospect, who I had a late third round grade on. He's versatile in where he can line up and the scheme he can play.

While he is a bit raw, he has a good understanding of what he is supposed to do and how to accomplish that without proper technique. If he is able to put in a lot of work on his technique, he can develop into a really good rotational defensive linemen.

How it turned out: Well, I was wrong on this one, but by shorting him on how well he panned out. Jackson not only developed into a really good rotational player, he developed into a really good starter.

His time in Denver showed his diverse ability, but he really settled down as a 5-tech in a 3-4 front. His play this past season was really good, but he ended up pricing himself out of Denver, ending up with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is a fine player, but lacks consistency, especially against the run.

2012 Grade: B

2016 Grade: A-

Sixth Round: Danny Trevathan

Linebacker, Kentucky

Pick Before: Safety Josh Bush

Pick After: Defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi

Thoughts at the time: I absolutely love this pick. Trevathan is a tackling machine and plays with such fire and intensity. His technique is really good, both against the run and in coverage.

He is a “small” linebacker, but he plays much bigger than he is. Getting him in the sixth round is such a steal, as I had a mid-third on Trevathan. He went after many other linebackers who had a much lower grade from me than where they got drafted.

How it turned out: Trevathan was a huge pick by the Broncos. When he was healthy, he was outstanding. After winning the Super Bowl, Trevathan never got a serious offer from the Broncos and left for Chicago.

His loss will hurt the defense more than many think, and was the bigger loss on defense for the Broncos than Jackson was. Health is a small concern, but there's no question that when he is healthy, he is one of the better linebackers in the NFL.

2012 Grade: A

2016 Grade: A-

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Trickel_MHH. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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