Need Or BPA? Examining John Elway's NFL Draft History For The Denver Broncos

Senior Draft Analyst Erick Trickel takes a deeper look into John Elway's draft history. Fan perception is that Elway drafts for need. Does the data bear that out?

Every year, the drafting of need vs BPA (best player available) argument pops up among fans. Some teams do better drafting for need, while others do better drafting the BPA. It is common among contending teams to see them draft BPA, but those successful organizations didn’t necessarily draft for need to get to their respective level of competition.

Sometimes it's hard to know just what a team did — need or BPA — because outside of those close to the situation, the draft board isn’t well known. It's confidential. If it was common knowledge, then the opposition would have an inside track on how a team thinks and how they plan for the draft. However, there are always slips, which can be on purpose — or accidental. Draft boards also get some light after the draft is over, though not completely because they could have a domino effect.

When looking at the Denver Broncos history of drafting need vs BPA, I will be using all the information I have gathered on previous picks. In addition, I will share my thoughts on whether a pick was need or BPA.

Having heard some information about previous years' picks, this should give one an understanding of which way the Broncos may be better off going in 2017. Just because the results land on one side or the other does not mean that is what they will do this year.

John Elway and the Broncos often mix it up — not just year to year, but pick to pick.

2011 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need or BPA?
Von Miller OLB 1 BPA
Rahim Moore S 2 Need
Orlando Franklin OT 2 Need
Nate Irving ILB 3 Need
Quinton Carter S 4 Need
Julius Thomas TE 4 Need
Mike Mohamed ILB 6 Need
Virgil Green TE 7 BPA
Jeremy Beal DE 7 Need

Only two BPA picks here in Elway’s first draft. When taking Von Miller, they really needed a defensive tackle or corner, which is why Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus was often mocked to Denver.

The Broncos had a need for a pass rusher, but it wasn’t their big need. Instead, they took Miller and haven’t regretted it.

Miller is one of the best defenders in the NFL. They also took Virgil Green, which tight end was a need that year, but they addressed it with Thomas. Green was taken in the seventh round when they had a early fifth round grade on him. The rest of the picks were need picks. Denver needed help desperately in their secondary and took Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter. Orlando Franklin addressed a need on the offensive line, with Nate Irving and Mike Mohamed addressed their linebacker need.

Their final pick was for a depth pass rusher, which they still needed despite picking up Miller. Their pass rush was that bad.

Only two players saw a second contract from the Broncos here. Both of them happened to be the BPA picks. Beal and Mohamed didn’t last long with the Broncos.

The rest finished out their rookie deals, but were allowed to walk. Carter and Moore are practically out of the NFL. Irving never developed and is stuck as a depth piece. Franklin has battled injuries and poor play since bolting to the Chargers.

2012 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need or BPA?
Derek Wolfe DE 2 BPA
Brock Osweiler QB 2 Need
Ronnie Hillman RB 3 Need
Omar Bolden CB 4 Need
Philip Blake C/OG 4 Need
Malik Jackson DL 5 BPA
Danny Trevathan ILB 6 BPA

Again, Elway's first pick was BPA. Denver wasn’t the only team high on Derek Wolfe, or with a first round grade on him. There were three teams within five picks trying to trade ahead of Denver for Wolfe.

The Broncos needed a defensive tackle, but they viewed Wolfe strictly as a defensive end. It is similar with Malik Jackson, though they had a higher round grade on him.

Jackson actually fell farther due to an error where the Broncos thought he was taken earlier. Danny Trevathan was high on their board and highly thought of. The linebacker coach also pounded the table for him.

Philip Blake didn’t last long, which hurt, as they needed O-line help badly. While they had other backs, the Broncos needed a change of pace running back, which Ronnie Hillman was.

Denver also had a big need for a quarterback, despite having recently signed Peyton Manning. They needed someone as a just in case. Omar Bolden was corner depth, though he ended up as a special teamer and defensive back.

2013 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need or BPA?
Sylvester Williams DT 1 Need
Montee Ball RB 2 Need
Kayvon Webster CB 3 Need
Quanterus Smith DE 5 Need
Tavarres King WR 5 Need
Vinston Painter OT 6 Need
Zac Dysert QB 7 Need

Every pick here was based on need, mostly due to injury concerns or age with the personnel Denver had. The Broncos needed a potential pair for Terrance Knighton on the defensive line. Sly Williams lost that battle to Kevin Vickerson, however.

Montee Ball was needed for running back depth and the lingering injury issues with Knowshon Moreno. Kayvon Webster as a future replacement for Champ Bailey, who was getting up there in age. Webster ended up starting a lot his rookie year due to injury.

Quanterus Smith? Denver needed pass rush depth. They also needed a No. 3 receiver, which led to Tavarres King, though he didn’t last long in Denver. Vinston Painter was more help for the offensive line.

Zac Dysert was simply a third QB, which Denver was missing. This also was easily the most disappointing draft under Elway.

2014 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need or BPA?
Bradley Roby CB 1 BPA
Cody Latimer WR 2 Need
Michael Schofield OT 3 Need
Lamin Barrow ILB 5 Need
Matt Paradis C 6 Need
Corey Nelson ILB 7 Need

Again, the first pick is the BPA, and the only one this time. Denver had a strong cornerback group already when taking Bradley Roby, and they just added to the strength.

With Cody Latimer, the Broncos moved up to get a receiver to either grow into a No. 1 or No. 2 but to provide immediate help as a No. 3. Michael Schofield was taken in a weaker draft class to help a struggling offensive line, that also battled injuries.

Denver had a major need for an inside linebacker, hence Lamin Barrow. Like Schofield, Matt Paradis was needed to help a struggling O-line. Plus, they needed a long term solution at center. Corey Nelson was another linebacker pick for a weaker corps.

2015 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need or BPA?
Shane Ray OLB 1 BPA
Ty Sambrailo OT 2 Need
Jeff Heuerman TE 3 Need
Max Garcia OG 4 Need
Lorenzo Doss CB 5 Need
Darius Kilgo DT 6 Need
Trevor Siemian QB 7 Need
Taurean Nixon CB 7 Need
Josh Furman S 7 Need

Another first pick BPA. Like Roby the year prior, Denver added to their strength with a pass rusher.

All the rest were need picks. Desperate for O-line help, they took Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia. Denver needed a receiving tight end. Hello, Jeff Heuerman. Corner depth? Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon.

Safety depth? Josh Furman. The Broncos also needed a backup defensive tackle — Darius Kilgo. And a third quarterback.

2016 Draft Class

Player Position Round Need Or BPA?
Paxton Lynch QB 1 Need
Adam Gotsis DE 2 Need
Justin Simmons S 3 Need
Devontae Booker RB 4 Need
Connor McGovern OG 5 Need
Andy Janovich FB 6 Need
Will Parks S 6 Need
Riley Dixon P 7 Need

In 2016, all of Denver's selections were based on need. The quarterback situation was a mess.

Denver needed defensive line depth, safety depth with a potential starter, running back depth, offensive line depth, a starter at fullback and a new, cheaper punter. The jury is still out on this class, so they won’t be used in my formula.


So mostly, the Broncos have drafted need, with few BPA picks. Every year, but two, Denver's first selection was a BPA pick. These picks have developed into really good players, who contribute a lot to the team.

Combine Coverage
Use code COMBINE2017 to get two free months with purchase of one!

Some of them contribute in more obvious ways. Denver hasn't had a bust player at any of the BPA picks, but with so few of them, it could skew the numbers.

On the other side, there are many need picks, with most of them busts. The year — excluding 2016 — the Broncos took all needs (2013) is the worst class under Elway.

2014 and 2015 are also not the best classes with little contributions outside of their two BPA picks between those two years. There are two exceptions in Matt Paradis and Trevor Siemian. Paradis has developed into one of the best centers in the NFL and Siemian had a solid, albeit overrated, season as the starter.

Looking over the history of Elway drafts, it's hard to argue that the Broncos should draft according to need. Doing so just hasn’t panned out.

When Elway does draft BPA, it turns out to be a huge get with a big impact on the team moving forward. So, Denver should draft BPA and try to stick to the approach with discipline.

That being said, I expect them to draft in their normal way. One or two BPA picks with the rest filling a need. 

Erick Trickel is the Senior Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ErickTrickel.

Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter @MileHighHuddle and on Facebook

Download the App!

Colts Blitz Top Stories