The lead-up to this weekend’s draft has put some focus on previous Broncos picks. General manager John Elway was honest about his feelings when the team took UCLA quarterback Tommy Maddox in the first round in 1992.
Elway was only 32 when Dan Reeves started planning for his replacement, but that didn’t work out well for Reeves or Maddox. Elway was still around when the team won its first two Super Bowl titles and Maddox and Reeves were long gone.
The ’92 draft wasn’t great but it’s hard to say it was the worst draft since Elway was taken No. 1 overall by the then Baltimore Colts in the 1983 draft. The worst draft year arguably came in 1988 on the heels of Denver’s second straight Super Bowl loss.
Looking through the drafts from 1983-2018 the least impactful is ’88. Every other year yielded at least one player that had a big impact on the team – 1995 had only one that stuck around, and that happened to be Hall of Famer Terrell Davis. In 1990 Denver missed on nine of its 10 picks, but the seventh round pick was tight end Shannon Sharpe, who is also in the Hall of Fame.
The ’88 draft yielded 10 players that combined played a combined 75 games for Denver, 129 fewer than Sharpe. Five never played a game in the NFL.
Here’s a look at Denver’s picks in the ’88 draft:
- Ted Gregory, LB, Syracuse (1st Round, 26th overall) – Gregory is considered one of the biggest draft busts in team history, saving quarterback Paxton Lynch from that fate. Gregory was listed at 6-foot-1 but upon closer inspection he was shorter. He was coming off a knee injury suffered in his last college game, he re-injured it in training camp and never played for the Broncos. Denver eventually traded him to New Orleans, where he played three games before blowing out his knee and ending his career. The upside is the Broncos began meeting with potential draft picks after missing so badly on Gregory.
- Gerald Perry, T, Saginaw Valley State (Round 2, 45th overall) – Perry had the most successful career of the draft picks. He played in all 16 games his first two seasons, starting 21 games. He started Super Bowl XXIV and then eight games in 1990 before spending time with the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders. He last played in the NFL in 1995. Perry’s solid pro career included a conviction for soliciting a prostitute in December 1989.
- Kevin Guidry, DB, LSU (Round 3, 79th overall) – Guidry spent one season with Denver, playing in 14 games in 1988. He played three games with the (then) Phoenix Cardinals in 1989. It was his last action in the NFL.
- Corris Ervin, DB, Central Florida (Round 5, 136 overall) – Never played a game in the NFL
- Pat Kelly, TE, Syracuse (Round 7, 174th overall) – Another Syracuse product, one that was slightly more successful than Gregory. Kelly spent his first two seasons with Denver, playing in 32 games and racking up four catches for 17 yards. He was a member of the Super Bowl XXIV team before moving on to play for the New York Jets for two seasons. He played nine total games for New York.
- Garry Frank, G, Mississippi State (Round 7, 192nd overall) – Never played a game in the NFL.
- Mel Farr Jr., RB, UCLA (Round 9, 248th overall) – Mel Farr Jr.’s biggest claim to fame was being the son of former Detroit Lions great Mel Farr. Unlike his father, he had a very brief career. He played in one game in 1989 – for the Los Angeles Rams.
- Channing Williams, RB, Arizona State (Round 10, 268th overall) – Never played a game in the NFL.
- Richard Calvin, RB, Washington State (Round 11, 304th overall) – Never played a game in the NFL.
- Johnny Carter, DT, Grambling State (Round 12, 332nd overall) – Never played a game in the NFL.
Give Denver credit for getting back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years with this rookie class, but the lack of an impact player contributed to some lean years. That’s what bad drafts do to an organization.
Elway and his staff had a rich 2018 draft, with seven of the 10 picks playing in at least 13 games – and that doesn’t include undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay.
Rest assured, the Broncos will not make a pick again like Gregory, but don’t rule out another swing and miss like Lynch.