Shanny’s drafts by the numbers, Part 2

Although there is a new regime in town, and the best (and most exciting) part of Draftivus is looking forward, I find that occasionally turning our glance towards the past to be quite informative. Last week, I looked into Mike Shanahan's draft history with the Broncos, comparing each draft class by the numbers. This time, I'll break it down by player position. What I hope to accomplish here is to confirm some long-held opinions and maybe even debunk a myth or two. I learned quite a few interesting facts while researching Shanny's drafts, and I hope you find them fascinating as well. Now that Shanny's gone, I figure it's a good time to analyze his drafts. Obviously, his more recent classes need some more time to prove/disprove themselves, so perhaps this study would be most effective a few years down the line - but I figure that since the body's still warm, now's the time! After all, hopefully a McD-led Championship or two will make us forget the horrific 2003 and 2004 Drafts.

Let's look at Shanny's Drafts, broken down position by position. I've utilized the same statistics and categories I did in Part 1, so if you missed it please refer back for an explanation of each statistic. Here goes nothing...

Broncos Draft Choices by Player Position, 1995-2008

Position Picks(Active) Total Player Years Avg Career In Years Total Games Career Games Per Player Games Per Player/Year Games w/Denver % Played w/Denver Max Games % of Max Games % of Max w/Den
QB 6(2) 28 4.7 154 25.7 5.5 105 68.2% 448 34.4% 23.4%
RB 14(4) 53 3.8 553 39.5 10.4 386 69.8% 848 65.2% 45.5%
WR 16(4) 46 2.9 416 26.0 9.0 283 68.0% 736 56.5% 38.5%
TE 6(4) 42 7.0 526 87.7 12.5 219 41.6% 672 78.3% 32.6%
OL 19(11) 76 4.0 806 42.4 10.6 597 74.7% 1,216 66.3% 49.1%
DL 17(8) 62 3.7 599 35.2 9.7 398 66.4% 992 60.4% 40.1%
LB 11(3) 57 5.2 706 64.2 12.4 494 70.0% 912 77.4% 54.2%
DB 19(5) 82 4.3 974 51.3 11.9 624 64.1% 1,312 74.2% 47.6%
P/K 3(2) 11 3.7 149 49.7 13.6 18 12.1% 176 84.7% 10.2%
Totals 111(43) 457 4.12 4,883 44.0 10.7 3,124 64.0% 7,312 66.8% 42.7%


Before we get into comparisons, I think it's important to note that while the Broncos have gotten very little production from their QB choices since 1995, there are some obvious excuses here...

  1. Griese (Rd 3, '98) and Cutler (Rd 1, '06) were the only QB choices before the 4th round, as Elway, Griese, Plummer and Cutler all locked down the #1 position in Denver until each replaced the other. So, the other draft choices were attempts at finding a backup QB (Jarious Jackson, Matt Mauck, Bradlee Van Pelt). While Jeff Lewis was briefly touted as the Next QB After Elway, that was likely more media-driven than fact-based. The only valid criticism, in my mind, is that Shanny never did find that effective, reliable backup through the draft.
  2. When Shanny actually spent a high pick on a QB, he did more than okay. Griese may not have worked out as the franchise-QB to follow Elway, but he has been a solid NFL starting QB and an excellent value for the 98th choice in the 1998 Draft. Shanny's mistake was in handing Griese a large contract, not in choosing him as a 3rd-rounder. The virtues of Cutler's choice need no explanation here.

Okay, onto the meaningful numbers...

  • Wow, look at those TE's! Shanny only drafted 6 tight ends, but my did he ever get production! The average tight end drafted under Shanny has had a 7-year career (double the NFL average career), and Tony Scheffler will hopefully stretch that number out even more. Their career games played average of 87.7 is significantly higher than that of any other position. Only six picks you say? Well, those 6 players have combined to play almost as many games (526) over their careers as the 14 running backs Denver chose during that same span (553 games). The question here is whether Shanny just has a great eye for finding talented TE's, whether his position coaches have done a phenomenal job with lesser talents, or whether Shanny's offensive scheme just makes them look good. Obviously, it's a combination of all those factors and more, but what stands out the most? I'd actually have to say it's the formermost, but there's an unfortunate caveat...
  • Now the bad news about the TE's. While Shanny drafted some talented players to play tight end and developed them well, he did a very poor job of retaining them. Broncos drafted to play tight end have spent a measly 41.6% of their careers in Denver. Desmond Clark and Billy Miller were both late-round picks in 1999 (6th and 7th rounders, respectively) but have played only 63 of their career 260 games combined as Broncos. Not to say that either is a difference-maker at the TE position, but they are both average starting-caliber TE's in the NFL and their presence would have saved a 2nd-rounder spent on Tony Scheffler in 2006. Perhaps that #61 choice could have been then spent on someone like Jerious Norwood or Leon Washington...but I digress. Interestingly, Scheffler was the only TE Denver chose prior to the 6th Round.
  • Shanny really couldn't pick a WR. I know, nothing at all earth-shattering in this regard. Shanny drafted 16 different wide receivers, and aside from the infamous Ashley Lelie, none of the 13 chosen before 2006 are still in the NFL. That is simply atrocious. Shanny wasted 1st-rounders on Marcus Nash and Lelie, a 2nd-rounder on Darius Watts, and 3rd-rounders on Travis McGriff and Chris Cole. 26 games played per career spanning 16 choices is nothing less than abominable. I could go on, but you get the point...
  • The OL choices have stayed in Denver. Again, no great mystery here. Denver has drafted players that fit their zone-blocking and one-cut running games, and those players have tended not to fit the traditional NFL mold. So, when you see that OL picks have played 74.7% of their careers in Denver, you're probably not spitting your coffee on the computer screen in shock. Lennie Friedman and Trey Teague were the only draftees to play the majority of their careers elsewhere, and George Foster was the only high-round bust (although a glaring one, at that). Cooper Carlisle (4th, '00), Ben Hamilton (4th, '01) and Chris Kuper (5th, '06) have all provided stellar values. Chris Myers (6th, '05) may prove to be another, albeit not in Denver.
  • DL. UGH. Shanny's only high-round DL successes have been Trevor Pryce (1st, '97), Montae Reagor (2nd, '99) and Reggie Hayward (3rd, '99). Unfortunately, Shanny failed to retain these players, who have amassed 135 games for other franchises, with Pryce and Hayward still active. High-round busts have included 2nd-rounder Paul Toviessi, 3rd-rounders Dorsett Davis and Mark Campbell. The jury is still out on Jarvis Moss (1st, '07) and Tim Crowder (2nd, '07), but their deliberations are not going well.
  • Shanny drafted well at LB?! Terry Pierce may have been a disastrous waste of a draft choice, but in looking back, he was actually the only one. Linebackers drafted by Shanny have averaged 64.2 games per career to this point, with DJ Williams, Spencer Larsen and David Bowens still active. That's a lot of production, with John Mobley, Al Wilson, Ian Gold, DJ and Bowens leading the way. In fact, were it not for the 1995 choices of Ken Brown (4th) and Phil Yeboah-Kodie (5th), Shanny's history of drafting LB's would be nearly spotless.
  • Here's the problem with that. Only 4 of the 11 choices spent on LB's came in this decade, those being Gold (2nd, '00), Pierce (2nd, '03), DJ (1st, '04) and Larsen (6th, '08). I think that pretty much says it all. The lack of attention to the LB position in the Broncos' Drafts of this decade have produced a vacuum of talent, and that's why we've been stuck watching the likes of Nate Webster and Jamie Winborn. Imagine where we'd be without the UFA signing of Wesley Woodyard! Actually, for your own sanity, don't...
  • The DB's have played how much?! Shanny's 19 selections at defensive back have produced more games played than any other position group, at 974. Per player, they have dressed for the 3rd-most games at 51.3, and they have played the most games for Denver at 624. Unfortunately, high-round busts dominate the picture here - Deltha O'Neal was a much-debated choice at the time, and he still remains so to this day. He's been to the Pro Bowl a couple of times, but would any of us even say he's a good CB? Probably not. He's certainly not a bust, but he wasn't worth the 15th choice in the 2000 Draft. One doesn't need to look far below to find better choices, such as Julian Peterson, Chad Pennington, Shaun Alexander and Keith Bulluck. Whoops! Ok, enough about Deltha. Early-round picks wasted on DB's included Willie Middlebrooks (1st, '01), Jeremy LeSueur (3rd, '04) and Chris Watson (3rd, '99). Second-rounders not retained feature Eric Brown, Kenoy Kennedy and Tory James.
  • Why spend a draft choice on ST? Shanny only chose 3 specialists in Nick Harris (4th, '01), Paul Ernster (7th, '05) and Brian Gragert (7th, '96), but draft choices are valuable - each and every one. Only Ernster played for Denver (18 games), while Harris has gone onto dress for 127 NFL games elsewhere. If you need camp fodder or competition, just sign a UFA!

Well, those are my observations. I'd love to hear yours. My next post will break down Shanny's Drafts round-by-round, and you'll see that maybe he should have passed the baton for one of those rounds every year!

Originally posted at MHR

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM