When Draft Classes Make the Biggest Difference
But no team found contributors in more places than Denver’s two Super Bowl champions. John Elway came aboard in 1983; a dozen years later, Denver drafted Terrell Davis. Rod Smith was an undrafted free agent and Ed McCaffrey came to Denver after playing with the Giants. Gary Zimmerman and Mark Schlereth manned the left side of the line, but were drafted by N.F.C. East teams in the 1980s. John Mobley, Tom Nalen and Shannon Sharpe were key contributors, but drafted years apart. The ’97 team fielded only two starters who were part of the same Denver draft class: middle linebacker Allen Aldridge and center Tom Nalen. In 1998, two second-year players — guard Dan Neil and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce — were the only starters from the same draft class (Aldridge was playing with the Lions in 1998).
Collecting so many aging free agents like Howard Griffith, Tyrone Braxton, Bill Romanowski, and Neil Smith, plus younger players like Alfred Williams, Darrien Gordon, and Maa Tanuvasa, and then combining them with the guys listed above to create a cohesive winner was a remarkable feat, cap Shanahanigans aside.
As for the main point of the piece, Stuart shows that rookies (or any single draft class) rarely make significant contributions to a SB championship, which stands in contrast to Elway's comments from yesterday about expecting immediate impacts from drafted players.