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Broncos top 10 draft classes -- No. 2: 1983



OT Chris Hinton (Round 1, No. 4 overall)
OT Mark Cooper (Round 2, No. 31 overall)
WR Clint Sampson (Round 3, No. 60 overall)
QB Gary Kubiak (Round 8, No. 197 overall)
OLB Karl Mecklenburg (Round 12, No. 310 overall)

This is the draft of John Elway. So why isn't this higher?

Because, of course, Elway was not a draft pick; he came aboard via a trade with the Baltimore Colts a few days later. That trade was monumental, of course, and the price the Broncos paid to acquire Elway -- Hinton, a 1984 first-rounder that became Ron Solt and backup quarterback Mark Herrmann -- is a pittance compared to the massive contribution provided by Elway, which continues to this day in his position as Executive Vice President/General Manager.

But Elway is only the beginning of how this draft echoes through the generations. In the eighth round, the Broncos picked his long-term backup in Kubiak, the current head coach who now heads into his 22nd season as a part of the Broncos organization as a player or coach.

Kubiak would go 2-2 as a starter in nine seasons as a player, but is perhaps best remembered for his work in a 1989 game at Washington, when he took off on a scramble that helped seal a 14-10 Monday Night Football win in one of the league's most hostile environments -- exacerbated by a stiff wind that gusted up to 40 miles per hour and made passing treacherous.

However, the best pick of all relative to value -- and maybe the best value pick in Broncos history -- was of Mecklenburg in the 12th round. He moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in his second season, and by 1985, was a full-time starter, earning the first of six Pro Bowl selections that season with a career-high 13 sacks.

Success continued from there, and he finished his career with 79 sacks and 1,145 total tackles. No 12th-round pick ever provided more to the Broncos than Mecklenburg, and his presence would make this one of the Broncos' best all-time drafts -- even without the trade for Elway.

Also of note:

Steve DeBerg relieved Elway when he struggled as a rookie, and was an important insurance policy in helping the Broncos to a 9-7 record in 1983 and their first playoff appearance in four years. DeBerg was acquired in 1981 from the 49ers in exchange for a fourth-round pick int he 1983 draft.

In 1984, the Broncos converted DeBerg into fourth- and second-round picks after trading him to the Buccaneers, so in essence, the Broncos dealt a fourth-round pick for three seasons of DeBerg's solid play and a second-round selection -- a good return on investment.

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