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Broncos top 10 draft classes -- No. 3: 2011



OLB Von Miller (Round 1, No. 2 overall)
S Rahim Moore (Round 2, No. 45 overall)
OT Orlando Franklin (Round 2, No. 46 overall)
LB Nate Irving (Round 3, No. 67 overall)
S Quinton Carter (Round 4, No. 108 overall)
TE Julius Thomas (Round 4, No. 129 overall)
TE Virgil Green (Round 7, No. 204 overall)

John Elway had not even been on the job four months when the Broncos settled in for perhaps their most important draft in a generation, headlined by the club's highest pick since the common draft was instituted in 1967 as part of the AFL-NFL merger.

That pick was used on Miller, who was everything the Broncos expected -- and more. Five years into his career, he has four Pro Bowl selections, two first-team All-Pro nods and, most recently, the MVP award for his overpowering performance in the Broncos' 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers.

But Miller was just the beginning.

Moore, Franklin, Irving, Carter and Thomas all became full-time starters for the Broncos. Green has started 22 regular-season games in his five Broncos seasons, and could be in line for his biggest season yet as he battles with Jeff Heuerman and Garrett Graham to be the No. 1 tight end on this year's roster.

Thomas blossomed into one of the league's best pass-catching tight ends with the Broncos after overcoming ankle problems that wrecked his first two seasons; with back-to-back seasons of 12 touchdowns apiece, he set a franchise record among tight ends.

But there is one major "what might have been" story in this class: Carter. As a rookie, he burst into the starting lineup at midseason and quickly blossomed, blending solid coverage work, aggression in the box and a ballhawking style that led to interceptions in both playoff games in which he played as a rookie. But injuries derailed him; he ended up undergoing microfracture surgery, and was never the same, although the Broncos kept him on the roster through the 2014 season, hoping his health would return and that he could recapture the promise of his rookie season.


Also of note:**

Aside from Rod Smith, no college free-agent signee in Broncos history has been better than cornerback Chris Harris Jr. In five seasons, Harris has joined the elite at his position with a pair of Pro Bowl selections and a justified reputation as a shutdown cornerback, with only three touchdowns scored on him in the last three regular seasons.

Harris began his rookie training camp on the fifth team, but worked his way up because of his tenacity, special-teams contributions and his eagerness to line up against the first-team wide receivers in practice. By 2012, he had become a dominant cover cornerback, using his intelligence and versatility to work outside in base-package downs and in the slot when the Broncos went into nickel.

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