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Broncos top 10 draft classes -- No. 4: 2006

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Highlights:

QB Jay Cutler (Round 1, No. 11 overall)
WR Brandon Marshall (Round 4, No. 119 overall)
DE Elvis Dumervil (Round 4, No. 126 overall)
G Chris Kuper (Round 5, No. 161 overall)

Forget about the fact that Cutler and Marshall didn't make it through the Josh McDaniels era -- and that Cutler didn't even play a down for the Broncos after the coaching change from Mike Shanahan. This collection of talent -- especially given that Marshall and Dumervil were fourth-round picks and Kuper a fifth-rounder -- is among the best the Broncos ever collected in one class.

Cutler was already a Pro Bowler by 2008 before Shanahan was dismissed. No one will know what Cutler could have done if he remained in Denver, running a scheme that brought out the best in Tom Brady, firing passes to Marshall, who broke 100 receptions each year from 2007-09 and remains in the Broncos' top 10 all time in receptions, with three of the 10 seasons of 100 or more catches in Broncos history.

Although Dumervil's tenure ended in the wake of a contract snafu, a fax machine and a looming deadline -- that was followed shortly after his release by the firing of his agent -- he still left with a single-season franchise sack record of 17 (since surpassed by Von Miller in 2012) and more sacks than all but six players in Broncos history.

And then there's Kuper, who played eight seasons before being forced into retirement because of injuries. Kuper is one of the great "what might have been" cases in Broncos history. Although he made it to his second contract and was one of the league's best guards, he was only starting to receive the recognition he deserved.

Kuper was probably a year away from getting Pro Bowl and All-Pro love when he took the field on Jan. 1, 2012 -- which proved to be the fateful day on which his career turned, when he suffered a fractured ankle. He played two more years, but was never the same.

The talent the Broncos unearthed in 2006 could have been enough to help sustain the team for a decade. Just because the endings were painful for all players in different ways doesn't mean this wasn't a great class.

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Also of note:**

Second-round TE Tony Scheffler also had a solid career once he got comfortable in the NFL; he played four seasons with the Broncos and eight seasons overall after being dealt to the Detroit Lions in a three-way trade in 2010. However, the return on that trade was poor: a fifth-round pick that became Perrish Cox, who played just one season before being waived after facing sexual-assault charges, for which he was later acquitted.

The Broncos released WR/PR/KR Domenik Hixon (Round 4, No. 130 overall) early in the 2007 season, which proved to be a mistake, as he developed into one of the league's best special-teamers in the years that followed. It worked out just fine for Hixon, who won two Super Bowl rings as a part of the Giants teams that upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

Among the Broncos' college free agents in 2006 was running back Mike Bell, who played five seasons in the NFL, including two with the Broncos. He had his best season as a rookie, scoring eight touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and amassing 835 yards on 177 touches (157 carries, 20 receptions).

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