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Broncos top 10 draft classes -- No. 6: 2012



DL Derek Wolfe (Round 2, No. 36 overall)
QB Brock Osweiler (Round 2, No. 57 overall)
RB Ronnie Hillman (Round 3, No. 67 overall)
CB Omar Bolden (Round 4, No. 101 overall)
DE Malik Jackson (Round 5, No. 137 overall)
LB Danny Trevathan (Round 6, No. 188 overall)

The 2012 draft stands as an example of why grading a draft on the day after the draft -- or even one or two years after it -- is a futile quest.

Just consider how the picks would have been evaluated if the final grade had come in 2014:

Wolfe:Question marks after he finished the season on injured reserve following a neck injury and subsequent complications that led to a loss of 37 pounds, an eventual collapse and a medically-induced coma.

Osweiler:Twenty passes thrown in two seasons.

Hillman:A healthy scratch for eight of the last 11 games of 2013. He was inactive for the entire postseason, having been leapfrogged by C.J. Anderson and remaining well behind then-starter Knowshon Moreno.

Bolden:Struggled after a second-year conversion to safety.

Only Jackson and Trevathan would have had positive progress reports following the 2013 season. The grade at that point for John Elway's second draft class would have been a low one.

Fast-forward two years.

Wolfe recovered from his injuries to become one of the NFL's best three-technique defensive ends. The Broncos' change from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 suited him perfectly, and he grew into a complete defender, stout against the run and a force of nature in the pass rush.

Osweiler moved into the starting lineup last year, and the Broncos went 5-2 in the games he started. Although they could not re-sign him, he now is Houston's franchise quarterback, and the Texans' eggs are firmly in his basket.

Hillman was the Broncos' leading rusher in 2014, posting career highs in yardage, yardage per carry and touchdowns as part of a 1-2 punch with Anderson.

Bolden found a niche as an electric punt and kickoff returner, although injuries cut short his 2015 season.

Jackson and Trevathan, meanwhile, continued to get better -- to the point where they were among the most coveted free-agent targets.

To grade this draft as anything less than an A-minus would be to devalue it beyond belief.

Perhaps the most powerful testament to the value of this draft class is in the guaranteed money given to its members during free agency this year: a whopping $108.58 million.

The Broncos kept Wolfe and Hillman; the rest will net a king's ransom in compensatory picks for the 2017 draft, and if the Broncos hit on those, their successful cycle will continue.

Also of note:

Jackson, a fifth-round selection, was acquired in the October 2011 trade of WR Brandon Lloyd. It's safe to say the Broncos got excellent value from that swap.

Fourth-round pick Philip Blake was the only member of this draft class who never played a Broncos snap; he struggled and was waived in 2013. He eventually caught on in the Canadian Football League.

Three undrafted signees would spend at least two seasons apiece with the Broncos: long snapper Aaron Brewer, safety Duke Ihenacho and linebacker Steven Johnson.

Recently signed DE Jared Crick was picked by Houston with one of the selections the Broncos first dealt to Tampa Bay in exchange for picks that became Wolfe and Bolden. The Bucs selected RB Doug Martin with the first pick they acquired from the Broncos.

The only pick the Broncos made that was not acquired via trade was the second-round selection at No. 57 (Osweiler).

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