ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --There were a lot of milestones set at the 2011 NFL Draft for the Denver Broncos.
For one, it was the Broncos' first draft with John Elway in the front office, as executive vice president of football operations. It was also Head Coach John Fox's first draft with the team.
Both of those men were responsible for selecting a player with the No. 2 overall pick – the highest pick in Broncos history.
With that pick, Elway, Fox, General Manager Brian Xanders and the rest of the Broncos front office staff selected linebacker Von Miller out of Texas A&M.
That pick came with high expectations, both from within and outside the organization.
"Anytime that you're the second pick in the draft there's always high expectations and we had high expectations of Von," Elway said. "He's probably exceeded our expectations as a rookie, coming in and him making the plays that he's made. ... And he's really just scratching the surface. We couldn't hope for any better."
Miller became one of the faces of the Broncos defense, notching a team-high 11.5 sacks, good for ninth in the NFL. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl and earned AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
His play on the field highlighted the significant contributions made Broncos players drafted in the 2011 class. Eight out of the nine drafted players saw the field for the Broncos this year.
"We had a lot of guys that played for us," Elway said. "I think overall we're excited about it. We still believe that there is a lot of growth in that class, and there are still a lot of upside to that class. As we sit here right now, we're excited about that class."
The Broncos relied significantly on the rookie class this season to produce on the field, and it didn't disappoint.
"As a rookie class I think we had a great first season," tight end Virgil Green said. "A lot of us contributed this year and we made it to the playoffs when a lot of people counted us out so next year we expect to come back and be a force to be reckoned with."
Aside from Miller, right tackle Orlando Franklin started every game. Between safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, at least one of them also started in every contest. And Green played in every game, recovering an onside kick that led to the Broncos' historic comeback win at Miami in Week 7.
"We went into the draft and said we had to find three starters, Orlando, Von Miller and Quinton Carter stepped in and did a good job," Fox said. "I didn't really know what to expect because I didn't really know the team until late in July, so I don't know that it was a great surprise but I thought those guys were all acquisitions that I thought performed well."
Elway, Fox and Xanders will look to use the solid foundation set by their first draft class as a springboard as they look to get an equally, if not more, productive class in 2012.
"Now, we have to do it again this year," Elway said. "That's the bottom line. We have to do it again this year and years to come, but I think our first draft looks very promising."