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Mason's Mailbag: Answering your questions about the Broncos Top 100

My question: Which current Broncos that aren't in the top 100 have the best chance to crack the list in the future?

-- Mike Middleton (@ThirdEye84 on Twitter)

You start with outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and running back Phillip Lindsay. Chubb already has a double-digit sack season in his pocket and Lindsay was a Pro Bowler as a rookie.

Beyond those two rookies, Justin Simmons and Todd Davis are names to watch, particularly if their play improves in Head Coach Vic Fangio's defensive scheme. There are generally two paths to cracking the Broncos Top 100 -- consistent good play over at least six years or elite performance for at least two seasons. Simmons and Davis would both fall into the first category if things break right. Simmons would need to play well enough this year to earn a contract extension to put him on a trajectory for a future top-100 list. 

The Broncos need Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton to emerge, and if they do they could take their first steps toward being among the 100 top players in Broncos history. However, they have a long road ahead of them, in part due to the long history of productive wide receivers in Denver. Eric Decker, Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Miller and Wes Welker did not crack the list.

I'm not going to throw any rookies in there, since we have yet to see the first snap from them.

Why did you put Bill Romanowski on there and not Tim Tebow, or Matt Prater, or even Bradley Chubb?

-- MJ (@mdjulian3 on Twitter)

Let's start with Bill Romanowski. In addition to being a core defensive player for the Broncos' back-to-back 1997 and 1998 titles, he is one of just four players with at least 10 interceptions and 15 sacks as a Bronco. The others on that list include safety Dennis Smith (30 interceptions and 15.0 sacks), linebacker Tom Jackson (20 interceptions and 40 sacks, although 27 of them were before the sack became an official statistic in 1982) and linebacker Randy Gradishar (20 interceptions and 19.5 sacks, 15 of which came before the sack statistic was official). Membership in that group makes Romanowski an obvious choice for the Broncos 100.

Tebow -- ah, there has been no player that has inspired more social-media debate regarding the Broncos 100 than Tebow.

Two points must be made:

  1. Including the postseason, Tebow started just 16 games at quarterback for the Broncos. With so few starts, he would need to be spectacular during them to truly belong in the Broncos 100. In eight of those games, he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes. No one else had more than six such games in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and Tebow hit this distinction by starting fewer than half of the games. (Kyle Orton started two more games in those two seasons and had three fewer sub-50-percent games.) Yes, Tebow threw just six interceptions in 2011. He also fumbled a league-high 14 times that year.
  2. People remember the late-game comebacks, particularly during that six-game winning streak in 2011. I also remember how the defense, which was finally healthy after overcoming early-season injuries to Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams, held four of six foes during that streak to 13 or fewer points. Overall, the defense limited opponents to 13 or fewer points five times in the second half of the season, the most in Broncos history and the second-most by any team this decade.

It just doesn't add up for Tebow to be part of the Broncos 100.

Prater, who you referenced, was close in both the fan voting and the discussions that Jim Saccomano and I had. Working against him was the presence of three other kickers already on the 100 -- Ring of Famers Jason Elam, Jim Turner and Gene Mingo. (Mingo, who had multiple roles on special teams and offense, is perhaps the most versatile player in Broncos history.)

In the case of kicking, one must pay attention to their era and the norms of it. For the six seasons in which Prater kicked field goals for the Broncos -- 2008-13 (he had a late-season cameo on kickoffs in 2007) -- he hit 82.9 percent of his attempts, which was slightly below the league average of 83.6 for those years. Elam and Turner were both above the league average in field-goal percentage for their eras with the Broncos. Of the 23 kickers who attempted at least 120 field goals from 1971-79, when Turner kicked for the team, just three had better percentages that Turner's 65.1.

Chubb, as mentioned earlier, only has the single season of production. While the chances of him maintaining that level of play or increasing it appear to be good, there are no guarantees, and the Broncos 100 reflects tangible contributions to the Broncos, not guesswork as to what their play could be. Another season like 2018 would likely put Chubb among the top 100 if a new list were compiled next year. But if Chubb's production tails off like that of Mike Croel, who followed his 10-sack rookie season of 1991, with just 10 sacks over his next three years combined, he wouldn't be a candidate for the 100.

#AskMase Could you elucidate the selection of Daniel Graham? In my memory he was a solid player, sure, but doesn't really seem deserving of this historic acknowledgment.

-- Stacy Carson (@carsonic on Twitter)

During his four seasons (2007-10), Graham was a team leader, serving as a captain over multiple years and under multiple head coaches (he played under three: Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels and interim coach Eric Studesville). I know at least one reporter brought up the idea that Clarence Kay should have been in the 100, but Graham had more receptions and yards per 16 games than Kay did, plus Graham displayed impeccable character with the team despite the decline in the Broncos' on-field fortunes in those years.

Part of selecting a Broncos 100 involves having a balanced group to make sure each position and area of the team is properly represented. Wide receivers might have more spectacular receiving numbers and quarterbacks drive the offense, but having just two or three tight ends on the 100 would be to overlook contributions that go beyond the numbers. That's why you see noted blocker Dwayne "House" Carswell on the Broncos 100, and that also helped get Graham over the line, as well.

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