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Mile High Morning: The best draft steals in Broncos history


The Lead

With the draft just two days away, the Broncos are getting closer to adding talent to their roster.

Over the course of history, they've found some talented players who have shaped the trajectory of the franchise. The focus, as Head Coach Sean Payton said during his pre-draft press conference, is largely on the first round. Denver, though, has found its share of game-changing players later in the draft.

During their history, the Broncos have found a pair of Hall of Famers and five total Ring of Famers in the sixth round of the draft or later.

Here, then, are the greatest steals in Broncos draft history:

Sixth round, 1995

The greatest running back in team history wasn't even the Broncos' first sixth-round pick that year, as the team finally selected him with the 196th-overall pick. The Georgia product made a statement with a preseason special teams tackle in Tokyo, and he quickly carved our a role on offense. Davis broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a rookie, earned three consecutive first-team All-Pro nods from 1996-98, earned Super Bowl XXXII MVP honors and league MVP honors in 1998. A two-time Offensive Player of the Year, Davis broke the 2,000-yard mark in 1998 as the Broncos won the second of back-to-back titles. Davis was enshrined in the Ring of Fame in 2007 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Seventh round, 1994

The Broncos' most impactful player in the 1994 NFL Draft was their last selection. The team chose Nalen with the 218th-overall pick, and beginning in his second season, he secured a spot as a mainstay along the Broncos' offensive line. A five-time Pro Bowler — including four consecutive nods from 1997-2000 — Nalen anchored the line for both of the Broncos' first two Super Bowl victories. Nalen twice earned first-team All-Pro honors during his 14-year career in Denver, and he was elected to the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 2013.

Seventh round, 1990

After a dominant career at Savannah State, Sharpe slipped all the way to the seventh round before Denver chose him with the 192nd pick. Sharpe soon proved he was a far more dominant talent, as he earned Pro Bowl honors in his third season — and then continued to rack up accolades throughout a Hall of Fame career. Sharpe made the Pro Bowl each year from 1992-98 and was a first-team All-Pro in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. Sharpe was a key piece of the Broncos' back-to-back world championship teams and was named to the Hall of Fame's 1990s All-Decade Team. The gregarious tight end was elected to the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 2009 and the Hall of Fame in 2011.

12th round, 1983

While Davis and Sharpe each enjoyed Hall of Fame careers, Mecklenburg may be the biggest steal in team history. A 12th-round selection, the Minnesota product was the 310th-overall pick in the 1983 Draft and went on to post a Ring of Fame career. Mecklenburg was named a three-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler as he started 141 games and appeared in three Super Bowls across a 12-year career in Denver. The do-it-all defender was elected to the Ring of Fame in 2001 and has previously been named a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame.

Ninth round, 1968

The 222nd pick in 1968, Smith's 55.5 career sacks ranked second in team history at the end of his 11-year career with the Broncos. A member of the Broncos' first Super Bowl team, Smith helped lay the foundation for the Orange Crush defense. Former head coach John Ralston once referred to Smith as "the finest defensive tackle in pro football," and he earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods in 1972-73. Smith was also the longest tenured Bronco in the history of the franchise at the time of his retirement. He was elected to the Ring of Fame in 1986.

Below the Fold

The draft is almost here, which means a final slew of mock drafts is on the way. Pro Football Focus posted a seven-round mock on Tuesday, and it includes a trade into the second round for Denver.

The Unclassifieds

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