Over the last few years, the Denver Broncos have struck out big a few times in the NFL draft, but no year in the John Elway era was worse than 2017. Of course, everyone thinks of Paxton Lynch when they think of Elway busts, but that draft class also saw the additions of Justin Simmons, who has made a name for himself as a top tier Bronco both on and off the field.
The Broncos took 8 players in 2017, only three of which are still on the roster. Demarcus Walker, the Broncos second round selection, is a depth piece on the interior defensive line and will be fighting for a roster spot in 2020. Garett Bolles, the other player still on the roster, has proven a major disappointment given his first round investment. Jake Butt has barely played for the team and is likely a practice squad guy in 2020. While none of the draft picks in 2017 panned out, there are three in particular that we will examine today.
Round 1 – pick #20 Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
In 2017 the Broncos took Garett Bolles (OT) 20th overall in the NFL Draft. The next OT off the board was Ryan Ramczyk, 12 picks later at 32nd overall. Ramczyk was a member of the 2017 all rookie team and has a first and second team All Pro selection under his belt. Garett Bolles on the other hand has made a name for himself as the guy that holds a lot. Bolles has committed 20 holding penalties in his career, the most in the NFL in that time period. His fifth year option was officially declined by the Broncos earlier in May.
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Round 3 – pick #82 Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
The Broncos later took Carlos Henderson (WR) at pick 82. The next receiver taken was Chris Godwin two picks later. Henderson is no longer in the NFL; never playing a single regular season snap for the Broncos. He bounced around a few practice squads before being cut by the Washington Redskins in 2019. Chris Godwin on the other hand just exploded for a 1300 yard 9 TD season. He earned a Pro Bowl nod as well as a 2nd team All-Pro selection in 2019.
Round 5 – pick #145 Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Finally, perhaps the worst of all, John Elway and his staff selected Jake Butt (TE) at pick 145 in the draft. The very next player selected was little known product out of Iowa, George Kittle. Jake Butt in his tenure with the Broncos endured a disastrous string of injuries. Tearing his ACL his senior year at Iowa, Butt was placed on the injured reserve for his rookie season, not playing a single snap for the team that year. In 2018, He made it through three games and 97 snaps before tearing his ACL again. Butt then missed all of 2019 due to complications recovering from his 2018 ACL tear. George Kittle since joining the 49ers in 2017, has cemented himself as a top two tight end in the NFL. In just three years with the 49ers, Kittle has gained 2945 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He has made two Pro Bowls and has received a first and second team All-Pro.
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It’s safe to say that John Elway screwed the pooch in 2017. These three selections however are particularly heartbreaking given the next player taken at that position. Instead of three Pro Bowls and five All-Pro selections, the Broncos ended up with Garett Bolles, Carlos Henderson, and Jake Butt. Don’t worry though Broncos fans, this draft seemed to be a turning point in John Elway’s draft philosophy. The last two drafts have been home runs for the team, and the 2020 class is looking pretty solid as well.
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