In his first and his current drafts, John Elway has selected the two premier college football defensive players. Well done, Duke of Denver.
In both cases, they were there for the picking.
After the Panthers had drafted Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall choice in 2011, Elway, at No. 2, had several options – Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith and Miller.
As Elway said then: “There was no doubt.” The Broncos grabbed Miller. Green, Peterson and Jones have produced superior numbers in seven seasons, but only Miller has been the MVP of a Super Bowl and one of the most disruptive defensive players in NFL history.
On Thursday night Elway, at No. 5, had numerous viable alternatives – quarterbacks Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, guard Quenton Nelson, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, linebacker Rouqan Smith – or he could trade down.
But Chubb still stunningly was available, and the Broncos looked and leaped. As Elway said later, if “the best defensive player” already was gone, the team would have traded with the Bills.
The Broncos got lucky.
The franchise should buy a billboard outside FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. “Thank you, again, Browns.” The Elway Curse lives on after “The Drive”, “The Fumble” and now “The Steal.”
The Browns, with two of the four top picks, could have chosen Saquon Barkley and Chubb -- considered the two highest-evaluated players on each side of the ball. Instead, the Browns took a high risk-high reward quarterback in Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward, who was rated barely in the top 10 by most draft authorities that get paid for their profession.
The Browns play the Broncos at Mile High Stadium on Dec. 15. Check back then.
Maybe the Broncos will get lucky again, and Mayfield is starting against Chubb and Miller.
“So we’ll see,” Elway said late Thursday evening, “if we can get after the quarterback a bit.”
Maybe he should be nicknamed “The Solution” instead of “Astronaut,” a tag given to Chubb by his brother.
Chubb can provide Miller with his first real sack-and-tackle colleague since DeMarcus Ware – before he was hurt, then retired. And Miller can do for Chubb what Ware did for him – be a mentor and a guiding force. When the Chubb pick was announced Thursday night, Miller was in Las Vegas jumping around as if he were going to return to “Dancing With The Stars.”
The Broncos’ players, especially on the defense, were delirious over the pick. The No-Fly Zone is over, but The No-Go Defense is just starting. The Broncos will figure out how to put Miller, Chubb and Shane Ray, the 2015 first-round choice who is coming back after a sub-par season because of injury, on the field at the same time – and sprinkle in Shaq Barrett, too. The Four Horsemen – an apocalypse for offenses.
Vance Joseph also had to be dancing. If the Broncos also draft quality players at wide receiver, running back, inside linebacker and cornerback, and the lack-of-class of ’17 improves, Joseph may save his job.
When the Broncos’ schedule materialized last week, it had 8-8 and no playoffs written all over it. Perhaps, if Case Keenum plays near his level of last year, and the defense regroups, the Broncos could return to the playoffs where they belonged for five straight seasons in this decade.
The night before Elway took over as the new executive vice president of football operations, he told me that his essential plan to returning the Broncos to greatness was to concentrate primarily on defense. “When our defenses were strong in the past, they had interceptions, fumble recoveries” -- and “turnovers turn on the crowd and get you to championships.”
Elway selected defensive players first in his first five drafts. The Broncos made the playoffs every year and the Super Bowl twice. In the last two drafts, Elway chose offensive players. The Broncos slipped to 9-7 and 5-11 and out of the playoffs.
They own the edge once more with Miller and Chubb – the Chinese Dragon and the Lizard of Ahs.