Friday, April 26, 2013

2013 Draft Has Historic Similarities for Broncos

If history is going to repeat itself in a positive way for the Denver Broncos in 2013, all the pieces are beginning to fall into place.

Back in 1996, 36-year-old quarterback John Elway led the Broncos to a 13-3 regular season record, earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race.  But in their first playoff game, Denver lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in heartbreaking fashion.

The next April, the Broncos owned the 28th overall selection in the first round.  With the pick, the Broncos drafted Clemson defensive tackle Trevor Pryce.

Pryce went on to win a pair of Super Bowls with the Broncos in 1998 and 1999 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his tenure with the team.  Super Bowl XXXII marked the first time Elway was able to win a championship, as Terrell Davis gave Denver's offense balance and took pressure off Elway in the playoffs.

Does any of that sound familiar? 

Peyton Manning is 37 and coming off the same situation Elway found himself in following the 1996 season.  The Broncos were the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs last fall but were knocked out of postseason contention by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.

Elway is now Denver's executive vice president of football operations and Manning is returning with high expectations for 2013.  The Broncos brought in slot receiver Wes Welker in free agency and have begun bolstering their defense and backfield through the draft.

On Day 1, the team selected North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams 28th overall, following it up with a second round selection used on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (58th overall) on Day 2.  Williams has been compared to Pryce by Elway and Ball, naturally, is hoping to be Manning's version of Terrell Davis.

"I eat, drink and sleep football, and I’m going to continue to do that. I want to come in right now and help this team any way I can. Anyway I can I want to help them win," Williams said after the draft.

Fittingly, Ball grew up idolizing Terrell Davis.

“I’ve watched Terrell Davis—all of his interviews; all of his highlights; everything. I grew up watching him," Ball told reporters shortly after being selected by Denver in the second round on Friday evening.

While at Wisconsin, Ball scored 83 touchdowns in a four-year period, 25 more than the next-closest NCAA player during that time period.  In Denver's offense, he is primed to continue finding the end zone.

“It’s an honor, actually, to be on the same team as Peyton Manning. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep the program successful. It’s just a blessing right now, because I grew up watching the Broncos. The Broncos have been my favorite team ever since I started watching football. To be a part of this family is something very special.”

In the third round, the Broncos selected Kayvon Webster 90th overall, much higher than anyone was expecting the Florida State defensive back to be selected.  But the Broncos have confidence that he will be a fit in their secondary.

"Kayvon is a fast and explosive player who had great production during his career at South Florida. He was one of the faster cornerbacks in the draft with sub-4.4 speed, and he will be a great addition to our team," Head Coach John Fox told the press on Friday evening.

Growing up, Kayvon looked up to Denver's Champ Bailey.

“I love Champ. Favorite Corner. Broncos were my first team I grew up watching, when John Elway was in the Super Bowl in ‘98 and that got my eye wanting to play football," Kayvon noted.

Tomorrow, the Broncos are scheduled to make selections in the fourth (125th overall), fifth (161st overall) and seventh (234th overall) rounds.  The final rounds will kickoff at 12 ET and will be televised on NFL Network and ESPN.