John Elway is a complicated figure.

We wrote about that on the first of this month; he’s a hero on and off the field, but he’s also responsible for hiring Vance Joseph, drafting terribly some years and for other personnel mishaps along the way.

This week, Elway traded away longtime receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for a third and fourth-round picks. (Side note: Elway could’ve hired Kyle Shanahan instead of keeping Joseph for a second, failed season. The 49ers are currently a perfect 6-0.)

So, with the third-rounder from the Sanders trade, Denver’s third-round pick they will get this year and the third-rounder they received in the trade with the Steelers (another questionable-at-best move) the Broncos now have three third-round selections in 2020’s NFL Draft.

That sounds great and all, but given Elway’s history in the third round, there’s little hope he can find a starter in those three picks.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and look at all of Elway’s third-round selections over the years now, here.

  • 2011, Linebacker Nate Irving
  • 2012, Running back Ronnie Hillman
  • 2013, Cornerback Kayvon Webster
  • 2014, Lineman Michael Schofield
  • 2015, Tight end Jeff Heuerman
  • 2016, Safety Justin Simmons (lone starter)
  • 2017, Running back Carlos Henderson
  • 2017, Cornerback Brendan Langley
  • 2018, Cornerback Isaac Yiadom
  • 2019, Defensive End Dre’Mont Jones

Yikes, what a list.

Irving was a complete bust, as was Schofield, Henderson and Langley. Ronnie Hillman worked his way into the starting lineup and was a key contributor to the 2015 season, but overall, it was still a pick which left a lot to be desired. Kayvon Webster was a decent return man, but also not worth a third-round pick.

As far as Heuerman is concerned, the book is still out on him and his long injury-riddled career. If he can turn it around, that pick won’t look so bad.

Simmons is the lone shining star and starter of the list. He’s quickly grown into one of the key defenders on this Denver Broncos team and will be for many years to come. Not only is he a superb safety in both coverage and tackling, he’s made some spectacular plays on special teams, too.

And finally there’s Yiadom and Jones. Yiadom has been much less than expected and hoped as a third-rounder and he’s still getting burned regularly in this, his second season. Again, there’s still hope he can turn it around but Broncos fans have been quick to jump on his poor play.

As for Jones, it’s simply too soon to tell what kind of player he will be. He’s shown flashes in the Los Angeles Chargers game as well as the Tennessee Titans game, two wins, so hopes can remain high on him.

But, one starter out of 10 third-round picks is awful.

With the Broncos currently in full-on rebuild mode, Elway and the Broncos have to use those three third-round picks to find at least one starter and two role players. He can’t afford to gamble and overthink those ones, nor the first or second-round picks which have seen many busts over the years, too.