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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Broncos were both draft kings and duds

By Bill Williamson

The Denver Broncos are examples of both the best and worst in the NFL at drafting during the 2000s, according to a study by Football Outsiders.

Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders created a system that he has labeled GSAA -- Games Started Above Average.

Here’s Barnwell’s formula: He compiled the games started by a player over the first five seasons of his career for everyone drafted between 1993 and 2007 . Games started by players taken in 2006 and 2007 have been prorated. Barnwell compared a player's total games started to the total of everyone at the same position taken within 10 picks of that player, or within the first 10 overall picks for players taken in the top 10.

That formula (yes, Barnwell is one deep thinker) allowed Barnwell to find out which teams have been the best and worst in the last decade at picking players. He will reveal his full findings in an upcoming issue of ESPN the Magazine.

That brings us back to the Broncos.

Mike Shanahan was both brilliant and a disaster in the 2000s, according to Barnwell’s study. He was gracious enough to give me a sneak preview of his findings.

Barnwell’s study concludes that the 2006 Denver draft class was the best in the decade. That draft netted Jay Cutler, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil, Domenik Hixon and Chris Kuper. All have been become solid NFL players. Cutler is now in Chicago after being traded for Kyle Orton and a bevy of picks last year. Hixon is with the Giants after he was cut during his second season in Denver. Yes, the class is strong, but it would look a lot better heading into the future if Cutler and Hixon were still in Denver and Marshall wasn’t being shopped.

The great bounty of 2006 came three years after Denver had one of the worst drafts of the decade, according to Barnwell’s formula. Denver had the 20th and 51st picks in 2003, along with three fourth-round picks and two fifth-rounders. The draft netted one starter, George Foster, who was marginal at best after being the team’s first-round pick.

Shanahan had his ups and downs during the draft, but this disparity is shocking. Thanks again to Barnwell for allowing us to preview his impressive system.