Denver Broncos Greatest Players of All Time: 80-71
The Denver Broncos became a franchise in 1960, and since then many people have donned the orange and blue jersey. Considering coaches, owners and executives, it’s hard to pick the 100 greatest in Broncos history.
Looking at 60 years of players and those who made an impact on the organization, only those who made an impact with the Broncos were included in our Top 100 list. Some players may have been great in the NFL, but this list only ranks them for their time with the Broncos only (example: Tony Dorsett doesn’t make the cut).
No. 80. CB Aqib Talib
Talib was a key member of the no-fly zone defense in 2015 and one of the best cornerbacks in return interceptions for touchdowns in Broncos history. During his four seasons in Denver, he went to the Pro Bowl four times, received an All-Pro twice and recorded 11 interceptions.
Six of those interceptions went home. Talib’s bizarre antics were often hard to ignore, but he was a key player on one of the best defenses in history and helped win the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50.
No. 79. OL Tony Jones
During his four seasons in Denver, Jones got little recognition for his outstanding play. He only received one Pro Bowl nod even though he helped spark Terrell Davis for two incredible rushing seasons, including one at the 2,000-yard club. Additionally, Jones blocked for two little-known running backs that eclipsed the 1,000 rushing yard mark.
Jones’ ability to switch to right tackle to allow Gary Zimmerman to play his natural left tackle position was key to the 1997 Super Bowl season. Jones’ dominance over Reggie White in Super Bowl XXXII was an MVP-worthy performance, and without it, the Broncos might not have been world champions.
No. 78. WR Al Denson
Denson played for the Broncos as they struggled to win games in the AFL. He only played seven seasons for the club, but during that time he caught enough passes to rank in the top 15 in all-time receptions, yards and touchdowns for the Broncos.
Denson led the league in receiving touchdowns in 1967, was twice an All-Pro, and twice invited to the AFL All-Star Game. He was one of the few stars on those AFL Broncos teams.
No. 77. WR Vance Johnson
Johnson was a speedster and one of John Elway’s favorite targets in the 1980s. Johnson was the starting catcher for three Super Bowl appearances during his 10 seasons with the franchise.
Johnson’s 415 career receptions rank him sixth all-time for the Broncos, and his 37 receiving touchdowns rank him fourth at the time of his retirement. His performance in Super Bowl XXI was a silver lining in an otherwise searing loss.
No. 76. NT Greg Kragen
Always underrated, Kragen is one of the best nose guards in Broncos history. He was ruled out due to his height (6-foot-3, 263 pounds), but his actual game was much bigger.
During his Broncos career, Kragen had 708 tackles, 22.5 sacks, 12 fumble recoveries, one interception, a Pro Bowl invite and an All-Pro award. Karl Mecklenburg ranks Kragen as the most underrated Bronco of his playing career.
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No. 75. S Darian Stewart
The better of the two safeties in the no-fly zone, Stewart was only with the Broncos for four seasons, but made them count. His opportunistic nature and hard-hitting style helped him tally nine interceptions, five fumble recoveries, a Pro Bowl invite and a Super Bowl ring (SB 50).
Stewart’s performance in Super Bowl 50 was overshadowed by others, but it was spectacular on its own and was one of the main reasons the Broncos became champions.
No. 74. CB Ray Crockett
Crockett was integral to the puzzle of the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the late 1990s. His ability to lock down one side of the field in the secondary was key, especially as the Broncos continued to seek help on the opposite side.
Crockett’s opportunistic play against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1997 playoffs was key to bringing the Broncos to the Super Bowl. He recorded 17 interceptions and 10.5 sacks in his seven seasons in the Mile High City.
No. 73. S Justin Simmons
Simmons will rank higher on this list when his career ends, but his career so far is enough to land him here. During his six seasons in Denver, he recorded 21 interceptions from safety, including 14 in the last three seasons. He has two All-Pro awards and a Pro Bowl nod.
Statistics aside, Simmons was one of the few bright spots in a team that suffered through five losing seasons. His presence helped keep some fans watching the team in an otherwise lackluster period in Broncos history.
No. 72. LB Bob Swenson
With Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson on the linebacking corps, Swenson struggled to get recognition for his game from outside linebacker. However, he was a key cog in the legendary Orange Crush defense.
During that legendary Super Bowl run in 1978, Swenson’s key interception in the AFC Championship game against the Oakland Raiders set up the Broncos for the winning score and propelled them into the game for the title. Finally, he earned some recognition with a first-team All-Pro award and a Pro Bowl invite in 1981 when he had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and three sacks. He was a solid run-stuffer and a great addition to the Broncos’ star linebacking team.
No. 71. DB Mike Harden
Harden was another very underrated cornerback in the Broncos defense. He ranks sixth all-time in interceptions (33) for the team, and his interception return distance (643) is second only to the great Bill Thompson.
Harden also led the team in the selections of six until Talib joined the team in 2014. Harden was a key defender in his nine seasons and played an important role in leading the Broncos to all three appearances of the Super Bowl in the 1980s, but broke his arm. in the 1987 playoffs was devastating.
Had he been available to play in the Super Bowl that season, chances are Washington’s 35-point outburst and Denver’s embarrassing loss that followed wouldn’t have happened.
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