With so many great players, it was nearly impossible to get this down to 10.
(Note: The Grueling Truth does not use active players for these Top 10 lists)
10) Karl Mecklenburg
Mecklenburg was the cornerstone of the defenses that helped get the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four seasons during the 1980’s.
He was a six-time Pro-Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro and was a fantastic outside linebacker.
9) Rich “Tombstone” Jackson
“Tombstone” was probably Denver’s first great defensive player when he played from 1966-1972. As a defensive end/outside linebacker, he got many opportunities to sack the quarterback and he made good on nearly all of them.
He was a ferocious pass-rusher and feared by all who had to block him. Tombstone finished as a two-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro.
Here’s our interview with Tombstone earlier this year:
8) Floyd Little
Floyd was the first great offensive player for the Broncos, playing from 1967-1975, leading the Broncos in rushing seven times.
He retired as a three-time Pro-Bowler and the 7th all-time leading rusher in NFL history.
7) Rod Smith
Denver’s all-time leading receiver with 849 receptions for 11,389 yards and 68 touchdowns. Rod Smith was the key wideout during the Broncos’ run of the mid to late 1990’s. His 80 yard touchdown catch and run in Super Bowl 33 was the play that essentially sealed the game and second-straight Super Bowl title for the Broncos.
Oh, and did you know he was undrafted?
6) Champ Bailey
After being traded to Denver in 2004, Champ Bailey showed why he was one of the best corners that ever played the game.
The 12-time Pro-Bowler made life difficult for receivers as he regularly shut down the opposing team’s best player.
He finished his career in 2013 with 52 Interceptions and left Broncos fans with so many great memories as the team’s all-time greatest corner.
5) Steve Atwater and Dennis Smith
It was nearly impossible to mention one of these great safeties without the other. Both Atwater and Smith were amazing in coverage and were among the best hitters in their generation.
Atwater was an eight-time Pro-Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro. Smith finished his career as a six-time Pro-Bowler.
Together, they formed one of the best safety duos in NFL history.
Here’s our interview with Dennis Smith:
4) Randy Gradishar
Drafted in 1974, linebacker Randy Gradishar became the leader of the “Orange Crush” Broncos defense that would go to Super Bowl 12 and be a dominant force in the 1970’s.
He went to the Pro Bowl seven times out of the ten seasons he played in and finished his career with an amazing 2,049 tackles.
Gradishar was also the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1978
3) Terrell Davis
Though he had a shortened career due to injury, there is no denying the greatness of Terrell Davis. Drafted in 1995 as a special-teamer, he quickly showed he could be so much more.
Following a 1,000 yard campaign during 1995, he was dominant in 1996 with 1,538 yards. He just got better each year, leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 1997 and 1998. During those years, he had 1,750 yards and an amazing 2,008 yards rushing, respectively.
He finished Super Bowl 32 as the game’s MVP, playing in only three quarters. Davis was the NFL’s MVP in 1998 and showed why he was the best back in the league during his career in the 1990’s.
2) Shannon Sharpe
When Shannon Sharpe retired in 2003, he was the NFL’s all-time best tight end with 815 catches for 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns.
Always the consistent performer, Sharpe was the go-to receiver for almost his entire career, even during some bad Bronco seasons.
Sharpe finished as an eight-time Pro-Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro.
1) John Elway
There’s no doubt that John Elway was going to be number one on this list.
John Elway could be viewed as quarterback in NFL history who did the most with the least. There was little to no running attack until Terrell Davis was drafted, so from 1983-1994, the offense was almost completely Elway.
Elway’s ability to consistently lead his team from behind is unmatched, as he has amassed 48 game-winning drives and 4th quarter comebacks.
He finished his career with two Super Bowl wins, including the MVP of Super Bowl 33, solidifying his place as one of the game’s greatest quarterback.
It’s impossible to list everything that makes him worthy of being number one on this list in such a short time, but his arm strength, scrambling ability, and his uncanny ways of leading his team back when everyone thought there was no chance leaves no doubt as to who the greatest Bronco is.
Honorable mentions to: Louis Wright, Lyle Alzado, Ed McCaffrey, Rick Upchurch, Howard Griffith, Gary Zimmerman, Tom Jackson, Tom Nalen and Simon Fletcher.