Broncos Best & Worst Elway Third-Round Picks Include Justin Simmons & Carlos Henderson

Which third-round draft picks were John Elway's best and worst?
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We continue our look at the best and worst draft picks the Denver Broncos have made since 2011, when John Elway took over the front office, with a look at selections made in Round 3.

I found an interesting pattern that developed with the third-rounders, which I'll touch upon with the two players who earned the distinction as the best and worst third-round picks for the Broncos in the rookie pay-scale era.

Best Third-Rounder: Justin Simmons | S | 2016

Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High.

Who would have thought that a player taken late in the third round would become a franchise player for the Broncos? One would have never guessed that about Simmons, after he mostly came off the bench as a rookie.

However, things clicked for Simmons in his second season, when his role expanded after the Broncos cut veteran T.J. Ward. Simmons started 13 games and returned an interception for a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career.

Simmons struggled a bit in 2018, but improved by season's end, and then in 2019, he flourished in Vic Fangio's defensive scheme with 15 pass break-ups. Earning second-team All-Pro honors, the Broncos placed the franchise tag on him but didn't come to terms on a new contract.

In 2020, Simmons had arguably his best season as a pro with five interceptions and nine pass break-ups, which led to his first Pro Bowl nomination. New general manager George Paton placed the tag on Simmons again, but got a contract done several weeks later that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

Simmons has become a fan favorite, a team leader, and a face of the Broncos franchise — an excellent return for a third-round pick. He's arguably the Broncos' best pick behind Von Miller, regardless of round.

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Worst Third-Rounder: Carlos Henderson | WR | 2017

Denver Broncos wide receiver Carlos Henderson (11) is defended by Chicago Bears free safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (36) during the second half at Soldier Field.

And then there's the player who is arguably the Broncos' worst pick behind Paxton Lynch, regardless of round. Lynch, in fact, can make the claim that he took snaps for the Broncos during the regular season.

Not so for Henderson, whom the Broncos hoped would become part of the wide receiver rotation when they took him in 2017. However, he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb in August and, in September, was placed on injured reserve.

In 2018, Henderson reportedly was dealing with a personal matter when training camp opened. He would later report, but was suspended for one game for violating the substance abuse policy. Henderson was cut after the preseason, added to the practice squad, but then waived two weeks later.

It wasn't until December of 2018 that Washington added him to its practice squad. Henderson got signed to a futures contract, only for Washington to cut him a couple of months later. He's currently playing in the Canadian Football League.

The Broncos have had plenty of misses in the third round, but at least those players took the field during the regular season in some capacity. Henderson never did, giving the Broncos zero return on a pick that you expect should give you a player who will at least contribute to some degree.

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