How to build a Super Bowl Team—Draft Status of Super Bowl 50 Starters
By Chris Malumphy
Thirty teams and their fans will be watching Super Bowl 50 this weekend with one nagging question in the back of their minds: how can our franchise duplicate the success of the 2015 Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Analyzing the starting lineups for the big game might provide some insight.
The Broncos offense is a potpourri of pieces and parts that did just enough, but not much more, to win games as Denver relied on its stellar defense throughout the year. Only five of Denver's 11 offensive starters were drafted by the team, and only one was among the first 50 players in a draft: wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, selected with the 22nd pick in 2010. The only other Denver offensive starter drafted in the 1st round is the aging quarterback Peyton Manning, who was drafted in another century by the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos are proponents of running back by committee and have gotten good results from 2nd round pick Ronnie Hillman and undrafted C.J. Anderson. Besides Thomas, the primary receiving targets are Emmanuel Sanders and Owen Daniels who are both mid-round draftees of other teams. Each of the offensive linemen is a mid-to-late round pick, with the Broncos having drafted both tackles and the center and having obtained the guards from elsewhere. In terms of putting points on the board, the 2015 Broncos' offense is mediocre at best and no other team should want to count on building an offense in the way Denver has.
In contrast, the Panther's offense includes five 1st round draft picks, four at the skill positions and the other at left tackle. But the Panther's had even fewer of their own draftees starting on offense (4) than the Broncos (5). Quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart were both high 1st round picks by the Panthers. Wide receiver Ted Ginn, tight end Greg Olsen and left tackle Michael Oher were 1st round choices by other teams. Right guard Ryan Kalil and center Trai Turner were drafted by the Panthers in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Fullback Mike Tolbert, wide receiver Corey Brown, left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Mike Remmers were undrafted. Having 1st round talent at most of the skill positions helped Carolina score a league best 500 points, which is certainly worth emulating, but difficult to do if it entails obtaining three 1st round draft choices at skill positions from other teams. Better to draft them yourself.
Note that both starting quarterbacks were selected with the 1st pick in their drafts. Also note that the top wide receiver for each team was a 1st round choice and the top running back was either a 1st or 2nd round pick. In addition, Panthers starting tight end Greg Olsen and 49ers backup tight end Vernon Davis are also 1st round selections. But only one of the 10 starting offensive linemen was drafted in the first 50 picks of a draft.
On defense, the Broncos have 1st round draft choices at both outside linebacker positions (Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware), cornerback (Aqib Talib) and nose tackle (Sylvester Williams). Defensive ends Vance Walker and Malik Jackson and inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall were late round draft choices. Strong safety T.J. Ward was a 2nd round choice, and cornerback Chris Harris and free safety Darian Stewart were undrafted. Only four of Denver's defensive starters were actually drafted by the team (Williams, Jackson, Miller and Trevathan), the remaining seven were obtained in other ways. Note that none of the starting defensive backs began their career with Denver. Wade Phillips has always been a fantastic defensive coordinator and the Broncos's organization has done a terrific job in putting together one of the strongest defensive units in the league with a tremendous pass rush.
The Panthers' starting defense includes eight players drafted by the team. First round draft choices were used to fill a defensive tackle (Star Lotulelei) and two linebacker (Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis) positions. Defensive tackle Kawann Short was drafted in the 2nd round, defensive end Charles Johnson was selected in the 3rd and defensive end Jared Allen, originally a 4th round pick of the Chiefs, was obtained in mid season. Linebacker A.J. Klein was drafted by the Panthers in the 5th round. The Panthers selected cornerbacks Josh Norman and Robert McClain in the 5th and 7th rounds. Safeties Roman Harper (2nd round) and Kurt Coleman (7th round) were originally drafted by other teams. The Panthers have drafted well on defense and the unit is essentially home grown, with only the two safeties and pass rush specialist Jared Allen coming from elsewhere.
The Panthers and the Broncos each have two linebackers and an interior lineman drafted in the first round. Neither team drafted their starting safeties. While the Panthers drafted their starting cornerbacks in late rounds and the Broncos obtained theirs from other teams (one originally a 1st round pick and the other a late round choice).
Based on the Super Bowl 50 starting lineups, the 30 other teams and their fans can ask a few basic questions if they want to emulate the success of the Broncos and the Panthers. Do we have a quarterback who is qualified to have been the top pick in the draft (in retrospect we can conclude that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers should have been and that Russell Wilson could have been in certain years)? Do we have at least one wide receiver of the caliber to be a top half of round one pick? Is our running back worthy of a 1st or 2nd round choice. Is our left tackle of 1st round quality. How about our tight end? Do we have at least two linebackers and an interior defensive lineman worthy of a first round choice. Do we have a shutdown cornerback? If the answer to any of those questions is no, your team better start looking towards the draft and at available free agents. If the answers to all those questions are yes, your team might get to play in February someday.
|Draft Status of Super Bowl 50 Starters|
(* Key Alternates)
|Denver Broncos Offense|
|QB||*Brock Osweiler||2012||Broncos||2||25||57||QB||Arizona State|
|RB||Ronnie Hillman||2012||Broncos||3||4||67||RB||San Diego State|
|WR||Demaryius Thomas||2010||Broncos||1||22||22||WR||Georgia Tech|
|WR||Emmanuel Sanders||2010||Steelers||3||18||82||WR||Southern Methodist|
|WR||*Jordan Norwood||Penn State|
|C||Matt Paradis||2014||Broncos||6||31||207||C||Boise State|
|RG||Louis Vasquez||2009||Chargers||3||14||78||G||Texas Tech|
|RT||Ryan Harris||2007||Broncos||3||6||70||T||Notre Dame|
|Denver Broncos Defense|
|DE||Vance Walker||2009||Falcons||7||1||210||DT||Georgia Tech|
|NT||Sylvester Williams||2013||Broncos||1||28||28||DT||North Carolina|
|OLB||Von Miller||2011||Broncos||1||2||2||LB||Texas A&M|
|FS||Darian Stewart||South Carolina|
|Denver Broncos Special Teams|
|PR||Emmanuel Sanders||2010||Steelers||3||18||82||WR||Southern Methodist|
|LS||Aaron Brewer||San Diego State|
|Carolina Panthers Offense|
|FB||Mike Tolbert||Coastal Carolina|
|WR||Ted Ginn||2007||Dolphins||1||9||9||WR||Ohio State|
|WR||Corey Brown||Ohio State|
|WR||*Jerricho Cotchery||2004||Jets||4||12||108||WR||North Carolina State|
|TE||Greg Olsen||2007||Bears||1||31||31||TE||Miami (FL)|
|LG||Andrew Norwell||Ohio State|
|C||Trai Turner||2014||Panthers||3||28||92||G||Louisiana State|
|RT||Mike Remmers||Oregon State|
|Carolina Panthers Defense|
|DE||Jared Allen||2004||Chiefs||4||30||126||DE||Idaho State|
|WLB||*Ben Jacobs||Fresno State|
|MLB||Luke Kuechly||2012||Panthers||1||9||9||LB||Boston College|
|SLB||A.J. Klein||2013||Panthers||5||15||148||LB||Iowa State|
|CB||Josh Norman||2012||Panthers||5||8||143||DB||Coastal Carolina|
|FS||Kurt Coleman||2010||Eagles||7||37||244||DB||Ohio State|
|Carolina Panthers Special Teams|
|K||Graham Gano||Florida State|
|KR||Ted Ginn||2007||Dolphins||1||9||9||WR||Ohio State|
|PR||Ted Ginn||2007||Dolphins||1||9||9||WR||Ohio State|
|LS||J.J. Jansen||Notre Dame|