Broncos draft rewind: 2012

As the guy at the top of the football flow chart for the Denver Broncos for the last three seasons, John Elway has now overseen three drafts for the team.

The Broncos have made 23 picks in that time, found seven full-time starters -- with more expected to be added if things go as planned in May.

Let's go inside each of those three drafts to see how things have gone and where they are headed.

Today: 2012.

First pick: Derek Wolfe. The Broncos traded down twice before selecting Wolfe in the second round -- 36th overall. Wolfe then had a productive rookie year as a starter who played at both defensive end and defensive tackle with almost equal effectiveness. And during last spring's offseason there was talk Wolfe, in both word and deed, had the look of a future team captain.

But then he struggled at times early in the season after a neck injury in the preseason loss in Seattle -- he was taken from the field by ambulance. Then in late November Wolfe collapsed on the team bus with seizure-like symptoms and missed the remainder of the year.

He lost some weight as he spent weeks with doctors who tried to find the source of the issues. The Broncos briefly tried to put him back on the practice field on Christmas Day, but elected to shut Wolfe down after that workout. Broncos head coach John Fox has said multiple times in this offseason Wolfe is on track to try to re-gain his starting job in the defense.

Starters: 1.

This draft class has has consistently led to questions about the team's approach and the lack of current starters. Linebacker Danny Trevathan (seventh round) is the only full-time starter among the seven picks at the moment.

Again, Wolfe is set to return to the starting lineup in the coming weeks and months. Defensive tackle/end Malik Jackson (fifth round) also has a prominent role in the line rotation and his playing time will only increase if he has another quality offseason. But Trevathan is the only pick from the draft who finished last season as an every-down player.

Best value pick: Trevathan. The Broncos -- for many of the same reasons they signed Wesley Woodyard as an undrafted and undersized linebacker out of Kentucky in 2008 -- selected Trevathan out of Kentucky.

Trevathan had led the Southeastern Conference in tackles and consistently displayed versatility and athleticism in his play. All he did last season was become the defense's most consistent player. He led the team in total tackles (124), solo tackles (84), tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) and knocked down 10 passes.

Now's the time: Running back Ronnie Hillman (third round) was handed the starting job when the Broncos opened their offseason work last spring and summer. He did not keep it.

And not only did he not keep it, he didn't handle the bump down the depth chart nearly as well as Knowshon Moreno had the year before in Hillman's rookie year. There are those with the team who believe Hillman showed some immaturity -- some to be expected from one of the youngest players on the '12 draft board with just two years in major college football -- and sulked a bit as the 2013 season wore on.

He was inactive on game days five times, did not play a snap in another game he was in uniform, and had an additional game he played in, but didn't get a carry. In all he carried the ball 55 times last season, or roughly at least 100 fewer times than the Broncos had hoped.

With the Broncos expected to take a look at the bigger backs available in this draft and with Montee Ball already penciled in as the starter, Hillman is in danger of finding out how quickly the NFL window closes for some.

He is still the big-play option in the backfield for the Broncos, but can't show that if he doesn't convince them he should be in the lineup.

Gone: C Philip Blake (fourth round). The Broncos tried him both at center and guard and he always seemed to be one of those players the personnel department thought more of than the coaching staff.

He never played his way into a serious consideration for playing time and they cut him last August. Blake is currently on the Arizona Cardinals roster.

More to come?: Ultimately, the player who will carry the signature of this class was their second pick in the second round: quarterback Brock Osweiler. He is Elway's hand-picked successor for Peyton Manning.

Osweiler is a big-framed (6-foot-8, 240 pounds), strong-armed passer. But what the Broncos, including Elway, liked about him most before that draft was his combination of confidence and work ethic. It takes work to play along side Manning and not every teammate, especially those who are his backup quarterbacks, are up for the pedal-to-the-metal intensity.

But Osweiler is a mentally tough guy who the team's veteran players say has commanded the huddle when he's had the chance in both practice and games. Sure, that's a long way from following a future Hall of Famer, but the Broncos still believe Osweiler is that guy.

It's why his age factored into the selection as well. He was just 21 when the 2012 draft rolled around, giving the team a buffer as compared to some of the other passers on the board that year.

It means Osweiler is set to enter his third season studying the game with one of the league's greatest-ever thinkers and Osweiler is still just 23.

Also, the Broncos, having moved Omar Bolden (fourth round) to safety, from cornerback, continue to hope he can find his way into some of their specialty packages. They drafted Bolden after he tore an ACL in his final season at Arizona State and moved him to safety last season, looking for more athleticism at the position in coverage looks.