What do Greg Reynolds and Bradley Chubb have in common?
Each was a top five draft choice for a high-profile Denver sports team. And both represent missed opportunity.
The Rockies made Reynolds the No. 2 pick in the 2006 Major League Baseball amateur draft. The Broncos chose Chubb No. 5 in the 2018 National Football League’s college draft.
Reynolds, a 6-foot-7 righthander out of Stanford, made it to the Big Leagues in 2008 at the age of 22. That year he had a 2-8 record with an 8.13 earned run average in 14 games, all but one of them starts.
Three years and some injuries later, he returned to the Rockies and went 3-0 but with a 6.19 ERA. That was it. For his Colorado career his line was 5-8, 7.47.
Chubb, a 6-4, 275-pound defensive end from North Carolina State, was said to be the second coming of Khalil Mack, who has terrorized quarterbacks as an edge rusher for the Raiders, Bears and now the Chargers.
Moved to outside linebacker and paired with Von Miller, it was believed that Chubb would give the Broncos pro football’s most fearsome pass rush.
But in his first four seasons, because of injuries, Chubb has played in only 41 of 65 regular-season games. He had an impressive 12 quarterback sacks as a rookie but has managed only 8.5, combined, in the three seasons since.
These two draft-day decisions are worth revisiting now, for the “what if?” factor in both.
In the 2006, behind Greg Reynolds, Clayton Kershaw went seventh to the Dodgers, and Max Scherzer 11th to Arizona. Each has won three Cy Young Awards; they’ve combined for 391 victories, so far; and both will be legitimate candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame when their playing days are over.
Of greater note today is who could have been the Broncos’ fifth pick four years ago. Two quarterbacks head the list.
With the 32nd pick, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell intoned, the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson, University of Louisville. And the Buffalo Bills traded up so they could snatch Josh Allen of Wyoming seventh.
Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 record and was voted the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 2019. A year later, Allen finished second to Aaron Rodgers for the same award.
The decisions to choose Reynolds and Chubb are, in one sense, similar.
The Rockies obviously overestimated Reynolds. And the Broncos whiffed on a generational quarterback because of a misjudgment of Reynoldsian proportion.
A few weeks before the draft, John Elway signed free agent quarterback Case Keenum to a multi-year contract.
Elway reportedly was enamored with Allen, but Keenum was coming off a season in which he threw for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns for Minnesota. The Vikings were 11-3 in games he started.
With the black hole at quarterback since Peyton Manning’s retirement seemingly filled, Elway and the Broncos opted for defense in the draft. But it turned out the black hole wasn’t filled, after all.
Denver stumbled to a 6-10 record with Keenum under center in 2019 and traded him to Washington along with a seventh-round draft choice that offseason—for a sixth-round pick who played 14 snaps for the Broncos the next year.
Keenum since has moved on to his seventh team—Buffalo, no less—where he backs up Allen, and one of his teammates is (believe it or not) Von Miller.
Anyone who saw Josh Allen in the first game of this NFL season last Thursday night can only hope that Russell Wilson—Denver’s eighth quarterback post-Manning—proves to be at least as good as Allen. Better would be great, but that’s a tall order, given Allen’s blossoming talents.
Accuracy was the main concern when Denver’s coaching staff worked with Allen in the Senior Bowl. But against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, Allen was the football version of Scherzer, completing 26 of 31 passes (83.9%) for 297 yards and three touchdowns and leading his team in rushing with 56 yards on 10 carries, including one for a touchdown. He even got in a shoving match with a Rams lineman.
Wilson’s specialty has been the fourth quarter comeback. But in the Broncos’ 17-16 loss to his former team Monday night, he could get Denver no closer than a Hail Mary field goal attempt from 64 yards in the waning moments. Wilson completed 29 of 42 (69%) for 340 yards and one touchdown, and ran once for two yards.
The comparison will continue all season.
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at firstname.lastname@example.org.