The Denver Broncos are one of the most prosperous franchises in NFL history. They have been to a whopping eight Super Bowls, having won three of them since 1998. To get to that point, the Broncos have had their share of great players.
Linebacker is typically thought of as a leadership position, one of grit and toughness as well as skill. The linebackers that have made their home in Denver have been standouts in many ways. There are 10 of them that stand out among the rest.
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Top 10 Denver Broncos Linebackers of All-Time
The linebacker position has gotten a bit overlooked because of all the talent that has been spread around the defense in Denver. That said, there are 10 names that have clearly carved their names in the annals of Broncos history.
1.) Von Miller (2011-2021)
Miller, the 2nd overall pick in 2011, came in with all the hype in the world. He exceeded it and then some, becoming one of the most dominant pass rushers of his generation. Before departing in a trade with the Rams in 2021, Miller left as the team’s all-time sack leader with 110.5.
The 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year was also a key component in the latest Broncos Super Bowl victory in 2015. He will go down as one of the best defensive players ever for the Broncos, if not the very best in the eyes of most fans and pundits.
2.) Randy Gradishar (1974-1983)
Before Miller, there was little question who the greatest linebacker in Broncos’ history was. With more than 2,000 career tackles and a 1978 Defensive Player of the Year honor, Gradishar was the star of the vaunted Orange Crush defense. He was dominant against both the pass and the run, earning seven Pro Bowl nods and five All-Pro selections in the process. Gradishar is one of the best Broncos players of all time.
3.) Karl Mecklenburg (1983-1994)
A 12th round pick, no one expected much of Mecklenburg. With more than 1,115 tackles to his credit, Mecklenburg made sure that everyone remembered his name. He could play any position on the field, suiting up in seven different spots. He also got to the quarterback like few others, earning the nickname the “Albino Rhino” as he racked up 79 career sacks. He went to the Pro Bowl six times and made three Super Bowl appearances as well.
4.) Al Wilson (1999-2006)
Wilson is another in a long line of first-round linebackers for the Broncos. He came in just after the two Super Bowl championships and remained a fan favorite throughout his career. His size and speed made him a complete, effective linebacker against both the run and pass. He would make the Pro Bowl five times and solidify himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. A neck injury would greatly limit him in the end, forcing him to call it quits in 2008.
5.) Simon Fletcher (1985-1995)
Fletcher could qualify as a defensive end as well since he could flip back and forth between either spot. During 11 years with the franchise, he was dominant no matter where he lined up. He picked up a then franchise-record 97.5 career sacks, a record that stood for almost two decades. His 808 total tackles also helped solidify him as one of the greatest to do it while a member of the Broncos.
6.) Tom Jackson (1973-1986)
A key member of the Orange Crush defense, Jackson is perhaps more well-known for his role on ESPN over the last three decades. The three-time Pro Bowler is also a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame, becoming a crucial part of a defense that appeared in two Super Bowls during his tenure. Jackson is still one of the most beloved Broncos of all-time
7.) John Mobley (1996-2003)
Mobley came from little-known Kutztown University with the 15th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. That said, he was a force from the start. Injuries plagued his short, but effective career. He missed all of 1999 with an ACL injury before having his career cut short in 2003 due to a severe spinal injury. Over 105 games, he picked up more than 600 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and helped the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowls.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) July 7, 2015
8.) DJ Williams (2004-2012)
A standout at the University of Miami, the Broncos made Williams the 17th overall pick in 2004 and he came in with high expectations. He spent nine years as a Bronco, starting 115 of 127 games, and was one of their best defensive players for a decade. He was versatile, playing inside and out, reading the offense well, and becoming a dominant tackler. His 2007 season was the best of the bunch when he picked up an incredible 170 tackles.
DJ Williams talks about "Junior Spygate" with Josh McDaniels and the Broncos 😳pic.twitter.com/fDPTXu1m8o
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 12, 2022
9.) Bill Romanowski (1996-2001)
An absolute psychopath of a linebacker, Romanowski carved out a place as one of the most controversial linebackers in the game. Coming in as a free agent in 1996, Romanowski was a key figure on a defense that led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 1998. The four-time Pro Bowler is considered to be one of the most vicious hitters ever as well. His hard-nosed style of play was a key part in the success of the late 1990s.
"What made the Broncos special — it was the people."
Former Broncos LB Bill Romanowski reflects on our Super Bowl XXXII team: pic.twitter.com/yUXjUZ5HX7
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 22, 2022
10.) Bob Swenson (1975-1983)
A seventh-round pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, Swenson was a key member of the Orange Crush defense. Known as a student of the game with a high football IQ, Swenson was oftentimes given the most complicated coverage assignments on top of any run-stopping duties he had. Though he never earned All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors, Swenson is still beloved for his role in arguably the best defense in Broncos history.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) July 1, 2015
Though some names on the list may not be household names, they are definitely players who have stood the test of time. Without players like these, the Broncos may not have enjoyed nearly the amount of success that they have enjoyed to this date.