NFL draft day, 1983: the Denver Broncos, coming off a 2-7 season and a fifth-place finish in a strike-marred season, were looking to make a deal and had the fourth pick overall as bait.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Colts, owners of the first pick in the draft, had a problem: They wanted Stanford quarterback John Elway. But Elway didn't want to play for the Colts, who drafted him anyway.

Six days later, Elway was on his way to Denver in exchange for the Broncos' first pick, offensive tackle Chris Hinton, reserve quarterback Mark Hermann and their first-round choice in 1984 (Maryland lineman Ron Solt).

Prior to Elway's arrival, the Broncos quarterbacks were an aging Craig Morton, journeyman Steve DeBerg and an inexperienced Hermann. Since the trade, the Broncos have won 59 games, three division titles and two AFC crowns. The only thing to elude them is a Super Bowl victory.

"That was the key acquisition, definitely. The foundation was laid," said Broncos cornerback Steve Wilson, who ws signed as a free agent in 1982. "From the first day I saw John practice, I knew he would put fear in the hearts of a lot of defensive coordinators around the league."

Elway didn't disappoint. But he was not the only key acquisition in the Broncos' rebuilding process. In the 12th round of the 1983 draft, the Broncos selected a little known defensive lineman/linebacker from Minnesota named Karl Mecklenburg.

In the last three years, he has become one of the most respected players in the league, with 29 1/2 sacks and three Pro Bowl appearances. Not bad for the 310th pick.

"I didn't even know who Karl was until after the final cut and he made it," Wilson said. "He's such a versatile player, he added so much to our defense."

After a 9-7 finish in 1983, the Broncos made big gains in the off-season, acquiring six players who probably will start the Super Bowl.

For three draft choices, Denver got a big linebacker with speed, Ricky Hunley, from the Cincinnati Bengals. In the draft, it picked defensive lineman Andre Townsend (second round), safety Tony Lilly (third), tight end Clarence Kay (seventh) and running back Gene Lang (11th).

Starting center Mike Freeman was signed as a free agent. Another pick, Randy Robbins (fourth round), is a reserve defensive back.

Also, in the last three drafts, they selected "The Three Amigos" -- wide receivers Vance Johnson (1985), Mark Jackson (1986), and Ricky Nattiel (1987).

Denver solidified its defensive backfield in 1986 by getting cornerback Mark Haynes from the New York Giants for three draft picks.