Sunday, May 11, 2014
Broncos hope draft means now and forever
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Folks keep wanting to tell John Elway he’s all in for the Super Bowl this year, that he is in win-now mode as the clock ticks on what remains in Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's career.
But Saturday, as he wrapped up his fourth draft as the Broncos’ top football executive, Elway stuck to his mantra. That he is always in win-now mode, as in this year, next year and all the years that follow in whatever becomes of his tenure on the job.
The Broncos are confident first-round pick Bradley Roby will help keep them atop the AFC West.
"There’s so much talk about us trying to win now, and I keep saying we’re trying to win from now on and that’s going to continue," Elway said. “And that’s why every draft you go to is very, very important, because if we’re successful in the draft that’s what creates depth and creates your players down the line … Our mentality is to win now and now on."
Over the draft’s three days, the Broncos moved around some as they surrendered one of their picks this year, one next year and then got one back in '15 to do it, and the six-player draft class, Elway said, accomplished three goals. It increased the team’s speed, increased the team’s physicality, and potentially, if they get what they hope for from the newest crop of rookies, they got a few more players to help win both now and in the post-Manning era.
"Everybody on here, we feel really good about," said Broncos head coach John Fox. “We really increased our team speed. Really if you go through every position, even (tackle) Michael Schofield ran very well. They’re athletic, we hope they develop, but for sure, right away, we increased our team speed."
The class provided at least some angst among fans in the Twitter-verse who wanted a linebacker somewhere in the first two days of the draft, or wished Elway wouldn’t have traded away three picks to move up to take wide receiver Cody Latimer. However, if the Broncos are right and the usual post-draft optimism turns out to be the reality, they see potential starters in the group.
They see first-rounder Bradley Roby as a future starter who will be in the mix to play in the nickel and dime packages as a rookie. They see Latimer, the second-rounder, in the rotation at wideout this season as a No. 4 with the ability for more if there is an injury among the top three at the position -- Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders.
And they see Schofield, the third-round pick, as a potential starter at right tackle as a rookie, or at minimum a player who immediately makes the push for the job against fifth-year veteran Chris Clark. Then there’s linebacker Lamin Barrow, the fifth-round pick Saturday, who the Broncos see as a potential middle linebacker in their scheme.
As it turned out, it was the wait for Barrow on the draft board that turned out to be the most nerve-wracking. Some teams saw Barrow as a weakside linebacker in the NFL, but the Broncos see him as a potential option in the middle with the versatility to do a little more on third down in the team's specialty packages, perhaps paired with Danny Trevathan, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
"We were holding on a little bit after we moved back from the bottom of the fourth to the middle of the fifth, we were holding on a little bit there," Elway said. "Fortunately Lamin made it to use there, that was the one John did about 18 laps around the room, the most nervous time of the draft."
"(Playing in the middle) is definitely something I’m looking forward to," Barrow said. "... Whatever they need me to play, I’ll play it."
Among the three previous draft classes Elway has presided over, the team has gotten plenty of production from the ’11 and ’13 groups with the 2012 class still lagging behind. Even with Trevathan's development from the '12 class, Ronnie Hillman was unable to crack the lineup much last year, Derek Wolfe is coming back from injured reserve, and quarterback Brock Osweiler is still in watch-and-learn mode behind Manning.
This time around Roby and Latimer will make the Class of ’14 go in coming seasons, but if the Broncos are right about two or three of the others, it will help Elway keep the team right where he wants it.