The braintrust of the Denver Broncos - John Elway, Brian Xanders and head coach John Fox met with the media to put a bow on the 2011 NFL Draft. Here is was EFX had to say...
On how they feel after the draft
Elway: "It has been a great three days. We looked at the board and what we got out of this draft-I think we are really happy with it. I think we got guys that can come in and help us right away and also got some good depth and created some good competition. So, I personally am excited about it. I think one of the things that I am even more excited about is how the whole team worked. I think as far as the scouts as well as (General Manager) Brian (Xanders') team with personnel with (Director of College Scouting) Matt Russell and (Director of Pro Personnel) Keith Kidd-and (Head Coach) John (Fox), myself and Brian. I was really happy with the whole process. I really feel like we came out of it-we discussed a lot of different things and we all came out of it unanimous on who is going to be the next guy. It was a great process and I think it worked well. I am really proud of it-especially when you look at the guys that we got. We really feel like they can come in and help us, so for me, with this being my first draft, I feel very good coming out of it."
On why the team did not select any defensive tackles
Fox: "We came into it with a lot of needs and I think we were not going to fill them all in this process. I think typically in the National Football League, you have two means-one is college (draft) and the other is free agency. So, never in any year that I have been in the NFL have you accomplished meeting all your needs in just one of those pools. So, I think that we will have to address that moving forward in the next pool."
Xanders: "With the process that we had with the board, we really stuck to our grades and the best player available up on the board. We were not going to reach down below just because of the position that we had (a need). When we took linebackers, they were the best players for our system and for our team, instead of reaching."
On whether it was a coincidence that they drafted the positions which they did
Xanders: "I would say that at that time, those were the better players on our board. As it came down the defensive tackles in this draft were really taken in the first rounds."
On whether the team set out to draft linebackers
Xanders: "We think we are going to add competition at every position group and we are happy with those draft picks. We really think they can help our football team. So, we are going to have a plan for success for each one of these guys-including the tight ends, the linebackers and the safeties. We feel really good about those guys that we brought in."
Fox: "We are making a switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3. So, we need more speed at linebacker. One of the main criteria of this draft was to get faster on defense. That is something that we felt like was a deficiency and I think we accomplished that in a pretty big way."
On whether the team will look for running backs through free agency
Fox: "I think so, running back was an area that we wanted to build depth and we were not able to do that-much like the defensive tackle (position). I think we helped the tight ends, helped the (offensive) line, and helped the safety position. Again, we had a lot of holes and you cannot fill them all in just this draft."
Elway: "I think we had all of those defensive linemen, running backs-all the things we wanted to get, there was no doubt about it-but, the way the board fell for us, the last thing we wanted to do was not take what we felt like was the best player on the board at that time. We looked at the running backs and even the defensive linemen. Believe me, we looked hard at the defensive linemen the whole time until the last pick to see if there was somebody that we thought would come in and make our football team. So, it was really in comparing each player and talking about each player, but also, we wanted the best player, who at the time we thought would come in and make our team, and not just take a guy for that position because we needed one. But, we wanted to pick the best players that we thought could come in and help us and make the football team."
On why the team looked at quarterbacks before the draft but did not draft one
Elway: "We are going to look at all the quarterbacks again next year too, so you can count on that. We are going to look at them next year as we did this year and each year. We are going to look at every position. The thing is, when you are picking No. 2, and we have discussed this, is the fact that we had to see if that franchise guy was there. So, we had to do our homework there."
Xanders: "I think on that quarterback issue, every team in the league, including us-we are going to try to build the best board that we can at every position column so that when we are ready to pick-we might find a great gem in the later rounds, like other teams had with Tom Brady in the sixth (round). It is our job and our duty to the organization to do the best at every position group every year for the future."
On picking two safeties
Xanders: "I would say we are adding competition at those spots. (S) Darcel McBath had a really good rookie year. He led our team in special-teams tackles. He was a guy that was going to compete with (S) Renaldo Hill in the second year. He ended up having three major injuries last year, so his second year was not as good as he expected or we expected. We still see an upside in him, and (S) David Bruton was the best special teamer in the country at Notre Dame. He was a fourth rounder; he's a mismatch on the field at the NFL level as a core special teamer, so he is going to compete at safety also. To me, these two guys have a chance to compete against the guys ahead of them, and we're going to try to get the best defensive backfield we can out there."
On position concerns
Fox: "Like John (Elway) mentioned, we selected nine players because we think they're going to help us. At the safety position, going into our draft, those were two of the best three guys on our board. Talking to people around the league, they had them the same way. It's just the way it fell; John (Elway) mentioned it. This is the first year I can remember where the draft preceded free agency, so you could actually stay more true to your board than ever and not panic and draft for need. Typically when you draft for need, you're reaching and not staying true to your board. We felt like we stayed true to our board, and we think we've added depth to our football team like probably the other 31 teams in the league."
On their nine draft picks
Elway: "As I said before we started, there's kind of an equation that goes with each different player, obviously talent and his ability to play football. But there were other things that were involved in that equation, that they fit the Denver Broncos, not only as football players, but as people-their personal character, their football knowledge, and their football instincts. All those things came into play as far as trying to find the best football player for the Denver Broncos. I think the one thing- not only do we feel like we got great football players that really can come in and help us, but we got great people that are going to help this organization. To say that (character) wasn't a part of it is not true. There was no question that we looked at character hard and we wanted guys that could come in here and be great people in the community and also be great for the Denver Broncos."
On whether they were able to talk to potential college free agents earlier in the process
Xanders: "No, it was against the rules. Once we ended the draft, we got all the scouts and coaches in there and shook each others' hands. It was a great year of work for the scouts and so really, we are done. Once Mr. Irrelevant was picked, we are in that mode now with where we are at in the (labor situation)."
On the quarterback situation
Fox: "I think you still have to have a depth chart-we will have a depth chart in every position. I think it has been fairly well said that Kyle Orton is our starting quarterback. Just like every other position on the team, though, there will be competition."
On whether the Broncos drafted four starters with their first four picks
Fox: "Again, you don't really know that. It's like a recruiting class in college. Just like any draft prior to this, you don't really know until you start. Sometimes you don't even know in the first year, but I know they have that kind of ability, and I think at the end of the day, they'll decide that."
On TE Julius Thomas
Xanders: "(TE) Julius Thomas was the player at Portland State that played basketball for four years, and he tried out for football this year. He's a guys that's 6-5, 250 (pounds) who is very athletic and has very good ball skills from playing basketball. His athleticism in and out of breaks was great, and his football knowledge-Clancy Barone worked him out at Portland State, and he had very good football knowledge for a one-year player. He's got a big athletic upside, and if he can gain some weight and lift weights, he could be a 6-5, 260 (pound) guy that can run in a couple years here. We're excited about him."
Fox: "One of the other things, too, with Clancy Barone-he was part of the developmental process with (San Diego TE Antonio) Gates. When he was at San Diego, Clancy was there. We did do a private workout. Clancy was involved in that and was very impressed, and that was also part of that decision."
On TE Virgil Green
Xanders: "Virgil Green was the second tight end. He's in the same mold; he's a little bit shorter. He's 6-3, 245 (pounds), but he's very fast. He had a great combine; he had a 42-inch vertical. He's tough. He's physical. He has that athletic upside, and he may have some versatility."
On entering the draft without a fourth or fifth-round pick
Fox: "I think ‘hamstrung' is a hard word, but we didn't have the fourth and fifth-round picks. We did have the two seconds. If we had the fourth and fifth-round picks already, we might have been able to react differently. The reality was we wanted to get in position to gain a fourth and fifth-round pick, so our trading was more down to getting that than up. There were talks and discussions about going up for those two first-round picks, and it could have been an option. We might have gotten a defensive tackle had it fallen correctly, but we would not have had the fourth and fifth round picks. At our current development as far as injecting new talent into this team, we felt it better to get the extra picks."
On the report of possibly moving up to get DL Nick Fairly in the first round
Fox: "If he would have gotten to the right spot."
Elway: "It was talked about. We talked about if we had a chance with all those guys sliding and the quarterbacks going early with another dynamic defensive lineman. If they kept sliding we were talking about doing something to get up and get one of those top defensive tackles. We looked at it, and where they went we decided we were better off with our picks."
On his role in the War Room
Elway: "I think they used Brian (Xanders) and I against each other (laughing). I would ask for too much and then they would call Brian. It was great. Like I said earlier, I was really happy with how we worked together. I think that we had great discussion on everyone we picked. We really came to a consensus and we were on the same page. That is why I feel good about the guys that we got, not only as football players but character wise and what they are going to do for this organization. I will say this: Today was a long day. Four rounds in one day is a long day. Once you get through that seventh round it is a good feeling, a feeling of accomplishment."
On where he sees S Rahim Moore and S Quinton Carter
Fox: "I don't like really defining the players before they get here. If you were looking at it, generally speaking, you would probably say that (Rahim) Moore is probably more the free (safety) and (Quinton) Carter is more the strong (safety). I hate to pigeonhole them at this point; they will kind of define what they can do. They have some veteran guys to learn from and that will speed the process. We needed some youth there and we think we picked two very good ones."
On Brian Dawkins' future
Fox: "I don't think we have so many that it would affect Brian Dawkins, let me put it that way. I don't think this affects anybody. We will be the team we will be when we get to practice and they will do that. This is in no way jeopardizing our thoughts on any of the guys we have. We just needed some youth and depth and they were the best guys available."
On not being able to hold mini camps
Fox: "It would be more frustrating if it was just for us and everyone else got to do it. But at this time, everyone is operating under the same things. We will just evaluate our draft and look at things we can do better moving forward and wait and see what we decide to do."
On his advice to rookies
Fox: "It was really nice to have the opportunity to meet with them all. It was not the whole team but I have had the opportunity before to meet most of the guys and it has been different being in a football building with no football players. It has been a pretty fun day actually."
On LB Nate Irving
Xanders: "At ‘Mike' linebacker, the inside linebacker in this new 4-3, he was our No. 1 ‘Mike' linebacker. We are excited about him because his instincts are so good. He was a serious player who loved football. He had some off-the-chart numbers too; he had 44 tackles for loss. He is a very productive player and when we had him in here about two weeks ago you could just tell that he really loved football and was very serious about the game. When he met (Owner Pat) Mr. Bowlen about bringing back the Orange Crush, he had a big smile on his face and he enjoyed that."
Elway: "I think also in the position that he played and what we heard about him at North Carolina State, like what kind of leader he was and he was the guy directing traffic on their defense out there. We are hoping that he will come in here and compete for the job No. 1, but also be a leader on our team."
On looking for a leader at the MLB position
Xanders: "Like I said, we are sitting there in the top of the third (round) and he is the No. 1 ‘Mike' linebacker and we thought he was a great fit for the Broncos in the locker room, on the field, and in the community. Greek, our head trainer, signed off on his health and he is fully recovered and he had a great year last year. We are excited about him."
On OT Orlando Franklin
Xanders: "I went down to (the University of) Miami early last year on the road. He's a guy that stood out to me in practice. They had these early 5 a.m. practices, but he's a physical guy in football and in everything, at practice and in the games. He played guard early in his career. He's a taller guy at 6-5, 320-325 (pounds). He has really long arms, but when they put him at left tackle, he was a physical, fierce competitor. He takes his guy three or four yards down the field. He's a good pass protector because he has length in his arms. His footwork was good enough. We just liked his demeanor, and then we had a good interview...He had an edge to him. He was ready to go. We think he fits in also as a right tackle because of his physicality and his size and in the vertical movement he possesses. We're excited about him."
Fox: "I think he's an offensive tackle and has a great combination of athleticism and power, and that's something we're looking for. He does it with the right set of mindset."
On how LB Von Miller fits into the defense with DEs Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers
Fox: "I think from a starting point, we see Ayers at left end, Elvis (Dumervil) at right end, and Von (Miller) at ‘Sam' backer; he could also be at the ‘Will' backer spot and certain fronts. Robert is a bigger, more physical guy that could actually move down into a more tackle type of alignment, and that would leave Von and Elvis on the edge. So I don't have to give away every little thing we might not do it (laughing), but from a concept stand point, that would be the process. You can put whatever name you want on it, 3-4, 4-3, all that stuff, but Elvis and Von, I think, have proven they're pretty good edge-rush players."
On the team's plans for the tight ends
Fox: "I think there is no question that (Julius) Thomas is what we call a wide tight end, an end-line tight end. He has a bigger frame-most of your top tight ends do have bigger frames. I think it helps the quarterback. It is the closest receiver for the quarterback to throw to. Developing that, we have (TE Richard) Quinn in place already. He is that type of body and I think he can grow a lot like (TE Antonio) Gates did in San Diego. Yet, they are built well enough and powerful enough to learn how to block. Every tight end ever been brought in this league-the No. 1 adjustment coming out of college into pro football is the blocking. We think we have an outstanding coaching staff that can help that process. As far as (TE) Virgil (Green) goes, he more of an ‘F' tight end, a ‘move' tight end. He has great vertical speed-he tested off the charts at the combine as far as the physical aspects. He can stretch the field, yet he is still a physical guy who can line up in the backfield from a wing alignment and has a physical-enough presence to block."
On the feel of being in the ‘War Room' compare to previous years
Xanders: "It was very different-a lot more people and it was a lot more inclusive. There was a lot more discussion. I really like working with both John Fox and John Elway. They are great guys-they know football and they know what they want to have on this team. We had great discussions on each level with the different rounds and the way the board fell. It was a good discussion. We included our top two people in pro personnel, our top two people in college scouting and we had the coaches involved a lot more this draft. They evaluated 15-20 players each, instead of 5-8. With the big picture, it was a more inclusive process. Our scouts had their say in December and February. We brought them in on certain discussions-as we had different players coming down on the board, we had them come in and talk about their character and what they thought was the best choice on the board at that time. It was an open room and we felt great about it. The other person that was in there this year was (Head Athletic Trainer Steve) "Greek" (Antonopulos)-he is our longtime trainer. He is a great employee here with the Broncos and he helped guide us through the medical part of the process."
On whether there were any ties that had to be broken
Elway: "No, believe me, there were a lot of discussions that went on for a long time, but eventually we came back and got back to the same point to where when we made the decisions, we were all on the same page. Like I said, the open discussion that we had with each of the players that each of us liked-we were able to talk our way through it, along with the other guys in the room and eventually as everything came down, we had one guy pinpointed, and we were all on board with the guy that we took."
On why the team went with LB Von Miller over DL Marcell Dareus with the No. 2 pick
Elway: "Two great players-Dareus is going to have a long career and a great career and he is a great player. I really think that we looked at Von and the difference to me was that he is one of those guys that comes along once in 10 years and a guy that has a chance to be dynamic on the football field. He is a guy, as I have said so many times, when you turn on the film you do not need to know what number he is. You can just tell because he is moving that fast on the football field and is a kid that we just feel like the upside is there. Because of that ability and plus the type of person he is-and Marcell Dareus, we spent a lot of time with him and he was a great guy also and would have fit in great here. Just the way Von was and bottom line, his athletic ability and upside we felt that for what we needed-obviously, we needed a tackle-but what Von brought, he was the best fit for us."
Xanders: "I would say the same thing. With Dareus, we really liked his strength, his explosion and his power. He is a bigger defensive tackle. He was very versatile and the other thing about him was that he was in a great scheme and system there with Nick Saban in Alabama. We think he is going to have a great career. We had the same grade with those two players. The thing with Von and the more we talked was his explosion, his playmaking ability, his mismatches that he causes in scheme protections with (DE) Elvis (Dumervil) on the other side and all of our interior players-and, like John (Elway) just said, his upside. He can be a 255-pound linebacker that can cover tight ends, that can rush the passer and you can run different schemes with him. You can run 3-4, even on dime (packages), you can run 3-3 and 3-2 (fronts). You can move him everywhere and he is a good football player. He is a great teammate and we thought he had an explosive mismatch ability."
On why the team did not choose CB Patrick Peterson
Fox: "All three of those guys you mentioned (Miller, Dareus and Peterson), I wanted all three of them, but we could not get them (laughing). They are all impact guys. From Von to Dareus and also Patrick-we spent a lot of time with all three of them. It really did not come down to who we liked the best or not, it was who would fit us best. All three are great players and are going to have great careers in this league and they are really that type of talent. There are not a whole lot of 219-pound guys that run 4.3 (40-yd. dash). All of them have a unique talent and we had to make a choice."
On the team's plans for free agency
Xanders: "We have been prepared for free agency since December and we really fine-tuned it in January with John Fox and John Elway. Then, there was that system change, so we have not made any contact and we have not done anything with that. Once they tell us the rules, we are allowed to execute the plan. We have a plan for free agency. We are ready for two systems. We are ready for the four, five and six (year unrestricted free agents) being free and we are ready for the six-plus guys being free."
On whether there are players that the team will look at from Carolina
Fox: "I cannot get into specifics at this stage, but as Brian mentioned, we do have a plan. We have a plan A, B, C, D. We are in the blocks and ready to go, we are just waiting for the (start) gun."
On not drafting a player at a "skill position"
Fox: "Well, I think that if you are going to kind of relegate the skill positions to just offense and just wide receivers, quarterbacks and running backs-just like defensive tackles, we could not address all of our needs in this pool. Moving forward we are going to do everything in our power to better our football team in the next pool."