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NFL Draft Results: A Few Good Questions With Denver Broncos GM Brian Xanders

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We've broken down the Denver Broncos 2011 NFL Draft dozens of different ways.  We've talked about the picks, we've graded the draft and looked at the grades of others.  We've ran poll after poll and seem to all feel at least pretty good about what happened this past weekend. 

Today, however, I was given the opportunity to discuss the Broncos draft with Denver Broncos GM Brian Xanders.  Xanders, along with John Elway and Broncos head coach John Fox, were the 'three-headed monster' in charge of the Draft, and to take it one step further, Xanders is a link to the Broncos recent troubled past.  Below is the transcript of our conversation:

MHR - While I don't want to dwell on the past, I feel this is a question that needs asked.  How was this draft process different than the past two drafts with the Broncos, and those you experienced in Atlanta?

XANDERS - It was a lot different than any other draft process than I have ever gone through.  The process was a lot more detailed in April - especially compared to the past 2 years - we spent about 3 straight weeks here going through every column on the board, every player, talking about the character, the mental, all the background information, psychological tests and then watching the tape again, watching the Combine, the school workouts, the Bowl games, the All-Star Games.  It was a really in-depth process. 

It was a collaboration of a lot of work a lot of people put in.  We involved our coaches a lot more - it felt like there was a lot of good chemistry there as we drew up the draft board and it really made it easy on Draft Day to take the right guys.

MHR - A lot has been said about you, John Elway and John Fox and the collaborative effort between the three of you.  Was that effort advantageous this weekend, considering all the needs you need to fill?

XANDERS - The collaborative effort and the input from Elway and Fox was great.  They have different experiences from what I have and like I said we are all different.  Elway brings that player perspective, he's a Hall of Famer that really knows what he wants in that locker room and knows what he wants the team to look like and which guys we want to steer away from.

Coach Fox comes from a lot of different systems - Steelers, Giants and his own with the Panthers - so he brings a different perspective, especially on the defensive side, so it's one of those things where we all work together well and there's a great chemistry.

MHR - Sometimes it is hard for us fans to remain patient and see the big picture.  Looking at this draft and the way it fell for the Broncos, was it a goal this year to be patient in the Draft and remain true to your Draft Board?

XANDERS - Yea, we are going to stick to the board with all our drafts.  The reason it seemed - and everyone is wondering about the defensive tackle thing - there were players taken in the first and second round that were gone and left a huge void there at the defensive tackle position.  We really felt great, as we picked our guys, they were the best players on the board for the Broncos. 

Some of these guys were first or second ranked guys overall at their own position, so we are excited about it - like (Nate) Irving was the #1 MIKE linebacker on our board and we got him.  It's exciting to see that and we are always going to stay true to our board.

MHR - That leads me to my next question. Regarding defensive tackle - a lot has been made of that specifically.  There was plenty of talent there at the top of the draft, but do you think it was overvalued a bit in reality - say from the 3rd round down - than the perception that there was so much talent available throughout the draft?

XANDERS - There were just some good players that all got picked early.  There were 12 defensive lineman, I think, picked in the first round, then in the 2nd round there are a couple left.  It's something that happens - it happens every year with the offensive tackle board too - the good ones go early. 

We were prepared.  We have Marcus Thomas as a RFA, we have Kevin Vickerson here under contract, we have Ryan McBean who was a 16-game starter a couple years back. We still have a whole free agency board full of defensive linemen, so we are excited about our process and we have a strategic plan on how we are going to do this and we are ready to go.

MHR - Talk about the trade for a moment.  Is that something that was set up on Friday between Round 1 and Round 2 should a player you are targeting is not available you'll do the deal or does it happen more-so on the fly when you are on the clock?

XANDERS - Usually a couple calls are made before the draft saying, "Hey, In the 2nd Round we'd like to trade up because you have two 2's" or things like that. Really, the true action happens while you are on the clock or a couple picks away - another team will call in and say we'll give you x, y and z for your pick and we always call them back and tell then whether we'll do it or not or renegotiate it higher.

MHR - Looking at the Draft as a whole, you selected 3 linebackers, 2 tight ends and 2 safeties.  A bunch of athletic guys.  Are some of those decisions made looking at depth as a whole?  Specifically, special teams?  Meaning, if you had a DT and a LB graded evenly would you lean more towards the more athletic player with special teams in mind?

XANDERS - Special teams is part of it.  We call it "4th Down Value" and it is evaluated by all our scouts and our special teams coaches look at it.  It's one of the things that is important, we play 30-40 special teams plays per week in the games so that value is definitely high on our board, it is a good trait to have, it's how you get active on game day and those safeties, linebackers and tight ends are all athletic enough to play special teams.

MHR - Orlando Franklin looks to be the prototypical John Fox offensive lineman, when I think of the big, mean, nasty guys along the Carolina Panthers offensive line.  He can play inside and outside, but with questions surrounding Ryan Harris and his status, was some of motivation around this pick due to the fact Tim Tebow is a left-handed quarterback and the need for someone to protect his blindside at Right Tackle?

XANDERS - Yea, the Right Tackle position - we have Ryan Harris back as a Restricted Free Agent if that's the system the League and NFLPA chooses - but, it is important to have a good pass protector there but also to have the physicality and run power that he has - he's a very explosive blocker and he does fit that John Fox mold at right tackle - he had (Jeff) Otah and we watched him a little bit during the free agency period.  We're definitely excited about him - he's got a big upside, he's played guard and tackle, he's played for a long time at a good University and we're excited about him.

MHR - What kind of player are the Broncos getting in Von Miller?

XANDERS - Von is an explosive player in everything he does.  His ability to rush the passer and get past these offensive tackles at the college level is rare - it is something I had never seen at that level in the last 15 drafts.  He's an exciting guy because he is so athletic, so his versatility will rise as we play different offenses.  He can cover any tight end in the League with his speed and size - he's 6-3, 248 and he runs a 4.42-4.48 range.

He's got that ability, we're going to teach him more zone coverage drops and all that relating to play-action passes and drop-back passes, but he's an explosive guy that's very athletic, that's very productive in both the run and the pass so we are excited about him.

MHR - So you feel Miller is the type of guy that you can plug in on Day 1 and he can be a 3-Down player?

XANDERS - Absolutely.  He's going to start out at SAM linebacker in this 4-3 and then on 3rd down - all the sub plays - he'll go down and rush wherever we put him - left, right middle - anywhere.

MHR - Talk about the safeties.  You select Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, the top-2 rated safeties in this draft, yet you have Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill, David Bruton, Darcel McBath and Kyle McCarthy - was this to add depth and competition or do these guys fit the mold that John Fox and Dennis Allen are looking for on defense?

XANDERS - Yea, they are the two top-rated safeties coming in.  They both have ball skills - in terms of interceptions - I think 14 and 8 respectively - they are good tacklers, they are athletic, they are good teammates - both are really  solid all-around players.

As for the competition, we are going to let them all compete and let the best man win.  We are going to add competition to every position group we have - that's what we have always been trying to do and that is what we will continue to do.

MHR - Regarding the quarterback position.  At what point does a quarterback competition become unhealthy?

XANDERS - I think it's every practice, every day they are going to compete.  We are going to put the best 11 out there and we're gonna try to defeat the opponent every week and it's something that's gonna happen throughout the season.  We've benched guys during the season at different positions like offensive tackle last year and left guard the year before.  We're always going to want competition and let that mature and let it evolve and let the coaches really evaluate that.  We say every player creates their own role.

MHR - The Broncos' final pick intrigues me.  All Jeremy Beal did on Saturdays at Oklahoma was make plays.  Were you surprised to see him fall to the 7th Round?  Is it exciting to get a guy that was so productive at a Big-12 school that late in the Draft?

XANDERS - We were definitely excited to see him there at the bottom of the 7th.  He was very productive in college - 57 tackles for loss and 29 sacks.  He was really the highest remaining guy on our board in the 7th Round.  He's a productive guy that makes a lot of plays, we're surprised he fell down that far - that's probably because of the Combine or Senior Bowl stuff - but we really evaluate off the football tape and we're really excited to have him.  He's going to compete at the defensive end position and hopefully he comes in and contributes for us.

MHR - Well, Brian, speaking for many Broncos fans, we are excited about this draft class, about the stability that you, John Elway and John Fox seem to have brought back to the organization and we're definitely excited to see - once we get football back, and we will, what you and the coaches can put on the field.  We look forward to an exciting 2011 season, thank you for your time.

XANDERS - We appreciate MHR and the site's reporting on the Broncos and the fans are really important to us.  We are going to continue to do our best to win games so that the fans can enjoy the Broncos every week.  Thanks for having me.


My thanks to Brian Xanders, the Broncos, and, of course, all of you.  Without you guys - and the voice YOU have in Broncos Country - opportunities like this would never come to pass. 


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