Vic Fangio told the media in his Combine news conference yesterday that Broncos have “enough needs on both sides of the ball” that the new coach doesn’t see the team emphasizing one particular need for the draft.
“I don’t think we need to be drafting for need or considering that right now,” Fangio said. “Overall, I think the Draft will play itself out with the best player available.”
Not that this is new nor particularly useful for drawing conclusions based on a PR-contrived event like the NFL Combine press conference.
But it still gives us some insight into the line the Broncos’ line of thinking heading into the draft and following free agency.
So here are four takeaways based on yesterday’s comments from John Elway and Fangio at the NFL Combine:
Not trigger-happy for QB in first round
In a subtle way, Fangio’s best player available revelation just told us the Broncos are aiming for Devin White.
JUST KIDDING! (sorry, that was me projecting, not predicting).
But seriously, it does hint that Elway and Fangio are leaning toward not worrying about a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft and instead picking from the defensive spoils that await via linebacker or cornerback.
Both Fangio and Elway refused to bite on questions related to Broncos signing Joe Flacco when free agency officially opens March 13, but Elway offered some typical “GM-speak” by indicating he is still evaluating the current class.
“We’re still in the process of studying them. We’ll keep looking at them,” Elway said, adding that despite the public and pundit excitement over next year’s QB class, the GM is trying to stay in 2019. “We’re going to spend the time on this year’s class and see where we come out on that. I think there’s some good players in this draft too.”
Elway gave a few other hints too, including that Kyler Murray doesn’t seem to be a major consideration. The 5-foot-10 star athlete from Oklahoma has “the ability to be a great player,” according to the GM, and if he’s playing out of the shotgun most of the time height isn’t necessarily a factor.
But since Elway would prefer a quarterback who can also play under center, Murray’s skill set probably doesn’t fit the bill.
“I think it helps the running game,” Elway said. “I think you can only do so much in shotgun in the running game, and I think being underneath the center, if you want to run the football and have balance, you’ve got to be able to be underneath the center. Because when it comes down to the running game, that’s where it helps you. So, that’s why to me, it’s important if you want to have balance, you’ve got to be able to go under the center, too.”
Wanted: Cornerback help for Chris Harris Jr.
Elway definitely indicated cornerback will be a main target - not just in the draft but certainly including it - and the primary goal through either is some help for Chris Harris Jr.
“Obviously, we know with Chris coming back that we’ve got a solid No. 1,” Elway said. “We’ve just got to find some depth there and find a [No.] 2.”
Since the Broncos are going to let Bradley Roby test free agency, Elway will likely be looking to free agency to find Harris Jr. another experienced counterpart while picking through a strong crop in the draft for depth.
Fangio also praised his veteran corner heading into his ninth season and noted a need to use him more given his athleticism and talent.
”Just mixing things up,” Fangio said of how to help Harris make more plays. “Give him the ability to play multiple coverages because he’s an experienced and savvy guy. I think he can excel in that way.”
In his eight NFL seasons as a Bronco, the undrafted free agent has totaled 462 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 83 pass deflections, 19 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns in his career.
Offensive line still in flux
Although the Broncos are letting Matt Paradis test the free agent market, both Elway and Fangio expressed hope that the All-Pro center may still end up in Denver.
Coming off a broken fibula, Paradis’ “market value” may be in question for other teams, so the Broncos may still get to keep the best thing going for this line the last four years.
“We’ve told him [Matt] that we would like to have him back, but he’s coming off of a pretty significant injury. We have to evaluate that process,” Elway noted. “Matt has been a great warrior for us for four years. But obviously, with the injury that he did have, that changes the thought process. We’ll have to see where that falls.”
But Elway indicated they are “trying to get something done” with Billy Turner and Jared Veldheer but it’s a situation in flux.
“Those are all what we’re going through right now is solving those issues and see where we’re going to end up on the offensive line.” Elway said, noting Ron Leary is coming back from an Achilles injury and Paradis is still a possibility but also coming off injury, so “those are all the scenarios that we’re going through right now.”
Part of Elway’s issue is waiting to see where the market is for guys like Paradis and Veldheer.
“Yeah, there’s no question. I’d love to bring all our guys back, but there’s only so much we can do,” he said. “That’s why - until you get to the market and see where everything is - that’s where everything becomes realistic. We can talk about it and evaluate and say what we’d like right now, but until we see what’s out there and what’s involved, it’s hard to be concrete with which direction.”
Looking for love [TEs] in all the wrong places
Elway noted that the Broncos “have been trying to address” the tight end position every year - and without actually saying it - acknowledged that they have yet to be successful at doing that.
But the GM also pointed out why this seems to be the case - not a lot to choose from unless you’re just looking for a pass-catcher.
“That’s a tough position now, especially when you’re talking about an in-line guy that is a blocker but can also be a good pass receiver,” Elway said. “We don’t have a lot of in-line guys coming out of college like we used to because of what they’re doing in college ball opening things up, and there’s more receivers coming out of college. It’s much more difficult finding the in-line tight ends than it’s ever been.”
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