John Elway has found his groove when it comes to the NFL Draft.
The last two years, he and his staff have used their codex to great success for the Denver Broncos — they target captains and leaders on their college teams. So those players are a combination of confident, humble, mature and well-spoken. The first four picks for Elway and the Broncos in this year’s Draft followed that path.
Right on cue, Denver employed the same strategy with their two picks in the final rounds on Saturday when it selected linebacker Justin Hollins from Oregon and receiver Juwann Winfree from Colorado. Both were captains on their respective teams and bring those same qualities from college to the Broncos.
Confident, humble, mature, well-spoken. That's the vibe we got from the guys Elway and the #Broncos selected last year, and again with the picks so far in the #NFLDraft this year. That makes it even more exciting. Denver is killing the draft the last two years.— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) April 27, 2019
In terms of Hollins, he brings needed depth to Denver’s edge guys but enough versatility to play inside if Vic Fangio needs it. Hollins can also contribute on special teams. When you add in his ability to create pressure in the passing and running game (14 sacks, 36 tackles for a loss in his career for the Ducks) to forcing turnovers (seven forced fumbles for his career), this is a great pick. Former NFL scout Dan Shonka said Hollins could be the sleeper of the draft for the Broncos.
Christoper Hart made a great point when he saw a tweet from Jim Leavitt. Leavitt coached Hollins at Oregon. Leavitt also coached with Fangio during their time together with the San Francisco 49ers. Connections matter. No doubt there was insight from Leavitt to Fangio on Hollins.
What will endear Hollins to fans is when he told Andrew Mason, Brandon Krisztal, Mike Rice and Ryan Edwards: “Hopefully I can be a Bronco for the rest of my life.”
In terms of Winfree, the pick seemed to catch people off guard given what else was on the board at receiver. But there’s no doubt the fact he played for the Buffs helped.
“I know Phillip Lindsay put in a huge word for me with the Broncos,” Winfree told the media after the pick. “That’s my big brother right there.”
It never hurts to have Lindsay vouch for you. That, and being a guy who has high upside and will put in the work for Denver.
Ryan Koenigsberg noted that over the last two years, 11 out 16 draft picks for the Broncos have been team captains (seven in 2018, four this year). The other five no doubt could have been.
After the success of the 2018 draft, Broncos Country and NFL fans wanted to see how Elway and Denver would respond. Well, Elway and the Broncos have now killed it in two-straight drafts.
It’s clear the codex they uncovered prior to last year is working to great success.