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The evolution of John Elway’s NFL Draft strategy

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Under the leadership of John Elway, the Denver Broncos have struggled when it comes to finding talent in the NFL Draft. However, the past two drafts indicate that Elway and his staff have evolved and finally found a winning formula to acquire collegiate talent.

Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton Manning Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After years of questionable drafts littered with more misses than hits, John Elway seems to have finally found a winning formula with respect to the NFL Draft.

In his tenure as general manager, Elway has relied on strong free agent classes to bolster the team’s ability to compete. His success in that regard has been remarkable, but his draft day endeavors and subsequent results have been tenuous at best. Though over the last two drafts, the Broncos’ draft strategy has evolved and most importantly, changed for the better.

A major emphasis has been placed on drafting players who are leaders on and off the field. High character prospects that possess remarkable football intelligence and the desire to be the best. As I’ve wrote numerous times, it’s often the mental approach to the game that separates the good from the great.

In order to successfully navigate the enormous rigors of the National Football League successfully, you need to be diligent and have incredible mental toughness. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every challenge should be seen as an opportunity to become the best player you can be. You have to put your best foot forward every single day, whether it is on the practice field or in the film room.

Every selection over the past two drafts have been players who embody the aforementioned principles. Players who would run through a brick wall to get to their hopeful destination without hesitation. Players who aspire for dominance. Players who want to be Denver Broncos. I could wax poetic about this topic forever, but let’s now turn the page and focus on Elway’s masterful maneuvers in this year’s draft.

Instead of standing pat at ten overall, Elway navigated the first-round draft landscape beautifully by trading down and selecting dynamic tight end Noah Fant. The selection of Fant provides the Broncos with a player who will contribute immediately and provide the offense with something it has been missing for years — a formidable threat at the position. Broncos Country should have little doubt that he will be a game-changer for years to come.

It wasn’t just the selection itself that is praise-worthy, but the fact Elway was able to secure significant draft capital by adding a second-round and 2020 third-round pick in the process. In one smooth phone call, the Broncos maximized their ability to address other key needs on the roster, while adding a premium pick to target future needs. Without that trade down, what transpired on the draft’s second day could have never come to fruition.

With Mike Munchak in the fold and the departure of Matt Paradis in free agency, it was obvious the Broncos were going to be on the pursuit for an offensive lineman early. At the 41st pick, the franchise snagged Kansas State tackle Dalton Risner. The Colorado kid from Wiggins is coming home and will be a plug-and-play starter as a rookie at right guard.

Just when you thought the Broncos would have to wait a bit longer to make their third pick of the draft, Elway shocked the world by trading a fourth and sixth round selection to obtain the quarterback he had coveted throughout the entire draft process, Missouri’s Drew Lock. While Lock has certainly needs mechanical refinement and development with respect to processing defenses and pressure, he has all the tools you can’t teach and most importantly, a great mentor in Joe Flacco. He is a perfect fit for what the Broncos want to accomplish and has the talent to be the franchise’s quarterback of the future.

To round out their day two haul, the Broncos were fortunate to obtain Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones. Jones has the ability to play outside and kick inside in sub-packages and took a huge step forward in his last year with the Buckeyes. Considering Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis and Derek Wolfe are in contract years, it was a smart move to make immediately and for the long-term.

On the third day of the draft, the Broncos added depth at edge rusher and wide receiver by selecting Oregon standout Justin Hollins and Colorado’s Juwann Winfree. Hollins played under Jim Leavitt with the Ducks, who coached alongside Vic Fangio in San Francisco. Winfree shares the same agent as Phillip Lindsay and appears to have a lot of untapped potential. Last but not least, Denver was able to sign two high-profile undrafted free agents in Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien and Nevada edge defender Malik Reed.

Truth be told, it will take several more years to know exactly how the past two drafts will actually panned out. However, it truly looks as if Elway and the Broncos’ draft fortunes are changing with a new strategy in place. With a revamped offense and improve defense, as well as holding a treasure trove of picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the current and future state of the Broncos is strong.

It’s time to put the rest of the league on notice — the Broncos are officially back and ready to compete now and from now on.