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Open to all scenarios, Elway says Broncos will take 'best player' in Draft

Will that be an offensive tackle? Another quarterback? The Duke says all options are on the table and that Broncos don't have to draft to fill a need.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

When John Elway wasn't offering surprisingly candid comments about Demaryius Thomas yesterday, the Broncos GM had some pretty insightful things to say about the NFL Draft and the Broncos at his press conference Thursday.

With the Draft just under a week away, Elway is preparing for the chess game that he loves - and one he admits is definitely "not a science."

"The interesting thing that I've found out is different ways people can look at a different football player. You look at one player and have 10 guys looking at that one player come out with six different conclusions," Elway said, crediting his scouting staff with having more hits than misses. "That's going to be the goal again. You're always trying to eliminate the misses and accentuate the hits, and hopefully we can do that again this year."

In his four-year tenure as GM, some of Elway's hits include a majority of the 2011 class - Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, Nate Irving, Julius Thomas and Virgil Green (a class so good, Broncos have only been able to keep two of those hits); Derek Wolfe, Ronnie Hillman, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in 2012; Montee Ball in 2013 and Bradley Roby in 2014.

We do have some ammunition. Sometimes the more bullets you have the more chances you have to be successful. It's always expensive going up though.  -John Elway

How will Broncos fare in this draft?

Some of that depends on other teams. As Elway points out, he and his staff can't just "move up" or "move back" when they want.

"We tried to move up last year with a team and they wanted my three first grandchildren, and I said, ‘I'm not going to do that.' It didn't happen," Elway said. "That's why the draft is intriguing because so many things have to happen the right way."

The possibility of moving up if available is on the table if there's a good fit, Elway said. "We'll look at all of the different scenarios and look at all the possibilities. We do have some ammunition, which is good."

That ammunition could come in handy with an offensive tackle, the position Elway believes has the largest depth in the draft this year.

"You never have enough of them (draft picks) either," Elway added. "Sometimes the more bullets you have the more chances you have to be successful. It's always expensive going up though."

Other notable takeaways include:

Broncos could draft a quarterback

LIke it or not, Ian Henson's prediction that Brock Osweiler is not the future of this franchise is more likely to become a reality as Elway did not dismiss the idea of drafting a quarterback. Though Os could still win that job, it doesn't seem as "obviously" his anymore once Peyton Manning decides to retire.

"We are wide open to everything. We never really lock into anything," Elway said, adding the goal is to make the team better regardless of the position, even if that means being stronger at one position and not as strong at another.

Whether the Broncos would be willing to take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Elway only said, "I'll tell ya later."

CSU quarterback has the NFL goods

Despite all the national hype over college QB prospects Mariota and Jameis Winston, Elway believes Garrett Grayson from CSU may have an advantage in the NFL because of the offense he ran. Elway admitted that the spread offense so common among the college ranks can prove to be a disadvantage for quarterbacks transitioning to the NFL.

Standing back at shotgun most of the time, rookie and young quarterbacks have a tough time playing under center.

"It makes it more difficult. There is no question," Elway said of scouting QBs who aren't under center too much. "Mariota is in the same situation, the fact that he hasn't been under center very much, but I think there hasn't been a lot of success with guys that have been in a shotgun offense all the time."

Those, like Grayson, who have run a more NFL-like offense, stand a better chance.

"I think he's probably more ready," Elway said of the CSU quarterback. "I think there is an adjustment to go in, but any time you spend time underneath the center as well as back in shotgun [you have an advantage]."

The primary problem is being able to see the field well when standing under center.

"Because one thing shotgun does do is allow you to see better," he said. "If you haven't been under center, there is an adjustment to being able to come out, and you're more limited to what you can see because the big guys are right in front of you."

Best Player Available still wins

Elway's philosophy to take the best football player, whether it fills a need or not, is still his primary approach. He believes the acquisitions in Free Agency allow the Broncos the freedom to go after the best player on the board.

"We are really trying to find football players that are going to make our football team and make us better regardless of what the position is," Elway said. "If they make our football team better - we'd rather be real strong at a position and not as strong at another one, but be able make sure we know we've got a good football player - we'll do that."

So what happens if an offensive lineman happens to be the best player out there when our number is called?

Elway made it clear that the Broncos are always going to go after the good athletes, and now with the 3-4 defense in play, that's even more of a factor. He was even open to a running back if that was the best guy out there.

"You're looking for athletes period. Athletes are the ones that make this game go round. The more athletic you are at position, the better off you're going to be," Elway said, adding that it does influence decisions on the Broncos offensive line and also at linebacker. "We really feel good that we have some good young linebackers, but you never have enough of those either. If there is a good one available, we'll take them."

The goal is a high chance of success in the pro ranks. And there's a lot that goes into figuring that out. Elway noted that a guy may run slower than another at the Combine but play faster in the game.

"We always try to be solid at all positions going into the draft with some veteran presence," Elway said, emphasizing he tries to find the best player who has a chance for a good NFL career. "That is the key thing. Whether it be a position of need or not, the players that you pick, you want them to be able to compete and be successful in the NFL."

Second-year starters

While Elway and his crew project Draft players based on their second-year starter ability, he also indicated they might be looking for some to contribute right away. He stopped short of saying starters but noted that in today's NFL, there are only a few positions with true starters anyway - the quarterback, the offensive line and starting corners.

"The defensive line is a rotation now, so you need depth at defensive line because that rotation needs it," Elway said. "You need guys in the secondary that come in at nickel. You need third and fourth guys that are cover guys that are going to play a lot. They're not necessarily starters, but they're going to play a lot."

Peyton is ready to go and is excited to go. You're talking about very smart people putting their minds together. They'll come out with the right solution. -John Elway on Peyton Manning and Gary Kubiak working on the offense

Regardless of how they contribute, Elway expects his top-round picks to be significant to the team's mission.

"I think that we'll have guys coming out of this draft that are definitely going to help us this year," the GM said.

This also explains a little of the reason Cody Latimer and Michael Schofield were not used as much as fans anticipated last year - but definitely speaks to their expectations to play this year.

"I think there is a lot of the teaching and the adjustment," Elway said of the rookie year, adding there are a lot of factors deciding how much a young guy is going to be able to contribute coming out of college. "I think with where we were at the wide receiver position and what we were doing, there were a lot of combinations of different things to explain why Cody didn't play. I think the expectations are that having a year under his belt, he should be able to contribute this year."

‘Peyton looks fine'

Because it was the Broncos and because it was a presser, there had to be a question about Peyton Manning.

But do not worry, the 39-year-old ate his Wheaties™, is working out, and is working on the new playbook just like the rest of the team.

"Peyton looks fine. He came back, is ready to go and is excited to go," Elway said, adding that Manning and the offensive staff will have no issues bringing their two styles together. "I don't think there will be any problem with that happening. I really don't. You're talking about very smart people putting their minds together. They'll come out with the right solution."

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