Elway Believes Broncos are 'Way Ahead' of Draft Curve Amid NFL Shutdown
Commissioner Roger Goodell has readjusted the NFL's strict schedule of events in recent weeks due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. The NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach, Florida was ultimately canceled and team employees have been sent home until the second week of April.
When it comes down to the NFL Draft, Goodell has already shelved league plans for the picks to be paraded in Las Vegas, Nevada, alongside fans and media. It’s come as a big blow but Goodell remains firmly focused on forging ahead with the draft as planned on April 23 — just without fans and media.
Denver Broncos' GM John Elway spoke via the team’s official website this week to explain to fans why he would prefer the NFL to move the draft back due to the current climate but added that his scouting team is very much prepared for any possible scenario.
“Really, we feel pretty good about where we are," Elway said on Wednesday. "We’d rather have it backed up so we can get all our scouts and everybody in, but if it’s limited and we can stay there and they’re not going to move the draft, we’re in good shape."
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Reading between the lines, Elway believes that he has collected the hay safely in the barn already, so to speak. All the coaches' write-ups on prospects and rankings have been done and submitted.
The real potential headache for Elway is getting his draft day war room all under one roof in order to make the right decisions in the heat of the moment. Potential stalemates and last-minute judgment calls might end up having to be hashed out on video conferences and the like.
However, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the Broncos' draft board will be a more structured and regimented process this time around. Elway and head coach Vic Fangio, by way of their decision to start the coaches' draft scouting process early and keep them home from the Combine in February, are now ahead of the curve, leading the way for the rest of the NFL.
“I think that one of the reasons why, I think with the coaches not going to the Combine and them spending the whole week here just on the college side, it’s put us way ahead there because we’ve got the coaches rankings already,” Elway explained.
As the Broncos lead the way in employing this new scouting strategy long before there was a threat of pandemic in the U.S., it could set the team up for success on draft day, in what has rapidly become a very turbulent NFL climate. Only L.A. Rams' head coach Sean McVay has followed suit with how the Broncos are reinventing their pre-draft process, but it’s probable that many more teams will copycat if it’s shown to bear fruit.
According to Elway, he has his scouting network planning ahead for 2021 already, as well as finalizing the strategy for the draft night next month.
“The scouts are already working on next year a little bit to the 2021 summer manual, so we feel like we’re in pretty good shape," Elway said. "If it moves back, great, we’re ready for that. If it doesn’t move, then we’ll be ready for that, too."
Already this offseason, Elway has kept a cool head while adding real talent to the Broncos' roster by making two shrewd acquisitions via trade, as well as several outside free-agent signings. Elway dipped into the free-agent pool only when opportunities presented themselves and when he felt he was plugging a significant hole on the roster.
Still holding a considerable booty of 10 picks for the draft, Elway is perfectly placed to significantly improve the Broncos even more. Elway's confidence should come as a great comfort to the fan base, knowing that their GM can navigate some very choppy NFL waters, not only safely, but successfully.