ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As far as Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway is concerned, the 2012 NFL Draft went "as good as it could have gone."
Entering the event with seven selections, the Broncos made three trades to position themselves to select seven players Elway believes can make an impact on the team.
“We’re excited about it," Elway said. "We filled a lot of needs and got a lot of good football players. When we look at the list, we feel great about it. We got some big-play guys."
The list includes defensive tackle
If Elway and the front office are excited about the draft class, the draftees are exhuberant.
"It's amazing to hear the excitement in their voice," Elway said of his initial phone calls with the picks. "With what they go through these days with the (NFL Scouting) Combine, and the wait and all the publicity that goes along with the draft now, it's such a buildup. It's almost a relief for them to finally understand where they're going. The excitement you can hear in their voice to know they're going to be a Denver Bronco -- it's fun to get a chance to say hello to them."
It was the process within the team's draft room that left Elway, General Manager Brian Xanders and Head Coach John Fox the most impressed.
And in the end, the draft board fell just about the way the front office felt it would.
"We were ready for every pick," Xanders said. "This is an eleven-month process. We have a great scouting staff. In each column underneath every position, we try to work exactly where we would rank those guys within each group according to our grading scale and the board. We have a lot of great input from the coaching staff and Coach Fox and John (Elway). We felt good about each level. And that’s what happened when we got some trade calls or we traded up for Hillman. We felt there were certain spots on the board where we needed to move back or move up to get the right guy.”
Denver moved down the board twice on the first day of the draft, the first of which involved trading the No. 25 pick to the New England Patriots for the No. 31 selection and an additional fourth-rounder -- No. 126 overall.
The club then traded No. 31 and the fourth-rounder it received from the Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for the No. 36 pick -- where it selected Wolfe -- and the 101st pick -- where Denver took Bolden.
On day two Denver moved back up in the draft, trading the No. 87 and No. 120 overall picks to the Cleveland Browns in order to draft Hillman at No. 67.
"You have to be fortunate to get a phone call," Xanders explained. "Then you weigh that decision with who’s on the board and what value you can get from moving back -- and that happened this year twice. And then we did move up to get Hillman. The new rookie wage scale is different; I think there is a lot more trading going on in that first round. When we were picking
The moves on the first day of the draft left Denver without a first-round pick. But Xanders said the moves paid off as the team was able to add value later, which allowed it to add the quality players it did throughout the draft.
Every decision made was after a consensus within the team's draft room, Elway said, to get the right player pinpointed.
Now it's up to those players to make their mark on the Broncos.
"The key to these guys is that they have the God-given ability, otherwise they wouldn't have a seat in this room when we report," Head Coach John Fox said. "What they do with that is the difference-maker. It's getting better every day, the kind of work ethic it takes, the discipline it takes to get better everytime we come into this building. Those are the guys who will have success. It'll be in their court at that point. The cream always rises to the top. It's going to take a lot of hard work to get where they want to get. It's one thing to have a seat, you want to be a pro and be a special player. That's the makeup that I referred to (Friday) that separates guys."
The three men speaking from a podium Saturday night couldn't hide their optimism about the newest crop of Broncos.
So which new addition should fans be most excited about?
“I’d say all of them," Fox said, "because that’s how we feel.”