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Elway, Xanders Talk Strategy

Posted Jan 7, 2011

Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway stressed the importance of building a team through the draft. He and General Manager Brian Xanders discussed the team's outlook on the 2011 NFL Draft.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When John Elway took over as executive vice president of football operations, he outlined an immediate plan of action.

His first order of business -- retaining Brian Xanders as the team's general manager. Next up, finding the team's head coach.

But over the next four months, Elway said there's one theme that will take precedence -- the importance of building through the draft.

"We have to get our core guys through the draft," he said. "(In) free agency we would like to add to weak spots, but we are not going to make our team through free agency. We are going to make this team a championship team by drafting the right guys."

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Broncos have a chance to get started right away, as the club has three selections in the first two rounds.

Most noteworthy among them is the No. 2 overall selection, the highest the team has ever drafted. Elway said "the pressure is on" with that pick, as the team needs to find someone who can come in and make an impact.

"Unfortunately we're there," Xanders said. "We have the second pick -- that's not where we want to be, but we're going to do the best we can with that pick."

While stressing the importance of having a successful draft, Elway said that he, Xanders and the team's next head coach will get together to form a plan of attack come April.

The first step in that plan is to define the type of players the team will target.

Xanders said the team will look for good football players who fit into the club's scheme and understand what the franchise is all about. The Broncos want players who have solid personal character that can make an impact on the field, play explosively, be productive and utilize their instincts.

Most importantly, the plan is to find the best player at a position of need.

"If we're strong at receiver and there's a bunch of defenders at the same grade level, we want to pick the ones that are going to fit our team needs the best," Xanders said. "Really it's to build a foundation over time with those kind of players and have a great team at the end."

The next step is to figure out how to accomplish that goal.

As it stands, the Broncos have six picks in the upcoming draft -- the No. 2 overall selection, two picks in the second round (one from the Miami Dolphins), a third-rounder and two choices in the sixth round from Philadelphia and New Orleans.

In the past two seasons, the Broncos have made 15 trades that have involved at least one draft pick. Both Xanders and Elway said that is a strategy that could be employed this season -- with the goal of stockpiling picks as opposed to trading them away.

"There could be strategies there based on who is on the board versus the phone calls that you get," Xanders said. "There could be a trade-down scenario at the top of the first, you could trade the second back, you could trade the other second back, you could trade the third back -- so there are alternatives there. And we have players on our team that people might want to trade for, so we could generate more picks."

As for the focus with the picks, Elway discussed improving the defense and creating continuity on that side of the ball.

"The good thing is (the draft) is really deep on the defensive line and in different areas that we need it's pretty darn deep," Elway said. "I would think we're definitely going to look hard at it, but again it's going to come down with the head coaching."

"From what I know right now, there's no question we would definitely entertain getting that defensive side fixed."

As Elway alluded, many of those decisions will be made after the team hires its next head coach.

What the team knows now is how high the draft is on their list of priorities.

"Big picture, the goal is to build with the draft over the long run," Xanders said. "Over the next four months, there will be a long strategy for that."