ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and the Broncos selected former Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy with the 15th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, it marked the beginning of Jeudy's career in Denver.
But it also marked the end of the months-long process that brought Jeudy to the Broncos.
Via an interview with the Broncos' Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell, we pieced together a look at the scouting process that spanned from the team's initial inquiries about Jeudy all the way to draft night.
"We knew he was a guy that was going to be right there in the wheelhouse when we picked," Russell said in an interview following the draft.
The Broncos' scouting of Jeudy began when southeast area scout Frantzy Jourdain visited Alabama last fall. While the media often focuses on which games a team's GM attends, most of the work was done in the days before.
That's when Jourdain visited with coaches, support staffers, trainers and others. He did not interact with Jeudy, as the 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner was still in school.
Following the visit, Jourdain entered all the information into an electronic system to be reviewed by Russell, Director of College Scouting Brian Stark and Elway. Though the scouting staff didn't discuss Jeudy at that time, that information was available to be accessed and reviewed.
"All that information's right there at the tip of our fingertips," Russell said. "Once a scout has gone into Alabama, if I want to go look at what Jerry Jeudy's personal or football character is, I can go into our system and find that out."
As Jeudy pieced together a season in which he caught 77 passes, 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns, the Broncos continued to track the dynamic receiver. Denver followed Jourdain's visit to Alabama with a visit from Eastern Regional Scout Nick Schiralli before stacking Jeudy among the other players in December. At the beginning, it's to help shape a rough outline of how the Broncos' draft board will look in April.
"It's just a very vague, general stacking with probably north of 350-400 names on the board," Russell said. "And we whittle that down as we go; we whittle that down after February when we have area scouts cross-check one position and compare apples to apples. We whittle it after the Combine. And then ultimately the final stack comes in April when John [Elway], Vic [Fangio], myself and Stark all get together and we generate that final stack."
By the time the Broncos assembled that initial board in December, it was already quite clear that Jeudy was going to be among the top players in the draft.
"Guys like Jerry Jeudy, you probably don't have to be a scout to realize what an impactful player he is," Russell said. "[You can] just turn the TV on and watch him in any big game. He's been productive in all his big games, and really they're all big games in the SEC. In terms of his talent and what he brought to the football field, it was probably pretty clear-cut to John and us what kind of player he was."
The Broncos continued their scouting process of Jeudy at the 2020 NFL Combine, where they used one of their 45 allotted 18-minute interviews to get to know the 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner.
"He was just a really good interview," Russell said of the Combine meeting. "It's clear he knows what he wants. He's been influenced by enough guys that have already done it. Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones — guys that have been out of Alabama that have influenced him. He gets it. He knows what he's walking into. He knows what expectations are. He knows the work and the focus and the detail required to become the player he wants to become. Those things were all very clear in the Combine interview, and I think that between talent and the interview and what kind of guy he is, that's probably what John saw in him when we ultimately pulled the trigger in our pick."
During those meetings, the Broncos had Jeudy go to the white board to draw routes and talk about the offense. Jeudy impressed the Broncos with his knowledge during each of those opportunities.
"When you sit in front of Jerry and you talk to him, you can tell he's a polished kid and he's smart and he gets it," Russell said.
The Broncos' normal scouting process changed following the Combine, as pro days were largely cancelled and players were not permitted to make in-person visits to team facilities. Still, the Broncos' research continued as Wide Receivers Coach Zach Azzanni had "several" phone calls with Jeudy in April.
Among the traits that stood out to the Broncos was his route-running ability, which they believe will help Jeudy make an impact in Year 1.
"I think when you've got a receiver that is that seasoned at the college level, they can just be that much more impactful, that much quicker at the NFL level," Russell said. "You eliminate maybe the year of developing and learning how to run routes, learning how to stick the brakes on and separate, getting away from coverage, those kind of things. That takes time for those guys to learn, and he's already way ahead of the game when it comes to that.
"I think when you watch him run routes and you watch guys like Calvin Ridley run routes, there is some similarities in their play. I think that's probably because of the influence that comes down from some of these older guys to guys like Jeudy, which he'll pass on to guys below him at Alabama."
Even once the Broncos finished scouting Jeudy and finalized their board ahead of the draft, their strategy wasn't set in stone until just before the draft.
"We go through every scenario, we think these things through, we talk about them, we exhaust it, we talk about it more, we exhaust it then," Russell said. "The reality is, John and the organization always thought very highly of him as a player — we loved him. It was a matter of where we wanted to go in that first round. That's John's decision, and John made the decision that this is what we're going to do, and we're going to surround Drew with a bunch of weapons.
"Heading into the first round, we all knew what the target was. It was a matter of, do we be patient and wait and let him get to us? Or do we go up? I think the patience paid off, and he was there when we picked."
Now, the Broncos officially have Jeudy on their roster, a receiver who could instantly upgrade the position. And while they didn't draft him until April, the Broncos knew who their guy was all along.
"Jerry's always been right up there at the very top," Russell said.