ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Winning isn't easy.
Being a part of winning team? That sure is.
"It's easy to win," John Elway said Monday during his pre-draft press conference. "I mean it's not easy to win, [but] it's easy to be in that locker room [when] things are going well, and a lot of positive things are going on when you're winning. But when you're losing, there is a lot of negative things going [on] in that locker room. It can be very influential on how we play on Sunday and if we're having a two-game or three-game losing streak. [It's important] to be able to have the leadership and the quality guys in that locker room to be able to pull us out."
Elway and the Broncos have discovered that over the last few seasons as the Broncos have failed to make the playoffs since their Super Bowl 50 win.
And as the Broncos try to end a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, Elway knows the makeup of the locker room matters.
"When you go through tough years like we've been going through the last couple years, your locker room is very, very important," Elway said. "The influences that you have in your locker room when things are tough, you need those guys to … lead that locker room through the tough times and you'll be able to get back on the winning way. I think we've suffered a little bit there. We haven't had that leadership in the locker room that has been able to dig us out of this hole."
Elway has tried to address the issue during the last couple of drafts as he's added a slew of players who were captains in college. Free-agent additions like Jurrell Casey help, too.
"We had a couple of misses back there [in previous drafts], and I think the misses that we had were people that were character concerns," Elway said.
That means, as the Broncos head into the 2020 NFL Draft armed with 10 picks, it seems likely that Elway and Co. will again add high-character players who are proven commodities.
The Broncos have laid that foundation with early-round picks like Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Dalton Risner and Drew Lock. If Denver can continue the trend, the Broncos should take another step toward playoff contention.
"I think we've concentrated on that the last couple of years," Elway said. "We've got some really good leadership in that locker room now, positive leadership, and guys that want to win football games. It's important to them. Instead of complaining about what's going on, we need guys in there — and like I said, we've got guys [now] — that can be positive with it and concentrate on doing the right things, the positive things, to get us back on the winning ways."
WHICH WAY TO GO IN THE FIRST?
Elway admitted the Broncos would need to add a wide receiver in the draft, but he deflected when asked which players were at the top of the Broncos' board.
"It's kind of what flavor you like, because it's a very deep draft when it comes down to receivers," Elway said. "I think that everybody obviously is going to have different views on what they think is the best fit for them. Obviously, there are a lot of good wideouts. It's hard to say exactly how it's going to fall. I think the good thing is and the fortunate thing for us [is] we do need a wideout. It's a deep class. We'll just have to see how things fall."
Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb are widely considered to be at the top of the class.
Elway has never drafted a player from Alabama, but he said that was purely coincidental.
"It's just kind of fell that way," Elway said. "There's really no reason. I know that obviously we have a great deal of respect for the program down there that [Alabama Head Coach] Nick Saban has and the football players that they have in their system. It's just kind of fallen that way. There's really nothing more than that. It just hasn't worked out. I think to be able to say there's a reason why we haven't drafted anybody from Alabama — we really don't have a reason other than the fact it's just not fallen that way."
At offensive tackle, Jedrick Wills Jr., Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas are the cream of the crop. Elway, though, said he thought there was good depth at the position. Depending on how things fall, one of the players could be available at No. 15.
"I think that's one of the stronger positions," Elway said. "That's the thing that we'll continue to do our mock drafts the next couple of days, just kind of play with different scenarios to see how they fall and fall with other positions and what direction we may go. We're just really going to do that with the mock drafts and try to cover all the different situations, because being virtual, it is a little bit different. We're trying to cover everything we possibly can cover before we go live in the draft and make sure that we've hopefully got every scenario. We won't be able to get every scenario covered, but hopefully we can get a lot of them covered so therefore we have a good idea of which direction we would go depending on how the draft falls."
Three days before the start of the first round, Elway said he was open to trading up from No. 15, trading down or staying put.
"We always look at the possibility of possibly going up, and we'll continue to do that," Elway said. "But we're also looking at going back. We can play around with the scenarios going up, but really it becomes dependent on who's available whether you're going to go up or if you sit or if you go back. We're looking at all those combinations."
John Elway has made five draft-day trades involving first-round picks during his nine-year stint as the Broncos' head football decision maker. For a closer look at his record, click here.
Despite the virtual nature of the draft, Elway said he expects trades will still occur.
"Obviously, the time constraints, being virtual and not having everybody in the same room makes it more difficult," Elway said. "That may lead to less trades. I still think there are going to be trades. If anything, I think it makes up prepare a little bit harder to have an idea at each position of where we are right now whether we go up or back — and not only in the first round, but in the second, third and fourth rounds and have an idea what the compensation may be in each one of those. Being virtual, it makes it tougher and … there's going to be more of a time crunch. We'll have to wait and see how it goes. I think as the draft goes and once we get through the first day and get through the second day, by the time we get to the third day, I think everybody we'll have a pretty good feel for it. We should make it through it just fine."
FREE AGENCY FREE-FOR-ALL
As the draft nears its end, scouts from all 32 teams begin to call players who may not be selected. They'll begin to recruit them and offer them reasons to join a given team. In a normal year, that process is a bit of controlled chaos. Some have projected that the virtual method would only amplify the hectic nature of the process.
Elway, though, said the Broncos' method won't change much.
"It's going to work pretty much as it has in the past, except it's just going to be done virtually," Elway said. "All our scouts will be on Zoom with 'Starky' [Director of College Scouting Brian Stark] and [Director of Player Personnel] Matt [Russell], and we'll be able to round those guys up once the draft is over and we'll be able to get on the phone with them. Obviously, it's always a difficult time but even more so this year with it being virtual. We're fortunate in the fact that with our numbers … we don't need too many CFAs. It's a good year to be in a position that we're in. Again, it's going to be more difficult because of it being virtual. Hopefully when the draft's over we can at least add seven, eight, nine CFAs that can have a chance to maybe make our team."
A TRIAL RUN
All 32 teams participated in a mock draft on Monday to simulate Thursday's first round. Though there were a few hiccups, Elway said the process was largely problem-free.
"The draft went smooth," Elway said. "It got off to a little bit of a hiccup when we first started, but other than that it went really smooth. There were really no problems with it, so we got more comfortable with it. It should be fine and go on without a glitch. I'm sure there'll be a couple glitches here and there, but actually for the first time I thought it went pretty well."