ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** One key emphasis over recent months as the Broncos prepare for a new season is the growing focus on getting the younger players to make an impact on the field. From Cody Latimer to Michael Schofield, Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway have discussed how they hope to see potential become reality.
As the NFL Draft approaches, now a week away, the focus turns to a new class of young players coming into the league, and the impact they can make.
Elway said that when the team looks at evaluating prospects, they try to project how likely the player is to start in their second year.
"There are a lot of factors that contribute to how much a young guy is going to be able to contribute coming out of college right away compared to his second year," Elway said on Thursday at his press conference. "When we project guys, we project guys in the draft if they are going to be starters in their second year. That's how we try to project guys. We don't think about them coming out and being starters right away. When we grade them that is what our projection is."
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And in the meantime while players are building their understanding of how to adjust from college to the pro system, Elway said special teams is where they can cut their teeth.
"You'd rather have them play offense or defense, but I think the contribution is on the special teams side and that's important," Elway said. "We want guys that not only are going to help us and be good football players, whether it be on offense or defense, but especially when they are young, they've got to be able to contribute on the special teams now. That gets more difficult when you have a better football team."
Ultimately building a level of competition is key in helping make the team better, and that goes for all phases.
"We're very fortunate to have a pretty good football team, so the competition when they come in here is severe," he continued. "There is going to be a lot of competition for them. That's the way we want it. Hopefully we can have guys that can come in here and not only compete for jobs, but make the guys that are here better, too."
Though he added that they do look to find immediate starters, Elway also said depth and number of snaps can be important when you look at how players get on the field.
"Other than offensive line, the quarterback position and starting corners, who really starts?" Elway queried. "The defensive line is a rotation now, so you need depth at defensive line because that rotation needs it. You need guys in the secondary that come in at nickel. You need third and fourth guys that are cover guys that are going to play a lot. They're not necessarily starters, but they're going to play a lot.
"That's why when you talk about 46 guys going into Sunday—the only guy that doesn't play is the backup quarterback unless he's holding—so we talk about really being starters. We're talking about contributing. I know I said the way we look at them is as starters, but the way the league is kind of going is that especially on the defensive line there is so much rotational stuff that goes on as well as in the secondary. I think that we'll have guys coming out of this draft that are definitely going to help us this year."
With 10 draft picks slotted for the Broncos this year, Elway said those give the team plenty of opportunities to find the players who can compete and push the team and possibly make a big impression on the team.
"You never have enough of them either," he said. "Sometimes the more bullets you have the more chances you have to be successful."