INDIANAPOLIS — John Elway has arrived at each of the last four NFL Combines with uncertainty at the Broncos' quarterback position.
Whether he has been scouting a college prospect, nearing the signing of a free agent or in the wake of a recently agreed upon trade, Elway has looked for Peyton Manning's successor since he retired in 2016.
As the 2020 NFL Combine begins, Elway has no such problems.
"It feels a little better coming here without having to worry about that position, knowing which direction you're going to go," Elway said Tuesday.
That direction is behind the right arm of second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who won four of his five starts to end his rookie season.
The 42nd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lock is far from a finished product. He did show enough, however, to inspire Elway and Head Coach Vic Fangio to build around him.
"I thought talent-wise, I thought he could make all the throws," Elway said. "He can adjust his arm angle and do all the different things. He was athletic enough to move around and make plays, throw the ball on the run. Physically, I thought he was as good as anyone coming out of last year. The big question is always what's inside, and that's the hardest part about that position, is figuring out what's inside. Drew's got that — so far — he's got the 'It' factor. He's got the confidence to play the position. As I told him, 'The sky's going to fall down. It's going to come caving in. It's how you handle it when it caves in.' I think he's got the ability to do that because of the confidence he has in himself."
Added Fangio: "I feel as comfortable as you can be at this point. He played five games, which I think was very important for him to do. He did well. We're optimistic."
And even with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers potentially hitting the free-agent market, Elway sounded confident in letting the young player lead the Broncos forward.
"We'd always talk to him, but I think that we're happy with what we have with Drew," Elway said of Brady.
As Lock heads into his second season, he should only improve upon a promising rookie campaign.
"It's a big jump from your first year to your second year, especially when you get to play as much as he got to play," Elway said. "So I think he'll come into this offseason knowing a lot more than he did last year. This offseason, OTAs will be much better for him. And then even going into camp, … [him] knowing what to expect, he'll be leaps and bounds — I hope — from where he was last year, and I thought he played very well last year."
Elway emphasized that Lock still needs to improve — and that the Broncos have more work to do to return to the postseason for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50.
"I feel great about Drew, but he's got a long way to go," Elway said. "It's nice to have the excitement and feel like you have a guy that has a possibility to be able to fit that bill. But again, now it's the fun part of trying to fill around him, get the right guys around him as well as take care of Vic on the defensive side."
And while the Broncos' 4-1 finish isn't necessarily indicative of how 2020 will play out, it was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. That means Elway isn't concerned about Lock's play potentially being a "false positive" indicator of his play.
"It may be a false positive, but it was a positive," Elway said. "So that was a good thing. I'm taking all the positives. Going into this offseason, I think what Drew's about, I'm excited about him. We've got to continue to get better around him and give him an opportunity to be successful."