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John Elway: Draft rich in skill-position players, defensive backs

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Aside from a few potential tweaks to account for last-minute changes, the Broncos' draft board is set, as it has been since last Thursday.

Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway wouldn't reveal any of the names on the board Monday, but he did specify which positions have the most depth in this year's draft.

"Defensively, there are a lot of corners and safeties," he said. "Obviously, both lines are a little bit weaker than they have been in the past. There are a lot of running backs and tight ends. This is a very good year for tight ends. The last couple years with the way college football is going, wide receiver is always deep. There are a lot of wideouts."

Elway touched on a few other draft storylines at his press conference:



In 2014 and 2015, the Broncos found success using a pair of first-round picks on cornerback Bradley Roby and outside linebacker Shane Ray, respectively. Both were perceived by many pundits to have off-field issues that affected their draft stock.

Every year, reports about potential character issues regarding players pop up. Alabama's Reuben Foster, Florida's Caleb Brantley and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers all recently found themselves at the center of reports regarding legal issues or diluted urine samples at the Combine.

When these situations arise, the Broncos lean heavily on the work of their scouts, who have talked to numerous people connected to each potential prospect to get a clearer picture of the player's character. The scouts' reports allow the decision-makers to sift through the noise to reach the reality of a player's character.

"I think No. 1 is to have the background, and our scouts do a tremendous job," Elway said. "I think their job is not only evaluating the players, but also the background research that they do on each player. We have that."

If everything checks out and the Broncos draft the player, it's up to the organization as a whole to provide a support system to help that player flourish.

"Then the most important thing after that is do we put them in a situation when they get here that we can help them," Elway said. "These are young guys. We have to help them down the walk of life. Ray Jackson, who is our [director of player development], does a tremendous job. What have they done, No. 1, and No. 2, can Ray get them going and help them out?

"We get them in a situation where we support them and get them going down the right path where we feel like we can put those mistakes in the past and go in the right direction."



And that is in terms of pass-catchers who don't often line up next to the tight end in an "in-line" position, otherwise known as the "Y" tight end. This tight end can line up in a three-point stance or a two-point stance. That contrasts with the "F" or "move" tight end, who moves around and can align himself in the slot, outside or even at fullback.

"When we classify a tight end, the fact is you have 'Y' and an 'F.' It's a deep 'F' class, [with] guys that are good [route-runners] and can move, not necessarily the strength of being an in-line tight end," Elway said. "There are a couple of good in-line tight ends, but for the most part they are 'Fs.' They are more scheme fits."

Prospects like Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges, Mississippi's Evan Engram and South Alabama's Gerald Everett are examples of players who would fall into that "F" category.

"That is why we say it is a deep class, but what happens is if that is where it falls to us in the third, fourth, fifth round, there may be a real tight end there that we can go ahead and get," Elway said. "Again, it goes down to a scheme fit. When we talk about tight end, we have to classify between the 'Y' and the 'F.'"



"He was close. And it was free," Elway joked of the Valor Christian product, who has conducted most of his pre-draft workouts in the Denver area and merely had to take a short drive to UCHealth Training Center.

"He's a great kid. We like Christian a lot and we wanted to bring him in," Elway said. "It was one of those [situations where] he was in the area, so we wanted to take advantage of that to get to see him again. He's a great kid."

He's also the kind of player that could tune out the distractions that would accompany being the local hero and heir to a Broncos legacy if the team selected him Thursday. Elway said he had no concerns about such issues.

"My concern is if he can play football. That's our concern. And that, he can do," Elway said.

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