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John Elway, Vic Fangio preparing contingency plans for NFL Draft, offseason program

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the NFL's offseason, the Broncos are in the midst of formulating a plan for both the NFL Draft and the team's offseason program.

With the draft just over three weeks away and NFL training centers currently closed through at least April 8, John Elway said Tuesday the Broncos will be "prepared for everything" to ensure a smooth selection process on April 23-25.

"I think that's one thing where we don't know exactly what's in front of us," Elway said, "and so we will prepare for all different situations, especially if we can't get back into our complex and make sure that we have enough bandwidth for everything to be able to get everything done that we need to. Depending on how many people we can have around each other with the social distancing, all those things we will start preparing for now."

The Broncos would likely need to find a setup that allows them to connect with their own decision-makers, the NFL and other teams in the event of trades.

Elway said the Broncos are looking into holding the team's draft process away from the facility, if necessary.

Yet while the preparations will continue away from UCHealth Training Center, Elway reiterated Tuesday that the Broncos are "in good shape" for the start of the draft.

"I think the good thing is we've gotten a tremendous amount of work done already," Elway said. "Our scouts are already looking at juniors that are possible guys that come out next year in the draft. Our scouts at this point in time [have] moved on to next year. So, as far as this year's draft and the information and the reports that we've gotten from all the scouts, those are all in. We feel good about where we are. It helped us tremendously [that] Vic … had the coaches stay home from the Combine and spend one full week on the draft, and so all the coaches got all their reports in on the players in this year's draft. That was beneficial.

"… We feel pretty good about where we are. The draft staying where it is is fine. … We're in good shape."

Elway said the team will hold interviews with prospects via either phone or video conference, and the assistant coaches will be involved in those meetings.

Largely, though, Head Coach Vic Fangio believes the Broncos will rely on the film of the hundreds of prospects. For players who were not invited to the Combine and did not have a Pro Day because of the virus, that will be particularly important.

"I think every year you hear people say — scouts and coaches and personnel people — that 90 percent of the evaluation is off the tape, the other 10 percent is the Combine and Pro Days and all the other stuff goes on with it," Fangio said. "This is the year it will really be tested. It will be 90 percent what you see on tape, and we'll go from there. We do not have the workout times that you normally have to evaluate guys, but sometimes those workout times and that information just clouds the issue. It's nice to know what a guy runs a 40[-yard dash] in, but how fast does he run on tape is more important. A lot of times you can guess how fast a guy runs, generally speaking. It's more important what the tape is.

"That's what everybody says, and this will be the year that that's really put to [the] test."

The Broncos will also search for a way to work with their current players, who were eligible to return for the beginning of the offseason workout program on April 20.

League-wide, those programs have been delayed indefinitely.

"Well, luckily in my case and a good bit of the other coaches' cases, we experienced the 2011 lockout, so there is some precedent to this," Fangio said. "The only difference being that the players right now are struggling at times to find a place to work out, because most of the gyms and the places where they would go for that have been closed down. But I've talked to a bunch of the players in the last week or so, and a lot of them are finding ways to get it done. There's precedent for this happening."

Fangio said the Broncos are in the process of sending players their tablets in order to communicate over the next couple of months. Fangio and the coaching staff are still able to talk with their players, unlike during the 2011 lockout. The Broncos are currently working on a plan to communicate with the 90-man roster, including potential video calls.

When the coaches and players are allowed to return to UCHealth Training Center, Fangio will be able to begin the on-field portion of putting his defense together. 

Following the addition of Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye, Fangio should have multiple options for where to line certain players up and where to focus his scheme.

"Obviously they're two good football players that we're happy to have," Fangio said. "They've got experience in multiple systems, so anything that we might ask them to do for us, they should be capable from a mental standpoint. That will just be a trial-and-error [process] and see what best fits the 11 guys we have. I'm confident that however our defense turns out … these guys can fit in a multitude of schemes."

At a later date, Casey and Bouye will get the chance to prove that. For now, the Broncos continue to prepare from afar.

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