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Sacco Sez: How John Elway's draft focus on offense looks both to his past and to the Broncos' future

The Denver Broncos come into their 61st season of play in 2020, and the majority of those season have been tied, successfully so, to John Elway.

From the trade for Elway in 1983 through his 16 Hall of Fame seasons — highlighted by back-to-back Super Bowl championships — and his being one of just two quarterbacks to ever start in five Super Bowls, it has always been about Elway.

And of course he is the only Hall of Fame quarterback who can also boast of a Super Bowl win as a general manager, in the iconic Super Bowl 50.

We have just concluded the 2020 NFL draft, and the Broncos' draft has been praised by all for what it was.

You never get all the players at all the positions, but the Next Gen Stats group ranked the top five team grades by draft score, "teams to prioritize athleticism and production", and the Broncos were ranked number one.

The order was Denver, 77; Indianapolis, 75; Baltimore, 74; Tennessee, 74; and Pittsburgh, 74.

But what I and everyone else found significant was that Elway said we needed to improve our offense, and he put his focus there.

He previously said the Broncos are "going to build around Drew [Lock]", and he gave the young quarterback as many weapons as the draft could reasonably provide.

But it was not always that way when Elway played quarterback for the Broncos himself.

The Broncos were the only AFC team to advance to three Super Bowls in the decade of the 1980s (Super Bowl XXI in 1986, XXII in 1987 and XXIV in 1989).

But in that decade, Denver had the fewest non-quarterback Pro Bowl players of any of the teams that advanced to the Championship Game, AFC or NFC.

Here's a quick rundown of who make up the Broncos' 2020 NFL Draft class, with a photo for each pick.

Denver was the only participant without a skill position player to be initially named a Pro Bowler — running back Sammy Winder made it once as an alternate — and shockingly, the only other offensive Pro Bowler (aside from Elway) during those three Super Bowl runs was guard Keith Bishop. Two players in three championship seasons is an amazingly low number. 

Denver was considered a one-man team on offense, and Elway, a coach's son, would always defer to it being a team game but the player honors bear out the phrase.

But Elway, as the Broncos' general manager, seemed determined to give Drew Lock the maximum numbers of weapons, and now they can all develop their careers together. 

He used the first- and second-round selections on wide receivers, and that was the first time in franchise history that receivers have been taken on the first two picks.

During Elway's playing career, a wide receiver was taken in the first round just twice: in 1987, when Denver selected Florida wide receiver Ricky Nattiel, and then more than a decade later, when the Broncos chose Tennessee wide receiver Marcus Nash in 1998.

Denver selected skill position players just once in Elway's length career, that being in 1985 when we picked versatile running back Steve Sewell in round one and then took wide receiver Vance Johnson in round two.

In fact, in 1992, Elway had said he was hoping for a wide receiver in Round 1. Inexplicably, then-head coach Dan Reeves not only did not choose an available receiver, but instead selected a quarterback, Tommy Maddox of UCLA.

That remains to this day one of the most perplexing selections in Broncos draft history, as Elway had played just nine years, was in his prime and had already taken the franchise to three Super Bowls!

But with him as general manager, we have watched Elway guide the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII with perhaps the greatest offense in NFL history and then totally rebuild the team to a defensive model and win Super Bowl 50 with a generational defense.

And now, with a strong defense still in place and veteran defensive genius Vic Fangio as head coach, Elway once again is doing a remodel, this one on offense.

He selected wide receiver Courtland Sutton just two years ago and of course added quarterback Drew Lock last year, before drafting his 2020 haul of offensive players.

A couple of commentators have provided the cautionary note that the Broncos will be very young on offense, and that that factor could cause some growing pains.

But back when the San Francisco 49ers won the first of their Super Bowls with Bill Walsh as head coach, they started three rookies in the defensive backfield. And not only did they not slow down the team, they led the way.

When you can play, you can play, regardless of youth.

The concept of surrounding a young quarterback with the tools he needs is a good one, and it could not have been carried out any stronger than how President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway did during the three days of the draft.

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