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Everything we learned from John Elway’s pre-draft press conference

Zac Stevens Avatar
April 20, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In just over 20 minutes and barely under 3,000 words, John Elway fulfilled his annual duties of his pre-draft press conference.

In front of a packed media room at the UCHealth Training Center on Thursday afternoon, Elway was grilled on the usual topics of the draft just one week away and other questions about the state of the Denver Broncos.

It was the first four words right before the first question was fired at him that set the tone for how his press conference would go. Instead of the usual “I’m not going to tell you anything” line that he typically gives before his annual presser, he diverged, instead saying: “Lay it all out.”

Compared to previous years, he did just that. Here’s everything Elway divulged one week before the draft.

The Broncos don’t know who they will pick yet

With reports, rumors and speculation swirling and continuing to swirl for the next seven days leading up to the draft about who Denver may — and will — draft, the fact of the matter is the Broncos themselves don’t even know yet.

“Ultimately, it’s really going to come down to draft day,” Elway said, reminding the public about how much can change in a week.

On Monday, 72 hours before the start of the draft, the Broncos will start the fun part of draft prep: Hypothetical drafts and trade talk with other teams. Until then, Denver is stacking their board, trying to nail down the final order, specifically at the quarterback position.

“You can go around a room and probably get four or five different opinions on how they should be stacked,” Elway said about the quarterback position. “But the bottom line is once you come to a consensus of maybe where the first and second ones are—if you have that consensus then you’re doing pretty good.”

As for what Elway is looking for with the No. 5 overall pick, well it’s simple: “We will take the best player for the Denver Broncos. Whoever that is.”

It all comes down to John

As the general manager, the buck stops with Elway, and he confirmed that on two different fronts on Thursday.

While Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph will have their respective inputs and “voice” in the draft war room next week, Elway made it clear that he is the final decision maker and has the ultimate tiebreaker when it comes to who the Broncos select.

On another, not as obvious front, Elway said he doesn’t listen to preconceived notions about players character. Instead, he lets his interactions with prospects do the judging.

“No matter what’s been said out there, I try to draw my own conclusions and get as many viewpoints on a kid. The bottom line is I have to draw from my own, and with the feel I get from them,” he said. “A lot of people look at different people, different ways. It’s hard to draw from too many different opinions until you get around them and get a feel for them yourself.”

The Broncos are open for business with the No. 5 overall pick

“I’m open to trading,” Elway said about the team’s first-round pick, immediately sending chaos through the NFL world.

Before people jump to conclusions that Denver is moving back, Elway said multiple times how the team would explore, and be open to, trading up in the draft as well as back. Just because the team is open to the idea doesn’t mean that’s their first priority.

“If we’re going to move back, we’ve got to go back and look and say, ‘What do we think we’re going to get if we move back.’ We’ve got to go through every different scenario,” Elway said, not tipping his cap one way or the other. “If we move up, what is it going to cost us to move up and is it worth it to move up. All those scenarios, we’ll start working on them on Monday.”

Case Keenum is the starting quarterback… for now

The moment Elway introduced his $18 million quarterback, he also named him the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Just over a month later, nothing has changed. For now, that is.

When asked if the team would be willing to develop a rookie quarterback behind Keenum, Elway said, “Case is our starter, so we’ll cross that road when we get there.”

The key word in his answer was when. Instead of saying if, Elway said the team will cross that road when they get there.

It’s all but certain that the team will draft a running back

After not giving an exact reason for why he released running back C.J. Anderson on Monday, Elway made it very clear where Denver will look to find his replacement.

“It’s a deep running back class as I’m sure you’ve heard,” he said, before showing his cards. “We feel good about the fact that we’ll be able to get a good one.”

Shane Ray’s long-term future with the team is uncertain

As the former first-round pick enters his fourth season in the league, the Broncos have a decision coming up about whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option.

On Thursday, Elway said the team still hasn’t made a decision regarding that, adding “We’re still considering that. We’ll take a look at that.”

If Denver were to pick up his fifth-year option, the Broncos would control Ray’s rights through 2019, and he would be set to make just under $10 million in 2019 — a hefty increase from his $1.7 million salary in 2018.

Although Ray has 13 sacks in 15 career starts, he missed half of last season dealing with injuries and has only played a full season once (2016). The team has until May 3, to make that decision.

Elway has evolved his stance on what he looks for in a quarterback

When Elway became general manager of the Broncos, he admittedly was drawn to quarterbacks with big arms and suburb physical traits. Then, he had Peyton Manning on his team.

“Peyton was more of the cerebral type. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been doing this job as far as what certain quarterbacks have success with,” Elway explained. “The bottom line is that I believe the one thing is that is that you got to be able to win from the pocket. No matter what you do, I think the one thing that I’ve learned is as a quarterback you got to be able to win it from the pocket.”

“You can win games, but you can’t win championships unless you have the ability to win it from the pocket. Then if you can get out and move around and create, and do those types of things, then that’s an added bonus.”

If the Broncos do, in fact, draft a quarterback, by all accounts, it will be one that can succeed from the pocket. After drafting two quarterbacks 6-foot-7 in height — Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch — Elway said he’s open to drafting shorter players for that position, specifically saying Baker Mayfield has “overcome the size issue” and is “fine” at his height.

Chris Harris Jr. “deserved” added incentive to contract

On Wednesday, for the first time in his career, Elway gave a player financial compensation for nothing in return after adding $3 million in incentives to Harris’ 2018 contract. The reason was simple.

“He deserved it. He did. He’s done a great job for us,” Elway said, trying to think of more words to describe the goodwill move. “We thought that it was the right thing for us to do on behalf of Chris and the way he’s played and the things that he’s done, not only on the field, but off the field. We’re glad to be able to come to an agreement and incentivize him. Not that he needs it, but hopefully he reaches them all, too.”


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