ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – As the draft droned on and the Denver Broncos slid down the board, John Elway’s cellphone buzzed yet again.
No, it wasn’t another general manager calling to pitch another trade. It was a buddy offering advice via text.
“Need to pick, can’t have another drink.”
The Broncos, though, traded out of the first round entirely Thursday night, sending the draft partyers home disappointed.
The Broncos owned the 25th overall selection when the draft began and traded down twice, leaving them without a first-rounder for the first time since 2005.
“Well, we didn’t get any better yet,” Elway said, “but we will tomorrow.”
The Broncos initially traded down six spots, acquiring the 31st overall pick and a fourth-rounder (No. 126 overall) from New England for the 25th selection.
Then, they sent both of those picks to Tampa Bay for the Buccaneers’ second-rounder, No. 36 overall, and the 101st selection, in the fourth round.
“I can understand the fans being a little bit disappointed,” Elway said. “They want to get excited and see who’s going to be the next Denver Bronco. I think everybody naturally wants to do that. But that will be over as soon as we get started tomorrow.”
Several players with first-round grades – defensive tackles Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, along with Stanford tight end Coby Fleener and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill among them – are still on the board and could be there when the Broncos make the fourth pick of the second round.
The Broncos’ greatest need is a big man who can pressure the pocket from the middle, between edge rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, but when Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers were all taken in the middle of the first round, the Broncos began entertaining offers to move down.
“Everyone else saw the talent that we saw there, too,” Elway said. “Those guys started going like that and went in a hurry. We thought we were going to have to get a little bit lucky for them to fall to us anyway, but they’re great football players. And so they didn’t get to us; that gave us the opportunity to start moving back.”
Elway said he figures the same players will be available at 36 that were there at 31 or even at 25, so moving up 25 spots in the fourth round was worth it.
“We really believe that this is a deep draft. It’s not real thick at the top but it’s deep through the middle rounds,” Elway said. “So we thought adding another pick would give us more options going into tomorrow and plus we’d still have the people we really had targeted that made it to us at 25, we’ll still have them at 36.
“I mean, obviously, it’s a little bit of a downer when you don’t have a new player but we’re excited about where we sit and the next two days are going to be exciting.”
With a half-dozen picks in the next three rounds, no one should be surprised if Elway isn’t done dealing, either.
“Everything’s a possibility,” Elway said. “It gives us some good currency to do some things if we decide we wanted to do something tomorrow.”
The Broncos won’t change their philosophy or draft board overnight, however. They still believe in getting the best player available and if that happens to fit one of their many needs, all the better.
“We worked so hard on that board, we’re going to stay true to the board and the way we grade everybody,” Elway said. “We did stay true with what we did today in moving back the way we did. The guys that we liked and targeted we believe have a chance to be there. There was a big enough group of guys there that we liked that we believe they’ll be there at 36.”
The Broncos own eight picks over the next two days, and Elway’s desire to find several impact players hasn’t changed.
“We want to find a couple tomorrow,” Elway said. “Any time you’re picking in the second – we’ve got two in the second and then one in the third – so we still feel like those impact guys are there and if they’re not impact, they’re definitely contributors. So are the fourth-round guys. And we’ve done a lot in free agency this offseason, but you know, we also still need to add a lot of depth with young guys, too.
“As we talked about last year, we’re not going to fix this thing overnight, we’re not going to fix it with one draft. There will be those impact guys. Plus, we’ll be able to get a lot of quality young football players, which is what we need to do to be able to build this base.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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