ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — John Elway returned from that five-touchdown loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl and decided the Denver Broncos, as much as anything, needed an attitude adjustment.
So, he went about beefing up his offensive line and injecting some nastiness into his defense.
He turned to veterans and youngsters alike.
The Broncos boss started his makeover in free agency and continued right through the three-day NFL draft that concluded Saturday with the selections of LSU middle linebacker Lamin Barrow, Boise State center Matt Paradis and Oklahoma outside linebacker Corey Nelson.
On defense, Elway added thumpers DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in free agency and selected Ohio State’s edgy cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round of the draft, Barrow in the fifth and Nelson in the seventh.
He shuffled an O-line that was manhandled by the swarming Seahawks, adding centers Will Montgomery in free agency and Paradis in the sixth round. The Broncos also moved Orlando Franklin from right tackle to left guard and spent a third-round pick on Michigan’s Michael Schofield, who declared his intent Saturday to win the starting job at right tackle.
However it all shakes out, Peyton Manning should have a lot more muscle in front of him this season as the Broncos try to give him more room to operate and add balance to their pass-heavy offense with a better ground game.
What should also help in that regard is the addition of second-round pick Cody Latimer of Indiana, whom Elway called the best-blocking wide receiver in this year’s draft.
Coach John Fox lauded the speed Denver added to its roster with these half-dozen picks, but just as important was the pluck the new guys bring to the Broncos, Elway said.
“Defensively, you throw Bradley in there, you throw Barrow in there with Corey, they understand that mentality and that switch,” Elway said. “And then you know the other thing is Cody brings that on the offensive side and that was one thing that we’re really excited about is the way he blocks and the physicality he plays with in the game as a wide receiver, which you don’t see a whole lot of.
“So, if there’s anything that we got out of that draft it is the physical mentality, and, as John said, a lot of speed.”
Elway picked up a fifth-round draft pick next year — when he expects to also have as many as four compensatory picks — by trading his fourth-rounder to Chicago on Saturday. Yet, he and Fox grew restless when there was a run on linebackers with Barrow in his sights late in the fifth round.
Fox “made about 18 laps around the room,” Elway said. “That was the most nervous time of the draft.”
Barrow mostly played weakside linebacker in college but his versatility will allow him to compete with Nate Irving for the starting middle linebacker job in Denver, where free agents Paris Lenon and Wesley Woodyard weren’t retained after sharing snaps at that position in 2013.
Nelson missed the last half of his senior season with a partially torn chest muscle but said that won’t be an issue: “My (pectoral) is 100 percent, it’s good to go,” he said. “It was supposed to be a six-month injury, but it only took me 3½ months.”
Paradis was raised in the tiny mountain town of Council, Idaho, walked on at Boise State as a defensive lineman in 2009 and finished as a two-time All-Mountain West center. He called his winding journey from eight-man high school football to NFL draft pick “pretty surreal.”
Among the 15 undrafted free agents the Broncos signed following the draft was Fresno State receiver/returner Isaiah Burse, who could fill Trindon Holliday’s vacated role.
Two intriguing college free agents are from up the road at Colorado State: running back Kapri Bibbs, who led the NCAA with 31 touchdowns last season in his only season at Fort Collins, and star Rams outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
An undrafted player has made the Broncos’ opening day roster for 10 straight seasons.
“We’re going to keep the best players,” Fox said. “It doesn’t really matter what their draft status is or where they came from, just how they perform.”
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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