Denver Broncos: Breaking Down the Hits and Misses in Elway's Drafts

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Denver Broncos: Breaking Down the Hits and Misses in Elway's Drafts
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Brian Xanders, John Fox, Pat Bowlen and John Elway

With the draft season in full swing, it is the perfect time to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Denver Broncos roster.

There are some positions like middle linebacker that have been spots in need of improvement for quite some time. Other positions have become strengths of the team under the watchful eye of John Elway.

The Broncos came out of the 2010 season without a head coach, as Josh McDaniels was fired with 10 games remaining in the regular season. The team was at a low point for the franchise in recent history, and the Broncos needed to go back to basics.

Enter Elway, who expressed interest in joining the team. He did not want to be the head coach or the general manager at the time.

Instead, Elway was named executive vice president of football operations on Jan. 5, 2011. He was to report to team president Joe Ellis, and Elway was considered the direct supervisor of head coach John Fox.

Elway was to work directly with general manager Brian Xanders on personnel decisions. However, it was Elway who had the final say on such decisions.

The “three-legged stool” of Elway, Xanders and Fox was responsible for the 2011 draft class. Xanders left the team after the 2011 season in a move that gave Elway total control over the direction of the franchise.

Matt Russell was promptly promoted to director of player personnel, but the team moved forward in 2012 without anyone titled general manager.

That was the way Broncos ran things through the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Recently, the Broncos decided to give Elway that title.

Ellis announced Wednesday the team had signed Elway to a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season.

The team sent out an official statement from Ellis after the promotion.

Our organization is extremely pleased with the work John Elway has done in his three years since rejoining the Broncos,” Ellis said. “He has demonstrated great vision and leadership in his role, assembling a championship-caliber team and positioning it for sustained success. We are very confident in the direction of the Broncos with John Elway leading our football operations.

With Elway running the team, Denver has posted the third-most overall wins (37) in the NFL since 2011. The Broncos have gone 37-11 (.685 winning percentage) during that time, winning three consecutive AFC West titles for the first time in club history. They are 1-of-3 teams in the league to win their division in each of the last three seasons.

I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given with the Broncos,” Elway said. “Our goal is to continue building on the culture of winning established by Pat Bowlen, and we remain relentlessly committed to delivering a World Championship to our fans.

The Broncos quite frankly have returned to respectability since Elway was put in place.

The signature addition Elway has made to the roster has to be quarterback Peyton Manning. The most well-known subtraction to the roster has to be quarterback Tim Tebow.

Elway has constructed this roster in his vision. He has made controversial cuts, and he’s also kept players he believed in.

The Broncos made Super Bowl XLVIII—their first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years—with Elway acquiring or re-signing 58 of the 64 players (90.6 percent) on their active/reserve roster.

Elway has made more than 600 transactions in building Denver’s roster through the NFL draft, free agency, trades and waiver claims.

He is responsible for acquiring seven players who earned Pro Bowl recognition, including guard Louis Vasquez. In 2013, Vasquez became the NFL’s only free-agent signee to earn first-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press.

Let’s take a look at Elway’s hits and misses in the NFL draft. I will grade each prospect as a “hit," “miss” or “incomplete.” We will also see if there were better/different players to draft when these players were taken off the board.

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