INSIDE SCOOP

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The Sports Xchange

April 29, 2018 at 10:44 pm.

2018 Broncos draft: Maturity focus of this draft

The positions the Denver Broncos targeted in the 2018 NFL Draft were similar to what they focused on in 2017. They selected two wide receivers last year; they added two this year. They picked running backs on Day 3 each time. They selected a Big Ten tight end in the fifth round.

The similarities stop there.

After a 5-11 season that saw chatter of a gulf in the locker room between the veterans and young players — some of whom struggled with maturity issues at times — the Broncos went for tried-and-true players with significant high-level college experience — and no early-entry candidates.

Each of the Broncos’ 10 picks spent at least four seasons in college. The only two picks that did not exhaust their eligibility — second-round wide receiver Courtland Sutton and sixth-round offensive lineman Sam Jones — took redshirt seasons in 2014 and had earned their bachelor’s degrees.

Most of their picks were team captains and team leaders. All but one came from Power Five conferences — and Sutton, the exception, is from the American Athletic Conference, the clear No. 6 conference that produced the only undefeated team in FBS.

“It is a mature group,” general manager John Elway said.

That starts with outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, who grew from a 220-pound 4-3 outside linebacker when he arrived at North Carolina State into a 269-pound behemoth who kept his speed and quickness even as he moved into an edge-rushing role that saw him become one of college football’s most dominant pass rushers.

“One thing we wanted to do going into this draft was get quality football players but also quality people, and that was an emphasis — to have that maturity level,” Elway said.

Elway noted before the draft that the Broncos do some self-scouting on their own personnel evaluations, looking back at their reports to see what, where and why they missed on some prospects, and that the team’s evaluation process evolves as a result.

Some recent draft misfires — and a 5-11 season that resulted in part because of young reinforcements’ inability to adapt — led the Broncos to emphasize maturity and character in this year’s draft.

“One thing that we learned last year when we’re 5-11, when you’re in a losing streak, you need that maturity and that leadership to get things turned around,” Elway said. “These players have that ability and they have that maturity level.

“I’m not trying to say that we weren’t mature, but I’m just saying that you need guys that when you’re going through a tough time, they’ll be able to be mentally tough and get things turned around. That’s why we decided to go more in that direction, to say that if things got tough for a couple weeks, we’ve got to get things turned around.”

The Broncos needed maturity. But they also needed talent, too. They haven’t drafted a Pro Bowler since selecting Von Miller and Julius Thomas in 2011.

Chubb and Sutton, both of whom were arguably the best at their positions in this year’s class, have the best chance to change that — and build the Broncos back up from their 5-11 collapse.

 

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