ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway’s competitive juices are flowing again.
The Hall of Fame quarterback, who took over as the Denver Broncos’ chief of football operations this year, said that during his first foray into the draft room, “I felt like I was playing a football game. I think that’s why I was exhausted every night.”
Elway said he constantly paced the meeting room just like he used to do in the locker room before games or on the sideline between possessions.
When Elway was brought on board to help steer a franchise that has foundered since his retirement more than a decade ago, he said he wanted that adrenaline rush again.
And it came roaring back during the draft.
“I was excited,” Elway said. “Especially when you look at that board and you start getting closer to your pick and you’ve talked to the pick you want and then they’re falling to where you want … I was up pacing, walking around, getting nervous, hoping that the guy would fall to us.
“Even when I was playing football, I never sat. I didn’t sit down much. I was always pacing when I was playing football on the bench, too.”
Elway teamed up with general manager Brian Xanders and new coach John Fox in deciding who to pick, and the trio settled on six defenders among the team’s nine selections as they sought ways to fix a dismal defense that was the primary culprit in their 4-12 season last year.
“I was expecting there to be more confusion, having the short time per pick, than it really was,” Elway said.
The Broncos chose three linebackers, two safeties and a defensive end to go with two tight ends and a right tackle. Elway said it wasn’t at all difficult for him to dote on the defense even given his offensive background.
“Well, the bottom line as a quarterback, you know if you don’t have any defense and you can’t stop anybody, it makes your job that much tougher,” Elway said. “Believe me, I am all for being great on defense, too. So we were all on the same page.”
And he didn’t lament the lack of an offensive skill player such as a running back or quarterback, either.
“Well, I like those tight ends,” Elway said of Julius Thomas, a former basketball player, and Virgil Green, who can probably out-jump Thomas with his 42½-inch vertical leap.
“I feel pretty good at wide receiver. I feel pretty good at running back,” Elway said. “And obviously you always want to bring in that competition and I think as John (Fox) said, we’ll deal with that in the other pool.”
That would be free agency, which will happen once the players and owners solve their labor differences.
That’s also where the Broncos are going to have to look if they want to bring in a defensive tackle after bypassing the deep pool of run-stuffers in the draft. But nobody knows if free agents will be four-year players or if they’ll have to wait for six seasons to earn the freedom to shop their services.
“There’s some guys,” Elway said. “If it’s six-plus, we should get Marcus (Thomas) back. So, we feel pretty good about that.”
Elway said both Thomas and Kevin Vickerson are better fits in Fox’s 4-3 scheme than Josh McDaniels’ 3-4.
Heading into the draft, the Broncos had a multitude of needs on defense, and chief among them was finding a run-stuffer after they ranked 31st in the league against the run, allowing a whopping 155 yards a game on the ground.
They considered Alabama’s Marcell Dareus with the No. 2 pick overall but they decided Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, the top pass-rusher in the draft, was too good to pass up.
Elway called Dareus a great player with a great future, but “the difference to me was that (Miller) is one of those guys that comes along once in 10 years.”
Miller reminds many of the late Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, including Elway.
When he visited Dove Valley on Friday, Miller told Elway he wanted to wear No. 58, just like Thomas did.
“I liked it. I thought it was great,” Elway said. “I thought it was the perfect number for him.”
Although, Elway admitted, the very thought gave him some unpleasant flashbacks.
“It did. I said, ‘Don’t walk behind me,'” Elway cracked.