What is the Denver Broncos draft strategy in 2018?

ENGLEWOOD, CO - JANUARY 12: Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway fields questions from the media during a press conference to introduce Vance Josepf as the new head coach at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on January 12, 2017 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, CO - JANUARY 12: Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway fields questions from the media during a press conference to introduce Vance Josepf as the new head coach at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on January 12, 2017 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

John Elway has seven drafts under his belt. What trends and strategies have emerged in seven drafts that will impact the Denver Broncos 2018 NFL Draft…

Every general manager has a unique strategy when it comes to drafting. Some prefer to trade up and down the draft, while others prefer to stay put in their positions.

Some follow their big board and draft the best player available, and others emphasize certain positions in the draft process more than others.

When it comes to draft day, opposing teams and draft analysts use these trends to help determine where players might potentially go.

Filling Holes Through Free Agency

John Elway’s main offseason strategy is to fill as many needs of the team as possible through free agency. By doing this, he can then employ the best player available approach throughout the draft.

This grants him the flexibility to trade up and down throughout the draft if the offer is right, and it makes it difficult to accurately predict who Denver will take throughout the draft.

Current mock drafts link Denver to each of the top quarterbacks, Quenton Nelson, Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith, and even Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Draft-Day Trades

As mentioned above, Elway often has the flexibility to trade up and down due to his free agency approach, and he does so quite often.

In Elway’s second year managing the Broncos in 2012, he traded three times. They traded back twice in the 1st round to eventually receive the 36th overall pick and the 101st overall pick in the draft. These picks were used on Derek Wolfe and Omar Bolden.

Then in the 3rd round, Denver jumped up to the 67th overall pick by sending the 87th and 120th overall picks to the Browns for the chance to select Ronnie Hillman.

In 2015, Denver jumped from the 28th pick to the 23rd pick by trading away two 5th rounders and Manny Ramirez to select Shane Ray. Ray was a top 10 player on Denver’s big board that fell due to off-field issues. Denver proceeded to make two more trades to cap off the 2015 draft.

In Elway’s busiest year, 2016, he started by trading up five spots in the 1st round to select Paxton Lynch. By the end of the 2016 NFL Draft, Denver made four more trades for a total of five.

Per NFL.com, over the last seven drafts, John Elway has made 20 draft day trades for an average of 2.85 per year. This year, he is off to a hot start sending away Aqib Talib and Trevor Siemian and obtaining Jared Veldheer and Su’a Cravens with day three draft capital.

I expect to see a few more trades in the coming weeks and on draft day with CJ Anderson and Max Garcia rumored to be on the trade block and Riley Dixon recently being added to the trade block after the signing of ex-Raider Marquette King.

Draft Selection Tendencies

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Although Elway has no qualms about moving around in the draft and taking the best player available, he does have a tendency to emphasize certain positions at certain spots in the draft. Some of these tendencies might surprise you given the nature of the current roster.

Out of 54 draft picks, Denver selected 11 defensive backs (20%), with five of those picks coming in the first three rounds (Bradley Roby, Rahim Moore, Justin Simmons, Brendon Langley, and Kayvon Webster). Interestingly enough, until last season the entire Broncos starting secondary was comprised of free agent acquisitions.

The second most drafted position is the defensive line (not including edge rushers Von Miller or Shane Ray) with eight draft picks and four in the first two rounds, none in rounds three or four and the remainder coming in rounds five through seven.

The third most drafted position is running backs, but I want to focus on the fourth most drafted position, tackle.

As most fans would recognize (as does Elway), the tackle position has been a sore spot for years, specifically at the right tackle position. It certainly isn’t for lack of trying. Denver has invested five draft picks in the first four rounds on the tackle position, but only one is still on the roster (last year’s first-rounder Garrett Bolles).

One of the more interesting trends is that three of the biggest needs heading into this offseason — off-ball linebacker, wide receiver, and guard — have not valued as highly as other positions throughout Elway’s reign.

Only one off-ball linebacker has been selected before round five (Nate Irving in 2011). Only three of Elway’s seven draft classes have included a wide receiver, and the Denver Broncos have not used a day one or day two pick on a guard.

There is a chance a few of these trends are broken this year. Predominantly Orange writer Sayre Berlinger even wrote an article last week about the possibility of Denver going linebacker early in the draft.

A few additional interesting draft trends from Denver:

  • Elway has drafted a defensive back every single draft class
  • Five of the seven drafts have included a quarterback
  • The Denver Broncos have drafted one true center in seven years, which turned out pretty well (Matt Paradis in 2014)
  • Denver has drafted a player from 46 different schools. Only one school has had three players drafted by the Denver Broncos (Oklahoma), and six schools have had two players (Utah, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio State, Tulane, and Arizona State).
  • 26% (14 out of 54) of the players drafted have not been from a Power Five conference.

So what does all of this mean for the Denver Broncos heading into the 2018 NFL Draft?

  • You can expect to see a few trades from Elway and company come draft day.
  • There will be a defensive back selected at some point. I would be shocked if a defensive back wasn’t selected on day two after trading away Talib.
  • It’s unlikely the Denver Broncos will be using a draft pick on a wideout on the first two days even with depth concerns. The team is reportedly still very high on last year’s third rounder, Carlos Henderson.
  • There will be a quarterback drafted. This one might seem obvious, but if the Broncos don’t select a quarterback on day one, I do anticipate them taking a flyer on a guy in day two or three.
  • There will be a running back taken in the middle rounds. The Broncos have been linked to a few mid-round prospects already such as Rashaad Penny.
  • Linebacker will be a point of emphasis early. The Broncos are using some of their 30 official visits on linebackers including Washington’s Keishawn Bierria, Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, and Iowa’s Josey Jewell.

Regardless of what the actual outcome is on draft weekend, it’s going to be a lot of fun. This is arguably John Elway’s most important draft class, and he will be pulling out all the stops.