Denver Broncos GM John Elway was reportedly in attendance at the Stanford pro day. Who was he there to watch or meet with?
NFL general managers don’t just show up at pro days across the country. Even though John Elway is a Stanford alum, he wasn’t at the Cardinal pro day to remember the ‘good old days’.
The exact reason for Elway’s decision to attend the Stanford pro day is really only known by Elway and his inner circle with the Broncos, and we don’t need to take it too seriously, but let’s think about why Elway might have been in attendance.
I can’t believe how many people I had riding my back on Twitter after I made the comment that I thought Elway was serious about taking a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft with the news that he was personally in attendance at the Stanford pro day.
We’ve seen or heard about Elway making appearances now at two pro days, one for Arizona State and one for Stanford.
The main attractions at both of those pro days? Wide receivers N’Keal Harry and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
I don’t disagree that there are other players in attendance that could be of interest to the Broncos. Look at what happened in 2018 when Elway and the entire front office made their way to the Colorado pro day, presumably for cornerback Isaiah Oliver, before ultimately signing Phillip Lindsay as an undrafted free agent and watching Oliver get picked elsewhere.
At Arizona State, it’s entirely possible Elway wanted to see Renell Wren work out up close.
At Stanford, is it possible Elway was there to get a closer look at linebacker Bobby Okerke? Tight end Kaden Smith?
Sure, it’s possible.
But is it all that likely?
We have to read the tea leaves this time of year.
Mike Klis, the 9News Broncos insider who has a direct connection to the Broncos’ front office, has been beating the table all offseason saying he thinks one of the team’s top three needs is wide receiver.
It makes sense.
When Emmanuel Sanders went down last year, the Broncos’ passing game suffered tremendously, even with talented young players like Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick.
Those three are all back this year, and Emmanuel Sanders is reportedly progressing well in his comeback from an Achilles injury.
But what happens if one guy gets hurt? The next men up on Denver’s depth chart right now are River Cracraft and converted cornerback Brendan Langley.
No offense to those guys — we like Cracraft and Langley — but the Broncos need some more talent at the position to work with if guys get hurt.
The team’s need at the receiver position — and I agree with Klis, it’s high — combined with the fact that the main attractions at the two pro days we know Elway has attended in person (again, Arizona State and Stanford) are receivers leads me to believe the Broncos are definitely in the market for a receiver with one of their top three picks.
N’Keal Harry is a 1st-2nd round guy and Arcega-Whiteside is a 2nd-3rd round guy.
Harry was also at the Broncos’ facility recently for an official top 30 visit.
I found it a little crazy I was getting so much flak for making the statement I did on Twitter. If the guy who has the closest inside access to Elway is saying receiver is a top need and Elway is going to these specific pro days, is it not a distinct possibility?
I also don’t think we need to pigeon-hole one type of receiver to the Broncos here. Harry and Arcega-Whiteside are both strong route runners who can play inside as slots or outside.
People have been saying that the Broncos need a player who is ‘just like’ Sanders and have been saying the same thing about needing a player who is ‘just like’ Roquan Smith for Vic Fangio’s defense, but we need to slow down a bit on these statements, as if finding carbon copies of these players is first of all possible or second of all achievable in one offseason for the Broncos.
Just because Arcega-Whiteside or Harry don’t compare favorably to Emmanuel Sanders in terms of their skillset doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t find uses for them in their new offense.
There was a great nugget in an interview from Diontae Johnson (Toledo) about his meeting with the Broncos and specifically receivers coach Zach Azzanni. He said one of his favorite things about what Azzanni showed/asked him about the Broncos’ offense was that every receiver is going to be asked to play multiple positions, whether inside or outside.
In other words, versatility is a must, and the Broncos aren’t looking for specific tools so much as they are looking for good players.
The former strategy can get teams in a lot of trouble.
Arcega-Whiteside is one of the best jump ball receivers you will see, and while he’s not a separation creator in terms of his quickness, he’s a good route runner and plays the position well, just not like Emmanuel Sanders exactly.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
In addition to being bombarded with a number of comments about how wrong I was that Arcega-Whiteside was Elway’s focus, it was apparent not many people remembered Bryce Love’s ACL injury.
Yes, Love is a player the Broncos should consider drafting, but there’s nothing Elway can glean from the pro day in terms of on-field evaluation and no one said they saw Elway talking with Love at length, trying to get to know him as a person.
The most likely conclusion — regardless of Elway’s affiliation with Stanford — is that he was there to see the best player on the field. That player was J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
Oh, by the way, Arcega-Whiteside is a senior and 2018 team captain, two essential requirements for every player among the Broncos’ 2018 NFL Draft class.