Goodbye, Groupthink … Hello, Myriad Opinions

Brian Xanders

General manager Brian Xanders makes a point at a press conference Wednesday. (PHOTO: MAXDENVER.COM)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Multiple opinions are welcome in the Broncos’ draft room.  Multiple possibilities for potential Broncos are, too.

So if the Broncos don’t trade their No. 2 pick next Thursday and the Panthers take a player the Broncos had targeted, don’t expect the Broncos to panic.

“There are four or five top guys that we’ll be happy with,” Broncos executive vice president John Elway said as he closed the joint press conference with general manager Brian Xanders on Wednesday at team headquarters.

That flexibility continues down the draft board, both said. The team’s available pool of potential picks has increased from approximately 100 to 190, Xanders noted.

“Maybe this is just a stronger draft, but we have more players,” Xanders said, adding that the move to a 4-3 defense alignment expanded the available pool of players.

“The 3-4 is really specific in the traits that we were looking for at linebacker and defensive line,” Xanders said. “The 4-3 shift allows more players to come onto the draft board.”

The team’s draft board remains fluid, Xanders said, adding that the team’s top brass met with four draft prospects just an hour before Elway and Xanders began their press conference.

“We’re still going through the process. We’re finishing up with the defensive backfield now, and then once we get through that, we’ll start combining (the positions).”

AS THE BRONCOS CONSTRUCT THEIR DRAFT BOARD, there has been no shortage of in-house opinions, with Xanders, Elway, head coach John Fox and the team’s coaches and scouts all offering their input.

The difference now is that divergent perspectives are encouraged, as the team tries to move away from groupthink and into building a consensus from contrasting opinions.

“There are a lot more meetings,” Xanders said. “It’s been a great process with everybody contributing.”

Denver’s college scouts shared their background research and findings with Xanders, Elway and Fox in February, Xanders said. The team brought in extra pro scouts to offer opinions.

“We go around the room, and the position coach gets to speak first and make his case for how (the player) fits with the Broncos, and then everybody else in the room that’s evaluated him gets to state their case. Then we watch a lot of tape — over 150 plays, usually — and then we roll into the all-star games, and then we watch the Combine and compare the numbers.

“It’s a more intensive, inclusive meeting. It’s been very positive so far.”

Xanders said that the emphasis on meetings and multiple perspectives is similar to what he experienced in Atlanta under former Broncos and Falcons coach Dan Reeves from 1997-2003.

“Everybody got to voice their opinion (under Reeves),” Xanders said.

It also parallels how the Panthers handled the draft from 2002-10 with Fox and general manager Marty Hurney as equals on the organization’s flowchart.

“I’m trying to meld what Brian is used to and what John is used to and get the best out of both situations and what’s best for the Denver Broncos,” Elway said, “I’ve been more of a student there than a contributor when it comes down to how to do things just because of my inexperience in that area.”

During the three days of the draft, the Broncos’ draft room will include Xanders, Fox and Elway, four members of the team’s personnel department and a team trainer to offer medical reports on the prospects, with assistant coaches shuttling in and out of the room as their positions are debated.

Everyone’s opinion has some validity, which makes one wonder — what happens if they can’t reach a consensus?  Elway’s title would imply that he would break all ties, but …

“If there’s a tiebreaker (needed), maybe (that player) is not the right guy,” Elway said.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.

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