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Broncos GM Elway not sweating his many needs on offense

By: ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
April 24, 2017 Updated: April 24, 2017 at 6:36 pm
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ENGLEWOOD — John Elway has a wicked defense and a wretched offense.

In many respects, Denver's defense last year was even better than the one that carried Peyton Manning across the finish line of his stellar career that ended with a Super Bowl 50 ring.

The Broncos' offense, on the other hand, was the primary culprit in Denver missing the playoffs one year later.

Denver needs upgrades at O-line and tight end and better depth at wide receiver and running back.

All these pressing necessities linger even as the Broncos ponder for a second straight offseason just who will be their starting quarterback.

Elway doesn't seem to be sweating it, though.

With the NFL draft 100 hours away, Elway was in a jovial mood Monday.

He stepped to the podium declaring this was "the most productive news conference of the year."

With the best questions?

"Absolutely."

Great, so, who you taking at No. 20?

"Yes."

What's your biggest need?

"A new GM."

Asked what Champ Bailey had done to deserve enshrinement in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night, Elway joked, "Absolutely nothing."

Elway also was asked why he brought in local star Christian McCaffrey for one of the Broncos' 30 official visits with prospects even though they're familiar with the son of former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.

"Because he was close. And it was free. And we wanted to meet with him," Elway cracked.

On more serious notes, Elway addressed many questions heading into this weekend's draft, where the Broncos own 10 selections:

CROSSROADS: Elway declined to call this draft any more important than his previous six drafts even though the Broncos are coming off their first non-playoff season under his leadership.

"No, they've all been important ... and this one's just as important," Elway said. "I think that 9-7 is a disappointing year for us, especially coming off of the Super Bowl. But we feel like we've got a lot of things in place that can help us be a very good football team. The division's gotten a lot tougher ... so that's part of the process in realizing that we've got to get better."

MIXON? Elway declined to say whether he'd consider drafting Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who punched a female student in 2014 after she'd shoved him.

"I'm not going to tell you who's on the board," Elway said.

The Broncos had Mixon in for a visit and got to ask him about the incident themselves.

Asked if he was concerned about Mixon's past, Elway said, "We're still evaluating that."

LEFT OUT: The Broncos' most glaring need is at left tackle, but options there include Ty Sambrailo, Menelik Watson, Donald Stephenson or Michael Schofield if Elway doesn't get his guy in the draft.

With today's spread offenses in college, there's a dearth of game-ready left tackles. Even the top prospects, Utah's Garret Bolles and Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, only have a year's experience starting.

"There could possibly be one," Elway said when asked if he felt there was a Day 1 starter at left tackle in this draft. "It depends. If that's where we go, he's going to come in and compete for a job."

MCCAFFREY CONCERNS: Elway said he's not among those who fear selecting McCaffrey would create a circus in his hometown.

"No. The concern is if he can play football. That's our concern," Elway said. "And that, he can do."

SLIP-SLIDING: The Broncos have twice benefited from players slipping down the draft board for off-the-field concerns: Bradley Roby in 2014 and Shane Ray in 2015.

When a guy starts to slip, "it starts opening discussions," Elway said. "And they're falling for a reason. So, usually if they fall you've got to realize, if he falls to us, No. 1, is it somebody we want? And No. 2, why is he falling? And if it's something that we can put up with, then we'll discuss that."

PETERS GONE: Elway said he plans to replace former college scouting director Adam Peters next month. New 49ers GM John Lynch hired Peters two months ago to serve as his vice president of player personnel.

"He's worked hard for that opportunity. And I'm happy for him. He did a tremendous job for us," Elway said. "But ... what we've done is spread some of the responsibility that Adam had with where we are now and then once we get through the draft and get into May we'll make some changes there."

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