With the NFL draft officially on in 18 days, Trader John could be manipulating to get two premier players early from the national champion Bayou Bengals.
But not LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who will be drafted No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Can John Elway do double dealing to acquire LSU’s wide receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Kristian Fulton?
The league remains determined to conduct the draft from April 23-25, but there will be no celebration by 150,000 fanatics in Las Vegas, no drafted players transported to the stage over the lake and past the fountains at the Bellagio and no hugs from commissioner Roger Goodell.
Elway will be forced to make his selections over the phone from his mansion in suburban Cherry Hills while coach Vic Fangio and the other staff members are on the conference call from their homes. The rest of us will watch on TV.
The consensus belief in NFL mock drafts is the Broncos will select Alabama gee whiz receiver Henry Ruggs III at 15th overall, but Elway generally is keen on trading up and down and all around.
For example, a year ago, John sent the 10th pick to the Steelers for No. 20, a second-round choice (52nd) and a third-round prize in the 2020 draft. (The Broncos now possess three in the third.) The Steelers chose linebacker Devin Bush, and the Broncos later grabbed tight end Noah Fant. Bush and quarterback Drew Lock had been speculated for that 10th slot.
John wasn’t finished, though. He designated offensive guard Dalton Risner for the 41st position in the second round while pulling off another trade to gain the next (42nd) selection. He dealt that 52nd pick, a fourth-rounder (125) and a sixth-rounder (182) to the Bengals.
Guess who Elway seized? A rather raucous reaction resulted when former Broncos linebacker Al Wilson announced the name “Drew Lock.’’ Elway procured the QB, anyway.
Risner, Fant and Lock ultimately became Broncos’ offensive starters.
John did good draft deeds.
He made six trades involving draft choices in 2019. Already this year he has obtained Jurrell Casey for a seventh-round pick and A.J. Bouye for a fourth, and Elway sent fullback Andy Janovich to the Browns for a seventh-round selection in next year’s draft.
Since taking over as the head of football operations in 2011, Elway primarily has been responsible for 39 trades that entailed draft choices coming or going. Some of the notable players the Broncos ended up with because of draft-choice transactions were Malik Jackson, Julius Thomas, Virgil Green, Rahim Moore, Danny Travathan, Derek Wolfe, Brandon McManus, Shane Ray, Connor McGovern, Vernon Davis, Mark Sanchez, Su’a Cravens, DaeSean Hamilton, Paxton Lynch and Joe Flacco.
Elway has traded away, for draft picks, Tim Tebow, Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum.
Obviously, Tradin’ John can be anticipated to be wheelin’ and dealin’ on the three draft days. The Broncos currently own 10 picks — 15, 46, 77, 83, 95, 118, 178, 181, 252 and 254. They’ll likely draft seven (to match Elway’s jersey number). John often likes to parlay two lower picks for one higher.
Elway may cease his anti-Alabama drafting philosophy and go after Jerry Jeudy or Ruggs, but neither will be available at 15. The Broncos’ Boss would have to trade to eighth (Cardinals) or 10th (Browns) and give up his second pick and another.
But The Other J.J. (Justin Jefferson) could be had later. Ex-Giants quarterback and CBS analyst Chris Sims believes Jefferson is “a better version of Jeudy ... a can’t miss prospect.’’ Jefferson (who can play wideout and slot) produced 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns in 15 games last season.
Jeudy, in 13 games, finished with 77-1,63-10, and Ruggs, in 12, had 40-746-7.
If the Broncos traded down in the first and up toward the conclusion of the opening round, they perhaps could fill two critical holes with Jefferson (6-foot 1, 203 pounds) and press corner Fulton (6-0, 197). Jefferson was timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.43 seconds, Fulton at 4.46. Jefferson would start immediately for Pat Shurmur, and Fulton would serve as a nickel back in Fangio’s system. Both are championship caliber.
And the Elway way would secure a two-fer.