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John Elway Deserves the Benefit of the Doubt with Draft Picks

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COMMENTARY | As draft grades start to pile in, the consensus for the Denver Broncos range anywhere from a C to a B.

The Broncos, led by executive and former quarterback John Elway, hit gold on first-round pick Sylvester Williams. The defensive tackle from North Carolina was considered one of the best players available and also filled a long time need for the team. However, it was Elway's picks in the later rounds that downgraded the Broncos' draft grade.

Keep faith in No. 7.

Elway's first pick that caused doubts was with the team selecting Monte Ball with its second-round pick. To the Broncos, Ball was the exact type of running back they had been looking for. Ball, a senior from Wisconsin, is a 5-foot-10, 217 pound bruiser that could fit into tight yardage situations and eventually become the Broncos' main back.

On paper it was a great pick, but it was still who was available that irked draft experts and fans. Alabama's Eddie Lacy, the consensus number one running back, sat by as Ball's name was called

"It was a close call, no question," Elway told The Denver Post on whether to pick Ball or Lacy. "You're talking about two great backs. The bottom line is, we looked at the medical. It came down to the medical side."

The Broncos passed on Lacy due to a nagging toe injury that plagued the Alabama running back throughout his college career, even delaying running for scouts at the Combine. Lacy was also criticized by scouts at his Pro Day for disappointing in workout drills.

Still, others were concerned about Ball's durability. Ball finished his career at Wisconsin with 924 carries and 356 in his last season as a Badger. His results were enough for the Broncos to draft him. Ball led the NCAA with a record 83 touchdowns throughout his career. The second-round pick also averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

Ball told The Denver Post that his workload was not a concern.

"I make sure to take care of my body," Ball said. "For me, my saying is, 'My body is a temple.' The NFL is about availability. Whenever they need you now, they need you. So I make sure to take care of my body - cold tub, stretch, all that stuff, so I'm healthy for the game."

Elway and the Broncos will now count on that availability. Coach John Fox told the team website that he envisions Ball as a three-down back. It was a fit that Elway and Fox, who's had a good history of drafting running backs, felt that was needed for a team that went 13-3 in its last season.

In fact, Elway's track record as an executive is more of a reason to trust him than anyone else. In two short years, Elway cleaned up the mess Josh McDaniels left and has made this team a Super Bowl contender.

Elway has already proven himself in acquiring free agents. Elway scored the biggest free acquisition in NFL history when securing Peyton Manning. Even better for the team, he hasn't stopped there and brought in a supporting cast - highlighted by this year's signing of Wes Welker - that provided depth that makes the Broncos an elite level team.

So now, it's time to trust Elway as a person that can draft as well. To his credit, in his two previous years of drafting, Elway has yet to produce a bust. His biggest success was drafting Von Miller with the No. 2 pick, which transformed the Denver defense instantly. Miller, at the time, was a surprise pick instead of the Broncos shoring up the middle with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

On the surface, third-rounder Kayvon Webster, a cornerback with a sixth round draft grade on most boards, and fifth-rounder Quanterus Smith, a risky pick that could provide dividends if he recovers fully from a torn ACL, might seem like head starching picks. Elway, however, picked these players because of their upside and what they could contribute to the Broncos today.

"We expect all these guys to contribute," Elway said. "The earlier you go, the more we hope they contribute."

As someone who brought two Super Bowls to the Broncos, fans should count on Elway to lead his team again - this time as an executive.

Matthew Paras is Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets including,, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can reached by email at or on twitter @Mparas1432

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