From the Broncos’ suite at Lucas Oil Stadium, General Manager Brian Xanders sat down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss the 2012 NFL Combine last Sunday.
He touched on a variety of subjects, including the familiarity that he, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Head Coach John Fox have with each other now.
Xanders called the group’s second combine together “pretty similar,” with the exception that this year there’s more stability in the coaching staff.
“Last year the coaches were all newly hired,” Xanders said. “Then we had quick evaluations for free agency for three weeks, then we left for the combine. This year we had more time.”
Even new Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio had nearly a month after being hired to evaluate last season’s games so he had a solid grasp on the Broncos before heading to the combine.
In addition, the front office had meetings in December to talk about prospects’ character, and the coaching staff got involved for February meetings. Xanders said those meetings, just before the combine, serve as a “base of knowledge” for the coaches.
“For example, our defensive line coach will get to see all the defensive linemen top to bottom quickly on tape, and we’ll read the character and the evaluation,” Xanders explained in early Feburary. “It gives them a first exposure before they go down to the NFL Scouting Combine.”
Xanders called that thorough preparation crucial.
“It’s one of those things where we feel really good about our plan, our structure and our system,” he said.
Once the club arrived in Indianapolis — 48 people deep, including personnel, coaches, trainers, doctors and other team staff — everyone was assigned individual tasks.
For the doctors and trainers, everything obviously revolved around medical checkups. The coaches paid careful attention to their position group’s on-field performance, and took part in interviews for their respective positions, as well. The personnel staff had different assignments during the day and during the evening.
“The biggest thing you want to do is get the feedback when we get back into our building,” Xanders said. “Who did well in the interviews? Who did not? Then the testing, obviously, I see it more like a bell curve. There are guys that do really well and are really fast, then most of them are in a tight group, then there are some outliers where the guys don’t run as fast.”
At Lucas Oil Stadium, the Broncos were assigned a suite overlooking the field — a home base for the personnel staff and coaches to watch workouts and discuss players.
During the 40-yard dash, typically one or two members of the personnel staff will watch the players from the stands with a stopwatch, recording the times before relaying them upstairs to the suite.
This year, the staff members entered each player’s time on an iPad, entering it into the team’s database.
That allowed anyone in the suite to simply refresh a screen on his laptop and immediately see the time.
And when those numbers showed up, Xanders said he was overall “very impressed.”
“These kids have run really fast and they’re very prepared,” he said. “There’s a lot of good kids in this draft in terms of just the people.”
While the combine is “just a piece of the puzzle,” players can certainly help themselves at the annual event.
“Absolutely,” Xanders said while watching workouts. “There are guys that will run a low 4.4 or 4.3 (40-yard dash) and you want to go back and dig deeper. Those are guys that help themselves here. It’s already happened — there are guys we’re going to go back and investigate.”
In the end, Xanders said, the combine is essentially “a confirmation of what you see on film.”
“Our draft board is really set off the football tape,” he said, “But it’s a piece of the puzzle.”
We’ll have more from the sit-down with Xanders in the coming weeks, including his thoughts on approaching the draft with the No. 25 overall selection as opposed to No. 2, which the team held last season, and a close look at the Broncos’ unique interview process.