Surprising draft could signify winds of change for Broncos


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Jan 22, 2006
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Surprising draft could signify winds of change for Broncos

The Denver Broncos apparently like the look of Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler as their quarterback of the future.

Nice trick to pull out of their draft-day bag, the Broncos picking and swapping and getting not only exactly what they wanted, but exactly what they needed, which is better than the usual anonymous cornerback.
It will be nice if these guys can play football, but what the Broncos required as much as the quarterback of the future was to offer reassurance that all motion is still forward.

Mike Shanahan needed to show that an off-season of drawing stick figures in the dirt with the toe of their shoe was just a happy dodge and that all along they would fix what needed fixing at a place that usually giggles behind its hand, the NFL draft - coming to you live on two, count 'em, two channels.

Hole at quarterback. Trade up and get one. Lose a tight end. Draft one. Delicate egos at wide receiver, go get a better one.

The disgruntled pass catcher you know is never as disgruntled as the disgruntled pass catcher you don't, so welcome Javon Walker and don't bother to write, Ashley Lelie.

And that was just the first day.

By the end of Sunday, the Broncos had skipped around the compass, stopping at schools that have North and Central and Western in their names, finding that actual football is played there, often in front of more than relatives and close friends.

In an uncharacteristic flurry of dealing and finger-crossing, the Broncos managed to get, if not the first player they wanted, a reasonable and acceptable facsimile, not that Vanderbilt nor Santa Claus, Ind. - certainly not both - would be high on the list of places to look for What Happens After Jake Wears Out His Welcome.

Just as long as everybody is happy, which everyone always is on draft day. Misery comes later, not to keep picking on Maurice Clarett.

The Broncos had a plan. And it wasn't just a plan, it was a flexible plan, a plan adjusting to other plans, the kind of draft-day finagling that usually is done in Oakland or Dallas, places where draft day is an expected benefit and not a customary regret.

That kind of plan. Even if Shanahan does not always know what he is doing, he acts like he does and the Broncos are doing so much of it that Broncos fans will be so dazzled they will whistle all the way to September.

Nothing up Shanahan's sleeve. Presto, whammo. Two first-round picks are magically turned into the third-best quarterback in the draft and the best one no one has ever heard of.

Here's the real magic of Jay Cutler. He has become a better quarterback since he stopped playing football than he ever was when he played. This is just part of the general weirdness.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. And don't question too closely that fourth-round pick from Akron.

Whether it is all sleight of hand or application of brain, it is quite a show. When it was done, it did not matter just which players exactly the Broncos had selected because the getting of them was as impressive as the pile they made.

However Cutler works out at quarterback with the Broncos, or whether the rest are a bunch of spitwads, here's the important thing. The Broncos actually appeared to know what they were doing. They knew who - or at least what - they wanted with their first pick, they knew how to get him and they're not looking back.

As for that guy Cutler, he was just as happy to be here as the Broncos are to have him, and why shouldn't he be? He'll be given a chance to unseat Jake Plummer.

If USC pinup Matt Leinart would have been preferred by the Broncos, he is Arizona's to mess up now, while Cutler was appealing enough that the Broncos dared to step up to get him.

Cutler had a flurry of late endorsements for no apparent reason, a secret concealed in a Nashville library, capable of doing wonderful things, while Leinart and Vince Young spent the predraft calendar learning what they could not do.

Still, when it came down to what is real and what is exhaust, the quarterbacks went in the order of their skill. On the other hand, maybe Kellen Clemens of Oregon or Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green will turn out to be the next Tom Brady.

Strangeness lasted until the final Denver choice Sunday, the 198th player taken, that being a center from Minnesota named Greg Eslinger, honored as the best interior lineman in the country with the Outland Trophy.

It is not that you wonder how Eslinger could have beaten out draft darling D'Brickashaw Ferguson, taken fourth overall by the Jets, for the award, although you do. When the last Denver choice of the draft is more honored than the first one, you have to wonder if they didn't hang the draft board upside down.,1299,DRMN_83_4663648,00.html
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