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The Denver Broncos’ football decision-makers got an up-close look at some of the better quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class during their January work at the Senior Bowl, but this week’s NFL scouting combine will kick in the real efforts to get to know them.
As president of football operations/general manager John Elway put it: “I’ve heard so many different things out there about all the quarterbacks, but I’m looking forward to meeting them myself.”
The Broncos’ coaching staff worked with the North Cheap NFL Jerseys team at the Senior Bowl, and that roster included Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Washington State’s Luke Falk. Mayfield and Allen will almost certainly be top-of-the-board picks in the April draft, and Falk may also be among the top five or six at the position.
But the combine will allow the Broncos, who have repeatedly said they’re in the market for a makeover at quarterback, to see players who were not in the Senior Bowl, such as UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Southern California’s Sam Darnold and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Rosen and Darnold, in particular, will probably be among the first players selected.
For the Broncos, who are also evaluating how aggressively they will look in free agency for a solution behind center, vetting the quarterbacks in this draft is on the front burner because they hold the No. 5 pick.
“It’s a long process and having those quarterbacks on our [Senior Bowl North] team was obviously a good thing,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “All three guys were good guys. They’re all talented guys. They all worked at it. Again, it’s a long process. As we move forward, we just want to find out more about the guys as people and as quarterbacks. This week is always a good week to sit back and watch them compete and watch them perform.”
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Elway said Wednesday he believes the Broncos have enough salary-cap flexibility to make any deal in free agency, and that he would consider all options there. He also said he would expect the top quarterback prospects such as Rosen, Darnold, Allen and Mayfield to be among the Broncos’ 30 allotted pre-draft visits.
The Broncos will meet with all of the high-profile passers at the combine, but those interactions can only last 15 minutes, by rule. The pre-draft visits to the team complex can be several hours, and the players can meet with the assistant coaches as well as Joseph and Elway.
Rosen and Jackson entered the draft after their junior seasons and could not participate in the Senior Bowl. Darnold declared for the draft after his sophomore season, so this week’s work is really the first chance for Joseph and Elway to have a face-to-face with those players.
“I’m looking forward to get to know him, I’ve heard all that,” Elway said of Rosen’s hard-edged approach. “This is our time to try to get to know him. Arm-talent-wise he can throw it as good as anybody. And the bottom line is you’ve got to have confidence to play that position, so if he’s overconfident that’s not bad.”
Elway said the Broncos will put the quarterbacks through the paces somewhat during the combine interviews — “we’ll put them on the board” — and then add far more intensity to those football discussions during the pre-draft visits.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on [the quarterbacks], but we still have a lot of work to do,” Elway said. “We’re in that process now. There is a group of guys that are very talented. We’ll continue to do our homework on them. There is a possibility of some really good quarterbacks coming out of this draft.”
Seven current and former NFL players just completed a visit to Israel on a trip that was kept under wraps until the players landed in Israel.
The group, including some family members of the players, arrived in Israel on Feb. 13.
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It featured Jewish brothers Mitch and Geoff Schwartz: Mitch is an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Geoff retired in 2017 after playing nine years in the National Football League.
They were joined by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos and Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins; All-Pro linebacker Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons; linebacker Avery Williamson of the Tennessee Titans; and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins of the New York Jets.
Several NFL players, led by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, pulled out of a similar trip scheduled a year ago. Bennett said he felt “used” by the Israeli government to become a goodwill ambassador. Pro-Palestinian groups urged the players not to visit.
The players visited Christian holy sites in northern Israel, where some of the players were baptized in the Jordan River. They also joined Friday night Shabbat prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
On Saturday night, the players joined players in the Israel Football League on the field at the Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem. Israel has 1,350 active football players in a semi-pro league and dozens of high school teams.
Also on the itinerary: a dip in the Dead Sea, a jeep ride in northern Israel and a visit to the latest terror tunnel discovered in southern Israel.
Denver Bronco Chris Harris Jr. shared his thoughts on the tunnel in a video tweeted by the IDF Spokesperson.
“In the US you hear about ISIS and a lot of terrorist groups and things like that but you don’t really see how close it is. And here, you come to Israel and it’s like right here around the corner, like nextdoor neighbors. I think that’s one thing that kind of changed my perspective on this. It’s right here, it’s right knocking on the door, it’s so . . . we’re so . . . close.
“It was great to be able to learn about the country. It kind of changed my mindset going home, how blessed we are.
“It was good to get this information, get this background on it, see how the regular civilians have to deal with, how the military has to deal with terrorist groups.”
He also told Times of Israel that he and his wife are “big Christians, and we just always had this on our bucket list to come to the holy land and see where Jesus walked.”
The trip was organized by America’s Voices in Israel, a nonprofit that provides high-profile Americans with the opportunity to experience Israel firsthand.