How the Broncos ensured a near-flawless virtual draft process


About 15 minutes before the NFL Draft broadcast began, Vic Fangio’s broadcast ended.

“We were on a Zoom session,” Boxer recalled, “and Vic’s [screen] turned black. “

Fortunately, the Broncos had posted a support staff member who was available for everyone. Lazzaro was at Elway’s; Boxer covered Thewes and professional personnel manager AJ Durso, who each lived near him; and Trainor was on hand for the head coach.

Fangio had encountered slow internet speeds earlier in the afternoon, and Trainor called Comcast for urgent on-site assistance. Minutes passed before they diagnosed a few poorly performing connectors, and around 5:45 p.m. they shut down the internet.

“It wasn’t prime time, but his internet was too choppy not to make it before the draft,” Trainor said. “So I called to have it fixed. And we literally woke him up, it was 5:59 am, that was when he came back alive, when his modem came back alive and everything started to work.… I didn’t mean to. not that Coach doesn’t.Participate in those preliminary conference calls with John and [Director of College Scouting] Brian [Stark] and Mark and AJ and everyone on those calls. “

It was a bit stressful as the weather was shrinking and it would require more maintenance on Friday morning, but Trainor truly deserved the rare honor of trying Fangio’s meatball recipe.

Other than those hiccups, things went pretty well throughout the draft.

As staff and coaching staff prepared to decide on their selection, Thewes provided a “situation recognition”. When needed, he would put trade offers, medical reports from sports medicine director Steve “Greek” Antonopulos, scout reports, and general information on everyone’s screen for them to review. He also kept an eye on league rules, reporting and compliance.

As decisions were made, Thewes then had the important task of calling the remaining Broncos to pass on the exciting news to them, transferring them to Elway and Fangio, and then directing them to the next steps as they got together. are preparing to start their NFL career.

Lazzaro had a particularly difficult logistical balance, as he had to submit each of the picks (no typos allowed – he checked the spelling of Albert Okwuegbunam’s name five times before entering the pick in round 4), make sure Elway was able to answer calls. transferred from Thewes, then record the calls to video. As the time decreased between each choice, it became more and more difficult. Eventually, Lazzaro enlisted the help of Elway’s family to record calls throughout the third day of the draft.

“The time we’re actually on the clock is chaotic, as it would be [normally]”Lazzaro said.” We would wait to put them on [the phone with] the player, once we have chosen a player. Mark would make the call to call the player on the phone initially and we wanted to make sure to reach him and make contact with the player before submitting the pick. Once we get that initial call, I would submit the picks to the league. John would tell me who we wanted, so I would submit that choice and try to answer the phone as it came to him, so John could speak at will and transfer the choice from John to Vic – and then in. while waiting for this process, also try to record phone and other calls for [digital media]. “

It will of course be three very eventful days for the team, but the fact that they went largely without incident from a technological standpoint proved the value of the Broncos’ preparations.

“Due to the preparation and planning we’ve done, I don’t think it’s changed much to be honest,” Thewes said. “I would much rather be together in a room with everyone and feel the energy and teamwork that goes into the whole process – that part was just lacking a little. Normally there is a greater sense of camaraderie. and celebration after a pick is made, but overall it was largely the same operationally.… This year I missed having the scouts in town for the draft because they’ve put so much effort into the process throughout the year and are so critical to the results. “

That said, it certainly made a draft more memorable than usual.

“It was definitely a surreal experience,” Lazzaro said. “I think it was my 22nd draft, and the rest of them over the years started to mix for me. It was an experience that I will certainly not forget. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. – I hope we don’t have to breed it too many times. But I thought it was a real opportunity for us, to be honest. I felt really good technologically. [with] where we were at, so it was a good opportunity to put a lot of that to the test and see it in action. “

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