How many people would throw a party to celebrate the night their bosses were openly choosing their eventual replacement?
Obviously Derek Wolfe has no reason to worry about his job security. The Denver Broncos stalwart defensive lineman wasn’t going to lose any sleep over the 2016 NFL Draft, regardless of which player the Broncos selected. Wolfe’s confidence was shared by his teammates, who will be welcoming new additions to a championship roster.
When Denver completed a trade with Seattle and moved up five slots to grab Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch at No. 26, it only bolstered an already stacked roster. Jon Gruden and company gushed over Lynch, saying, “Gary Kubiak will do wonders with this kid.”
Earlier in the evening, Wolfe and a few dozen of his Broncos teammates gathered at a local sports and entertainment venue and invited fans to watch the draft with them while they raised money for Wolfe’s charity, The Wolfe Pack Foundation, which helps underprivileged and at-risk youth in Colorado and Wolfe’s native Ohio. The players smiled, signed autographs and took pictures with dozens of fans as the first round of draft unfolded and the top college talent went off the board pick by pick.
Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock and the rest of the talking heads who offered analysis between picks were all but ignored by fans and players alike. It’s as if the rest of the league didn’t matter, that what was happening on all the TVs was just background noise. This night was all about hero worship for the world champs, and not about what lies ahead. How little did the actual Broncos pick matter? The crowd had thinned to roughly half it’s original size by the time Lynch’s name was announced. He did get a big roar from those who remained.
That’s because what lies ahead doesn’t appear all that scary to most Broncos fans. Not only is Denver coming off a Super Bowl win, but the roster that’s already in place and slated to return doesn’t have a lot of holes to fill… outside of quarterback. And as far as the signal-caller position goes, new Broncos QB Mark Sanchez looked as relaxed as anyone; right at home, wearing a wide grin as he did interviews and signed a boatload of autographs for enthusiastic fans. It was like he didn’t have a worry in the world.
Most observers believed the Broncos would bring in another QB compete with Sanchez and young Trevor Siemian before training camp begins, even before Lynch was picked. Sanchez didn’t seem fazed by the idea. If they pick a QB, Sanchez said in an interview earlier in the evening, he’ll have to come in a earn his spot. Hardly breaking news.
Lynch “has a lot to learn,” according to Gruden, so perhaps his selection is actually good news for Sanchez. It could be that Lynch will need a season or two of grooming before he’s ready to take over. This pick could spell the end to trade efforts to land another veteran, meaning Sanchez could have a clearer path to being the opening day starter.
Clearly, Sanchez and the other Broncos that chose to attend Wolfe’s charity event weren’t sweating much of anything about this draft, not even the player most clearly challenged by the selection of Lynch. When you’re on top, Spring isn’t the time to worry, it’s still a time to celebrate.