ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- General Manager Brian Xanders returned to Dove Valley Wednesday after watching Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., with the rest of the player personnel department and coaching staff. Xanders talked to DenverBroncos.com about his impressions of the event and what lies ahead while preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft.
What do you gain from going to the Senior Bowl?
"It allows our coaching staff and player personnel department to get together and get on the same page with the big picture of what's going on in the organization. We handed out our specific assignments -- what each coach was assigned to do for the Senior Bowl. Then we're going to have evaluations due in a couple weeks after the film gets in. So they'll evaluate live practice, practice tape and game tape."
How beneficial was it to get the entire coaching staff down to Mobile, Ala.?
"It was good. The first meeting we had was Monday at 1:00 at our hotel, and we had everybody in there for the first time. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) John Elway spoke about the big picture vision of where we want to go and how we're going to get there. It was a strong message, and it was a good meeting. The people in that room are the ones that are going to make it happen."
What was Head Coach John Fox's message to the staff?
"John Fox was also excited in terms of enthusiasm and positive energy, and just glad everybody was together for the first time."
What do you look for at the Senior Bowl?
"The scouts have an assigned list of 10 to 15 players they have to find individually and basically interview with specific questions. We research personal character and football character. We ask them about their background and the way they learn. So the scouts are working really hard on Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday to track down those players. The coaches are more evaluating the players at practice -- how they move and their physical traits and attributes that can fit into our schemes. Then John Fox, John Elway and I sat up high and watched practice and pointed out who was doing well or who was getting beat. It's just a first observation level, in person, to see how they're doing."
Did you gain a new perspective on any players?
"You more look for the flash plays that stand out. There were a couple players that had really good catches in traffic and got hit. There were some defenders that covered really well. There were some offensive linemen that gave a push on the pass rush drill. There were some defensive linemen that showed power and explosion. So you look for the traits that are live there in the drills, and you want to convert them eventually over to what our system is."
Now that you have started working with Elway and Coach Fox, how has that relationship been?
"I think it's a very positive relationship with a mutual respect for each other, where we've come from and what we've done. So far it's a very strong relationship and we enjoy being around each other. We all have a sense of humor, we all work hard and we all have a perspective of how we should build this team back up."
What comes next in the evaluation process as the NFL Scouting Combine gets closer?
"First of all there's the evaluation of our own team. Our player personnel department and the prior coaches have already gone through that, but the new coaches that are coming in will evaluate hours and hours of tape to evaluate our own players to see where they fit into the new schemes. Then we'll have a big team needs meeting and match those up. In player personnel we've already built our team needs from the end of December, but we'll match up if there are any new ones coming out of this new coaching staff meeting. Then from there we shift over to some evaluations of the pro unrestricted free agents in the marketplace, and we'll do it by position group. They'll have assignments and we'll split it up, then have a big meeting before we go to the combine. Then we'll go to the combine and work on the college side, but hopefully there's a deal complete and we can get a resolution on the CBA and we'll have free agency."
How does the draft board look on January 26?
"We have an initial setup from December. The biggest thing we have to work on is changing any scheme parameters that we have, potentially on defense. It's not too difficult to convert from 3-4 to 4-3, because everybody can at least create their own role within each system. Most players in high school and college have played in a 4-3. What we've got to do is convert back, if that's where we're going, and get those lined up and recalibrated. But the draft board is pretty solid right now. We've got over 250 players up there, and we're going to work through the process of filtering that down as we head toward the end of April. The filtering is based off of the interviews, the workouts at the combine, the school workouts, the personal character research, the football character research and then obviously the most important thing is the game tape. So that's how we'll filter it down and get a strong board up there that will be good for the Broncos."
How much of a difference would running a 3-4 or 4-3 defense make when scouting draft prospects?
"It depends on the position, but most good players can fit in either system. That's the fun part, to figure out which ones will match up in there. We need some help on defense, and most of the good players are versatile enough with their skill set to roll into either the 4-3 or 3-4."