INDIANAPOLIS -- When asked which personnel grouping would be strong in this draft, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway pointed to a position that's also among the team's biggest needs.
“Offensive line ... that’s where I spent most of my time up to this point," Elway said.
The big guys worked out Friday at the combine -- the first position group to go through drills -- so virtually all of the prospects the Broncos would consider early in April’s draft were on display inside Lucas Oil Stadium. With the Broncos coming off a Super Bowl 50 win, most know the offensive line is a position of need. Several players at the position who could be considered with either of the Broncos’ first two picks of the draft are aware of that, too.
The Broncos have two left tackles who spent much or all of the 2015 season on injured reserve in Ryan Clady and Ty Sambrailo, and tackle Ryan Harris is a free agent. The Broncos also had both starting guards -- Evan Mathis (ankle) and Louis Vasquez (knee) -- struggle with injuries.
Several of the top prospects explained how well they would fit in the Broncos’ zone-run scheme, which requires more mobility than a traditional man-on-man blocking scheme.
“I feel really comfortable in zone," said Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair. “At Kansas State, we ran a lot of inside and outside zone, so I feel comfortable blocking in zone … I think I can fit in there. Coming from Kansas State and running the zone -- they run the zone as well -- I feel like I can fit in there."
Whitehair, who is among the top guards in the draft, ran a 5.08 40-yard dash Monday. He played guard and tackle for the Wildcats, was a four-year and a team captain. Whitehair’s versatility, functional strength, durability and character are attractive to the Broncos.
Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker, a possibility in the first round for the Broncos, ran a 5.23 40-yard dash Monday at 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds. He likely projects to be a right tackle in the NFL. From the Buckeyes’ offense, Decker would face at least some transition into the Broncos' offense.
“We had what we considered our zone schemes in college but they weren’t true zone schemes," Decker said. “But I’m definitely confident I can do whatever is asked of me. We ran a lot of different schemes, had me pulling a lot, single blocks, combo blocks. At the end of the day, if it’s something I haven’t done, I’m going to learn to do it and will do it well."
And Indiana’s Jason Spriggs is an athletic tackle who was a four-year starter and would be a quality fit for the Broncos. He was also the fastest player clocked among the linemen Monday with a 4.94 40-yard dash.
“I definitely want to show I can be a fit in any scheme," Spriggs said shortly after arriving at the combine. "With the offense we run at Indiana, we kind of do everything. I can fit wherever."
The quarterbacks and wide receivers will work out Saturday.