Last week, we checked in with former Broncos scout Cal McCombs, who now runs personnel for the annual Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. After talking to Cal about the ’10 draft last week, I thought I’d pick his brain a bit about the 2011 draft, which also turned up a few gems in Denver.

Though Cal left after the combine and wasn’t actually in the war room on Draft Day 2011, the team had already charted its course when he departed in late February. Here are his thoughts on two stars the team selected that spring.

On drafting Texas A&M’s Von Miller No. 2 overall in 2011: “One of the reasons we had to take a guy like that high was that we had drafted a guy in the first round from Tennessee a year back (Robert Ayers, drafted eighteenth overall), and he wasn’t the quick-twitch guy we thought he was (Ayers has 17 career sacks through six seasons). We had (Louisville DE) Elvis Dumervil that we had gotten in the draft earlier (4/126 in 2006), and he was a steal, and Dumervil had come on like gangbusters, so we had one on one side that could do something and we needed someone on the other side.”

On drafting Portland St. TE Julius Thomas in the fourth round in 2011: With the Thomas kid, I think the thought process when I was there is, we had (TE Tony Scheffler, chosen 2/61 in 2006) who could stretch the middle of the field, and then another tight end named Daniel Graham from Colorado (signed as a free agent by the Broncos in ’07). We had those two (but) Scheffler got traded to Detroit (in April 2010), and Graham was on his last legs, and (new head coach) Josh (McDaniels) wanted a tight end because they were big on tight ends at New England, and (Thomas) was a heck of an athlete and Josh wanted somebody that could catch the ball. Now, Julius wasn’t the most courageous blocker, but he could catch the ball. (Josh) needed somebody that could get open at the tight end position, and the blocking was secondary, because at Denver we had Graham that was the blocker. Josh’s primary thinking — and this is me speculating — but his primary thought was that (Thomas) was an athletic guy that could catch the football. Josh had hired a (scout) named Adam Peters that took over the West Coast, and when we were there, I remember Adam was really high on (TE Rob) Gronkowski (who had attended Arizona). I think they saw some of that kind of thing in Thomas, and (Thomas) came in there and didn’t have much football experience, and was a former basketball player, but he was able to learn what they wanted him to do and they got him to do what they wanted.”

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