ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Now, John Elway is on the other side of the NFL draft.
Now in his 50s, Elway rejoined the Broncos as their chief of football operations this year and has been busy learning the ropes from the other side.
He's now a big fan of the draft as he scours the top talent from colleges and formulates the team's plans alongside coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders.
Asked if he saw any humor in his new role considering his history, Elway said it wasn't the draft that he had a problem with in his younger days, "it was where I was going."
"You know, having been on both sides, I understand both sides of the conflict, let's say. I understand having been a player, obviously you're restricted from going to where you want," Elway said Wednesday. "But then again, there's not many opportunities to go out there and play a game that you love and make real good money doing it."
Because of the league's labor impasse, every team will do things backward this year: draft college players first, then fill roster gaps through free agency, rather than the other way around.
Latest mock drafts all in one place
Our writers and analysts examine how the first round could unfold. Find out the direction each team is projected to take when they're on the clock in
"I think my feeling on that is it actually helps us with the draft. Because now we can find the best players that are on that draft board ... and then really fill in with free agency," Elway said. "Rather than having free agency and then filling through the draft, because if you're filling through the draft, then you're drafting to need.
"I think there's several different opinions about that, but that's kind of my gut is that it doesn't put the pressure for us to draft a need in the draft."
After all, there's no telling if there will be a rookie salary scale implemented in any new collective bargaining agreement or if that second pick will be in line for a $70 million contract.
Elway said he hasn't heard from any teams yet about a possible trade. This year, teams won't be able to include players in any deal -- just draft picks -- and there's a possibility there wouldn't be a 2012 draft, so that's another risk factor.
And Elway knows the lack of certainty on a rookie wage scale might make teams reticent to move up in the draft.
"If the positions were reversed, I think there's no question that we would be thinking about what that pick would cost," Elway said. "Then again, we may be getting a heck of a player at a heck of a price with whatever the wage scale would come back at if there is one."
Teams might not know until long after the draft if they'll be working with a rookie pay scale.
"It's obviously very beneficial for us with a wage scale," Elway said. "And not only the Broncos but the (teams with the) top-10 picks if the wage scale's in place."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.