AFC West: Jason Pierre-Paul

Broncos say there is plenty more to come

September, 16, 2013
ManningRobert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning and the Broncos have dominated their first two games, but can still improve.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are certainly times, such as when the inevitable announcements that follow any Peyton Manning touchdown arrive because he has made history yet again, when it just seems like the next pass will bring the next benchmark.

When you’re in the 16th season of what will be a Hall of Fame career, perhaps it’s to be expected that, every time you move your right arm, people have to make some notations here and there to update the league’s record book.

But when the Denver Broncos were done with a 41-23 victory against the New York Giants inside MetLife Stadium on Sunday, they were picking the usual nits about the running game (it was inconsistent), penalties (the Broncos looked undisciplined at times) and flow (the Broncos look choppy -- again -- during the first half). They were talking about getting back to work, fixing this, taking a look at the film to fix that.

That's probably a good thing for a team whose biggest challenge might be keeping itself on the tracks, but there are at least two things that are now abundantly clear about these Broncos:
  • They have scored 90 points in two games. The next highest total in the league, after two games, is Green Bay with 66, and only two other AFC teams have even topped 50 -- Houston and San Diego.
  • They are 2-0, have intercepted Joe Flacco and Eli Manning a combined six times, and sacked the two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks a combined five times. And they have done all that without cornerback Champ Bailey or top pass-rusher Von Miller on the field.

“I guess it’s scary," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "I think everybody in here thinks we can be better across the board, though."

The Broncos didn’t have a 100-yard receiver Sunday, they didn’t have a 100-yard rusher and they piled up 13 penalties -- for 132 yards -- including eight on the team’s defensive backs alone. They even fumbled away a certain touchdown on their opening possession, usually momentum-crushing behavior on the road, when rookie Montee Ball fumbled into the end zone after the Broncos had put together a 12-play drive.

Those are all usually scary numbers for folks in the Sunday league. But the Broncos answer scary with scarier, or at least they have so far in September.

Because Sunday answered at least one question about whether they could run at their preferred breakneck pace when they weren’t in front of a home crowd sitting on its hands. The Broncos’ offense wasn’t troubled in the least in front of 81,275 people as they used silent counts, various hand signals, and Manning made the rounds in the formation before the snap at times just to keep everybody on the same page.

They ran a uber-brisk 25 plays in the first quarter, 40 in the opening half, and finished with 72 after they backed it down a bit when they got the big lead. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has said they don’t want to be the pitcher who throws nothing but fastballs, but the Broncos showed definitively they can bring the heat on the road when they want.

And they did it without allowing a sack or committing a single false-start penalty.

“I feel at times we got to the quarterback, but we just didn’t get a handle on him," Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “I don’t feel like we put that kind of pressure on him [Sunday]."

Toss in the fact the Broncos are now just the seventh team in the Super Bowl era to put up at least 90 points in the first two games of the season, and the idea there are so many rough edges from time to time in their game is going to create a bigger problem for opponents if all cylinders ever get involved.

The Broncos gained 45 yards rushing on Knowshon Moreno’s two touchdown runs and averaged just 2.4 yards on their other 27 carries. Ronnie Hillman carried just one time, for 3 yards, and Ball averaged 1.3 yards per carry to go with his first-quarter fumble. There is a lot more there for the Broncos, and as much of a festival as it is for folks to watch Manning throw down after down, they’ll still need a little more from the other side of the offensive coin at some point.

“They battled us hard," is how Broncos coach John Fox described that.

Defensively, the Broncos have surrendered 81 yards rushing combined in two games as opponents have had to chuck conventional wisdom to chase the Broncos' second-half vapor trail. But Denver has still done that against two teams that have prided themselves on being able to power the ball at will. Giants coach Tom Coughlin called New York’s 23 yards rushing on 19 carries “very difficult to explain." And it probably doesn’t get any easier to wrap anyone’s head around it when the Broncos are doing it without Miller and without Bailey.

“We kind of are where we are right now," Fox said. “Our guys responded. … We’re happy to get the 'W' and worked very hard for it."

And where they are is 2-0, with the league’s highest scoring offense, having outscored their opponents by a league-best 40 points.

"You play, you try to get the win, you move on to the next one," Moreno said. “Any win feels special, any way you get it. Now you just back to work to get some more."

What to watch for: Broncos-Giants

September, 13, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It can be tough to follow such a high-end opening act, but that is the Denver Broncos' task this week as they make their first road trip since an Aug. 17 preseason game in Seattle.

“And our last outing wasn’t too positive,’’ said Broncos coach John Fox about that 40-10 loss to the Seahawks. “I think we’ve got a little bit to learn from that.’’

By the time Broncos jog onto the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it will have also been 10 days since Peyton Manning carved out another slice of football history -- and carved up the Baltimore Ravens' secondary -- with seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 opening victory. So, in that light, here are some things to consider about the third, and perhaps last, time Peyton will face his brother Eli’s team:

  • What comes after seven? Manning tied an NFL record with his seven passing TDs against the Ravens and became the first player to reach that mark in a game since 1969. Tough to top that. The Broncos would like to run the ball a few more times -- and a lot better -- against the Giants than they did against the Ravens, but Manning will still put the ball in the air plenty. The Giants have some uncertainty at cornerback -- Prince Amukamara suffered a concussion in the opener against the Cowboys -- and their linebackers struggled in coverage against Dallas. That’s a recipe for Manning to push the ball up the sidelines at times, especially out of play-action, and work the middle of the field with tight end Julius Thomas or Wes Welker. Running back Knowshon Moreno, who has the running back of choice in the three-wide-receiver set, figures to be busy in the passing game as well -- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 18 passes to his backs and tight ends, who consistently found room in the short to intermediate zones.

  • [+] EnlargeManny Ramirez
    AP Photo/Paul JasienskiDenver center Manny Ramirez could get a stiff test from the Giants' interior defensive line.
    Four of a kind. The Giants have always believed in the benefits of a four-man rush to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- “That’s been true going all the way back to when I was coaching there,’’ Fox said. That allows the defense to use seven players in coverage in these pass-happy times -- and it's especially true for a Giants team with some uncertainly in its defensive back seven and that likely needs to play it a little more conservatively. Against the Cowboys, with end Jason Pierre-Paul still working his way back from offseason back surgery (he played 50 snaps in Dallas), the Giants did most of the consistent damage when they won on the inside. Defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins, a combined 628 pounds, repeated pounded away at Cowboys rookie center Travis Frederick. The two also made life difficult for right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, so much so many in the league believe recent signee Brian Waters will be manning the position the next time the Cowboys play. The Broncos struggled at times against the Ravens' defensive front, particularly in the run game on the interior. The Giants figure to test left guard Zane Beadles and center Manny Ramirez plenty.

  • Short and not so sweet. The danger in all of the up-tempo frenzy going on in the league -- and the biggest reason the jury remains out on all of it -- is what it does to a defense when the team’s offense doesn’t get a first down when running at warp speed. The Broncos had a 48-second three-and-out possession in the second quarter against the Ravens, to go with a 59-second possession in the fourth quarter. “We have to avoid that,’’ said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “When we go to our up-tempo stuff, we have to make sure that we’re staying on the field and put the (opposing) defense in a bad defense.’’

  • Three-pack. What the Giants could do with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks at wide receiver was already a significant challenge for opposing defenses. And if Rueben Randle can consistently be that third option -- all three topped 100 yards receiving against the Cowboys -- it spreads things out even a little more. The alignment to watch was one that was repeatedly effective against the Cowboys, with Nicks and Cruz lined up to the offensive right and Randle as the lone receiver to the left. The Giants consistently got all three into open space with that set. It will be a significant challenge for the Broncos' defensive backs. “Real good third option," said Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Randle. "I described him to our guys, he’s like a No. 2 in the league, I think he’s a legitimate starting-caliber wide receiver (who) happens to be the third guy in their rotation."

  • Be in a rush. In of the rose petals tossed at the Broncos’ feet after what was a high-quality victory over Baltimore, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that Denver did not have a sack, or hadn’t really even stressed Joe Flacco all that much in the pocket, until right tackle Michael Oher suffered a severely sprained right knee on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice with 8 minutes, 3 seconds to play in the second quarter. All four of the Broncos' sacks, including the 2.5 for defensive end Shaun Phillips, came after the Ravens had to slide protections at times with Oher out. The Giants have had their own struggles in the offensive front, but the Broncos have to find a way to get some heat on Eli Manning -- or Manning will find the soft spots in coverage.

  • Adapt or punt. You don’t spend $12 million of Pat Bowlen’s dollars on Welker if you don’t want to go with three wide receivers on offense most of the time. But the Broncos struggled mightily early against Baltimore until they went to a two-tight-end look for five plays. They found their flow, played a little bigger for a few snaps ... and away they went. They have been more efficient at times over the past two seasons out of the two-tight-end look, especially early in games. The Broncos had eight plays among the first 20 that went for one yard or fewer or were an incompletion. The first 20 snaps, including penalties, resulted in three punts. The Broncos didn’t score the first touchdown until they went to two tight ends, then got back in the three-wide set on their fifth possession of the game. They scored a touchdown on a one-play drive, in three-wide, to close out their fourth possession after they got the ball on the Ravens’ 24-yard line, thanks to a Chris Harris interception.

Double Coverage: Broncos at Giants

September, 12, 2013

For the third time in their careers, brothers Peyton Manning and Eli Manning will oppose each other as the starting quarterbacks in the same NFL game. Peyton's Denver Broncos travel to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on Eli's New York Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Both of these teams have dreams of playing in the Super Bowl in that very same building in February. But while Denver looked the part of the contender in its Week 1 rout of the defending champion Ravens, the Giants turned the ball over six times in an ugly opening-week loss in Dallas. Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold and Giants team reporter Dan Graziano break down this week's Battle of the Brothers.

Dan Graziano: So yeah, Jeff, I don't know if you were able to dig this up on your end, but my research does indeed confirm that the two starting quarterbacks in this game grew up in the same house with the same parents. I wonder if others will catch on and ask some questions and write some stories about that angle this week. I don't expect Eli Manning to admit that he's looking for revenge after his big brother beat him twice while he was with the Colts, but I'm sure there's some element of that going on. I have two little brothers myself, and personally I'd be pretty annoyed if I ever lost an NFL game to either one of them. Do you think this game means a little something extra to Peyton Manning?

Jeff Legwold: Dan, I wasn’t planning to ask about this ... but OK, I'm in. I've been around Peyton since my time in Nashville and his at the University of Tennessee, so I'm fairly certain Peyton isn't a big fan of this from a personal perspective. Plenty of his friends said after the Colts released Peyton they didn't even think he would go to an NFC team, let alone the Redskins (pre 2012 draft, of course) because there was far more potential to face Eli if he did. They’ll talk this week, but there won’t be any football on the phone. From a football standpoint Peyton is in regular-season mode, which is intense, focused and running the show. The Broncos didn't show all of their changes on offense against the Ravens last week -- they have another gear they can hit in the no-huddle they didn't use against Baltimore -- but Peyton has plenty of places to go in the passing game. How do you think the Giants' revamped defensive front will approach all of that?

DG: Yeesh. Another gear? The rest of the league can't be excited to hear that. The most positive and effective change the Giants made on defense this offseason was at defensive tackle, where they believe they've beefed up and are better suited to stop the run than they were a year ago. But while that sounds nice and useful, the plain fact is that the Giants' defense needs a dominant pass rush from the front four in order to be effective. The linebackers are terrible, and Dallas' short-range-passing game plan Sunday night showed that it's not hard for the rest of the league to figure that out and take advantage of it. The cornerbacks are just so-so, and if Prince Amukamara is out with a concussion (still unknown at this time), that unit becomes a liability. The key will be Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul generating pressure on Peyton from the edge. Pierre-Paul looked rusty and didn't play a full game Sunday as he was coming off of June back surgery and missed the preseason. If he can take a big step forward this week in terms of conditioning and practice time, that would help. He's the difference-making player in their defensive front -- the one who has the ability to take over a game if he's 100 percent. They need him as close to that as possible if they're going to pressure Peyton Manning enough to limit the time he has to take advantage of all of those options.

Peyton's brother has his share of options as well. Three different Giants receivers had more than 100 yards in the opener, including big second-year wideout Rueben Randle. With Victor Cruz in the slot and Randle and Hakeem Nicks on the outside, how are the Broncos equipped to cover the Giants' receivers?

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJason Pierre-Paul and New York's pass rush may be the key to containing Peyton Manning.
JL: It is an issue for the Broncos, especially if Champ Bailey (left foot) isn't ready to go. He was jogging early in the week, but did not take part in Monday's practice. He has been in for treatment every day, including Tuesday, and still hopes to get himself back in the lineup. The Broncos signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason because they believed he could take his game to another level and that they could help him do that. He played like the former Pro Bowl pick (2009) he was in the opener and shut down Torrey Smith and showed plenty of athleticism. But take Bailey out of the mix and the Broncos are small when they go into the nickel. When Bailey doesn't play, the 5-foot-10 Chris Harris starts and the 5-foot-9 Tony Carter then comes in for the nickel. Without Bailey that puts Harris in the slot and Carter on the outside and quarterbacks tend to go after Carter in that situation. If Bailey plays -- and he's made no secret he wants to -- that gives the Broncos better matchups. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio likes to mix it up overall and uses a lot of people, and if they get the right down-and-distance situations, he likes to even break out a seven-defensive back look and the rushers come from everywhere in the formation.

When Del Rio is looking at the Giants' running game, what will he see?

DG: Oh, yes. The run game. Better known as "The Only Thing I've Been Writing About Since Sunday Night." I still think the answer to your question is second-year back David Wilson, though his much-publicized pair of fumbles (and his less-publicized issues in pass protection) have the Giants tweaking last week's plan to give Wilson a full starter's workload. They had a bunch of veteran backs in for workouts Tuesday and ended up signing Brandon Jacobs, but Wilson is still the former first-round pick and the big-play threat who's likely to get the bulk of the first-down and second-down work as long as he doesn't fumble anymore. They had planned to use Andre Brown as the passing-downs back and the goal-line back before Brown broke his leg in the final preseason game, and after Wilson's tough opener, it looks as though Jacobs has been brought in to fill Brown's role. But Wilson's still their best running back, and assuming they throw him right back in there, he's someone for whom the Broncos will have to account. When he does hold on to the ball, he's impressive to watch run.

One guy who obviously stood out for the Broncos in their opener was the tight end, Julius Thomas. The Giants had no answers for Jason Witten on Sunday and, as I mentioned earlier, don't have anyone in their linebacking corps to really cover tight ends. So was Thomas a one-game wonder, or is this a serious candidate for a major role in the passing game?

JL: Dan, the Broncos and Thomas waited two years to see what folks saw last Thursday night. Since the Broncos took the former Portland State basketball player in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, he offered glimpse after glimpse on the practice field of what the potential was. But he suffered an ankle injury on his first NFL catch -- in the second game of his rookie season -- and wasn't the same after. He had surgery to repair the ankle before last season and spent much of the year simply being a game-day inactive. But coming down the stretch last season, players kept talking about what Thomas was doing in practice, and in training camp this summer he consistently ran away from defensive backs. He's great at getting the ball in a crowd and the Ravens did what most defenses figure to do, rotate coverage to the likes of Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, and leave Thomas with just one defender. Thomas is still raw in some of his route running -- he is in just his fourth year of football after just one season's worth in college -- and sometimes will drop one he shouldn't, but the guy is a matchup problem for defenses, especially since Peyton Manning trusts him enough to throw it to him in almost any situation.

Opposing tight ends did plenty of damage against the Broncos' defense last season with 81 receptions for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns as a position group. They've seen Brandon Myers plenty in previous seasons, how does he fit in an offense with so much output at wide receiver?

DG: Yes, Myers was kind of the forgotten man Sunday night with all of the wideouts going nuts. And as long as those three wideouts are healthy and productive, I wouldn't be surprised to see that continue. Myers is the Giants' fourth different starting tight end in four years. And over the past five years, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 40.6 catches per season. Martellus Bennett's 55 catches last year were the most by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 in 2007. So while Myers was a big receiving threat in Oakland, I doubt he'll threaten 70-80 catches this year as a Giant. They just don't use their tight end as a weapon in the receiving game the way a lot of teams do. Now, might they pick a matchup, such as this one, in which you say the team hasn't been strong against tight ends, and throw it to him more in such a game? Entirely possible. Myers looked like a significant part of the offensive game plan in training camp practices, so there are definitely some packages in which they'll throw to him. But right now, with injuries on the offensive line and the problems they're having in general with pass protection, I believe they need Myers to stay in and block more.

Speaking of protection, and getting back to what I think is one of the key points at least from the New York end, what's the state of the Denver offensive line in front of big brother Manning? Are the Giants' pass-rushers in for a challenging day?

JL: That was THE story in the preseason for the Broncos. Two of their starting linemen -- right tackle Orlando Franklin and left tackle Ryan Clady -- had offseason surgeries and Clady didn't play in the preseason. They lost center Dan Koppen to a torn ACL in training camp and spent much of August signing veteran linemen to address depth issues, before finally bringing two of those signees -- John Moffitt and Steve Vallos -- onto the final 53-man roster. They want the three-wide set to be their base formation on offense -- they ran their first 20 plays from scrimmage out of it against the Ravens -- but can't play it if they can't protect. Their first target in free agency, because they felt like they surrendered far too much pressure up the middle, was guard Louis Vasquez, who got the longest deal (four years) the Broncos gave to any player they signed in the offseason. They had some bobbles early against the Ravens, went to a two-tight end set briefly in the second quarter to reset things and kept themselves together when they went to three-wide after that. Center Manny Ramirez is the key; when he plays well, the Broncos can stay in that three-wide look and they can consistently pressure defenses out of it.

Rushing a Manning is something the Broncos have to consider as well. What do the Giants think of a pass rush without Von Miller in it for another five games?

DG: I'm sure they wish he was coming back in time to face the Eagles in Week 4 and the Cowboys in Week 5. But as a Week 2 development, the Giants will take it. Preseason injuries shook up the Giants' line. They have rookie first-rounder Justin Pugh starting at right tackle, which wasn't the plan. They have left guard Kevin Boothe playing center and backup tackle James Brewer playing left guard for the first time in his life. Add in the blocking downgrade at running back, and Eli Manning's protection is one of the major issues the Giants are having right now. Like his brother, Eli has an insanely quick release, so he doesn't need a Hall of Fame line in front of him in order to be successful. But he does need some level of comfort back there, because he's not at his best when he has to move his feet. George Selvie and a cast of backup rushers had success against the Giants' line Sunday night and helped rattle Manning into three interceptions, so it's not as though the Broncos necessarily need Miller to get the job done. What are they doing with their pass rush to overcome that significant loss and the loss of Elvis Dumervil to the whims of a fax machine?

JL: With Dumervil now in Baltimore and Miller suspended for five more games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the Broncos are missing 29.5 sacks from last season's defense that tied for the league lead (52) last season. The Broncos talked to plenty of veteran pass-rushers in the offseason and, after deciding John Abraham and Dwight Freeney wanted too much money, they signed Shaun Phillips during the draft weekend. And it's Phillips who is going to have to be the biggest part of the solution in the pass rush until Miller comes back. He was up to the challenge with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against the Ravens. Del Rio likes plenty of pressure packages when the Broncos get the lead and will rush players from anywhere in the formation The Broncos are particularly aggressive and creative out of their dime looks as well as the seven-defensive back look. They still have to show they can win one-on-one matchups in the rush when the game is tight, however. The rush didn't really kick in against the Ravens -- Flacco was largely untouched in the first half last Thursday -- until the Broncos had built the lead and the Ravens had to open things up some.

The Giants will be one of three NFC East teams the Broncos will play over the next four weeks, so do the Giants believe the Broncos' no-huddle look will be an kind of preview for what's to come with the Eagles?

DG: Good question. The Cowboys showed some no-huddle Sunday, and obviously the Giants are going to have to expect it from the Eagles, so perhaps these are some good early tests for them. Makes me think it really would help if they had some better all-around instinctive playmaker types in the linebacking corps. But they don't prioritize that position, and they think if they can get to the quarterback they can make up for deficiencies there and in the secondary. We'll see. It's a lot to ask of Tuck and Pierre-Paul, but they've both been great players at times in the past.

Anyway, I think that about covers it. Should be a fun one Sunday at the Meadowlands. See you there, Jeff.

QB Watch: Broncos' Peyton Manning

September, 11, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.

Rewind: After an offseason’s worth of questions about the relative strength of his right arm, Peyton Manning opened the regular season by adding another rather significant bullet point to his already Hall of Fame-worthy résumé. Manning finished with 462 yards passing against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens -- with seven touchdown passes, which tied an NFL single-game record.

Fast-forward: Manning will have to work his way past the obvious storyline Sunday when he faces younger brother and New York Giants counterpart Eli. The Giants didn’t surrender any pass plays longer than 23 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, but they didn’t consistently pressure Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, either, letting Romo pick away with the short and intermediate stuff. That’s a bad recipe against Peyton Manning, who absolutely owned the intermediate routes against the Ravens: Four of his six completions of between 21 and 30 yards went for touchdowns.

Serve and protect: The Giants certainly hope defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul -- who looked somewhat rusty in 50 snaps against Dallas after being limited throughout the offseason and training camp following June 4 back surgery -- is ready for a little more impact against the Broncos. Left tackle Ryan Clady has to handle Pierre-Paul, the Giants' most threatening defensive playmaker, for Denver's offense to move the ball.

Prediction: The Giants configured coverages in their 4-3 look to keep the Cowboys from going downfield, and should be expected to do the same against the Broncos. Romo had 36 completions for 263 yards, just 7.3 yards per completion and 5.4 per attempt -- not the numbers of a dynamic passing attack. But the Broncos have more athleticism in the slot with Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas -- they sometimes even line Demaryius Thomas up there -- and Manning has a quicker release, so the catch-and-run opportunities will be there if Manning makes the right reads.
ENGLEWOOD, Co. -- The Denver Broncos must get used to playing without starting weakside linebacker D.J. Williams for the first six games of the season, so they will likely get a jump on it immediately.

Thus, Williams shouldn’t expect to get a lot of work with the first-team defense this summer.

“Obviously, he’s going to miss a big portion of the season,” Denver coach John Fox said. “We already know, going in, that he won’t be with the [starters] for games 1-6, so I don’t know that he’ll get many [starter] reps in this camp.”

Williams is facing the six-game suspension for using a banned substance. He could also face further NFL discipline if he is convicted in a drunk driving case next month. He has been arrested twice for drunk driving as an NFL player.

Expect veteran Wesley Woodyard to get the early first-team repetitions and he has the inside track to start. However, second-year player Nate Irving and sixth-round pick Danny Trevathan could take the job away from Woodyard with good preseason performances.

In other news from Denver’s camp:

Linebacker Von Miller, who was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, said he worked out with Giants star pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul in Miami in the past month. The two did a lot of yoga. How did it affect Miller?

“I’ve always been limber and agile,” he said. “Now I feel like Gumby.”

Fox said he expects guard Chris Kuper (ankle) and running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) to be able to participate some early in camp.

The team will start to practice Thursday and will practice in pads for the first time Saturday.

Fox and his family recently returned from a trip to Africa.

Kiper's mock, AFC West style

February, 19, 2010
Insider subscribers can check out Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft. Here, though, we will break down his thoughts on the AFC West choices.

5. Kansas City

Mel’s pick: Anthony Davis, LT, Rutgers.

My thoughts: Mel has the Chiefs taking Davis over Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung. Many league observers believe Okung will go higher. If Kansas City gets a chance to choose between Davis and Okung, it will be in a great position of strength.

8. Oakland

Mel’s pick: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida.

My thoughts: I’m not wild about it. Mel points out that Pierre-Paul has great upside, but he is raw. Oakland needs a sure thing. They’ve been striking out left and right in the first round by taking raw talent. Plus, Oakland has some young defensive ends to develop. I’d like to see Okung or Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain here.

*10. Denver

Mel’s pick: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State.

My thoughts: If Denver trades Brandon Marshall, this will be a great choice. Bryant has a chance to be a star. If, for some reason, Marshall stays, McClain would be a nice option. Right now, I think Denver ends up with one of these two players.

28. San Diego

Mel pick: Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama.

My thoughts: I like it if Cody doesn’t continue to have a poor draft season. If he can control his weight, this can be a special player. He’d be a perfect fit in San Diego and instantly help that defense. The Chargers also need a running back, but they can be found easier than massive, run stuffers.

" Denver will have a coin flip with Jacksonville to determine the No. 10 and No. 11 picks.