AFC West: Patrick Peterson


One has been a league power broker, one wants to be.

And when the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals get together Sunday afternoon in Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Broncos (2-1) will try to knock some of the rough edges off while the Cardinals (3-0), one of just two teams to arrive to Week 5 undefeated, will try to show they are ready to be at the front of the line.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold take a look at the game.

Legwold: At 3-0, how do the Cardinals see themselves? Upstart in NFC? Or team that believes it should have made the playoffs last year and is ready to take the next step to be in this postseason mix this time around?

Weinfuss: If there's one thing the Cardinals don't see themselves as, it's an upstart team. That much was instilled in them by Bruce Arians last season. Especially after upsetting Seattle at home last December, this team believed it should've been in the playoffs. And with how they played in the second half of the season, it's hard to argue with them. But the Cardinals who returned this year learned a lot from last season's first half, most notably how important it is to win those early games. What they're doing now isn't a surprise to those who pay attention to this team, and a lot of it is a direct result of Arians' demeanor. His straight-shooting personality -- curse 'em out on the field but hug 'em off of it -- has rubbed off on everyone in the locker room. It has led to this team to believe it could win for the first time since Kurt Warner was here.

Speaking of learning from last year, what was the main thing the Broncos took away from last season's loss in the Super Bowl, and how have they used it in 2014?

Legwold: The main thing GM John Elway took away was he wanted far better personnel on defense and some more receivers who could battle their way through physical play from defensive backs. The result was an offseason spending spree that reeled in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward on defense to go with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos also used a first-round pick in the draft on cornerback Bradley Roby and a second-rounder on wide receiver Cody Latimer. So, the 35-point loss certainly forced a roster makeover and for the holdovers it did provide plenty of incentive as they went through the offseason workouts. There is a feeling, after the overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs followed by the Super Bowl blowout, of trying to finally close the deal this time around.

In terms of roster makeover, with all that has happened to the Cardinals' defense with the injuries, etc., how have they pushed themselves into the league's top five?

Weinfuss: Nobody expected Arizona to be among the league's top five defenses this year after losing the likes of Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington before the season and then Darnell Dockett during training camp and John Abraham in the first few weeks of the year. But credit must be given to the Cardinals' front office. The brain trust has done a good job of finding veterans who still have gas in the tank, such as linebacker Larry Foote and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. But the biggest reason for the defense's success is defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. His single-gap scheme revitalized this defense last year and all he has been doing is adding wrinkles here and there to adjust to his personnel. For example, Arizona is running a lot of nickel and dime packages because it gets rookie safety Deone Bucannon on the field. For as good of an offensive mind as Arians is, Bowles is his equal on the defensive side.

Have the additions to the Broncos' defense been paying off? Or is it too early to see a difference? Do you think they'll be the difference between another ring and a consolation prize?

Legwold: The new arrivals have all had impact in the season's early going. Ware leads the team in sacks (2.5), Talib has been every bit the No. 1 corner they hoped he would be and Ward is one of two players on defense who have played every snap in the first three games, having been used in a variety of roles. The Broncos have seen enough from Roby. They've tossed him into the deep end of the pool as the rookie and he has matched up with some of the league's front-line receivers. All of that said, however, the Broncos still haven't consistently shown the kind of play they'll need to hoist a trophy, particularly on third down. As linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who both had ACL injuries last season, continue to work back to full speed, the Broncos should continue to improve. Also, linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was the team's leading tackler last season and who suffered a fracture on the top of his tibia in training camp, will play in his first game of the season Sunday. It will mean the Cardinals will be the first team to face the revamped defense with all of the starters in place.

Sticking to defense, Manning heads into this game with 499 career touchdown passes. Between the two of them, Cardinals' assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore and head coach Bruce Arians have seen many of those up close as former Colts assistants. To that end, with that kind of up-close-and-personal knowledge, how do you think the Cardinals will defend Manning and the Broncos' offense?

Weinfuss: One thing the defense has stayed consistent on this week is that they don't want to tip their hand to Manning before the snap. With that being said, I think they'll blitz him constantly -- all three of his sacks this season have come off the blitz, which, I can imagine, was good news to Bowles. But they won't blitz Manning like they'll blitz other quarterbacks because he's so good at adapting so quickly. Arizona plans on giving Manning the same look every snap. But guys who have played Manning know he'll wait until the very last second to make a decision because the defense will have to show their blitz by then, but the Cardinals will try to hold their disguise as long as possible.

With Manning coming up on such a historic mark, has it been a distraction for this team in the sense of more non-football attention has descended upon them? Are they ready for Manning to pass Brett Favre so they can just get back to focusing on football?

Legwold: One thing about this team is the swirl around them doesn't get to them very often. Last season they had Miller's suspension in training camp, John Fox's open-heart surgery during the bye week and five defensive starters on injured reserve by the time they were preparing to play in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl loss may have been the first, and worst, time for the Broncos not to play to the level of a game's standing last season. Before the title-game blowout, they had handled everything that had come their way without losing their edge. This time around players here simply assume Manning will hit 500 and then go on and break the record through the natural course of things. The record is nice, but they want another shot at the title and, for the most part, they see whatever happens along the way as issues that must be dealt with to get that chance.
This has always been a critical year in the relationship between Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller and the Denver Broncos.

With Miller still recovering from ACL surgery and slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season, team officials face their first major decision about Miller's contract. The team has until May 3 to exercise an option year in Miller's rookie deal that would put him under contract for 2015. With 15 days before the deadline, the Broncos had not yet reached a decision as Friday's business day drew to a close.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesDenver has two weeks to decide whether it will exercise an option on Von Miller's rookie contract.
In 2011, the first year of the current collective bargaining agreement, teams were given the option of a fifth year for first-round draft picks as part of the transition to the new rookie wage scale.

The "fifth-year option" must be engaged by May 3 and the option-year salary doesn't become guaranteed until March of 2015. So, it is possible for teams to engage the option year and potentially release the player at a later date before the base salary is guaranteed.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Friday that the San Francisco 49ers did not plan to engage the fifth-year option on defensive end Aldon Smith, who was the No. 7 pick of that draft, but several players have been informed their teams would pick up the option. This includes Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (the No. 11 pick), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (No. 5) and San Diego Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget (No. 18).

The Broncos made Miller the No. 2 pick of that draft, behind Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. With 30 sacks over his first two seasons, including 18.5 in 2012, Miller looked to be on the fast track to elite status in the league.

Miller then opened the 2013 season with a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- a violation that now subjects him to testing up to 10 times a month for the rest of his career. Several off-the-field issues, including an arrest last summer on a failure-to-appear warrant and several traffic violations, also dogged him last year.

He then tore his ACL against the Texans' in December and again raised some eyebrows with the team when he tried to attend a Seattle Seahawks victory party following the Broncos' 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

For the first 10 picks of the 2011 draft, the salary for the option is this year's transition tag salary in free agency at their respective positions. The figure is calculated as an average of the top 10 salaries at those spots. For Miller that would mean a $9.754 million salary if he's on the roster when the new league year begins next March.

If the Broncos decline the option and Miller returns from his injury and shows his former speed and explosiveness and more maturity off the field, the team could still use the franchise tag to keep him.

That scenario would cost slightly more since the franchise tag salary for linebackers was $11.455 million this year and could be higher next season. A franchise player's salary is guaranteed the moment the player signs the tender. Some players sign them as soon as they receive them to guarantee the money, and some wait until training camp, hoping a long-term deal is worked out instead.

The Broncos and Miller could, if both sides found some common ground, still negotiate a long-term extension.

Miller said at an appearance for his foundation Monday that he continues to work hard to return from his knee injury, and that he wants to return "a better player" than he was. The Broncos open their offseason conditioning program Monday, but Miller will not participate. He will continue with his knee rehab with the team's trainers and strength and conditioning staff.
In the end, Von Miller's status as a complete player won him the NFL Defensive of Rookie of the Year award.

The Associated Press announced the Denver Broncos rookie linebacker had been chosen. He and San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith were considered close competitors for the award. Miller was the No. 2 overall pick in the April draft, while Smith was the No. 7 pick.

Miller had 11.5 sacks and Smith had 14, which was a half sack shy of the NFL rookie sack record.

Miller broke his thumb in late November and played the rest of the season and in Denver’s two playoff games with a cast on his right hand. The injury greatly affected his game as he was essentially playing with one hand. Miller’s play did improve in the playoffs.

Voters probably went with Miller because he was considered a much more complete player than Smith, who just played in pass-rushing situations. Miller was on the field for 79 percent of Denver’s defensive snaps and Smith played on 48 percent of the 49ers’ snaps.

Miller was the centerpiece of an improved Denver defense that helped spur an unlikely playoff run. The Broncos believe Miller will be a star for years to come. He does need to become a better run stopper and that should come with time. He was replaced on running downs at different parts of the season.

But Miller showed the work ethic and desire to improve that area of his game. Coaches and teammates lauded Miller for his approach and he is likely becoming a leader on the team.

Denver selected Miller in last April's draft after considering several other prospects, including Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley. The Broncos took Miller because they thought he had the most explosion and he had the highest ceiling. So far, it looks like the right call.
DENVER -- It was weeks into John Elway’s new role in his old home and he was explaining how he could best help the Denver Broncos take advantage of having the No. 2 overall draft pick.

While taking a break from scouting players at the NFL combine, the legendary quarterback stood in an Indianapolis hotel and said he thought he knew how to evaluate pass-rushers as well as any position on the field (quarterback and receiver included) because those were the players he spent all his time studying to beat.

There was no pass-rusher –- or any player regardless of position -– available in the 2011 draft who would have worried Elway the quarterback more than Von Miller. That's why Elway, the lead decision-maker of the Broncos, jumped at the opportunity to make Miller the centerpiece of his organization -- a team that no longer resembles the perennial contender of Elway’s heyday.

As the Elway-John Fox era officially begins when the Broncos host the Oakland Raiders in the second half of an ESPN “Monday Night Football” doubleheader (kickoff is set for 10:15 ET), all eyes will be on No. 58. Miller picked the number of his hero, the late Derrick Thomas. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame linebacker sacked Elway 26 times, the most of any player in Elway's career. This time, though, Elway won’t mind seeing that No. 58 drop the quarterback.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty ImagesVon Miller was drafted to revitalize a defense that ranked last in the NFL in 2010.
Elway -- who was hired by owner and close friend Pat Bowlen to bring stability to an organization that fired two head coaches in less than a two-year span -- is trying to fix the defense that was ranked last in the NFL last season and had a league-low 23 sacks in 2010. A team that is usually focused on offense hired Fox, one of the more respected defensive specialists in the NFL.

The Broncos zeroed in on several defensive players, including Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Auburn’s Nick Fairley. But in the team’s meetings, everything pointed to drafting Miller.

Denver concluded that Miller was the most sure of all the prospects. He starred on the field at Texas A&M. He had strong character. He stole the show during the Senior Bowl week. He blew away scouts at the combine with his size, speed and power. Elway told people his explosiveness was off the charts. And the Broncos marveled that someone could run like a cornerback while being built like a prototypical pass-rusher.

On the eve of the regular season, the Broncos are not regretting the pick. Big things are expected from Miller, including by ESPN’s panel of experts.

During training camp, I asked Fox about Miller’s development. He gave the typical coach party line that Miller was a work in progress. Then, I asked whether Miller’s ability was as advertised. Fox didn’t hesitate. “Oh yeah, he’s going to be a player,” Fox said.

Miller dominated the preseason. He had three sacks in limited action. He knocked down Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson four times in the third preseason game. Denver believes the pass-rush combination of defensive end Elvis Dumervil (who led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 before missing all of last season with a pectoral injury) and Miller will immediately improve the defense.

If the Broncos have any chance of beating the Raiders -- who won 59-14 in Denver last season -- Dumervil and Miller have to knock Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell onto the Mile High ground a few times.

Miller knows what is expected of him in Denver. He is not shying away from the task of changing the defensive atmosphere in Denver.

“I’ve been ready since a few weeks ago,” Miller said earlier this week. “Every week is game week for me, but these are the ones that are really going to count and you can definitely feel it in practice. It’s a little more tense.”

Miller, known for being a team-oriented player in College Station, has impressed the Broncos by acting like an undrafted free agent. He studies the playbook diligently and doesn’t act like he's already arrived. He is bent on fixing mistakes.

“Every week I have to take a step to get better and that is what I have been trying to do,” Miller said. “I feel as if there is still a lot of room to improve. I need to improve my practice habits. I could run a little bit better in the games and get my assignments down. I can get my assignments down; you can’t have a guy out there who is inconsistent. That is one of the things I’m working on now, getting my plays down and being there for my team in crunch time.”

Crunch time begins Monday night, as does a new defensive era in Denver.

“I like him a lot,” future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey said. “You can see every day why he was the No. 2 pick. I’m glad he’s the guy we took.”
Random thoughts on San Diego’s 34-31 win at Arizona on Saturday night:

For the first time in the preseason, the Chargers’ starters struggled. The first two preseason games were a lark. Saturday night, the Chargers were punched in the face a few times.

The San Diego defense, which played without Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Larry English, was hit hard at times. It gave up an 80-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 205 yards and Arizona starting running back Beanie Wells had 63 yards rushing.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with starters from both teams in the game. The Cardinals led 24-17 at the half.

San Diego’s offense struggled early. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was nearly flawless in the first two games, threw an interception that was returned 34 yards for a score by rookie Patrick Peterson. The San Diego first-team offense did improve as the game went on. Rivers ended up throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both came up with some big plays.

Rivers said after the game that it was good for San Diego to experience some difficulty in the preseason after the easy start. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t put much stock in the preseason. It’s all about getting situational experience. This game will benefit the Chargers.

Rookie Ryan Mathews showed his explosiveness with a 48-yard run. He finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.

Young inside linebacker Donald Butler continued his strong summer with five tackles.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin had a sack. He had two sacks last week.

Backup quarterback Billy Volek showed his worth by taking his team on the game-winning 90-yard drive. While the Chargers don’t want to think about playing without Rivers, they know they have one of the NFL’s best backups in Volek.

Let’s look at who the readers believe each AFC West team should take with their first pick. We took polls for each team Tuesday.

Denver, No. 2

There’s no doubt, Denver fans want the team to take Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in a landslide over Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. I think Dareus will be the call, but Denver has also been considering the other three players.

San Diego, No. 18

In a battle of four pass-rushers, fans slightly want Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt over Cal’s Cam Jordan, Missouri’s Aldon Smith and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan. This is how real-life may go, too. Teams picking above the Chargers may covet Watt and Jordan, too.

Kansas City, No. 21

UCLA pass-rusher Akeem Ayers was a fairly easy winner over Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and offensive tackles Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo. I’m a bit surprised by this result because Ayers may be the last of these four players off the board. Still, he does fit in Kansas City.

Oakland, No. 58

In a runaway, Oakland fans want the Raiders to take Penn State guard/center Stefen Wisniewski over cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling, Brandon Harris and quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I think Wisniewski was the easy choice for a couple of reasons. The offensive line needs an upgrade and Wisniewski is already part of the Raider family. His uncle, Steve Wisniewski, was a star offensive lineman for the Raiders and is now the team’s assistant offensive line coach.

Poll: Denver's top pick

April, 26, 2011
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Here are your options for the Denver Broncos with the No. 2 pick.

Please give your reason why you are making the pick in the comment section below.
In a conference call with Denver Broncos' season-ticket holders, team executive John Elway was asked which quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft reminds him most of himself.

Good question, season-ticket holder.

The legendary quarterback’s answer? Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

“Jake Locker, if you talk about height, weight and speed, he’s probably the closest to me,” Elway said. “We’re the same height, he’s faster, probably, and heavier than I was, but when you think about play style, Jake Locker is probably the closest even though [Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick] are all very mobile themselves, too.”

Elway and the Broncos have looked at all of the top quarterback prospects. There is a school of thought Denver could draft a quarterback in the second round. Locker will likely be taken late in the first round or early in the second.

While Elway gave Locker a huge compliment, Denver coach John Fox compared LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson to a Hall of Famer he coached: Rod Woodson, who is now an assistant in Oakland.

"I'll be honest with you, I had Rod Woodson, Gil Byrd, I've had some pretty good guys. I've never seen anything like [Peterson], with that size, that speed,” Fox told the Denver Post. “I don't think there's been a 219-pound guy run a 4.3. He's a special talent. That's the way the game (has) changed, he's about the same height as Rod, but 219 pounds and ran 4.3.”

Peterson could be a top-five pick; Denver could take him, especially if the team slides down a few spots from No. 2.

In other AFC West-related nuggets on Friday afternoon:

The San Diego Union-Tribune looks at the defensive ends the Chargers could consider with the No. 18 pick.

A Bay Area columnist thinks new Oakland coach Hue Jackson is consumed by kissing up to Oakland owner Al Davis. Tom Cable publicly did the same thing. It didn’t work for him. My advice to Jackson: Just Win, Baby.

The Kansas City Star looks at the Chiefs’ need for a No. 2 receiver.
Here is a sample of our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday. Thanks to everyone who participated:

Denver

Chad from CA.: If Dareus goes off the board at 1, wouldn't it be logical for the Broncos to snag Peterson? He's basically a clone of Champ Bailey when he was drafted in '99. Two shut down corners, then go with a DT with their second selection??

Bill Williamson: I think a trade, Fairley or Miller would be the call. Honestly, while I think Dareus is the guy, they could make a surprise pick and take Fairley over Dareus. It's not out of the question.

Kansas City

Kasey from Bismarck, ND: Do you think the chiefs could move up to take Julio Jones?

BW: It would likely take a jump up to No. 10. It would cost a lot. Jones would fit but I'm not sure Scott Pioli would do it.

Oakland

Tony from Richmond, CA.: Will Al cut ties with DHB this year? Or will he hold on similar to JaMarcus Russell hoping for a ROI?

BW: I think DHB has at least two more years. Unlike Russell, he doesn't have work-ethic issues. He has just not developed as a player yet.

San Diego

Austin from Alta Loma, CA.: Bill, don’t you think the chargers should pick a top offensive tackle in the first round? I believe this would be there best bet, if they got a really good run blocker and got that running game going better they could run a possession game and not have to rely on their defense so much which is in transition with a new coordinator and all....

BW: I think Chargers' greatest need is a pass-rusher. I think that area should be addressed first.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 21, 2011
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Denver Broncos

Dream scenario: The Broncos’ dream scenario begins with the Carolina Panthers taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick. That would mean the entire defensive draft board is available. The Broncos' primary needs are on defense. Denver would likely choose between Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. The general consensus is Denver will most likely take Dareus.

Plan B: If Carolina takes Dareus, Denver could take Miller or Peterson or trade down to the No. 5-8 range and compile other high-round picks. I could see Miller and Peterson being available at No. 5. If Denver goes down to No. 8, it could look at Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn or Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

Kansas City Chiefs

Dream scenario: The Chiefs are in a great position. They pick No. 21 and need pass-rushers and an offense tackle. Several of those prospects should be available at No. 21. But if the Chiefs had a dream, I’d think it would be to see Alabama receiver Julio Jones tumble to them. But that is a pipedream. He likely won’t fall past St. Louis at No. 14. I think the Chiefs would like to see a pass-rusher like Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Purdue’s’ Ryan Kerrigan or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson available at No. 21. If not, the Chiefs could go for a pass-rusher like UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Georgia’s Justin Houston.

Plan B: If all the pass-rushers are gone, that’d probably mean some tackles would fall. Among those players who could interest the Chiefs are Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi or Colorado’s Nate Solder. Kansas City will have options and it could prompt it to trade down a few spots to gain another quality pick and grab a player high on its list.

Oakland Raiders

Dream scenario: The Raiders are the only team currently without a first-round pick. Their first pick is at No. 48. Oakland’s dream scenario would to see a first-round talent slide to them without having to trade up. If a quarterback such as Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett or Washington’s Jake Locker is there, Oakland could easily grab them. The Raiders like veteran Jason Campbell, but getting an eventual replacement at the bargain price of No. 48 is worth it. Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith would also be a dream scenario for Oakland if he was available at No. 48. The team may lose Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. Smith is considered a top-15 talent; he may fall because of character issues. He’d be a steal at No. 48.

Plan B: If these players don’t fall, Oakland will likely look at offensive linemen (its biggest need), cornerbacks and quarterbacks in the second round. If the Raiders could get a player like Penn State guard Stefen Wisniewski and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the second day of the draft, they would be thrilled.

San Diego Chargers

Dream scenario: The Chargers are in an even better position than the Chiefs. San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, could use a pass-rusher or an offensive lineman. Plenty should be available when they choose. Plus, San Diego has extra picks in both the second and third rounds. The Chargers can do basically whatever they want to do. Thus, the Chargers can make up their own dream scenario. If they want to move up to No. 5 and take Miller, they probably can. If they want to move up to No. 11-12 and take Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt or Jones to help at receiver, they can.

Plan B: If they stay put, the Chargers can wait for players like Jordan, Smith or Kerrigan at No. 18. They could also move down to take a pass-rusher like Houston or Ayers or an offensive lineman in the No. 20-25 range. The Chargers are truly in charge of their own draft destiny.

Sound-off responses

April, 14, 2011
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There are many different thoughts by Denver fans when it comes to what to do with the No. 2 pick. Let’s look at some of your responses to our sound-off question:

Chris A. from Littleton, Colo.: Hey Bill, the Broncos' top pick should not be traded. The truly special talent in this draft is Patrick Peterson and that's where the Broncos should start, but if the Panthers have already taken him, Marcell Dareus should be the pick. At least one of the Broncos' two second round picks should be spent on a defensive tackle (maybe Stephen Paea or Marvin Austin) and the other should be Mikel Leshoure, so that coach Fox has a big, strong running back to take handoffs from Tebow.

Tag from Logan, Utah: I would like to see them stand pat and not trade down unless they got incredible value for doing so. They need a standout on the D-line. Of course, Dareus would be a great choice here. My fear is that Carolina will go defense and then the Broncos will choose Gabbert or Newton figuring that they can go defense later with the other 3 picks in the top 67. Be smart Denver - go defense, defense, defense, defense.

Nate from Portland: Denver should use the second pick to choose a top DT, either Dareus, who seems like the more sure bet, or Fairley, who some have concerns about but who blew me away every time I saw him play. Then I think they should grab another DT with their 2nd round choice. Stephen Paea would be great, if available. This isn't a one-year rebuilding job and if the Broncos can get a top DT tandem for the next decade by playing to the strength of this draft then I think they should (since they REALLY need a top DT, this could also be seen as a great hedge).

Ernest Shay from Tsaile, Ariz.: I think the Broncos should try and trade their pick by moving back within two to three spots, but make sure the other teams are interested in a quarterback … then draft a defensive tackle (Fairley or Dareus), Patrick Peterson, or Von Miller. Whichever player is available ... we will definitely use one of those guys and lets go for defense. If not, don’t trade and get Dareus.

I think Denver should hope Alabama defensive tackle Dareus is available at No. 2 since he fills a major need and is a top prospect. If Dareus is the first pick of the draft, perhaps Denver should look to trade down to the No. 5-8 range to compile more picks and then hope a player like LSU cornerback Peterson, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley or Texas A&M linebacker Miller is still available.

If Dareus is gone at No. 2, and no good trade offers are available (the No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded in 11 years), I think Denver should take Miller. Miller is a special player, who can help Denver’s front seven immediately. Whatever happens, Denver should be in good shape.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Evening AFC West notes

April, 13, 2011
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The NFL’s rookie pay proposal could potentially make it easier for Denver to trade the No. 2 pick if the deal were to be completed before the April 28-30 draft. Teams may be reluctant to commit to the huge payout for the No. 2 pick in the current pay scale.
  • Oakland is showing interest in Delaware defensive backs Anthony Bratton and Anthony Walters. Both should be late-round prospects.
  • The word around the scouting community is San Diego is studying safeties hard. The Chargers want to re-sign prospective free agent Eric Weddle and they just signed veteran Bob Sanders. San Diego could potentially use an infusion of youth at the position.
Here is a sampling of our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday. Thanks to everyone who participated:

Gabe, Houston: How far could the Broncos drop and still get an elite defensive player? (Dareus, Peterson...maybe Fairley & Bowers)

Bill Williamson: Dareus will be gone early. Peterson and Fairley may be had in 5-7 range and Bowers could drop out of the top 10 because of health concerns.

D, Portland, OR: Dalton to Oakland. What do you think? As an added bonus, if they do pick him I can dust off my Chuckie Doll from the Gruden days.

BW: He's smart, polished and he's a winner. But he doesn't have the big arm Al Davis covets. But I think he'd be worth considering.

Mike, KC, M0.: Do you think kc will address a pass rusher first and who might it be also do you see them adressing the qb and what pick might they use?

BW: I think pass rusher is where KC will look first. They could start looking at QB in 3-4 rounds. Stanzi in the fourth?

Sergio, Tijuana, Mexico: With the new Kickoff rule in place, has Darren Sproles market value gone down enough for him to be viable option to return to the chargers, if he leaves how do you expect the chargers to deal with his role?

BW: Chargers coach Norv Turner has said he thinks the new rules hurt good returners, so I think it does lessen the Chargers' need to give Sproles big money. They are looking at Troy's Jernigan. who could fill that role.

Evening AFC West notes

March, 31, 2011
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Check out Jeffri Chadida’s story on Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller on ESPN.com. Interesting kid. Miller agrees with scouts that he can play in any defensive scheme. He is a candidate to be taken by Denver at No. 2.
  • Former Kansas City running back Larry Johnson doesn’t think he’d get a fair trial in the city because he thinks he is disliked there.
  • The NFL has reinstated the Lions’ seventh-round pick as part of their appeal of a tampering case involving the Chiefs. The Chiefs and Lions will still swap fifth-round picks next month. The Chiefs now have the ninth pick in the round, while the Lions will pick 23rd.
  • North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn had a strong pro day. He’ll likely be picked in No. 5-10 range, but he likely won’t be considered by the Broncos with the No. 2 pick.
  • LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is being implicated in a high school-recruiting scandal. Don’t expect that to have any bearing on his draft status. Denver could take Peterson.
According to Mel Kiper’s big board, the Denver Broncos will get their choice of top defensive players available at No. 2.

Kiper’s latest big board, which is an Insider piece on ESPN.com,Insider continues to feature LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson at No. 1. The big move was by Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. He is now No. 2. He was previously No. 4.

The first four players are all defensive players. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is No. 3. Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is ranked No. 4.

The Broncos badly need defense and all four of these players would fit. There has been a growing consensus that Miller could move up all the way to No. 2 and be drafted by Denver. Miller’s promotion on Kiper’s big board won’t quiet those projections.

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