ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos may have just found the eventual heir apparent to Peyton Manning.
And his insurance policy, too.
The Broncos selected Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler with their second pick in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night. Given that Manning's coming off neck surgery, the raw but talented Osweiler is just one snap away from possibly leading this team as a rookie.
"I'll be ready to roll," he nonchalantly said in a conference call after being taken with the 57th overall pick. "Regardless of whatever the situation is this year, I'll be ready when my name gets called."
He's in no hurry, though.
The quarterback-in-waiting can't wait to be mentored by Manning. The 6-foot-7 Osweiler is a former high school hoops standout who turned down a scholarship on the hardwood at Gonzaga to remain on the gridiron at ASU. He realizes he can learn a thing or two under the wing of Manning.
"I could not be any more excited to be going to Denver to learn from Peyton Manning," said Osweiler, who threw for 4,036 yards and 26 TDs last season for the Sun Devils. "A lot of quarterbacks might be upset having to sit behind somebody where I look at it as a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of the best, if not the best to ever play the game."
Following the pick, Broncos boss John Elway tweeted: "Excited that Brock Osweiler is going to be a Bronco. Very talented & will have a great opportunity to learn from one of the best."
And no, this isn't an open competition. Manning has nothing to fear from Osweiler or Caleb Hanie.
"I don't think it's one of those things where Peyton Manning feels threatened by any stretch," coach John Fox cracked shortly after drafting Osweiler. "All in all, I thought (Osweiler) is what you're looking for in a prototypical quarterback.
"He's the guy we liked that we think has a bright future in the future."
After trading out of the first round the day before, the Broncos finally kicked off their 2012 draft by taking versatile defensive lineman Derek Wolfe early in the second round.
Later in the evening, the team orchestrated a deal with Cleveland to move up in the third round and select San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman. In the swap, Denver sent the Browns its third-round pick, No. 87 overall, and a fourth-rounder (No. 120).
A workhorse for the Aztecs, Hillman finished his career with 3,243 yards rushing in just two seasons. That's third on the school's all-time list, trailing only Marshall Faulk and Larry Ned.
Hillman will more than likely serve as the backup for Willis McGahee, who led the team in rushing with 1,199 yards last season.
Even more, the pick might just have made getting on the field even more difficult for former first-rounder Knowshon Moreno, whose season was ended early last season when he tore the ACL in his left knee at Kansas City.
"I'm just going to come in and try to help the team win," Hillman said. "That's all I can do."
Hillman was a little surprised by the Broncos selecting him since he didn't have that much contact with the organization.
He wasn't alone. Wolfe didn't even know he was on the team's radar, either.
So when his name was called, well, he was a little bit shocked.
Pleasantly, of course.
"I know I can make a difference," said Wolfe, who was a standout at Cincinnati. "I'm ready for the opportunity."
In Wolfe, the Broncos receive a speedy 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman who can play both tackle and end. But the Broncos stunned many draft experts by taking Wolfe so early in the second round when there were far more highly touted defensive tackles still on the board.
The Broncos will more than likely ask Wolfe to play in the trenches and become a diversion to free up defensive ends Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, who's coming off a sensational first season in which he was named the rookie of the year.
For Wolfe, it doesn't really matter where he lines up. He just wants playing time.
Not only that, but he comes with a chip on his shoulder, since he believed he was a first-round talent who slipped into the second day of the draft.
"I was a little upset," said Wolfe, who was the Big East's co-defensive player of the year after a final season in which he had 9½ sacks and 21½ tackles for loss for the Bearcats. "I'm not the type of guy to sit around and wait. I want to get in the mix.
"I'm going to try to learn from everybody. Just try to do everything I can to help us win a championship."
Building and bolstering the defense could be the next step to making that happen.
The Broncos already have a potent offense with Manning leading the way.
Now, they're trying to strengthen the other side of the ball so Manning doesn't have to score each time he steps under center.
Wolfe will be part of a defensive tackle rotation that will include Justin Bannan, Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson.
The 22-year-old Wolfe had a solid performance at the combine, possibly jumping him up the draft board. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.01 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times.
"I think what the combine did was just make (teams) go back and really look at my film, see the things I actually did," Wolfe said. "See how much I loved the game. I don't take plays off. I play like every play is going to be my last snap. That's the way I play."
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