ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning will be taking snaps from a Baylor center next season.
As for which one, well, that could be part of the intrigue of training camp.
The leader in the clubhouse, of course, is incumbent J.D. Walton, who’s started every game over the last two seasons for the Denver Broncos.
But the offensive lineman Walton once helped mentor at Baylor could soon be pushing him after the Broncos drafted Philip Blake in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
The team also took cornerback Omar Bolden of Arizona State earlier in the fourth round, defensive end Malik Jackson of Tennessee in the fifth and linebacker Danny Trevathan in the sixth.
“When we look at it, probably as good as it could’ve gone,” Broncos boss John Elway said of the draft.
Blake actually shifted over to center for the Bears after Walton was taken by the Broncos in the third round of the 2010 draft. Before he left, though, Walton gave Blake some valuable pointers on playing the position.
For that, Blake will be forever grateful.
“J.D. Walton is a real good guy,” Blake said.
This could be quite a transition for Blake as he goes from snapping the ball to speedy Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to Manning, one of the best NFL QBs to ever line up under center.
“It will be different,” Blake chuckled. “It will be a good experience.”
There’s another option as well: Blake can slide over and play guard if necessary. That versatility might come in handy, especially with right guard Chris Kuper mending from a broken left leg.
“I’m very comfortable at guard and at center,” said Blake, who’s from Toronto and became interested in football after his mom brought home the John Madden Football video game when he was a teenager. “I played guard at the Senior Bowl, and I played center at Baylor, so I have the versatility to help out on the line.”
That’s precisely why the Broncos took him.
“He’s very strong. He’s experienced,” coach John Fox explained. “He has played multiple positions so he understands offensive line play. I thought he was an excellent pass protector, as far as once he got his hands on you, you weren’t going very far.
“Where he ends up fitting will be up to him.”
The Broncos acquired the pick in which they selected Blake as part of the deal that sent Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. The trade also netted Denver a sixth-rounder, which team used on Trevathan.
Bolden sat out last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during spring practice. Still, he was such a valuable member of the Sun Devils that his team voted him a captain.
He also returns kicks, which is an area of need after the Broncos lost Eddie Royal to free agency.
“I love returning the ball,” said Bolden, who earned the program’s “Hard Hat” recognition award for his offseason dedication to the weight room. “I played running back in high school, so anytime I can get my hands on the ball, then I enjoy it. I take pride and joy in it.”
Bolden’s immediate role will more than likely be special teams and possibly playing in the nickel package. The Broncos already have two veteran cornerbacks in Tracy Porter and perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey.
As for the knee, Bolden said it’s coming along just fine.
“It’s been a lot of hard work leading up to this and I’m just happy that it’s over,” said Bolden, who also missed time in 2009 with an injury.
Since trading out of the first round on Thursday, the Broncos have been quite busy. They took defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and quarterback Brock Osweiler with their second-round picks, and traded up to nab running back Ronnie Hillman in the third.
Asked about Osweiler, his teammate at Arizona State, Bolden couldn’t help but gush.
“He’s a team guy,” Bolden said. “He’s going to do everything that you ask him in order to make the team better. He’s a great locker room guy, and he’s a great guy to be around. I’m excited to be reunited with him again.”
Blake felt the same way about joining Walton, even if they are competing for the right to snap to Manning.
“I’ve played with him, and I’ll learn from him again, so I know that’s a great experience,” Blake said.