While there is plenty of attention in Denver to the fact the Broncos will transition back to a 4-3 alignment under new coach John Fox, the club is perhaps even more concerned with identifying a defender who can make what one club executive termed "a really big difference" on third down.
As reported late Wednesday by ESPN, the Broncos still have four players under consideration for the No. 2 overall choice - defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Patrick Peterson - and not surprisingly all four are guys who can influence a game on third down. The Broncos remain somewhat puzzled by how they could best utilize Miller, the best pass-rusher in the draft, but Fox has said he will not hesitate use former 3-4 linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers at end in his 4-3, so perhaps size doesn't matter as much as upfield burst to him.
Don't discount Fairley, who some Denver scouts feel is a better third-down defender than is Dareus.
Hot-lanta: It's not in the intrinsic DNA of Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff to make a huge jump in the first round - although his New England background has prepared him well for wheeling and dealing - but there definitely is something to the rumor instigated by Peter King of S.I. that the Falcons are thinking about a major deal for a shot at wide receivers A.J. Green or Julio Jones.
While the rationale of some who saw the Falcons dismantled by Green Bay in the playoffs is that Atlanta must address its defense - either with a left end, linebacker or a cornerback - the game equally demonstrated to team officials the need for a more explosive receiver than Michael Jenkins to pair with Roddy White. Despite a faster 40-yard time, the feeling around the NFL is that Jones isn't quite the playmaker that Green is.
Not that this has any bearing on the Atlanta draft, but locals have been very vocal that the Falcons need to make an effort to somehow land Green, whose exploits at Georgia are well known to Falcons patrons.
No deal: Old buddy Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wasted little time on Wednesday dismissing a rumor that the Steelers were trying hard to trade up in the first round for Florida guard Mike Pouncey, and reunite him with twin brother Maurkice Pouncey, the club's Pro Bowl center. Bouchette termed the rumor, "a fantasy," and after talking with a couple team officials, we couldn't agree more. The draft stock of "the other" Pouncey is ascending, and while it's true the Steelers love him, they can't deal high enough to land him without undermining a lottery in which the club has to address several needs. Given the draft value points chart that many franchises use, Pittsburgh would probably have to surrender first-, second-, and third-round choices for a shot at Pouncey, who could go off the board right around the middle of the first round, and that historically isn't how the Steelers do business.
Trade mart: We're still uncertain if all the smoke about trading up or down in the first round will amount to much fire, but expect a lot of later deals, team officials and player agents have suggested. If the league still has a moratorium against signing undrafted free agents, teams will be looking to land additional sixth- and seventh-round choices, and select players that might otherwise have been considered as priority free agents instead of gambling they'll be able to sign them.
Punts: If Miller is not available at the fifth overall pick, it will still be a bit of an upset if Arizona chooses a quarterback with the choice. Some people feel that, in such a scenario, the Cardinals will try hard to bail out of the pick, while others have suggested the club will opt for a wide receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald. ... The No. 5 and No. 6 picks (Cleveland) definitely are in play if the prospects the two teams have targeted are off the board. ... A lot of people in the league feel the Cardinals already have an understanding with pending free agent quarterback Marc Bulger. The Cardinals would have liked to sign Bulger last year, and coach Ken Whisenhunt lobbied for a deal, but Arizona had already agreed with Derek Anderson and management didn't see a way to bring in two veterans. ... Statistical oddity I: Dimitroff, who along with coach Mike Smith has resurrected the Falcons in three years, has exercised 26 draft choices, but has never taken a Big 10 player. In fact, the last Big 10 player chosen by Atlanta was Ohio State center Doug Datish, a sixth-rounder in 2007, when current team president Rich McKay was still running the Falcons' drafts. ... Statistical oddity II: Dallas has now gone 29 straight drafts without choosing an offensive lineman in the first round. The Cowboys selected Missouri tackle Howard Richards with their top pick in 1981. ... There aren't likely to be many players who "jump" a round - who move up from, say, the second to the first stanza, but there are a few guys who seem to have picked up some steam in the last day or two, and could go perhaps a half-round sooner than expected. Two such players, among others, are wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (Troy) and corner Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson).
--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange