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Broncos have highest pick since 2011

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Von Miller publicly pleaded with John Elway to sign free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason only to see the Denver Broncos GM reel in Case Keenum instead.

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So, Miller isn't offering his boss any advice on who to grab with the No. 5 pick in the NFL draft.

''I'm cool with whatever he does with that pick,'' Miller said.

So is Keenum, who swears he'll be OK if Elway decides to draft a quarterback at 5 just six weeks after luring him to Denver with a two-year, $36 million deal that includes $25 million in guarantees.

''Whoever comes in, I'll be looking for them to help us be a better football team. No matter what position it is,'' said Keenum, who's already been declared the starter by coach Vance Joseph.

The Broncos haven't selected this high since Elway chose Miller second overall in 2011.

If Elway sidesteps the deep class of quarterbacks, he'll have his choice of blue chippers that would provide immediate help to Keenum and Miller whereas a quarterback most likely wouldn't play until 2019.

''Life is too short to rebuild in the NFL,'' Elway declared this spring.

If, however, he has fallen in love with one of the hyped-but-hazardous QB prospects and that man is still on the board when the Broncos are on the clock, it's a good bet Elway will grab him even though he just signed Keenum.

Elway and his lieutenants spent countless hours studying the ''Big Four '' passers - Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen - over the past several months, sending contingents to pro days, coaching Allen and Mayfield at the Senior Bowl, bringing them in for two-day visits and interviewing them at the combine.

Maybe that was all a smoke screen, maybe not.

Maybe they love one of them, maybe they don't.

Elway has done a good job of hiding his intentions, saying only that he'll take ''the best player that is best for the Denver Broncos'' regardless of what position he plays.

''I'm open to trading,'' too, Elway added, although it would certainly take a blow-me-away offer for him to move out of the fifth spot in a draft so deep in high-level, even generational talent outside the enticing quarterback group.

Elway always tries to fill his biggest needs in free agency so he won't have to reach in the draft and can simply take the best player. Signing Keenum gave him that safeguard this year.

Elway won't have to settle for anything less than the QB atop his wish list, and if he's not there, Elway can bypass the quarterbacks altogether to grab a prime playmaker at another position.

RUN ON RUNNING BACKS

Elway suggested the Broncos will dive into the deep pool of running backs after releasing sixth-year pro C.J. Anderson last week.

''It's a deep running back class as I'm sure you've heard,'' Elway said. ''We feel good about the fact that we'll be able to get a good one.''

KUBIAK COMEBACK

Gary Kubiak, Elway's former backup, play-caller and head coach who returned to the team in a scouting role last summer has a much bigger role in drawing up the Broncos' draft blueprints.

''Gary is a very good evaluator,'' Elway said. ''He has suggestions and his are very important and those go into the pot.''

HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS

Since former GM Brian Xanders' departure in 2012, Elway hasn't drafted a single Pro Bowl player. Only the Saints and Browns join Denver in that ignominious category.

Elway's best pick since assuming more power was CB Bradley Roby at No. 31 in 2014. But his other top selections include Sylvester Williams, Shane Ray, Paxton Lynch and Garett Bolles. His second-round record is even spottier: Montee Ball, Cody Latimer, Ty Sambrailo, Adam Gotsis and DeMarcus Walker.

Center Matt Paradis, a sixth-round gem in 2014, is just about his only bargain in Elway's past five drafts.

A bounce-back season in 2018 might very well come down to Elway having a draft as he did with Xanders in 2011, when they teamed up to pick Miller, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, Nate Irving, Julius Thomas and Virgil Green.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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