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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After using his top pick on a defensive player for the fifth straight season, Broncos boss John Elway turned his attention to helping out 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning.
Elway chose Colorado State offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night and Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman in the third.
Both are athletic, tough and versatile.
A four-year starter in college, Sambrailo could play left guard or right tackle, two areas that are unsettled in Denver.
Elway said Sambrailo will line up at right tackle to start out. That sets up a possible training camp tussle between Sambrailo and Michael Schofield, a third-round pick in last year's draft out of Michigan who didn't get on the field as a rookie.
"In a sense they're a lot alike," Elway said. "But they're going to be competing against each other, so they're going to make each other better."
Schofield heard all the pre-draft chatter about the Broncos wanting to select another right tackle high in the draft.
"I would, too," Schofield said this week, insisting that wouldn't worry him: "It's just great competition."
Sambrailo, who packs 315 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, has superior athleticism for a man of his size. He was a competitive ski racer as a youngster, winning USAA titles in the slalom, giant slalom and super-G and also becoming adept at freestyle flips and tricks.
"The ability to go down the ski slope and make judgments, kind of thinking on your feet, I wouldn't say it helped me necessarily in football, but it kind of trained me to react to what I see a little bit quicker," Sambrailo said.
Heuerman also starred in another sport in his youth — hockey — that helped him hone his skills that he hopes to show off in the NFL.
"Hockey gave me a great foundation for football," the 6-5, 255-pounder said. "It taught me discipline and the hard work that I needed to succeed. My hockey background definitely contributed to my success in football."
Elway, himself a two-sport star during his youth, loves adroit athletes.
"We always like athletic guys," Elway said. "And usually guys that are athletic are competitive."
The Broncos' top offseason priority was upgrading their O-line to keep Manning upright after he finished last season hobbled by a strained right thigh.
Sambrailo said there's a lot of pressure having to shield football royalty but he's ready to chip in.
"Protecting him and being a part of this offense is going to be an incredible experience," Sambrailo said.
Heuerman sounded just as thrilled to get to work with the five-time MVP.
"I can't wait to play and learn from one of the best to ever play the game of football," he said.
The Broncos' first-round pick, SEC player of the year Shane Ray, arrived for his introductory news conference in Denver saying his hyper-extended right big toe is on the mend and he's hoping his reputation is, too.
Ray slipped to No. 23 after being cited for possession of marijuana this week, meaning he'll begin his NFL career in the league's drug program, subject to random testing.
His marijuana mistake also cost him millions.
Ray was rated 10th on Denver's draft board. The player chosen in that slot — Georgia running back Todd Gurley — is expected to command a contract worth $12.3 million over four years while Ray is expected to get about $8.2 million as the 23rd selection.
Many teams projected Ray as more of a top-15 pick, and the 15th player selected, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, is expected to get about $9.6 million.
Ray said the toughest part of getting in trouble was having to look his mother, Sebrina Johnson, in the eye.
"I let my mom down and I let a lot of people down just off of one bad decision," Ray said. "But I'm not a bad kid. I'm not a guy with character issues. I made a mistake and I've already learned from it."
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