ENGLEWOOD | Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are big fans of one another. Now they’re teammates, too.
Seven months after calling his team a bunch of softies, Broncos general manager John Elway picked one of the toughest players in the draft in Chubb at No. 5.
The prolific edge rusher from North Carolina State is a high-motor pass rusher with a rare mix of speed, strength and savvy that helps him beat double teams to get to the quarterback or stuff the running back.
Despite constant attention his senior season, Chubb collected 26 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defender.
It’s safe to say Miller approved of the pick.
“Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhha!” Miller hollered in a videotaped selfie as St. Jude patient Austin Denton of Albuquerque, New Mexico, announced his beloved Broncos’ pick Thursday night.
It’s safe to say Elway and his staff had a similar reaction when the Cleveland Browns, thought to be high on Chubb, instead took Ohio State D-back Denzel Ward at No. 4 to go with their surprising pick of QB Baker Mayfield at No. 1.
Elway said his phone blew up with “a ton” of trade offers from other teams desperate to move up to fifth, “but we really wanted Bradley and we’re thrilled that he was still there.”
Coach Vance Joseph said seeing Bradley “there at five was definitely a surprise — and for sure exciting.”
Chubb is Denver’s highest draft pick since Elway chose Miller second overall in 2011 and he immediately upgrades an already stout defensive front where Miller, Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray suddenly look even more formidable.
Chubb said at the NFL combine that he’d love to land in Denver and learn firsthand from his hero.
“If I got to play with Von Miller that would be crazy. He’s such a great player, such a dynamic player. Definitely could learn a lot from him,” Chubb said.
Chubb also provides the antidote for the constant double- and triple-teams that opponents have thrown at Miller over the last two years. The Super Bowl 50 MVP’s production slipped following DeMarcus Ware’s injury-marred 2016 and retirement last summer.
Coming off a 5-11 debacle, the Broncos sorely needed a quarterback upgrade this offseason and they filled that void in free agency with the signing of Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal.
That left Elway with the option of bypassing this year’s deep class of promising but problematic quarterbacks to grab a blue chipper.
Still, few foresaw Chubb slipping past the first few picks.
Last week, Miller said he’d love to play alongside Chubb.
“He’s Khalil Mack and Von Miller put together,” Miller said with a laugh. “He is a great player and I would love to have him on my team. You don’t come across a guy like that often. We don’t (normally) have the No. 5 pick in the draft. I hope we don’t have a high pick like that for a while. So if we can steal a player like that, I’m all for it.”
That was an echo of Chubb’s comments at the NFL combine when he said, “I try to take Khalil Mack and Von Miller and put them into one person,” modeling Mack’s strength and Miller’s speed.
Chubb comes into the NFL a better run stuffer than Miller was as a rookie. Like any great pass rusher, though, he said he takes the most pride in getting to the quarterback.
Even with a stockpile of moves, however, Chubb knows he’ll have to refine his game in the NFL, and that’s where Miller’s tutelage will come in.
“It’s definitely going to have to get fine-tuned because there’s no weak offensive linemen in the NFL,” Chubb said.