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Gray Matter: May 24

Posted May 24, 2013

This week's Gray Matter fan mailbag talks camp surprises, fantasy running backs and Von Miller's ranking on NFL Network's Top 100.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's been another busy week at Dove Valley -- Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen was honored for his commitment to the community, Tom Nalen was elected to the Ring of Fame and we're now smack dab in the middle of OTAs.

In other words, there's plenty to talk about. So let's get to this week's questions. Thanks as always for your submissions -- you can tweet them to me every week using the hashtag #GrayMatter.

That's a fun question to ponder. And probably a good guess, but it might even be a little high (or low? I can never decide how to say that correctly). Pro Football Focus ranked Miller No. 4 in their Top 101 of 2012, and CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco wrote that Miller is the eighth-best player in the league in his Top 100 list. Miller was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, after all, so if that holds to form, J.J. Watt would be the only defender ranked above him. It seems to me he should finish in the top 10, but we'll have to wait and see. You never know with these rankings -- I mean, Maxim ranked Miley Cyrus No. 1 in their Hot 100. So it's clearly an inexact science.

There's always a good chance to look dumb -- or like a genius -- when throwing out guesses like this. But here are a few names:

WR Quincy McDuffie: He earned first-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated as a kick returner and finished his college career as UCF's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and kickoff return touchdowns. Head Coach John Fox said he's "got kind of Trindon Holliday type of speed and quickness and we’ll see where that takes him.”

QB Ryan Katz: The Broncos might keep just Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler at quarterback on the active roster, but if they do keep a third, it's between Katz and seventh-round pick Zac Dysert. Katz is likely behind the drafted player at the moment, but if he has a strong camp he could possibly move his way up to the No. 3 spot and at least make the practice squad.

LB Uona Kaveinga: The inside linebacker was one of the Broncos' CFAs that was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, meaning he was considered a draftable player. He started his career as USC before transferring to BYU, and in two years as a starter at BYU he racked up 106 tackles, with nine coming in the backfield. An impressive camp could earn him a linebacker spot on the roster, like CFA Steven Johnson last season.

DE Jeremy Beal: Beal's not a CFA, or a rookie, so it might not be as much of a "surprise." The former seventh-round pick spent 2011 on the practice squad and last season on injured reserve. But he was impressing in camp before his injury last season, and he could even find his way into a fairly prominent role rotating in at defensive end this season.

At the combine this year, Fox said Walton is "definitely the starter." Just like everyone else on the roster -- save maybe Peyton Manning -- he'll have to compete for the job, but that's the starting point. While Walton is still rehabbing from an ankle injury, guard Louis Vasquez said Manny Ramirez has been taking center snaps with the first team.

I don't claim to be a brilliant fantasy football player, so take this with a grain of salt -- but I'd say Montee Ball. If he learns the offense fast enough, the fact that he was a second-round pick shows that the Broncos want him to contribute early and often. And since he was so prolific finding the end zone in college, that would hopefully translate to touchdowns in the NFL. So that's who I'd go with if I had to hold the fantasy draft today.

I think that's kind of up to Julius Thomas. It's his first healthy offseason as injuries have held him back since he was drafted in 2011. The third-year tight end has just one catch to his name so far, but has a chance to remind everyone this preseason of the athleticism that earned him a fourth-round grade even after just one year of college football. This offseason is probably as important for Thomas as anyone on the roster. Virgil Green has played in at least 12 games in both of his NFL seasons, including 15 last year, and has been a mainstay on special teams. Ultimately, I think the Broncos stick with four again this year -- Tamme, Dreessen, Green and Thomas.

It's always fun to think about, but I'm also always hesitant to give a number. It brings me back to one of my favorite blogs from Jim Saccomano.

He wrote it back in 2010, covering the excitement that abounds whenever the next season's schedule is announced. He recalled asking a coach his thoughts on the schedule and got a quick response: "Looks like we have eight at home and eight away."

Here's how Sacco closed out the blog:

What does it all mean?

It means what it always means.

If you don’t prepare are practice well you are in danger of getting your teeth kicked in every week, home or away, no matter the foe. And if you do practice and prepare well, you can win any game on the schedule, no matter who the opponent is, no matter where, no matter what day or time of day.

Every coach knows it is all about how you study and work and prepare, and then carrying every one of those good habits over to game day.

We all start off with eight at home and eight away. The NFL is the world’s greatest meritocracy, and we’ll see who merits what as the season moves along.

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