PHOENIX —** After the Pro Bowl draft decided the two teams on Wednesday, matchups we got a glance of at Broncos practices this season might come to fruition on Sunday.
Though the Broncos had eight players available for the draft, all but two—Aqib Talib and Ryan Clady—went to Michael Irvin's team.
Still, that sets up some enticing possible duels pitting teammate against teammate in a game setting. Most notably, that makes for the dramatic mano a mano battle on the edges of the field between Talib and Emmanuel Sanders.
"I told him he better hope he's on my team," Talib said before poetic fate put Sanders on Cris Carter's team not too long later. "I don't want to have to tackle E. like that because he's my teammate, but he just better hope he's on my team."
When Sanders found out, he took the news quite well, clearly looking forward to going head to head.
"That's going to be fun. Actually Talib came to my house today and he said that 'I bet I'll be on the other side of the ball.' Now it's going to be fun. Now he'll be able to get a dose of this speed that I possess, and not just in practice."
"We're competitive, but we're brothers at the same time. It'll end up being good," he added.
The other matchup would be DeMarcus Ware facing Ryan Clady in the trenches (or Von Miller if a coach wanted to line him up on the other side). The split was like so: Team Irvin took Miller, Ware, T.J. Ward, Sanders, Chris Harris Jr. and C.J. Anderson; Team Carter took Talib and Clady.
The ability to create matchups like these is just one of the benefits of the draft the NFL has implemented for the Pro Bowl two years ago.
It's a callback to the days before players wore a shield or had their names on the back of their jerseys. Years before they became the best in the world, they played football with a playground atmosphere just like everyone else who did.
With the fun of that might come some of that same anticipation when they were picked to play, and some players even felt the connection to their own draft out of college that started them on their newest road to where they are now.
"You know, for some guys it was already tough enough to get drafted once. But this is what the fans want to see," Von Miller said. "They want to see a team get picked and go by step by step. It has some of the same similarities that the draft does: the excitement to get the fans involved. That's what's really most important and I had a good time in the green room, just all the fellas in there, chilling and relaxing with the guys.
"It's all fun. It has nothing to do with the type of season that you had or type of player that you [are]. You've just got to put that aside and have a good time and go out there and play your game."