A Wolfe in Broncos’ orange clothing

Denver sneaks into the NFL draft by taking a defensive lineman

After trading down twice in the first round Thursday, John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally made a pick at No. 36 on Friday, and somewhat of a surprise pick, too: Cincinnati defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. Enlarge photo

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

After trading down twice in the first round Thursday, John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally made a pick at No. 36 on Friday, and somewhat of a surprise pick, too: Cincinnati defensive lineman Derek Wolfe.

ENGLEWOOD – The Denver Broncos’ surprise second-round pick even caught the player off guard.

Versatile defensive lineman Derek Wolfe didn’t have many conversations with his new employer leading up to being selected at No. 36 overall Friday night. Maybe one, but not nearly as many as he had with other teams.

So when his name was called, well, he was a little bit shocked.

Pleasantly, of course.

“I know I can make a difference,” said Wolfe, who was a standout at Cincinnati. “I’m ready for the opportunity.”

In Wolfe, the Broncos receive a speedy 6-5, 300-pound lineman who can play both tackle and end. But the Broncos stunned many draft experts by taking Wolfe so early in the second round when he might have been available at No. 57 when the team picked again.

And there were far more highly touted defensive tackles still on the board – Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, to name a few.

The Broncos will more than likely ask Wolfe to play in the trenches and become a diversion to free up defensive ends Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, who’s coming off a sensational first season in which he was named the rookie of the year.

For Wolfe, it doesn’t really matter where he lines up. He just wants playing time.

Not only that, but he comes with a chip on his shoulder, since he believed he was a first-round talent who slipped into the second day of the draft.

“I was a little upset,” said Wolfe, who was the Big East’s co-defensive player of the year after a final season in which he had 9˝ sacks and 21˝ tackles for loss for the Bearcats. “I’m not the type of guy to sit around and wait. I want to get in the mix.

“I’m going to try to learn from everybody. Just try to do everything I can to help us win a championship.”

Building and bolstering the defense could be the next step to making that happen.

Now, they’re trying to strengthen the other side of the ball so Peyton Manning doesn’t have to score each time he gets the ball.

Wolfe will be part of a defensive tackle rotation that will include Justin Bannan, Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson.

The 22-year-old Wolfe had a solid performance at the combine, possibly jumping him up the draft board. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.01 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds 33 times.

“I think what the combine did was just make (teams) go back and really look at my film, see the things I actually did,” Wolfe said. “See how much I loved the game. I don’t take plays off. I play like every play is going to be my last snap. That’s the way I play. I think they really realized it once they saw how I moved, the way I performed and reacted to things.”

The Broncos sacked their first-round pick for an extra second-round pick, then chose Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with their first pick in the NFL draft. Enlarge photo

Al Behrman/Associated Press file photo

The Broncos sacked their first-round pick for an extra second-round pick, then chose Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with their first pick in the NFL draft.