Von Miller wants to be considered one of the greatest players of all time. He told ESPN exactly that earlier this week as the Broncos wrapped up the first three days of OTA practices for the 2017 season.

It’s a lofty ambition, no doubt, but he has plenty of motivation and examples to draw from, having worked alongside three guys who are in the “GOAT” conversation at their respective positions.

“I want to be the best player, no question. I want to be a GOAT-type [greatest of all time] player, like the guy upstairs,” Miller told ESPN’s Jeff Legwold. The guy upstairs is, of course, Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway.

Elway for many years was one of the chief names mentioned in the classic barstool argument of greatest quarterback of all time. (He’s still a part of that conversation when it’s had here in Denver). Ironically, Elway helped move himself farther out of that conversation with his greatest move as an NFL executive. In making Peyton Manning a teammate of Miller’s, Elway helped deliver Manning’s second ring (the only QB to do it with two different teams) and added several more line items to Manning’s case for GOAT.

Another move Elway made might be chief among the reasons Miller is in the position to have his name in that argument some years down the road. Two years after adding Manning to the mix, he signed DeMarcus Ware – one of the top pass rushers in NFL history. Not only did Miller have a front row seat to watch Manning operate for four years, he had a hands-on education from Ware for three.

And while Elway, Manning and Ware are all in the GOAT discussion at their positions, each one typically loses his case for any number of reasons. Chief among them: Elway lost too many Super Bowls; Manning didn’t go to enough; Ware was only a pass rusher.

Miller has already done enough in six years to be considered among the all-time great Broncos. Heck, his Super Bowl 50 performance alone did that.

But what would Miller have to do to elevate himself above the other great Broncos, to truly garner a fair shake in the GOAT debate among all defensive players?

It begins and ends with putting up numbers.

Through six years in the NFL, Miller has racked them up. Not just stats, but accolades. Three first-team All-Pro nominations. Two second-team nods. Five Pro Bowls. One Defensive Rookie of the Year. One Super Bowl MVP. More will come.

But for Miller to join the ranks of not just sack masters like Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Derrick Thomas (to whom Miller’s No. 58 jersey is a nod), but all-around all-time greats like Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis, he’s going to have to take many of his stats to new heights – and maintain them for a long time.

Miller told ESPN he wants to play “17 years or whatever,” so we’ll dive into what kind of stats he’ll need to put up over that time in order to put himself in the conversation. Even a single year of decline or injury will mean he’ll have to be even more productive year in and year out.

Editor’s Note: The stats used here are from Pro Football Reference, which vary slightly from NFL.com (tackles in particular) but provide more comprehensive career totals in other areas

Through six years in the NFL (88 games), Miller claims 73.5 sacks, 272 tackles, 20 forced fumbles, 13 passes defended and one interception.

In order to move into the GOAT discussion, Miller first and foremost will have to be the most dominant pass rusher of his era. That means he’s going to need at least a 20-sack season, probably several. Miller’s high-water mark is 18.5 in 2012. That’s tied for 20th all time for a single season. White, Taylor and Thomas all boast one season of 20-plus sacks. Justin Houston (one) and J.J. Watt (two), Miller’s contemporaries, have three between them. If Miller can’t outpace those two in the present, it will be hard to make any kind of all-time claim.

Bruce Smith compiled 200 sacks over a 19-year career. If Miller is going to play a full 17 years, the same number as Ray Lewis, he’ll need to stay on his current pace of 12.25 sacks per season to surpass Smith. That seems like a manageable number, but keep in mind Smith posted single-digit sack totals in four of his last five years in the league. Reggie White, second on the all-time list at 198, played 15 years and posted double-digit sacks in all but three of them. Miller will have to match that pace, plus show an improvement in the all-around game.

As a run defender, Miller is one of the more underrated elite players in the game. His lateral speed is sometimes overlooked at first blush, simply because his first step is so fast getting after the quarterback. Miller set a career high in tackles in 2016, in large part due to an improved focus on his run defense. The fact that Wade Phillips deployed him in more creative packages, even lining him up at the nose on occasion last year, helped facilitate that numbers increase, as well.

White had nine seasons of 75 or more tackles and Thomas had six seasons of 50 or more. Tackles weren’t an official stat during Taylor’s tenure, so Miller will have the benefit of boasting numbers where LT can’t. Miller probably won’t ever put up a 100-tackle season, but he’ll need to average greater than 50 through the peak years of his career if he really wants to be in the GOAT conversation. Consider that Ray Lewis has more than 1,500 career tackles as an interior linebacker. If Miller could surpass the halfway point of that number, while racking up four times more sacks, he’d lock down a spot in that GOAT argument without question.

Beyond his pass-rushing skills, Miller has a nose for the football – probably as good as any other defender. Just ask Cam Newton. Miller’s 20 career forced fumbles are impressive. Consider that the NFL’s active leader, Julius Peppers, has 50 over 15 years. Miller has 20 in six. That’s an identical average of 3.33 per year. While not an official NFL stat, it’s a valuable part of Miller’s all-around defender argument. Maintaining that pace for 17 years would no doubt bolster his argument, but even another three or four seasons with five-plus forced fumbles would be enough.

In pass defense, Miller is vastly underrated. That’s primarily because he’s not asked to do it all that often. He doesn’t have the eye-popping passes defended numbers (which includes batted passes) compared with Watt or Houston (Miller has 13 to Watt’s 45 and Houston’s 26), but his downfield coverage is some of the best among primary pass rushers. Miller has been known to match up in coverage against tight ends, even shadowing Rob Gronkowski with success. His interception of Tom Brady in the 2015 AFC Championship came in coverage on Gronk. Miller has only one regular-season interception in his career (Watt has three and Houston has one), so upping that total will be paramount to ranking among the all-time greats. Lawrence Taylor had nine over his 13 years. With all his other stats, Miller needs to be at least above five in this category to really tilt the scales in his direction.

In terms of accolades, Miller is on pace with many of the greats. Lewis earned seven first-team All-Pro nods. Taylor and White had eight. Miller has three and counting.

Taylor had three Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Defensive Rookie of the Year and a league MVP. Lewis has two DPOYs and a Super Bowl MVP. Miller, so far, claims a Super Bowl MVP and a Defensive Rookie of the Year.

So what does a realistic GOAT career stat line look like for Miller if he plays 17-years? And how many awards does he need to rack up?

Miller has a realistic chance at 175-plus sacks, and at his current pace would reach 208 over 17 years in the league. He’d rank third all time at 160.5, but 175 should be his minimum goal.

He’s averaging 45.3 tackles per season, which would put him at 770 for his career. If he can climb that average above 50 for a handful of season’s, he’ll solidify his place in the argument. Surpassing 750 career tackles would be a big check mark on the list.

Reaching Pepper‘s mark of 50 forced fumbles seems like a reach, given his current pace and just how difficult those are to come by, but 40 would be quite feasible. That many, coupled with those sack and tackle numbers above, would do the trick.

He has some real work to do in passes defended and interceptions – a tricky proposition if he’s trying to boost those sack and forced fumble numbers. Realistically, he should have 40 passes defended and at least six interceptions to show his all-around versatility from an edge rush position.

So, that’s a line of 175 sacks, 750-plus tackles, 40 forced fumbles, six interceptions and 40 passes defended.

With those numbers he’d be sure to pick up three or four more first-team All-Pro nominations, putting him within reach of Taylor and Lewis. He’ll need to grab at least two Defensive Player of the Year awards to match them. A league or a second Super Bowl MVP could put him over the top.

Of those options, Broncos Country would certainly lean towards a second Super Bowl MVP. Miller, who has always shined brightest on the biggest stage, would probably agree. The greatest of all time don’t just put up stats, they put them up when they matter the most. That could be the biggest key to Miller being the greatest of all time.