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George Paton completed his first NFL Draft as the general manager of the Denver Broncos over the weekend, and he seems pretty pleased with himself.
Paton came to Denver from the Minnesota Viking’s front office. While there, the Vikings were known for trading down in the draft to accumulate more picks: From 2012, when Paton became the team’s assistant general manager, to 2020, Minnesota racked up 93 draft picks, more than any other franchise. So it’s not too surprising that Paton moved down twice in the third round of this past weekend’s draft, eventually accumulating a total of 10 selections.
“We were very happy,” Paton said, according to Mile High Huddle. “I think we moved back 20 spots if I’m not mistaken and got two late third-round picks, and we still got the two players we wanted which is rare when you move back that far. The room was happy, and I was happy. It doesn’t always work out like that, but it worked out today.”
Paton also came off as quite the badass. A video clip of his wheelin’ and dealin’ shows Paton seemingly hanging up on one NFL executive, saying, “I’ve got someone else who’s going to give me more.” Baller.
And Paton got the guy he wanted in the first round—University of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II—by playing hard to get. Or maybe it was reverse psychology. Anyway: The Broncos selected Surtain without speaking with him or attending Alabama’s pro day, that way other interested teams wouldn’t trade up and steal Surtain before the Broncos had a chance to select him. That’s juking that would make Phillip Lindsay proud (too soon?).
Yes, it appears as if Paton pulled off his perfect draft. So why are we giving him a big fat “F”?
Because as of now, the Broncos’ quarterbacks are still Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, the latter of whom Denver traded for a day before the draft in exchange for a lowly sixth-round pick.
“So we’re really excited for both quarterbacks,” Paton said. “We’re always looking at every position and quarterback’s another one, but we like the two we have.”
Hey, we like them, too. Especially Lock. If you have two quarterbacks, however, you really have no quarterbacks. In the AFC West, the Broncos will compete against a future hall of famer (Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes), a three-time pro bowler coming off his best year (Las Vegas’ Derek Carr), and the reigning offensive rookie of the year (the Chargers’ Justin Herbert). Who’s the Broncos opening day starter? A big fat shrug.
Paton could have selected Ohio State University quarterback Justin Fields instead of Surtain. (Or, for that matter, Alabama’s Mac Jones.) There’s no guarantee that Fields will become a star, but a lot of experts think he might. The prospects for Lock or Bridgewater ascending to that level are far less likely. Which means the Broncos are likely looking at four more years of losing.
But let’s not get too bogged down in the negative. The Monday after the NFL Draft is a time of naïve optimism, when every player your team selects is the next Tom Brady. Here are the 10 players Paton selected during this past weekend’s draft and why you should feel good about them all being Broncos.
Round 1 | Patrick Surtain II, cornerback, Alabama
Surtain’s father was an all pro for the Miami Dolphins—and the sequel is better than the original (he’s more of a momma’s boy anyway). My college team plays in the SEC, so I’ve watched Surtain since he was a freshman; I take that back, I never got to actually see him play because my Texas A&M Aggies never threw to his side of the field. The only knock on the SEC defensive player of the year is that Surtain intercepts passes instead of throwing them.
Round 2 | Javonte Williams, running back, North Carolina
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he thought Williams had a chance to be the first running back drafted. But like mom’s new boyfriend, he can’t replace Phillip Lindsay in our hearts—unless he really comes through with some sweet swag at Christmastime. And, after leading the NCAA with 75 avoided tackles in 2020, Williams definitely has the potential to ease the pressure on whoever lines up under center for the Broncos this season.
Round 3 | Quinn Meinerz, guard, Wisconsin-Whitewater
The Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater (go Hawks!) alum trains like he’s about to fight Ivan Drago to avenge the death of Apollo Creed. He’s also a big supporter of this fundraiser for a 14-year-old Wisconsin girl in need of a life-saving treatment. Maybe welcome Meinerz to town by making a donation. Even better, buy one of his shirts to support the cause. They even come in orange.
Round 3 | Baron Browning, linebacker, Ohio State
The best thing about Browning? With a 4.53 40-yard-dash time, he’s got the ability to provide some needed coverage skills from the linebacker position. The worst thing? He went to Ohio State, so he’s probably insufferable.
Round 5 | Caden Sterns, safety, Texas
This was the report from a University of Texas fan site after the Broncos picked Sterns: “Perhaps the most criticized defensive player in some time for the Texas Longhorns, safety Caden Sterns leaves [campus] with hopes of a more successful career at the professional level than in college.” So…lot’s of upside here.
Round 5 | Jamar Johnson, safety, Indiana
The Indiana fan site was much kinder to Johnson—and not without reason. The first-team All-Big Ten player didn’t yield a single touchdown in 406 coverage snaps during his three years in Bloomington, Indiana.
Round 6 | Seth Williams, wide receiver, Auburn
Williams was predicted to go in the fourth round, so there’s value here—and evidently the red-zone threat (he’s 6 feet 3 inches) is pretty upset about being the 30th wide receiver selected. “These last 24 and even 48 hours have just been crazy,” he said. “I’ve just been watching the TV…watching name after name go by and using that as fuel to the fire.” Burn, baby, burn.
Round 7 | Kary Vincent Jr., cornerback, LSU
Shortish (5 feet 10 inches), but fast (he was the number-one-ranked 200-meter sprinter in the country out of high school).
Round 7 | Jonathon Cooper, outside linebacker, Ohio State
Although he led those insufferable Buckeyes in sacks in 2020, Paton talked a lot about Cooper’s “makeup,” which means he’s a probably a hell of a guy.
Round 7 | Marquiss Spencer, defensive end, Mississippi State
Spencer was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times. He also has the courage to go by the Twitter handle name @Bigspencer421, which is confidence I can only dream about.