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The NFL draft, which began yesterday April 29, is a hopeful time for terrible teams like your Denver Broncos. Fans dream of a return to stardom, led by a new quarterback – either a ballyhooed rookie or a seasoned caller who could jump – start the roster in a similar fashion to Peyton Manning, whose takeover to two Super Bowl trips in 2012 and a championship during a spectacular four-year run.
Both perspectives seemed very real possibilities. Several reports surfaced in the hours leading up to the draft that Denver was about to take over Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers, a guaranteed future Hall of Famer, in what could have been an even bolder blow than the deal with Manning, which afterwards everything was a serious neck injury. And when that didn’t happen, the Broncos had the chance to use their number nine on one of two critically acclaimed QBs: Ohio State’s Justin Fields, rated by many forecasters as the second best available hurler, and Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Instead, Alabama’s new general manager George Paton chose Patrick Surtan II to play cornerback – hardly the highest position needed for the unit.
The Twitterverse’s reaction to the move can be summed up in three words. What. The. Crap?
To understand this reaction, a small shot of the scene is appropriate. At 1:19 pm on April 29th, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted: “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so upset with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he’s not with the team, the league, and the Team sources want to return said ESPN on Thursday. “
That bombshell sparked a series of speculation about a potential trade, and Denver quickly became the consensus landing place even before Mark Schlereth, a former Bronco who became Fox Sports broadcaster and 104.3 The Fan host, offered a tweet of his own: “I’m listening to @ AaronRodgers12 until @Broncos is close to graduation … might still fail but keep your fingers crossed.”
Leading up to the draft, Schlereth’s colleagues at The Fan were utterly annoyed at the prospect of Rodgers in blue and orange. Their celebration, however, was dashed by a message from 9News Broncos insider Mike Klis, known as the team’s water carrier. When executives want to send a message, they pass it on to Klis for delivery. His tweet: “Although there have been various reports of Aaron Rodgers and Broncos, I’ve been told that Broncos are not in talks with Green Bay. All of the brass Broncos in the war room are preparing for the draft.”
If a Rodgers blockbuster happened, an announcement would have arrived before the Broncos hit the clock for the ninth time – and it didn’t. But especially with Fields still on the board, the fans were still excited. Paton had just acquired veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who looked like an ideal mentor. As a result, management could fire last year’s starter Drew Lock, who appeared to be deteriorating over the course of the 2021 season.
With this in mind, the takeover of Surtan was a huge disappointment. While he’s one of the best defensive players in this year’s crop, he’ll likely become a solid professional. But the Broncos inked another cornerback last month, Kyle Fuller, and the gifted (but often injured) Bryce Callahan stays on the list. And if Denver went on the defensive, the organization could have caught linebacker Micah Parsons, an O-wrecking stallion who would have dealt with one of the Broncos’ weaker spots.
Other franchises took advantage of Denver’s questioning decision. Chicago advanced to catch Fields, Dallas reached out to Parsons, and New England brought Jones on board. Should any or all of them become superstars, Paton looks like a class A idiot. And while some fans were still sticking to the idea that the Broncos picked Surtan to include him in a deal for Rodgers, the selection of another Packers cornerback, Georgia Stokes of Georgia, by the 29th election essentially put that theory to bed .
Granted, there is little chance that a trade for Rodgers could be struck before the start of the next round of draft today, April 30th, or anywhere down the line, though those in power at Green Bay are adamant insist that he’s not going anywhere. But right now it looks like the Broncos will move forward with either Lock or Bridgewater at their center – a recipe for another losing campaign.
Which didn’t lead to a happy design day.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.