On Thursday, with the NFL draft exactly a week later, GM George Paton of the Denver Broncos court held the UCHealth Training Center. In his first real pre-draft press conference as general manager, Paton asked questions and answered them very seriously while still holding his cards close to his waistcoat.
If we’ve learned anything about Paton in three months, it is that his game of poker gets to the point. Regarding the quarterback position, Paton talked about how some “elite” athletes perform with unlimited blankets in the first round of 2021, depending on what “your tastes” is.
Many Broncos fans hold the number 9 overall and hope that Paton will use (or use) it to achieve one of the top 5 QBs in the class. Only time will tell. After Paton had discussed at length his goal of “competing” with the Broncos QB room upon his arrival in Denver, he has yet to take one step further.
The Broncos were tied to a few QB deals in the league that ended up being closed without Paton’s involvement, such as Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold. But despite kicking the NFL bushes and allegedly flipping every stone, barely a QB has been added to the Broncos’ list.
Maybe that will change on design day, maybe not. But on Thursday, Paton admitted and sympathized with fans longing for the team’s QB situation in 2021 before explaining his reasons why the Broncos didn’t just snap up a QB one way or another.
“I get it. We like Drew Lock so we don’t want to force it and bring a guy in – overpay a guy to come in and maybe he’s not as good as the guy we have,” Paton told reporters. “Maybe he’s not good enough to keep up. We want to find the right man and we still have time.”
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Translation: There’s still no man so bulletproof and good-natured that Paton has the confidence that he would either A.) be an immediate upgrade to Drew Lock or B.) at least be a plausible threat to the incumbent.
Had Paton identified a QB ticking these boxes, he might have crossed the Rubicon instead of moving to the abyss before retreating. This man became GM for a reason, however, and revealed one of the remaining strategies the Broncos could employ once the draft came and gone regarding the QB position.
“There’s a trade market. We have the draft,” said Paton. “The landscape can change after the design. A team designs one, maybe this quarterback is out. So we’ll be patient not to force it, but we realize we want competition, and I’ve been saying that since I was ‘I came here and that hasn’t changed. ”
It’s true. It seems that every year at least one QB is drafted to a team where the reigning starter is anchored but is on thinning ice. If nothing else, Paton is an opportunist and he is extremely patient. So if such a window pops up on a QB that the Broncos GM sees as the checkboxes for those two boxes above, maybe he’ll move.
But remember, Paton likes Lock. While it’s too early for Paton to acknowledge that Lock will be the first week starter in Denver (remember, this would remove the advantage he was developing at the figurative poker table with 31 other GMs in the round sitting, working hard), the front is the Broncos office manager emphasized once again his convenience with Lock.
“I don’t know about week 1,” said Paton. “We’re really into Drew. I like to see Drew here every morning when I come in. He’s working hard. He’s going in the right direction. As you know, he’s got a lot of talent. I think he’ll be a better professional But we’re still going to look at the quarterback position. I’ve been saying since I’ve been here we want to create competition, and that’s the goal. We plan to do that. ”
If Paton were to publicly say that Lock is for sure to be The Guy in 2021, it would undermine the value of the number 9 that he has worked hard to cultivate throughout the off-season. Right now, GMs in the league can’t say for sure if Paton really plans to push Lock forward in 2021, or if all of the pro-day trips he’s taken to personally explore QB prospects mean the Broncos want to make a draft next week.
This lack of clarity compared to the other 31 GMs in the league only adds to the value of Pick # 9, so in the event a coveted signal caller falls into the top 10, a QB-in need of a team might be desperate enough to offer the Broncos a range of premium round draft picks to trade with and swap places with Denver.
Ultimately, based on the Minnesota Vikings ‘draft strategy, which Paton defined Thursday and even addressed to the Broncos’ new GM, the ultimate goal is to stock up on as many “darts” as possible to throw and increase the chances of more to hit than just one or two draft picks.
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