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George Paton’s Minnesota roots provide an intriguing spark for Broncos at trade deadline

George Paton has often been labeled as a Rick Spielman protege. If that applies to trading, Broncos fans can take the Von Miller experience as just the beginning.

DENVER BRONCOS, NFL Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

When George Paton was hired, there was some criticism from some corners, as Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman and the front office’s approach seemed to match that of Mike Zimmer: boring. Yet, the Vikings have hit on quite a few picks over the last few years, and George Paton has been a big part of that. Perhaps the most notable fact of the Rick Spielman era so far has been their propensity for trading. Just looking at the trades from when George Paton was named VP of Player Personnel in Minnesota in 2015 till he was hired by Denver, the Vikings have not been afraid to throw their weight around in trades.

In fact, if I did my math correctly, Minnesota has been involved in a trade 34 times from 2015 to January of 2021. Thirty-four trades. Yes, that is a 3 and a 4. All told, those trades fetched the Vikings 66 draft picks in that time period. If we want to view drafts as “years” for a denominator, that comes out to 5.66 trades per year and 11 total picks per draft.

Look at their most recent superstar trade. The Vikings traded WR Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round pick to the Bills. In exchange, the Vikings received a first, fifth, sixth, and a 2021 fourth-rounder. The Vikings got WR Justin Jefferson from their first, and then pivoted around those four additional picks to net even more 2021 picks.

We’re already seeing the fingerprints of this formula with George Paton. In his first draft with Denver, they made five trades and Denver ended up picking ten times plus added Teddy Bridgewater through those trades. Since then, Paton has made six more trades and has added eight more picks to Denver’s total draft pool over the next few years.

So far, George Paton’s first draft class with the Broncos looks pretty dang good. While we can complain (rightfully) about the team not drafting QB Justin Fields, CB Patrick Surtain II looks like a superstar and future All-Pro. RB Javonte Williams has been mostly solid as a rookie, but the flashes of big play are intriguing and important to note for a relatively inexperienced back. Quinn Meinerz likely takes over at one of the interior spots, and he’s looked superb when he’s been on the field. Baron Browning just got his first taste of play against the Washington Football Team and was calling the defense in that game and flashed big-time ability. Caden Sterns has been a pleasant surprise at safety, and Jonathon Cooper’s been an intriguing edge rusher for a 7th-round pick.

Why care about all this? It’s important to note this, as the Broncos are at a critical junction. The fans want a total rebuild across the board. The team itself isn’t that far off, in my opinion, they just need a few critical pieces to figure out. To get there, the team needs a GM willing to wheel and deal to make those big moves and can draft well enough to supplement.

Now with the Von Miller and Kary Vincent Jr trades on the books, Denver is slated to have eleven picks in the 2022 draft. They won’t have any comp picks on the books for 2022. However, it’s pretty obvious that Paton has grown on a team that hasn’t been afraid to pick up the phone and strike a deal and that’s begun to show in his Denver tenure.

Who knows where this could lead? We’ve seen it speculated that Denver might use the capital to move up for a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, which they might have to with how bad in this class. They could trade up for one of the elite pass-rushers in this draft class to replace Von Miller as well. Or they could use the capital to make a splash move at quarterback for perhaps Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. There’s plenty of potential here. The only thing the Broncos can’t afford here is to be boring.