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Paton, Hackett reflect on Day 2 picks

The Broncos selected OLB Nik Bonitto at #64 and TE Greg Dulcich at #80. GM George Paton and HC Nathaniel Hackett spoke on these decisions in last night’s presser.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now solidly into Day 3 of the NFL Draft, which is essentially Day 2 for Broncos Country this year.

Yesterday, at #64 and #80, the Broncos took edge rusher Nik Bonitto and tight end Greg Dulcich, respectively.

Apart from drafting two quality players, the Broncos traded back with the Houston Texans (their #75 for Houston’s #80 and #162). They were also focused on racking up their picks for 2023, trading #96 to the Indianapolis Colts for #179 and also a third-round pick next year.

Last night, Broncos GM George Paton and HC Nathaniel Hackett met with the press to discuss these picks.

“We thought Nik was one of the better pass rushers coming out,” Paton said of Bonitto, “The bend, the speed, the burst—very natural. At Oklahoma, he had a lot of production.”

The GM noted that Nick needs to get stronger, but they didn’t expect him to still be available at #64. “We’ll have a very good wave with Nik, and I think it’s going to be a really good competition.”

Asked whether Bonitto was a “safety blanket” decision in case Randy Gregory or Bradley Chubb suffer injury, Paton assured that wasn’t the reason he was drafted.

We took him because he was the best player on the board,” he clarified, “They’re all different...He just adds a little more explosion. I said at maybe our last presser, you want a wave of pass rushers.”

Paton added to that remark that Bonitto has a range of experience in his position. “He’s lined up on the edge, he’s played stacked, they blitz him, he’s spied. He’s pretty dynamic in what he does.”

Regarding what struck them about Bonitto’s personality during interviews, Paton shared that the edge rusher had a “great” personality and was on the quiet side. “I like the real serious demeanor, very intelligent, all about ball,” he explained, adding that he knew some of Bonitto’s coaches.

“Jason Taylor coached him in high school, you know Jason, the former player,” he said, “We talked at all the coaches at Oklahoma, and then Jason, a lot of people, and [they] spoke very highly of him.”

On whether they were tempted to trade up to secure Bonitto, Paton admitted that they were. “We had a lot of conversations, but it just worked out. We didn’t have to trade up,” he stated, “There were three or four players we liked, so we just waited it out...we really did think about trading up for Nik as well as Greg.”

Hackett offered some insight on the Greg Dulcich pick, pointing out the uniqueness of a tight end’s versatility. “When you have a guy that can stretch the field like he can, it’s really exciting,” he said, “From all of the stuff—It’s not just the intermediate stuff...the ability to strain and block in the run game. I think he showed a lot of stuff.”

The head coach also addressed the importance of having two tight ends, and whether he thinks Dulcich could improve in his blocking.

“Yeah, I think everybody once you get to this league and you’re blocking some dynamic football players, they always can get a lot better,” he said evenly, “I think the good thing about him is the type of person he is. He was a walk-on when he got there, and he fought his way into the tight end room and was very effective.”

“I don’t think he’s afraid of any bit of hard work, and he’s a great man,” he added, “That’s why I’m excited to have him.”

Reflecting on Day 2 of the Draft, Hackett described the experience of watching George Paton work and watching the entire event unfold. “I was just cheerleading on the side. Sitting next to him, watching him, and being in the war room during that—just watching the whole process and the way he utilized everybody in the room,” he recalled.

Hackett elaborated on the team effort that yesterday required, saying, “It wasn’t just one person. It was gaining information from everybody and everybody being able to communicate.”