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Are the Broncos much better after the draft? Paton says it’s “yet to be seen”

Broncos GM has an optimist-realist outlook of their offseason transactions and the 2022 draft.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett Press Conference John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost impossible to not consider this a successful draft for the Denver Broncos. They’ve added talent to their secondary in OLB Nik Bonitto, CB Faion Hicks, DE Matt Henningsen, and DL Eyioma Uwazurike. They’ve summoned TE Greg Dulcich and boosted their special teams with S Delarrin Turner-Yell, CB Damarri Mathis and WR Montrell Washington. They have C Luke Wattenberg. It’s been a good weekend.

Importantly, they weren’t so worried about snatching a quarterback, which worked out in a class that didn’t seem to boast an embarrassment of riches in that department (I say this, but let’s watch the next Tom Brady come out of the 2022 draft).

General Manager George Paton spent the first 6+ minutes of his post-draft presser just thanking — by name — all the personnel involved in making the weekend possible, which I greatly respect.

Despite the generally positive feelings around the Broncos’ offseason, the GM maintains that it’s “yet to be seen” how much the draft has helped their football team.

“We have to get these players here. They have to get to work,” he explained, “But I do feel like we are a better football team. We’ll see how we do come the fall.”

Asked about the talent added to special teams on the second day, Paton described the process and named the aforementioned additions to their special teams unit.

“Special teams is a big emphasis the second day, starting with Mathis and you work down to Turner-Yell...then Washington, we feel like he can be a duel returner for us. He’s explosive.”

“I applaud Dwayne Stukes for the work he and Mike Mallory put into it,” he added, praising Denver’s Special Teams Coordinator and Special Teams Assistant Coach, respectively, “Their evaluations. I think they’re both happy today because I think we improved our special teams.”

Paton was inevitably asked why he didn’t address the ILB position during the draft, and he responded, ”We wanted to add depth to a number of positions. It just didn’t fall at those two positions. It fell at nine others. You can’t fill them all.”

He went on to explain the organization’s nine picks total, and the fondness they have for the players they finished with; however, this doesn’t preclude adding more talent in the offseason.

“I like where we’re going with the college free agency, I think we’ll help ourselves there,” he elaborated, “Our scouts are still working on it with the coaches. I think it’s going to be a really good group complete with the ‘CFAs’.”

Paton admitted that he was aware of Delarrin Turner-Yell’s close relationship with Nik Bonitto, and added that he asked Bonitto about the safety before they made the pick.

”I knew they were close,” the GM said, “Nik was in our draft room, two picks before we were about to pick. I said, ‘Hey, tell me about your teammate,’ and he’s like ‘What? You’re—?’ He loves him. Yeah, I knew they were really close. He was fired up.”

Asked if he would have liked to pick up more capital for the 2023 draft, Paton confirmed that it’s something he wanted.

“We wanted to pick up picks for next year. I didn’t know how it would go,” he stated, “I’m happy we got a third. Would’ve liked to have maybe gotten a few more but it just didn’t work out.”

“We’re happy with the third,” he added, “We have five (picks) next year. We’ll have a lot more than that, I guarantee it by the time the draft comes around.”

When it comes to drafting players, Paton assigns high importance to an athlete’s character. “It’s a priority to bring high-character players into our building...it’s the work of our scouts like I said earlier in getting to really know these players with all of their sources. It’s our coaches interviewing them at the combine and the hundred of Zoom calls our coaches have.”

“You have to make a million-dollar decision on someone, and that’s hard,” he said of the process of getting to know someone — or trying to — in 6-8 month’s time, “You still get it wrong every now and again. It’s a priority for us, and it will continue to be. No one hits 100 percent, but we’re going to try.”

All in all, Paton felt more comfortable going into this draft than he did last year. Judging by his excitement leading up to this past weekend, it’s unsurprising that he’s really taken off with his confidence in the position.

“The only thing to me that may have been different is I was a little more comfortable this year...I knew the ins and outs, and I knew the scouts much better,” he shared, “I knew all their strengths. I was more comfortable with everything—the setting, the board, the building.”

Paton added that he was more familiar with the people he was working with this year, as opposed to last year. “I probably didn’t know everyone’s name last year when I was running the draft. I was much more comfortable.”

“Last year was a really good process, but this year, I thought it was better.”