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Evaluating George Paton’s decisions as GM

Other than the Russell Wilson contract, which could sink him, how has he done in the two years since he took over?

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Full disclosure: I’m a George Paton apologist. I think he has improved the talent level on the roster in two seasons as the general manager relative to the previous five.

George Paton was hired in January of 2021 to take over as the GM of the Denver Broncos. He has taken much flack recently for his part in hiring Nathaniel Hackett; for the contract that he gave Russell Wilson before taking a single snap for the Broncos; and for the signing of the injury-prone edge, Randy Gregory.

Let’s leave aside the Hackett hire (which was not solely his decision) and the Wilson contract (which could still look decent if Russ in 2023 plays like Russ in 2021); if you can’t you should just stop reading now.

This article will focus on the other two main things which the GM does: drafting and free agent signings.

The Draft

Keeping in mind that it really takes three seasons to evaluate a draft, here are my takes on the drafts that Paton has overseen.

Anything from day three guys is gravy.

2021 draft “wins”

1st - Patrick Surtain II (first Bronco draftee 1st team AP All-Pro since Von Miller)

Anyone who doesn’t see this as a “win” is a Justin Fields apologist.

2nd - Javonte Williams

Great value for the best RB in the 2021 draft - questions abound about whether or not he can return to form after that freak knee injury

3rd - Quinn Meinerz (best OL player on the team)

Anyone who doesn’t see this as a win is an idiot

4th - Baron Browning (great value in the 4th)

Anyone who doesn’t see this as a win is an idiot. Browning was arguably the second best Bronco defender in 2022 prior to his injury.

4th - Caden Sterns (great player when healthy)

If he could just stay on the field, he’d be starting over KJ.

7th - Jonathon Cooper (decent depth guy for a 7th round pick)

So that’s a lot of “win” in that draft. IMO we hit on all three day 1 and day 2 guys.

2022 draft “wins” (harder to evaluate because only one season)

3rd - Greg Dulcich

Gotta count this as a win. He looks to be the best drafted Bronco move TE since Tony Scheffler.

4th - Damarri Matthis (great value in the 4th)

The rookie played exceptionally well for a day 3 guy who was thrust into a starting job by injury.

4th - Eyioma Uwazurike

Debatable but he showed good play at end of 2022 reg. season and he was a 4th round pick so getting quality defensive snaps from him is a bonus.

6th - Matt Henningsen

He looked serviceable, but anything you get from day 3 guys is a huge win.

Nik Bonitto could still turn into a good edge guy. Sadly, I think he turns into the next Shane Ray, not the next DeMarcus Ware, but I would love to be proven wrong on this. If he does turn into a bust like Ray, this would be the first real “miss” in the draft by Paton as Bronco GM.

Free Agents

Free agents he signed before the 21 season (that played at all):

  • Ronald Darby
  • Kyle Fuller
  • Kareem Jackson
  • Mike Boone
  • Shamar Stephen
  • Cameron Fleming
  • Eric Saubert
  • Nate Hairston

Darby was a risky signing because of health concerns. He has been good when healthy. Fuller was Fangio signing. I highly doubt Paton gives that contract out if Fangio were not the head coach. KJ was a great signing to retain the veteran safety for relatively cheap. Saubert and Fleming were both needed, useful and cheap. They both outplayed their contracts. Hairston hardly saw the field.

Before the 22 season

  • DJ Jones
  • K’Waun Williams
  • Melvin Gordon
  • Billy Turner
  • Tom Compton
  • DeShawn Williams
  • Alex Singleton

Jones, Williams, Williams and Singleton were the core of the 2022 defense and with the exception of DJ’s deal, they all were cheap. I would argue that they all outperformed their contracts in 2022. Turner and Compton were cheap and hardly played, but at least they weren’t making Menelik Watson or JaWaun James money to NOT play.

Melvin Gordon probably cost the Broncos two or three wins with his fumbles in 2022. That was a disastrous signing.


I see more good than bad in what George Paton has done as the Bronco GM, but I know there is a sizable group of Bronco fans who want to use that Russell Wilson contract as the noose to hang Paton. I tend to be more optimistic about that contract, but I understand the ire of those in that group.

Paton has been quite astute in the draft and free agency arenas so far as the Bronco GM. I’m hopeful that continues with the 2023 draft and free agency season.

In my opinion that roster that Paton has built during his time with the Broncos is more talented, but less healthy (not his fault), than the rosters that John Elway had put together since the 2015.


What letter grade would you give George Paton for his overall performance as Bronco GM?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    (26 votes)
  • 20%
    (332 votes)
  • 59%
    (975 votes)
  • 11%
    (193 votes)
  • 3%
    (59 votes)
  • 2%
    I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.
    (47 votes)
1632 votes total Vote Now