In one week the Broncos will be looking at which players on their Big Board are still around by No. 67 and 68 as they put their picks in.
And whether the Broncos target offense or defense, skill players versus trench positions, potential starters at one position or depth at another is yet to be discovered.
But Sean Payton made it pretty clear in Thursday’s pre-Draft presser that he and George Paton - and their entourage of scouts and experts - are the only ones who are going to know that and determine it when the time comes.
“It’s easy to look at the key plays or the highlights. You guys might have an opinion on some players in this draft and they’re probably based off of maybe 15 or 18 snaps,” Payton said. “For us, last night, we probably watched 1,200 snaps of three players going back a season ago because you really are trying to get the totality of what’s coming in the building.”
Referencing often his favorite mentor, Bill Parcells, Payton highlighted the former iconic coach’s penchant for a good offensive line and hinted again at his own favoritism for that position.
But since the Broncos targeted o-line heavily in the early days of free agency, Payton is still maintaining a poker face on the direction they go next week.
Just know that he and his GM are hashing that out daily.
“I think Bill looked at the offensive line, obviously, with great significance. We all do, but he looked at certain things pertaining to that group. He had certain requirements,” Payton noted, adding that understanding the offense and defense you plan to run is the real key when looking at players.
“We often times talk about what’s the vision for these guys. Are we looking at a nickel or corner? Are we looking at a slot receiver? Do we think he can play outside?” Payton added. “Having a clear vision I think is important. That takes time in the meetings.”
100% ✊ https://t.co/f6rAQZ7IEE— Justin Simmons (@jsimms1119) April 20, 2023
Paton (of the George variety) has enjoyed trading up and trading back in his previous drafts - both in Denver and Minnesota - but he’s working with a new head coach whose past teams have often had a lower number of draft picks than some.
“You just want to have flexibility. You want to have an open mind. We talked last night about potential target players that we would go get. You just never want to be closed-minded,” Paton said. “We’ve traded up where I’ve been, and we’ve traded back a lot. It just kind of depends on what’s behind you as well.”
The two insist they will be on the same page come Draft weekend, and now is the time to debate, disagree, argue in favor/against certain players or positions because you have to be on the same page when the clock starts.
“It’s funny, because I think a lot is made of, ‘Did you guys ever disagree over a selection, or a free agency signing?’” Payton said, adding that in 16 years at the Saints with GM Mickey Loomis, they never disagreed at the Draft. “This is the truth. In 16 years, I can’t recall one time that when the time came to select players, [that we had] a disagreement. The disagreements or the discussions are weeks prior or days prior....That’s the importance of the months prior and the weeks prior and really trying to look at things with a clear lens.”
"Both of our mindsets is to draft the best player, no matter where we are in the draft."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 21, 2023
GM George Paton, HC @SeanPayton approach 2023 #NFLDraft with aligned, clear vision of how to build Broncos » https://t.co/mNOMh99a32 pic.twitter.com/f2Z7M4GAOy
Both the GM and head coach are approaching the draft as if they have a first and second-round selection as they put the board together - which is both useful for now and in the future.
“You’re assigning values to these players that will not only serve you well in the draft, but there will be recall in free agency four or five years from now,” Payton said.
The new coach is also not really in the business of trying to predict what other teams will do and what they have to do with only five picks.
“Each draft is a little different,” he said, noting the strategy is to “draft the most amount of players that meet your threshold that you really like.”
The GM is also not trying to give away any specific direction they may be thinking at this point - if in fact, they are.
“We’re going to take the best player,” Paton said, adding they were aggressive in free agency and mostly focused on offense to fill holes, but that doesn’t mean they’re going defense more in the draft. “We feel like we filled a lot of those holes. Now, we can draft the best player. We were good on defense last year, and we still have some talent on defense. We have a foundation. We’re not going to stretch to draft a defensive player. Both of our mindsets is to draft the best player, no matter where we are in the draft.”