Twelve things about the Broncos entering Thursday’s NFL draft:
1. In a phone interview, former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, now an ESPN analyst, said the Broncos’ plan for quarterback is “one of the more interesting storylines heading into the draft. I like all five (top quarterbacks), but I love Trey Lance — he has a chance to be special.”
2. Atlanta may have multiple suitors at No. 4 if San Francisco takes quarterback Mac Jones with the third pick. Would moving from 9 to 4 cost the Broncos their 2022 first-round pick? “I don’t think so,” Tannenbaum said. “I’ve said this quite a bit: My belief is, once the draft starts, the prices to move up will go down dramatically.”
3. During a conference call, I asked former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik (now an analyst for Sirius XM) for his major takeaway from leading his first draft in 2009. “My first draft, I learned a lot about being influenced and how hard that is,” he said. “I was only 37 and there was a lot of influence coming from coaches who were a lot older than me or maybe younger than me but had personal interactions with people. And I fell into that influence.”
4. Dominik provided an example. “Later in the draft, the fifth round, I took a young man named Xavier Fulton and I can remember Jason McCourty was on the board and we had good film on him, but he was a sleeper,” he said. Fulton never played in an NFL game; McCourty is 166 games into his career. Dominik’s point as it relates to Broncos general manager George Paton: Trust your instincts.
5. According to the NFLPA, the Broncos have 66 players under contract — a total including receiver Tim Patrick and linebacker Alexander Johnson, who haven’t signed their restricted free-agent tenders. That allows Paton and Co. to start the draft with 22 roster spots, plenty of flexibility in terms of adding extra picks (they currently have nine) and agreeing to terms with undrafted free agents.
6. Might the draft process rise of Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis lead to him joining the Broncos if they trade down? His athleticism would allow coach Vic Fangio to use him in multiple ways. “Off-the-ball linebackers tend to drop in this draft because of the quarterbacks and wide receivers going early, but outside of (Penn State’s Micah) Parsons, he’s the next-best off-the-ball linebacker,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said.
7. Paton was hoping to have a large number of rookie tryout players at the Broncos’ mini-camp next month, but the NFL nixed that by allowing only five tryout players per team. “Love having a rookie tryout camp,” he said before the league’s announcement. “We always did it in Minnesota and found (receiver) Adam Thielen, (cornerback) Marcus Sherels and (fullback) C.J. Ham. Those kids were Minnesota kids. The majority of those tryout players were Minnesota kids that fell through the cracks and we would like to get that going here in Colorado.”
8. Before the NFL’s decision, Paton said his ideal number of players for a rookie minicamp was 50 “so you can have 11-on-11 and full special teams.”
9. The task for Paton upon his Jan. 13 hiring was flipping his scouting eyes from evaluating for Minnesota coach/defensive play-caller Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 front to Fangio’s 3-4 base. Big deal, little deal or no deal? “I think it’s always a big deal to know what type of player you want for the scheme,” Paton said. “That was really important with Zim and it’s really important with Vic just to know the position specifics — height, weight, speed, arm length — all the things you need at each position.”
10. The notable picture provided by the Broncos recently was Paton sitting alongside president of football operations/former general manager John Elway. “He’s been incredible,” Paton said. “He’s been through this and he’s been in my (GM) seat. We were talking about quarterbacks one morning and he’s been in these guys’ shoes so he can fill in the blanks if some of the questions can’t be answered. He’s been a player, he’s been a GM and he’s won the Super Bowl so he’s been a great resource for me.”
11. Interesting notes from the Broncos’ draft guide sent out to the media: The team is drafting in the top 10 (for now) for the eighth time. … They have the 40th pick (second round) for the second time in three years (receiver Courtland Sutton in ’18). … Quirky stat: They hold the 71st overall pick (third round) for the third time in four years (running back Royce Freeman in ’18 and defensive end Dre’Mont Jones in ’19). … They have made 556 all-time draft picks (304 offense, 240 defense, 12 specialists) and 64.6% (359) made an appearance on the active roster. … Their highest-drafted quarterback is Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006) and highest-drafted cornerback is Deltha O’Neal (15th in 2002). That could change Thursday. … Forty-three Broncos draft picks have combined for 127 Pro Bowl selections since 1970.
12. Paton was asked last week about the Broncos’ in-house COVID-19 rules during the offseason, of note because player rep/kicker Brandon McManus said on Twitter earlier this month there were “no protocols” in place (incorrect). Who else enjoyed Paton’s unnamed poke at McManus? “I’ve been here 4 1/2 months and I’ve never felt safer,” he said. “We get tested, we have social distancing and we have contact tracers. I can’t imagine another building in the Denver area that’s safer than this building.”
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