If nothing else, Denver Broncos GM George Paton is proving to be a savvy poker player. None around the NFL have been able to divine Paton's ultimate objective in the NFL draft, which is set to kick off on April 29.
From traveling around to watch the top quarterbacks in-person at Pro Days, to putting out just the right sound bite in the media, Paton has done a masterful job of pulling the strings in a way that makes it very, very difficult to say with even a modicum of certainty what the Broncos will do come draft day.
In contrast to his predecessor and current president of football operations John Elway, Paton has been a sleuth. In Elway's last few years as GM, it wasn't hard at all to predict what the Broncos would do in the first round, as he telegraphed the Paxton Lynch pick, and even Garett Bolles, and Jerry Jeudy.
Elway did make some surprising moves, like trading back in 2019 and taking Noah Fant, instead of drafting Drew Lock at pick 10, as was the expectation. Elway still got Lock, just at a much cheaper cost in Round 2 while stockpiling extra picks and taking home a tight end with elite upside.
Paton, however, has been much less transparent. On one hand, he's made sure his counterpart GMs around the NFL has seen him at the appropriate QB Pro Days, while on the other, he's said flattering things about Lock.
The result? It's created some additional demand for the Broncos' No. 9 overall pick in the draft. Paton knows what he's doing, leveraging the QB-desperate situation of many NFL teams, and as he recently told the Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran, his plan has worked to gin up interest.
“I’ve already heard from teams that want to move up (to No. 9) … I’ve heard from one team that wants to move back (from the top eight),” Paton revealed.
Who could that team in the top-8 be that's looking to trade back? According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Carolina Panthers — currently at pick 8 — could be the culprits. But there have also been rumblings that the Miami Dolphins — who've already made a blockbuster draft trade and now sit with pick 6 — could be open to moving back too.
“It’s happening now,” Paton told O'Halloran. “It seems to happen earlier and earlier every year. (This) week, we’ll start getting calls and the week of the draft is when things start heating up and the day of the draft is when it really heats up.”
In a draft class that could feature an unprecedented scenario in which quarterbacks go picks 1, 2, 3, and 4 in a row to open the proceedings, unless Paton is willing to part with some serious premium-round capital to bargain with the Atlanta Falcons at Pick 4, a signal-caller is probably off the table.
If a QB Paton 'loves' falls to pick 9, that could alter the equation but more likely, all this sleuthing and poker maneuvering has been done for a reason; Paton wants to trade back and take home a king's ransom in the process, while adding an impact player in Round 1 that can help the Broncos win in 2021 and forestall an unprecedented fifth-consecutive losing season.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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