George Paton: Round 1 isn’t the only place where Broncos can find a quarterback

Apr 18, 2024, 5:27 PM | Updated: Apr 19, 2024, 7:06 am

For Broncos general manager George Paton, the draft able answer to the Broncos’ quarterback quandary doesn’t have to come in the first round.

“I do think it is a good quarterback class. There’s seven, eight quarterbacks that we like that (we) think can play in the league one day,” Paton said during a pre-draft press conference at Centura Health Training Center.

Paton declined to go into specifics about how the quarterbacks were ranked.

“But it is a good quarterback class. It’s been fun getting to know them, seven or eight of them. We think that we can get a quarterback early. We think mid-rounds. We think there’s going to be quarterbacks throughout the draft that are interesting to us.”

To that end, the Broncos have met with two quarterbacks likely to go somewhere between Round 2 and Round 4: South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler and Tulane’s Michael Pratt. The Broncos held a Combine interview with Rattler, who said that the Broncos were the team that required the most preparation. Pratt met with Broncos officials multiple times during Senior Bowl week.

No matter when the Broncos add a quarterback, George Paton acknowledged that sometimes you have to reach beyond ideal draft slot “within reason” for a player at that position — as well as other premium spots such as edge rusher, offensive tackle and cornerback.

“We are going through all sorts of clusters throughout the draft. We may have a guy in pod two — so to speak — who is No. 1 and another guy who is No. 7. The other guy may be an edge player, so we value him more,” Paton said.

“… Now you don’t want the huge reach, but if they are in similar graded areas or pods, then you take the value position. Whether it’s quarterback, whether it’s edge or cornerback, you know what they are. They are a premium.

“You can’t reach too much for those guys.”


While working under Rick Spielman with the Minnesota Vikings, George Paton was a part of taking two first-round quarterbacks. Neither one panned out, for different reasons.

In 2011, the Vikings selected Florida State’s Christian Ponder with the No. 12 overall pick. Ponder was the fourth quarterback off the board in what proved to be a shaky draft class. He was the quarterback of record for the Vikings as they earned a wild-card spot in 2012, but that playoff qualification happened more on the legs of running back Adrian Peterson than Ponder’s passing.

Ponder’s time with the Vikings ended with a 75.9 passer rating, 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

After starting 35 games in his first three seasons, the Vikings went back into the first-round well, trading back into Round 1 to select Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 32 overall selection. Bridgewater appeared to be on his way to becoming a Round 1 success story before suffering a horrific leg injury during a preseason practice in 2016. It took him nearly two seasons to recover, by which time the Vikings had moved on — first to Case Keenum for a shock division title in 2017, and then to Kirk Cousins in free agency the following offseason.

Two first-round quarterbacks, and neither proved to be a franchise-type QB. That may be a part of Paton’s thinking — and why a lower-risk, lower-draft-range strategy might be the plan the Broncos follow.

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