ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos used the ninth-overall pick in Thursday night's NFL Draft on Alabama cornerback Pat Surtain II, who should be yet another dynamic piece in an already impressive secondary.
The move the Broncos did not make, though, attracted nearly as much attention as the pick they did. General Manager George Paton and Co. chose not to select Ohio State's Justin Fields or Alabama's Mac Jones with both players available at No. 9.
After selecting Surtain, Paton said Fields was a "great person and great player" and he later said he was "a little bit" surprised that Fields was still available when the Broncos went on the clock. Of course, the Broncos only had the opportunity to draft Fields after several reports that they had inquired about trading for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"We're just going to focus on the draft right now and focus on Patrick Surtain and what a great player he is and we're excited to have him here," Paton said when asked whether the team inquired about Rodgers.
Paton did acknowledge that the quarterback position remained in play with the ninth pick after Wednesday's agreement to trade for Teddy Bridgewater, but he said the team had "set our board, and Surtain was really high on our board." In essence, the Broncos’ decision to pass on Fields and Jones came from the team’s belief in Surtain, the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
And despite not adding a first-round quarterback, Paton said he is "happy with the two quarterbacks we have here" in Bridgewater and 2020 starter Drew Lock.
"Drew's been working hard every day," Paton said. "Teddy's going to bring some experience to the room, some leadership. So we're really excited for both quarterbacks. We're always looking at every position and quarterback's another one, but we like the two we have."
In Lock, the Broncos have a 2019 second-round pick who has started 18 games and shown flashes of talent. He's posted strong games against teams like the Texans, Panthers and Raiders — but he's also struggled at times to avoid turnovers.
Paton said he and Head Coach Vic Fangio have been honest with Lock since early January about the team's desire to add competition to the room, and Paton said he was impressed with Lock's reaction to the team's move to trade for Bridgewater.
"We talked to him yesterday and he embraced it," Paton said. "He likes the competition, and nothing fazes Drew. He is on a mission this offseason. He is here every morning and he stays late. He is doing all of the right things. We are excited to see his progress as we move forward."
Bridgewater, a veteran player and former Pro Bowler, should provide value for the Broncos even if he doesn't win the starting job. Paton said Bridgewater would aim to earn the starting role, but would "be a great mentor towards Drew" if he was deemed the team's backup. There's certainly a chance, though, that Bridgewater could lead the team as its starter.
"When you watch him on tape, the game is really easy for him," Paton said. "He moves the team. He plays in rhythm. He makes the players around him better. We like the way he plays. He throws on time and the offense is in rhythm. That's what we liked when we watched the tape."
Asked whether he planned to still upgrade the quarterback position, Paton did not rule out a move. He did, however, say that the team is "good to go" with the players on their roster.
"We're happy to open the season with the guys we have now," Paton said.