ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos Season Ticket Members who have joined the team's new and free Broncos Plus program exclusively available to them were able to delve into the team's 2021 draft process during the Broncos Plus Behind the Draft virtual event on Tuesday evening featuring General Manager George Paton and the Broncos' top three picks, Pat Surtain II, Javonte Williams and Quinn Meinerz.
This draft — Paton's first as a team's front-office leader — was a special one, he said, and he cherished all three days of the draft because of that.
"It just really was the whole weekend, just being with all the scouts," Paton said. "You put in so much time with your scouts and your trainers and your sports psychologist and [President of Football Operations] John [Elway] and [Head Coach] Vic [Fangio] and the coaches, and you've been working for eight months on these three days. So, each pick is just gratifying, especially if you get the player you want, and then at the end of it, when you do a deep dive into the 10 picks, it just feels good being there with your scouts and you can celebrate because you put in so much time. So that's the best part of it, just being around all the people you worked with to get to this point."
Throughout the Q&A session, Paton took several questions from Season Ticket Members, and dove into evaluations of the three recently-drafted players who later joined him on the video chat.
Of his first pick, Surtain, Paton spoke in no uncertain terms.
"If you could draw a corner, that's what you want him to look like," Paton said. "He's 6-2, 205 pounds. He ran 4.42 [in the 40-yard dash]. He can jump out of the gym, had a vertical of 40 [inches]. Then, when you watch him play, the game comes so easy to him. He's rarely stressed. Started, I think, every game at Alabama. That's hard, in three years. A program like that. He's just fun to watch on tape, he's fun to talk to in person. We just didn't have a lot of holes on him. He was really the one guy that we just had a total consensus on in the draft."
Williams, the tough-running tailback out of North Carolina, was similarly an easy decision for Paton and his staff, he said.
"You just turn on the tape and it doesn't take long to evaluate him," Paton said. "He sets the tone. He's physical, he's powerful, he's a three-down back. What I mean by that is he can run the ball, he can catch the ball and he can pass protect. He can really do it all. We really think he complements what we already have in Melvin [Gordon III] and Mike Boone and Royce Freeman. … We want to be balanced and we want to out-physical our opponent, and when you watch this kid run the ball, that's what he's all about."
But the third pick was not so simple to evaluate. Meinerz hadn't played college football since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his film could be misleading because of how he stood out amid the Division III competition at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"Not many guys make it from Division III football, but he dominated that level of competition and that's a start. So he kind of got on the radar. And they didn't play this season; Whitewater did not play. You're going off '19 tape, and then you're like, 'Well, what are we going to do with this guy?' and he goes to the Senior Bowl. He's in better shape, he's obviously been working out in the mountains, I guess. And he really was one of the better offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. He's blocking first- and second-rounders like he's been doing it his whole life. So he stuck out."
Meinerz later discussed how difficult that process was for him, even just to get to the Senior Bowl.
"The biggest thing is film, and I wasn't able to have that next year of film to show the Senior Bowl and the director," Meinerz said. "I was doing everything that I could. … I know people saw those videos of me dunking. I know people saw videos of me punching the trees and doing stuff like that, snapping into garbage cans. I'm showing them that I'm trying to do something. And what ultimately helped was when my school was fully virtual, I flew down to Texas and I worked out with an offensive line coach by the name of Duke Manyweather. I worked out with him for three weeks, I put together a little highlight tape with him. … On top of that, not only did that not really solidify it, I was kind of a top reserve guy. And then, unfortunately, it took a couple of injuries from the colleges that were playing and I eventually got my invite. It's an unbelievable journey; it doesn't happen very often, and I'm very thankful for it. Because if I don't go to the Senior Bowl, who knows where I'd be."
Now that they're all in Denver, the three draft picks said they've begun settling into their new home city. Williams said he's gone into the mountains a little bit, and Surtain has visited one of the region's most famous landmarks.
"Denver, it's an exciting city, for sure," Surtain told the Season Ticket Members. "I went to Red Rocks this weekend — pretty cool experience. And you know there's a lot to do downtown. They got a lot of culture down there, a lot of good food. I'm still exploring the city, just taking it day by day."
After getting to know Paton, Surtain, Williams and Meinerz in the nearly hour-long video chat, the Season Ticket Members in the Broncos Plus program finished the event with one last bonus: the announcement of which nine fans won autographed memorabilia. Other Season Ticket Members can join in the fun in the future by signing up for the program on the Broncos 365 app.