Ahead of the start of the draft, we'll take a look on DenverBroncos.com at the various choices that will await Paton on draft night or in the days before the start of the draft.
Without one obvious need, the Broncos could presumably trade up, stand pat at No. 9 or trade back to pick up additional picks. There's a case to be made for each of those routes — and we previously made the argument for trading up and staying put at nine.
We finish with our argument for why the Broncos should trade back.
When the 2021 NFL Draft begins later this week, it's possible that we will see a historic run on quarterbacks.
The Jaguars, Jets and 49ers will presumably each select a signal-caller, which would mark just the third time in the draft's history that quarterbacks were chosen with the first three picks. If Atlanta chooses to find a long-term replacement for Matt Ryan — or if they trade the pick to another quarterback-hungry team — the 2021 NFL Draft could be the first ever to feature quarterbacks taken with the first four picks.
For Denver, an early run on quarterbacks could prevent the team from adding a signal-caller of their own in the first round — but it would also open up a series of possibilities for the Broncos when they come on the clock at No. 9. In all likelihood, the run on QBs would give the Broncos their choice of defensive player — which is why it makes sense to move back into the teens and acquire extra picks.
The Broncos don't have a singular gaping hole on their roster, and while trading back would likely prevent the team from getting its first choice of talented playmaker, they'd still have plenty of options if they moved back anywhere from No. 14-18.
At that point in the draft, the Broncos could still have their pick from a group of players that includes cornerback Jaycee Horn, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, linebackers Micah Parsons and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and edge rushers Kwity Paye and Jaelan Phillips. If they drop down a bit more, perhaps running backs Najee Harris and Travis Etienne and safety Trevon Moehrig also become options.
In any NFL Draft, there's no guarantee that the player a team chooses is going to pan out. Even the proverbial safe picks can flame out, and there's no guarantee that the player the Broncos will get at nine will be a better player than a prospect the team could select a few minutes later.
Paton shared recently that while with the Vikings, he and the rest of the scouting staff believed there was a proven way to improve your chances of succeeding through the draft — and it didn't have to do with any individual player.
When possible and practical, the Vikings would choose to trade back to acquire extra picks — or as Paton called them recently, more darts.
"If a player is there, we were going to take him," Paton said in his pre-draft press conference. "But if there were three players we still liked, we were going to try and trade back and accumulate capital. I guess the philosophy is the more darts, the better chance you have to hit the bullseye. You know how it is. If you have seven picks and you hit on half, that's not great. You get three players. We always liked to have 10-plus and just have more darts."
The Broncos currently have nine picks, which means a trade down could be an easy way to give the team more opportunities to find impact players. Especially if a quarterback is still on the board at No. 9, the Broncos could potentially get a haul to move back even a few picks. At that point, it may be more practical to capitalize on the opportunity and secure an extra second- or third-round pick.
An extra top-100 pick or two this year could give the Broncos key depth and a future starter, while a second-round pick in 2022 could give the Broncos the ammo they need if they want to trade up for a quarterback next year.
Trading back isn't the most glamorous option. It won't garner the headlines or the A-plus grades after draft.
As Paton looks to fortify the Broncos' roster, though, it may just be the smartest move that Denver can make.