For once, John Elway was glad to be mostly just a spectator.
In his first draft solely as the Broncos' president of football operations, Elway served not as a decision-maker but as a valuable resource for general manager George Paton.
As Michael Silver writes in a new in-depth piece taking readers inside the Broncos’ war room, he puts Elway's perspective and role in detail and describes how he's passed the torch to Paton to decide the team's direction.
"I still got a little nervous in that room," Elway told Silver after the first round of the draft. "But it was nice to be where I was, and it felt right. After 60 years, for the first time in my life, I was glad I wasn't the guy pulling the trigger."
Since the team hired Paton, Elway has moved offices, but not far; he's now Paton's neighbor. That proximity has allowed for good camaraderie and free-flowing conversation.
"He's a tremendous resource for me, being a first-time GM, to have him right next door," Paton said. "It's pretty sweet."
But during the draft, it was Paton's show.
As Silver reports, the team fielded some calls for the No. 9 pick, hoping they might get offered "a haul," but couldn't pass on Pat Surtain II when such a deal didn't materialize. After that, Paton stayed active; Silver says he explored possibly trading back late into the first round as edge rusher Jaelan Phillips fell out of the top 15, but Phillips didn't fall far enough for it to become a real possibility for the Broncos.
From there, Silver continues to delve into the Broncos' draft — how the team moved up to select running back Javonte Williams, the adoration for log-lifting guard Quinn Meinerz and how the Broncos' triumvirate of Elway, Paton and Head Coach Vic Fangio work together.
For Elway, watching Paton work in this environment was what he had envisioned when he decided to hand over the reins in January.
"After carrying the hopes and dreams of a franchise and a fan base on his broad shoulders for so long — 16 stellar seasons as a player, and a highly driven decade as the man in the big chair — forgive him for unabashedly enjoying the unbearable lightness of being, even as he oversees his handpicked successor," Silver wrote.
Below the Fold
Todd McShay may think Surtain is the best press cornerback in the 2021 draft class, but he's not McShay’s favorite pick from the Broncos’ class. That honor belongs to Denver's second-round pick, running back Javonte Williams. "Williams is a tightly packed running back with great acceleration and burst, and he breaks tackle after tackle," McShay wrote. "The contact balance is really something. He is a physical back who hits the hole hard but can also make defenders miss in space."
The addition of Surtain could make for a league-best secondary, Gregg Rosenthal writes. "It is no exaggeration to say that Surtain, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia comprise the deepest collection of secondary talent in football," Rosenthal said. "If the Broncos aren't great at stopping the pass -- which also happens to be a Vic Fangio specialty -- something has gone seriously wrong."