The Denver Broncos are ready for the 2023 NFL Draft which kicks off next Thursday at 6:00 p.m. MT on ESPN, ABC, and the NFL Network. How has the Broncos strategy for next week been formulated with new head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton?

Denver Broncos brass on the same page as they prepare for NFL Draft

When the Denver Broncos were first rumored to be interested in hiring Sean Payton as their next head coach, many believed his arrival would negatively impact general manager George Paton.

After working together for the past few months, the relationship between the Broncos’ newest head coach and tenured general manager appears to be heavily fortified with synergy.

On Thursday, the Broncos held their annual Pre-NFL Draft press conference to discuss the buildup to next Thursday’s festivities. Denver doesn’t possess a first or second-round pick, but it’s evident that Payton and Paton are on the same page regarding how to build the roster.

“This process for me—being here for the first time and working with George—has been outstanding,” Payton said during Thursday’s press conference. “I would say this—I don’t know that we can thank anyone else, George, but the analytics department is something that is on a different level here. I’m like that driver of a new car that still hasn’t figured out how to get the seat warmers on. It’s pretty impressive, and it’s new for me in a good way. I’m talking about the efficiency of the process. We weren’t as far ahead when we were looking at some of these players as to being able to pick up and access the information as quickly. The two of us working together relative to the draft that—the reason these meetings go for three weeks, four weeks and into the late nights—it’s no different than game planning in football. On Sunday, you’re making a call on fourth-and-four, but that was decided on Wednesday night. I think the same thing takes place relative to the draft. With each of these three days, often times there are certain decisions and reactions that have been kind of covered well before it ever took place. I think that’s the best way to handle it.”

It’s safe to say that when Denver is on the clock and poised to pick, there won’t be any conflicting opinions about what they should do inside of the Broncos draft room.

Has the arrival of Payton changed the way Paton evaluates who the team should bring in? That doesn’t seem to be the case as the Broncos GM believes in bringing in players who fit the scheme of the coaches.

 “It really hasn’t changed,” Paton said. “You have to bring in players that fit the system of the head coach and the staff. We’ve done that every year I’ve been here. Now we’re doing it with the clear vision that [Head Coach] Sean [Payton] has for this football team. I don’t think that approach has changed. You always want to bring in players that fit the vision of the head coach and the coaching staff. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to work. It really hasn’t changed per coach. They’re all different. I enjoyed working with the prior two coaches. It’s just the systems are different.”

The widespread hope amongst those in Broncos Country is that Denver’s system with Payton will operate much more efficiently than it did with Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett.

Despite not having a first or second-round pick, the Broncos approach won’t change. According to Paton, they’ll operate on the assumption they are picking on Day 1.

“We’re going to approach the first day of the draft like we’re picking,” Paton noted. “That’s how we’ve prepared our draft meetings. We’re preparing like we’re picking in the first round and in the second round. That’ll be our approach. We’ll monitor each pick, and we’ll discuss each pick compared to our grade. We’ll look at the trades and look at who’s falling. I think we’re going to be locked in like we have first-round pick on that first day.”

So much is contingent upon how the draft order falls leading up to where Denver is expected to pick. If a player the team has ranked highly on their draft board is within distance, but fears another team could swoop in and take him — they very well could trade up and make a move.

Is Jerry Jeudy safe to remain in Denver?
What would a move like that entail? Prior to the NFL Annual Meeting, there was growing speculation that Denver could package or offset their rising star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

At the annual meeting in Phoenix last month, Payton put his foot down with the notion that Jeudy nor Courtland Sutton would be going anywhere.

As the draft creeps up, is that still the reality for Denver and Jeudy?

“I spoke at the owner’s meetings,” Paton answered regarding Jeudy’s pending 5th-year option. “We’re high—really high—on [WR] Jerry [Jeudy]. We don’t anticipate doing anything with Jerry. Jerry finished the season strong—the last five games, he had over 500 [receiving] yards. He was one of the top receivers in the league. We like Jerry, and he’s going to be here.”

There is optimism that Paton is being openly honest with this statement. Jeudy is entering a contract year and has extremely high potential when utilized the correct way — as witnessed during the final stretch of the season.

However, Paton has previously made statements regarding former pass rusher Bradley Chubb and subsequently traded him before the deadline last season.

It’s important to put into perspective why it wouldn’t make sense for Denver to trade Jeudy, nor for a team to trade for him.

If a team trades for Jeudy, they would get him for a season unless Denver exercised his 5th-year option and then traded him.

A player with the talent of Jeudy would likely desire to test the free agency market after that season versus staying with the team that traded for him, which is an inherent risk any interested team would run into.

The Broncos have until May 1st to exercise Jeudy’s 5th-year option, which approaches shortly after the NFL Draft concludes. While both Pay(t)on’s have expressed the intention of keeping Jeudy in Denver, the phone may ring from various teams to inquire about him and the 67th and 68th overall picks.

Will Denver draft based on need or best player available?
After attacking some of their major needs in Free Agency, the Denver Broncos are locked into selecting the best player available. What does that mean though?

The common misconception is that teams who choose to go with the best player available approach tend to select the best overall player available in the draft when they are picking. To an extent, there is validity to that — but they aim to select the best player remaining available on their individual draft board.

“We’re going to take the best player,” Paton said during Thursday’s press conference. “We were really aggressive in free agency. We wanted to fill as many holes with as many quality players that fit the prototype and fit our culture as we could. They just so happened to be on offense. We feel like we filled a lot of those holes. Now, we can draft the best player. We were good on defense last year, and we still have some talent on defense. We have a foundation. We’re not going to stretch to draft a defensive player. Both of our mindsets is to draft the best player, no matter where we are in the draft.”

Could that player be a potential tight end considering the Broncos’ depth at the position?

One of the challenges of evaluating tight ends has been linked to many college programs moving away from the traditional in-line approach — flexing prototypical players into the slot or offset as a hybrid wing option.

“It’s no different than the last couple years,” Paton told Mile High Sports. “They’re all different shapes and sizes. I do think there are some tight ends who can play in-line. Those seem to be the harder ones to find—the guys who can line up in-line and they can block a five technique and set the edge in the run game. I think in this day and age, you can find the receivers a little easier, although there’s some good receivers in this draft as well. The hard part is trying to project that ‘F’ tight end and him blocking in-line because they’re not asked to do so as much in college. Not much different than [TE Greg] Dulcich when we evaluated him. Obviously he was a good receiver and he made a lot of progress as a blocker. It’s a good tight end class. Like I said, they’re all different shapes and sizes, and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about their strengths and weaknesses and how they project in what we do.”

With only three players filling out the depth at the position, the Denver Broncos could very well add a tight end with one of their five picks coming up next week.

As of now they will be spectators on the first day of the draft and will be on the clock next Friday to make their back-to-back selections with their 67th and 68th overall picks.