The Denver Broncos head into the bye week sitting at 3-5 on the season, entirely different than everybody’s expectations. Broncos general manager George Paton has received a lot of criticism from fans this season after the team’s disappointing start, but it’s important to see the trees through the forest.

Here’s a breakdown on Paton’s free agent moves and draft picks and how they’re performing in 2022.

George Paton’s free agency moves paying off for Denver Broncos

Say what you want about the expectations surrounding this Broncos football team before the season began, say what you want about “Eff them picks” or “we don’t have picks.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the Broncos losing record, but it’s harder to truly acknowledge the team’s trajectory when emotion gets in the way. Broncos fans have every right to be frustrated with the team’s record, and offensive struggles, but blowing everything up isn’t the approach Paton should take, and he hasn’t.

While the appeal of having a first and second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is high, the Broncos have enough resources to implement changes to the offensive side while preserving a very talented roster.

Back in March, Paton added several new additions to the Broncos roster including trading for Russell Wilson. Paton’s additions have had a huge impact for Denver this season especially on the defensive side of the ball, while several offensive players work their way up.

Defensively, Paton added outside linebacker Randy Gregory, nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams, defensive tackle D.J. Jones, and inside linebacker Alex Singleton as his premier signings. He also retained two key veteran players like linebacker Josey Jewell and safety Kareem Jackson.

Prior to suffering a knee injury, Gregory was one of the top edge rushers in the league in terms of generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Williams has had a tremendous impact in the slot against the run and in coverage, including a game-sealing interception in Sunday’s win vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones has been as advertised and so much more as one of the NFL’s most impactful interior run defenders. On the other hand, Singleton has emerged as Denver’s best special teams player and has played efficiently well on defense, leading the team in tackles with 62.

On the other hand, both Jewell and Jackson have played well in Ejiro Evero’s first year as a defensive coordinator. Shifting gears to the offensive side of the ball, offensive tackle Billy Turner has finally made a full recovery from offseason knee surgery and has turned in two straight games holding down the right side of the offensive line at right tackle.

Broncos fans should embrace a trust fall with Paton, whose free agency signings have had a massive impact. If Denver chooses to embrace fixing the team’s glaring issues on offense in free agency, he should have some goodwill in the eyes of the fanbase.

Broncos top picks in rookie draft class rising up

Despite not having a first or initial second-round pick (not including the Rams’ second-rounder sent over in the Von Miller trade) in the 2022 NFL Draft, the top portion of the Broncos’ rookie draft class has been trending upward.

Starting with late second-round addition Nik Bonitto, the Broncos rookie has found himself getting more playing time after Randy Gregory’s injury. Bonitto’s best display of his young career came against the Jaguars on Sunday where he had countless pressures and a strip sack of Trevor Lawrence. He will continue to receive more reps and develop and has emerged as a solid addition within the edge rusher rotation.

Third-round rookie tight end Greg Dulcich is showcasing why the Broncos drafted him. Despite missing the first part of the season with a hamstring injury, Dulcich has emerged as an exciting playmaker for Russell Wilson and the Denver offense. In Sunday’s game, Dulcich emerged with four catches for 87 yards and jumpstarted Denver’s offense. Through his first three games of his career, Dulcich has hauled in 12 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown.

Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis has emerged as a promising young player and has found himself in a starting role after Ronald Darby suffered a torn ACL. Mathis has had moments this season where teams have tested him, but he hasn’t shied away from the challenge. He has appeared in each of the team’s eight games this season and has started the last three. As the team enters the bye week, Mathis has amassed 26 tackles against the run and has three passes defensed this season without allowing a single touchdown pass against him.

Fifth-round rookie selections Delarrin Turner-Yell and Montrell Washington have also had crucial roles for Denver this season. Turner-Yell has emerged as one of the Broncos’ most promising special teams players according to special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes. Washington has been Denver’s most electric returner since Trindon Holliday and has been sprinkled into the offense occasionally this year.

Sixth-round rookie selection Matt Henningsen has been one of Paton’s most underrated draft selections from 2022. He’s played in every game for Denver this season and has played well at his position as a role player despite only playing 22% of the team’s defensive snaps. He’s been consistently playing his gap assignments against the run and has one sack on the season. Beyond statistics, he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff to be on the field in crucial moments, which is the ultimate sign of praise.

When looking at Paton’s first NFL draft class and this year’s draft class, he has found value in the mid to later rounds as well as premier talent in the first two rounds. The Broncos have all the tools necessary to win with the roster they have, but the biggest changes that are needed from a personnel standpoint involve the offensive line.

As frustrating as the Broncos season has been, Paton is deserving of more credit than fans are giving him and appears to be doing whatever it takes to get them back on track.