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Inside the process of the Denver Broncos & Sean Payton drafting Bo Nix

Zac Stevens Avatar
April 26, 2024

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The 2024 NFL Draft technically started when the Chicago Bears were on the clock with the No. 1 pick.

In reality, for most of the NFL, it started with the third pick and the New England Patriots as it appeared Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels were all but locked in the first two picks.

For the Denver Broncos and Sean Payton, however, the draft started when the New York Giants were on the clock at six.

“We felt like the Giants were the joker team,” Payton said after the first-round wrapped up on Thursday night, taking the Denver media into the thought process of the Broncos’ draft room.

Once the Giants drafted wide receiver Malik Nabers, and passed on a quarterback, the Broncos perked up.

“We did have six quarterbacks in the first round,” George Paton revealed. “We like all of these quarterbacks.”

With three of the top six quarterbacks remaining on the board after the sixth pick, the Broncos thought they were in good shape to land their guy.

“New York [Giants] was the team. If New York took a quarterback, we knew then — the three at the front took theirs, New York would have been the surprise team and there’s three [teams] waiting for two [quarterbacks],” Payton explained about how the Broncos were watching the draft unfold. “Once New York cleared, I’m sure every team we’re talking about felt like, ‘Alright.'”

Along with themselves, Denver identified the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders as teams that wanted quarterbacks after the sixth pick. Payton believed the Vikings wanted J.J. McCarthy and the Raiders wanted Michael Penix Jr. Denver wanted Bo Nix.

The head coach joked about getting the other two teams on a conference call to discuss no one trading up for a quarterback since they would all land their guys if they stood pat.

But then the Atlanta Falcons shocked much of the NFL world by drafting Penix with the eighth pick. That put the Broncos’ brass on the edge of their seats.

“Once Penix went it got a little, you know, stressful at the end,” Paton said.

“When Atlanta took that guy, now it was like, ‘Holy cow,’ now do we have to go up a pick,'” Payton stated. “It was a tough 10 minutes, 20 minutes.”

“Atlanta taking a quarterback — that’s the fun part about this draft. You can’t dive into everyone’s draft room to know how they feel about someone,” the head coach added.

With the next pick, the Bears stayed put and drafted receiver Rome Odunze.

Denver was only two picks away and feeling good. Until.

“Minnesota jumped and we’re like ‘Oh boy. Okay,'” Paton explained, talking about the Vikings trading up from pick 11 to pick 10 with the Jets.

“And we’re paying attention to where the Raiders are,” Payton added, pointing to Las Vegas at pick 13.

The Broncos ultimately stood pat and were fortunate enough to have Bo Nix land in their lap with the 12th pick.

“We took calls from teams ahead of us. Never really got too serious,” the general manager said, talking about the team potentially trading from No. 12. “We considered moving back, but once Penix went it got a little, you know, stressful at the end. We had the Raiders behind us.”

“We just didn’t want to overthink it. This was our guy. We’re going to take our guy,” Paton added. “But we did think about it. Not too far. We could have moved a couple picks back and got some picks, but at the end of the day, this was our guy. Let’s just take him. Let’s not overthink it. We would have been sick if we lost him just for a couple fifth-round picks.”

“I agree 100 percent,” the head coach added.

While many pundits had the Broncos trading back and still landing Nix later in the first round, Payton wanted nothing to do with that.

“Often times you hear this, ‘Well if they don’t get one here, they can go back and get this one,’ and I think that’s — I heard those same comments when the Chiefs selected Patrick [Mahomes], and you go back and tune into everything that was said, ‘Well they could have got him later.’ No they couldn’t have. No they couldn’t have,” Payton stated. “And, so, let’s not worry about — And we all understand managing the draft, but let’s also worry about what it’s going to look like three years from now, three to four years from now when this class will be judged, and make sure that we get the right guy there.”

With six first-round quarterbacks on their board, and five taken ahead of them, the Broncos landed the last one with the 12th pick.

Bo Nix is the most decorated quarterback in Oregon football history and one of the most successful college quarterbacks of all time.

After a whirlwind hour and a half, Sean Payton and George Paton landed the man they hope will turn the Broncos’ franchise around and get them back to the playoffs.

“This is the first time I’ve been involved, part of a group, part of a team that drafted a quarterback in the first round,” Payton stated. “We tried to do it before. And it’s exciting. The challenge is exciting.”

Thursday night was exciting in the Broncos’ draft room.

Now it’s time to see if Bo Nix will bring a similar excitement to the field.


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