Denver Broncos: Playoffs in 2021? Here’s how they can do it

It’s a new era in Broncos Country, ‘officially’ underway, as General Manager George Paton recently wrapped up his introductory press conference.  He said a lot, but also nothing at all.

And as a general manager, this is exactly what we should have expected. GMs are very deliberate, calculated people, and remain this way when speaking with the media.

Sure, they’ll comment on their drafts and free agent acquisitions, but also purposely without information that assists them in doing their jobs.

In Paton’s introductory press conference with the Broncos, this is precisely what happened.  From how I interpreted it, we did not really learn anything we did not already know. Sure, it’s nice to hear it from the main decision-maker instead of a radio talking head looking to stir up controversy, but the buck stops with the general manager and his staff.

The Paton hire has been praised league-wide with many people saying that the Broncos could not have done better and how Paton should have been a general manager years ago. This is all excellent news for Broncos Country, but Paton will ultimately be judged by the product on the field, and not what the rest of the league is saying.

With what we know, and what we recently heard from Paton, here is how I believe Paton can help orchestrate a playoff appearance for the Broncos in 2021

Broncos playoffs in 2021: High end, real competition for Drew Lock

This should be an obvious decision and will most likely happen unless a proven veteran becomes reasonably available.

Not only will this help push Drew Lock, but a high-end veteran backup like Andy Dalton can also provide serviceable quarterback play if Lock implodes, allowing the Broncos to still hopefully remain competitive.

I am a huge Brett Rypien fan, but I do not believe he can lead a team to the playoffs. If a proven veteran was behind Lock, not only can he provide Ryan Fitzpatrick-esque mentorship, but he can also provide competent quarterback play.

One of the more underrated moves going into the 2020 season was the Cowboys signing Andy Dalton to back up Dak Prescott. Prescott, unfortunately, got hurt, and, as it turns out, Andy Dalton played well enough to keep the Cowboys in playoff contention until the very end of the season.

The backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on the team and will be an enormously important task for Paton.

Broncos playoffs in 2021: Depth

Another aspect that George Paton can hopefully master with the Broncos is acquiring quality depth on both sides of the ball.  While ‘depth’ moves aren’t ones that provide for headlines, their importance cannot be overstated.

This was proven this year when the Broncos endured major injuries on the defensive side of the ball. The depth, especially at defensive back, was questionable at best. I think the defensive line played well, but the secondary greatly suffered and hammered home the idea that this team needs better depth.

Depth is mostly acquired via the draft, with hopes that the young backups can blossom into eventual starters.  Free agency can be an avenue to acquire depth as well, but those usually come weeks after the league year starts

Draft, Draft, Draft!

What George Paton has emphasized many times in his short tenure as GM is the importance of building a team through the draft.  He hits on developing your own guys and creating a culture within.

Though he did say the free agent market and trade market are still fair game, obviously, but Paton has put a distinct emphasis on drafting, and drafting well.

To put this into perspective, the Minnesota Vikings, his former employer, had fifteen draft selections last year, which is insane.

If we can conclude anything from Paton thus far, it’s how much emphasis he puts on the draft. So, I would expect this philosophy to continue with the Broncos.

In my opinion, all options are on the table for the draft, but I would find it exponentially more likely that we trade down and stockpile picks instead of trading up. This would allow us to hopefully solve our depth problem while also drafting for the future.

If these three things can come to fruition in 2021, I think the Broncos will have a very good shot at returning to the playoffs.  Personally, I am not that worried about our starters; I think we have solid talent on both sides of the ball and on paper, have a top 10 roster in the league.

With a solid foundation built by John Elway, it is now time for George Paton to show us why he is highly regarded around the league.