Working with the Minnesota Vikings for the last 14 years, Paton has arguably been part of building one of the most competitive rosters in the entire NFL, especially among those that have unfortunately fallen short of the ultimate Super Bowl goal.
The Vikings have been a model of strong drafting for the majority of Paton’s time as general manager Rick Spielman’s right-hand man, but what about the things he may not want to carry over from his time with the Vikings?
The Viking Age put together a list of habits they felt Rick Spielman needed to change in his drafting strategy, and considering how heavily involved George Paton was in team building alongside Spielman, it’s fair to wonder if these are things that he might need to consider changing now that he’s the lead man in Denver.
Habit to change #1: Too much trading down
The Viking Age felt like this was a habit that Spielman needs to change, but frankly it’s difficult to see this applying to the Denver Broncos, at least in the immediate future.
When George Paton was introduced as general manager, he talked about this strategy as one he hopes to carry over from the Vikings to the Broncos and justified it by saying something to the effect of more dart throws equals more chances to hit the bullseye.
Trading down has not been a huge part of the MO with John Elway as general manager. two times he traded down in the first round of the NFL Draft (2012, 2019) the Broncos came away with some pretty tremendous hauls of players.
While this habit may be something Rick Spielman considers changing, if even just for a year, it’s probably not something George Paton needs to ditch at the moment.
Habit #2: Waiting to address key needs
In John Elway’s time as GM, the Broncos have typically utilized free agency to address key needs, leaving very few gaping holes heading into the NFL Draft.
This has obviously had mixed results. Leaving some clear areas of need heading into the NFL Draft is not a bad thing, it just shows your hand a little bit. Sometimes that matters, other times it really doesn’t.
When you’re talking about waiting within the actual draft process to address key needs, that can become an actual problem. It’s critical to use your assets in free agency to make sure you do not have to reach for needs and miss out on more talented prospects as a result.
Habit #3: Not drafting prospects from your own backyard
This has not been overly concerning for the Broncos, who have brought in players like the Colorado Kid Phillip Lindsay, but for the Vikings, passing on Minnesota Gophers prospects has meant missing out on stars like Antoine Winfield Jr. last year.
The Broncos haven’t exactly made Colorado or Colorado State players priorities in the NFL Draft, either, but it hasn’t exactly burned them to this point.
If there are local prospects worth drafting, they should be graded just like everyone else. The Broncos should have very clear intel on these players, however.
Habit #4: Not taking a mid-round quarterback
This is an interesting ‘habit’ to observe from an NFL front office. Obviously, teams only have so many quarterback positions from year to year. You almost always go into the offseason with four arms on the roster and most teams have at least three of those spots filled going into the NFL Draft.
With that being said, the Broncos figure to enter the 2021 NFL Draft with Drew Lock, a veteran, and Brett Rypien on the roster at quarterback. How they choose to add to that in the NFL Draft will be interesting to see.
I am of the opinion that Paton should use his own philosophy when it comes to quarterbacks — more dart throws, more chances to hit a bullseye. I like the strategy of drafting talented quarterbacks especially if you have an abundance of picks to work with.
Habit #5: Not trading up enough
Trading up in the NFL Draft is not everyone’s favorite flavor. When you are talking about trading multiple unknowns for a singular unknown, it’s tough for fans to stomach not having extra or future draft capital.
There are times when trading up is necessary. If you have a quarterback you think is going to be a franchise player, you have to go with those convictions. If you have the chance to get a ‘generational’ type of talent and some team is trading away the pick to get him, then by all means.
Trading up for the sake of trading up, however, is not a good strategy.
Unless your roster space is very limited or you believe a player is going to dramatically affect your win/loss record, trading up should almost strictly be limited to quarterbacks.