Broncos: Interesting draft tendencies from George Paton with Vikings

Denver Broncos GM George Paton former Vikings executive. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos GM George Paton former Vikings executive. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos have hired George Paton to be their new general manager in the post-John Elway era, and he’s got plenty to work on in the coming weeks to get this team into playoff contention ASAP.

Paton worked with Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-2020 and they had some interesting tendencies in that timeframe.

Let’s take a look at some of the data of Paton and Spielman’s selections in that time, specifically honing in on their selections in the first and second round.

Vikings 1st-2nd round picks from 2007-2020 by position

QB: 2
RB: 3
WR: 5
TE: 2
OT: 4
C: 1
DL: 1
LB: 2
CB: 6
S: 2

One of the first things that jumps out from that list is the fact that in 14 years, Paton and Spielman used a first- or second-round draft choice on a defensive lineman just one time (Sharrif Floyd, 2013).

In addition to taking just one defensive lineman of the interior variety, the Vikings did not spend a single top 64 pick on a pass rusher. That is really a stark contrast to John Elway’s time with the Denver Broncos where he has emphasized adding defensive front seven players and pass rushers in just about every single draft he’s been in charge of.

Also notable on this list is the frequency with which Paton and Spielman used premium draft selections on the defensive backfield. Cornerback leads the way on this list overall with six selections but the Vikings also used a couple of picks in the first two rounds on the safety position, giving eight out of a possible 28 picks to the defensive backfield.

The Vikings also invested pretty heavily in Paton’s tenure with the team in the wide receiver position early on. Most recently, the Vikings hit an absolute home run with Justin Jefferson in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Prior to that, Laquon Treadwell was their most recent receiver selected in the first or second round. They had some success with Sidney Rice (2007) and Percy Harvin (2009) and mixed results with Cordarrelle Patterson.

What does this tell us about the immediate future with Paton and the Denver Broncos?

That remains to be seen. Paton noted at his introductory press conference how important building in the trenches is, yet that isn’t reflected — at least not defensively — in the picks the Vikings have had over the last 14 years.

With a ratio of 17:11 offensive to defensive players among these 28 selections, perhaps Paton and Spielman’s preference has been to build defensively through free agency and the middle rounds while investing higher picks on offense.

The Broncos’ current state as a roster would indicate Paton is set to go heavy in the 2021 NFL Draft on defense, and perhaps he will start off his tenure with the Broncos at the familiar position of cornerback, where he and Spielman used more premium picks over the last 14 years than any other position.