The general rule of thumb in the NFL Draft is that if you don't love a quarterback, you don't take him. You can't make a habit of taking quarterbacks just to take them in the NFL Draft, because that's what gets even the best coaches and executives fired. Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton has never selected a quarterback in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, which means he either didn't really love any of them or he wasn't in a position to be able to take any of the ones he loved.
Except in 2017 when Payton and the Saints held the 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft. They made a "secret" trip to Lubbock, Texas to visit Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes, a player who was polarizing during the lead up to the 2017 NFL Draft. It's funny to look back on now, but people were turned off by comparisons to Brett Favre with Mahomes's game. There were people who said at the time that you "don't take Texas Tech QBs" because those guys never work out in the NFL.
But Payton and his coaching staff were enamored with Mahomes and they were so blown away by him in their pre-draft meetings that Payton didn't even want anyone to know the Saints had made the trip to visit Mahomes. They kept their interest in him quiet leading up to the NFL Draft, but perhaps not quiet enough.
As the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft went along, the Saints had apparently resolved to select either Mahomes or Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore with that 11th overall pick. As Payton tells the story, the Saints felt that by the time the Bills were on the clock with the 10th overall pick, they were satisfied with landing either Mahomes or Lattimore. But the Bills traded the 10th pick to the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected Mahomes.
At the time, the Saints were happy to select Lattimore. Drew Brees was coming off of a year in which he threw for over 5,200 yards and 37 touchdowns. Taking Mahomes would have been a clear investment in the future, and the Saints weren't in nearly the same "desperate" kind of position back then as Payton and the Broncos are right now.
But the Saints' reticence to go get Mahomes based on how highly they thought of him in the lead-up to the 2017 NFL Draft is a cautionary tale for Payton now. You can hear his full retelling of the Patrick Mahomes pre-draft story here:
Almost in an eerily similar way, the Denver Broncos are picking 12th overall in this year's NFL Draft with the quarterback position clearly in focus. Despite the fact that Payton insists there is a chance Russell Wilson is back (and wants to be back), it feels like Wilson being let go by the Broncos will happen at some point or another.
Payton and the Broncos may not marry themselves to the NFL Draft, either. They could go after a reclamation project via free agency or trade as well.
The major issue with the way Payton and the Saints handled the 2017 NFL Draft is that they truly loved a quarterback prospect and they didn't do what it took to get him. Alex Smith and Drew Brees are not the same, by any means, but Brees was 37 going on 38 at the time. The end was near and the Saints ended up with multiple first-round picks anyway (Lattimore and OT Ryan Ramczyk) along with maybe the best draft class in recent NFL history.
But think about that for a second. The Chiefs ended up with Patrick Mahomes, who started one game his entire rookie year. The Saints ended up with Lattimore, Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, Trey Hendrickson, Alex Anzalone, and other significant contributors. They landed multiple All Pro players and still, the one selection the Chiefs made has made that franchise into the latest NFL dynasty.
Not even the best NFL Draft class in your franchise's history can measure up to getting the right quarterback. There is no consolation prize for "almost" drafting Mahomes, or wanting to draft him.
So, should Payton force himself to fall in love with a quarterback? Absolutely not, but if he does fall in love with one, he better not let someone else swoop up ahead of him and get the guy.