No. 64. DENVER BRONCOS (7-10)
LAST SEASON: The Broncos’ post-Peyton Manning slide continued after journeyman QB Teddy Bridgewater beat out incumbent Drew Lock in training camp and went 7-7 before a season-ending concussion in December. Lock started and lost the last three games, securing Denver’s fifth consecutive losing season and sixth straight season without a playoff berth. That doomed head coach Vic Fangio, whose defensive prowess was undermined for a second straight season by obdurate offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s throwback game plans and another awful special teams showing under Tom McMahon. GM George Paton fired Fangio and most of his staff and hired head coac Nathaniel Hackett, then acquired QB Russell Wilson from Seattle for a package of players and picks, including this year’s first-rounder, the ninth overall selection.
FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Acquired Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick in exchange for Lock, DE Shelby Harris, TE Noah Fant, 2022 first-, second- and fifth-round picks and 2023 first- and second-round picks. Released WR DaeSean Hamilton. Re-signed LB Josey Jewell, OLB Malik Reed, DL DeShawn Williams, FB Andrew Beck, OT Calvin Anderson and S Kareem Jackson. Signed OL Ben Braden, DT D.J. Jones, TE Eric Tomlinson, OL Tom Compton, DE Randy Gregory, QB Josh Johnson, LB Alex Singleton, S J.R. Reed, CB K’Waun Williams and OL Billy Turner. Lost Bridgewater, RB Melvin Gordon, CB Bryce Callahan, CB Kyle Fuller, ILB Alexander Johnson, ILB Kenny Young, DE Stephen Weatherly, OT Bobby Massie, OT Cameron Fleming, DL Shamar Stephen, TE Eric Saubert, CB Mike Ford, CB Nate Hairston, OL Brett Jones, RB Adrian Killins, RB Natrez Patrick.
THEY NEED: OT, CB, Edge rusher, ILB, P, RB, FS.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, WR, OG.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Cam Taylor-Britt, S, Nebraska.
OUTLOOK: Paton says he doesn't lament the lack of a first-round pick because every time he sees Wilson throwing the ball he's thankful his search for a premier passer is over. Paton figures it'll cost too much to move back into the first round, but he doesn't rule out moving up in the second — or even moving down. Paton’s makeover is far from over, but he’ll have to hit on this year’s draft class and find impact players like he did last year in Pat Surtain II, Javonte Williams, Quinn Meinerz, Baron Browning and Jonathan Cooper in his first draft in Denver. Denver's not on the clock until the final selection of Round 2. But it has two selections in both the third and fourth rounds, giving Paton ammo to move up, and he still has nine picks overall even after the blockbuster trade for Wilson finally landed the Broncos with a worthy successor to Manning.
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