Welcome to the NFL draft, Trader George.
After a quiet first round in which Broncos general manager George Paton stayed at No. 9 to select Alabama cornerback Pat Surtain II, he made three trades during the second and third rounds on Friday night.
When Paton and coach Vic Fangio emerged from the team’s draft room, the Broncos had added North Carolina running back Javonte Williams (No. 35), Wis.-Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz (No. 98) and Ohio State inside linebacker Baron Browning (No. 105).
The Broncos made three trades to help acquire the three players.
Trade 1: The Broncos traded Nos. 40 and 114 (fourth round) to Atlanta for Nos. 35 and 219 (sixth round) and selected Williams.
Trade 2: The Broncos traded No. 71 to the New York Giants for Nos. 76 (third round) and 164 (fifth round). The Giants drafted Central Florida cornerback Aaron Robinson.
Trade 3: The Broncos moved down again … way down. They shipped No. 76 to New Orleans for Nos. 98 and 105 in the third round. The Saints chose Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo.
Entering Saturday, the Broncos have six selections — two fifth-rounders (Nos. 152 and 164), one in the sixth round (No. 219) and three in the seventh round (Nos. 237, 239, 253).
Get all that?
High-fives and back slaps took over the draft room when the Broncos moved up five spots with Atlanta for Williams, making him the team’s highest-drafted running back since Knowshon Moreno (No. 12 in 2009).
“I didn’t expect the Broncos to be the team I went to,” Williams said in a video conference. “Just throughout the process, it wasn’t a team I talked to a lot.”
Williams said Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins attended North Carolina’s Pro Day on March 29. Williams ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 212 pounds, Williams rushed for 1,140 yards (six 100-yard games) and 19 touchdowns as a third-year junior. He was third in the ACC with 103.6 rushing yards per game.
Paton said talks to trade up for Williams started late Thursday night.
“We just think (Williams) is a special back, a three-down back, really good on first and second down, he can pass protect, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and just an incredible teammate and incredible off-the-field,” Paton said.
Teams don’t add second-round running backs — especially after a trade-up — to have them play a supporting role. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman and Mike Boone under contract. Gordon and Freeman are in the final year of their contracts.
“I feel like I’m a three-down back and very versatile and can do everything at the running back position,” Williams said. “I’m ready to come in and compete with Melvin Gordon, Boone and Freeman and the other running backs in the room.”
The Broncos stayed quiet for the rest of the second round before burning up the phone lines.
Meinerz, 22, started 29 of his 31 college games at left guard for the Division III Whitewater program. He was a first-team All-American in 2019, but did not play last year because his team’s season was cancelled because of coronavirus.
Meinerz was a late invite to the Senior Bowl in January and was impressing observers in practice until he broke a bone in his right hand and missed the game.
“It was hard to evaluate him until he went to the Senior Bowl,” Paton said. “He had lost 20 pounds, he was in shape and he fared well against elite competition.”
The right hand injury prevented Meinerz from posting a bench-press total at his Combine-style workout. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds.
“To be Division III and have my season cancelled and a late invite to the Senior Bowl and to climb up the boards, it doesn’t happen very often,” Meinerz said. “I’m just really excited to get into the O-line room and start competing and help the Denver Broncos’ organization win football games.”
To wrap up round 3 and night 2, the Broncos added Browning, who had 110 tackles in 43 games for the Buckeyes (only nine starts). Browning (6-foot-3 and 245 pounds) had 18 tackles for lost yardage, including seven sacks.
“I like his speed, like his athleticism and think he’ll be a major contributor on special teams,” said Fangio, who projected Browning starting out at inside linebacker. “He has versatility and sometimes his versatility has hurt him in his development a little bit.”
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