DENVER — With quarterback rumors flying about Aaron Rodgers and Teddy Bridgewater in town taking a physical to complete his trade, the Broncos went with their board, taking cornerback Alabama cornerback Pat Surtain II, eschewing Ohio State star Justin Fields.
With Fields and Jones available, general manager George Paton selected what he considered the best defensive player on the board. Surtain makes sense in this regard. While the team signed Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan will be free agents at season’s end. So, the reshaping and bolstering of defense continues this offseason.
"QB was still in play. But the board fell where Surtain was there. And he was too talented, too unique. It was a home run for Broncos to get Surtain. "Paton said. "He’s big, long, he’s physical. He can play man, he can play zone. He can tackle. He checks all the boxes."
Added coach Vic Fangio, "He has shown capable in man and zone. He has good eyes. He has good versatility. There's good chance can play inside if need him to as a fifth or sixth DB."
Surtain delivered a terrific career at Alabama, capped with a national championship. He was revered by Tide coaches for talent and high football IQ. He hadn't talked with the Broncos much, but wasn't surprised they took him.
“Man, it’s a special feeling. I am looking forward to competing and balling out,” said Surtain on ABC. “I am so excited. I can’t wait for this opportunity.”
In the end, Paton took the most polished defender. It was mildly surprising because it wasn't a pressing need. But Surtain, even with veterans in the mix, will compete for immediate snaps. And there's no guarantee Callahan will be healthy after his last three seasons were cut short by foot injuries, though Fangio said he expects the veteran to be ready.
Surtain played for his father Patrick Surtain in high school, and became known for his incredible technique.
"I think I can come in Day 1 and make an impact on the team by my play style and my play traits," said Surtain II, who has 'PS2' as one of his nicknames. "I learned a lot from my dad."
So what does Surtain think of the Broncos defense?
"I can't wait to compete with those guys at a high level. I think when it's all said and done we will have the No. 1 defense," Surtain said. "I think I fit well. I am an all-around corner. I fit man or zone."
Paton was asked about not taking a quarterback. Fields, linked to the Broncos for a few weeks, was sitting there when the Broncos picked. The Bears traded up and took him with the 11th selection.
"We were surprised (he was available at No. 9). Really good player. He’s going to have a great career. He’s a great person and a great player," Paton told the team website. "I have no doubt he’s going to have a great career."
Paton didn't close the door completely on adding to the QB room. But any blockbuster move might be harder without the first round pick to use in conversations.
"We’re open to improving everywhere," Paton said when asked.
It is clear the Broncos are comfortable going with Bridgewater and Drew Lock if he falls that way. Bridgewater is known to Paton, who was in Minnesota when the Vkings drafted him. I asked Paton if he thinks Bridgewater could get the offense to 23-25 points a game, the rough line for playoff teams the last few years during a time when the Broncos have averaged under 20.
“When you watch him on tape, the game is really easy for him," Paton said. "He throws on time The offense is in rhythm.”