Broncos GM Says Team Was ‘Really Close’ to Trading up for Pass Rusher


Getty Denver Broncos GM George Paton speaks during the NFL combine.

The Denver Broncos landed Oklahoma edge rusher Nik Bonitto with the 64th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, but according to Broncos general manager George Paton, things almost did not happen that way.

At the Broncos Day 2 press conference, Paton revealed that the Broncos were not confident in Bonitto slipping to pick 64, and they were “really close” to trading up to take him.

“We were tempted, and we had a lot of conversations. It just worked out. We didn’t have to trade up. We were really close — we were on the clock. We had a pretty good deal, but there were three or four players we liked. And so we waited it out,” Paton told the media.

Luckily, Bonitto fell to the Broncos, and Paton was able to get his guy without giving up any additional draft capital.

Paton also called Bonitto the best player on the board.

“We just took him [because] he was the best player on the board and he’ll add. They’re all different. … They’re all unique, they’re all different. He just adds a little more explosion.”

Bonitto was a productive pass rusher in college. He recorded 16 sacks over the past two seasons.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bonitto leads all FBS edge rushers in pass-rush win rate (27.8%) and pressure rate (22.2%) since 2020.

Bonitto has flashed some potential in pass coverage, as well. In 2019, Bonitto had a game-sealing interception against Baylor.

Although he likely will not be asked to drop into coverage often, he has the speed and instincts to match up with tight ends and running backs when needed.

Bonitto will need to continue to improve as a run defender, but overall, he carries a lot of upside.

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Analysts Love the Bonitto Pick

The Broncos’ selection of Bonitto has received a very positive reception. Chris Simms of NBC Sports called it a “great pick” and wrote Bonitto had “Micah Parson lite versatility”.

Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network named Bonitto one of the top value picks of Day 2.

Bonitto ranked 51st on my big board ahead of the 2022 draft, but now that he’s paired with Bradley Chubb and the Broncos defense, the forecasted production value is significantly higher than the league average I used to create my values. PFF gave Bonitto a 94.6 pass rush grade over the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined, the highest in the FBS (Aidan Hutchinson was second). Last season, the former Sooner was also PFF’s highest-rated edge player in pass-rush win rate (27.8%) and had the highest QB pressure percentage among Power Five players (19.8%). Computer vision shows that his second-contact win rate (when a defender is stopped by an offensive lineman and then attacks again) was third-best among all draft-eligible edge defenders last year.

Broncos Players React

Several Broncos players reacted to the pick on Twitter.

Quarterback Russell Wilson welcomed Bonitto to Broncos Country.

Offensive tackle Garett Bolles approved of the pick.

Edge rusher Randy Gregory retweeted a tweet calling Bonitto a great complimentary player behind Gregory and Bradley Chubb.

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