Broncos’ Sean Payton Checked On Trade for Top-10 Draft Pick: Report

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Getty Head coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton caught some flack from fans after claiming to have engaged in deceptive measures around the team’s draft plans.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported on April 29 that they kept their QBs out of order on their draft board, keeping their preference secret even from some in the room. It wasn’t all done in secret, though.

Payton was public in many of his actions.

He called the idea they could trade up “realistic” at the owners meeting in March and repeatedly mentioned rival team officials in a complimentary light. Payton took it one step further.

“Turns out Payton was indeed calling around. The Bears heard from Denver and one other team while on the clock at No. 9. It wasn’t clear at the time which player Denver was targeting in any potential trade up, or if it even had a target,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote on May 7. “Here’s to assuming Denver wanted the Vikings to take McCarthy off the board, clearing the way for [Bo] Nix, since the teams picking in the 9-10-11 range were unlikely to be in the market for him.”

According to Fowler, a Broncos team source said Bo Nix was “our guy all the way.”

The Broncos selected Nix in their original draft slot with the No. 12 overall pick while the Vikings traded with the New York Jets, moving up from No. 11 to No. 10 and selecting Michingan’s J.J. McCarthy.

Sean Payton, Broncos ‘Did a Lot of Work’ Researching Bo Nix

Bo Nix, Denver Broncos

GettyBo Nix of the Denver Broncos.

Payton has touted the Broncos’ belief in Nix since the pick. Breer previously reported on the Broncos’ interest in Nix, lending credence to Fowler’s source’s assertion.

“The Broncos quietly did a lot of work on Oregon QB Bo Nix—they had an hour-long Zoom with him on March 7, then sent a Sean Payton-led contingent to Eugene to work him out on March 18, per sources,” Breer reported on X on April 23. “So interest is there. Fit, too. But not having a 2nd-rounder could complicate it.”

However, the Broncos also gave McCarthy the impression they were interested in him.

“Yes, I did think that [Denver could draft him],” McCarthy said on KFAN’s “#92Noon!” on April 29. “That was kind of my two spots that I really felt like I was going to go after seeing the first six picks.”

McCarthy talked up his potential connection with Payton as a fellow Illinois native during the scouting combine.

He noted that everything worked out in the end.

Broncos Eyed Productive Pass Rusher as Plan B in Draft

Laiatu Latu, Denver Broncos

GettyLaiatu Latu of the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s fair to wonder what the Broncos would have done had McCarthy slid past Minnesota, who also held the No. 23 overall pick which they later flipped into the No. 17 pick, selecting Dallas Turner out of Alabama.

The Atlanta Falcons picking Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 admittedly forced Denver’s hand.

However, Fowler notes that if the Broncos decided No. 12 was too high for Nix, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu would have been “under firm consideration.”

The Indianapolis Colts selected the productive edge defender with the No. 15 overall pick, ending his slide. It was likely related to his injury history that saw the productive Latu medically retire following the 2021 season only to return two years later and re-establish himself.

The Broncos were among the NFL bottom-feeders in team sacks last season.