Broncos HC Sean Payton Under Fire for Draft Trade Comments: ‘Weird’

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Getty Head coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

Denver Broncos head coach stirred the pot with his comments about baiting teams into believing they were eyeing a trade to move up in the 2024 draft.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer detailed the process that went into the Broncos’ decision to select Bo Nix with the No. 12 overall pick. But Payton’s suggestion that he was throwing smokescreens triggered some.

Namely, some in the Minnesota Vikings media have taken issue with Payton’s comments.

“What a dork,” former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, now a radio personality for KFAN in Minnesota, posted on X on April 25, quoting a clip of Payton from the April 27 presser.

“I was actively involved in trying to pretend we were moving forward,” Payton told reporters on April 26.

“It’s this time of the year, it’s difficult. And we want to keep our options open. And I would say this for a normal position and we talked about it: We’re entering the draft, you might have needs at rush edge, tackle, receiver. Then you’re really manage. But when it comes to something this specific relative to the quarterback, it’s, man, you just don’t want others to know that this is their focal point.”

Several fans flatly called Payton a “liar” in reaction to his comments.

Notably absent from Payton’s comments, however, is a direct tie to the Vikings. The Broncos coach’s plan was on a grander scale than that.

Sean Payton’s Draft Comments Under the Microscope

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

GettyHead coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

Payton was answering a question about considering a move up versus the risk of moving back. It was initially posed to General Manager George Paton. Payton called the idea of the Broncos trading up “realistic” at the AFC coaches dinner during the NFL Annual Meeting in March.

“I think [a trade is] realistic,” Payton told media members on March 25. “What’s hard to predict, though, is what’s on the receiving end. I think it’s good to be Monti [Ossenfort] today at Arizona, right? So it’s hard to predict what that cost is. And yet, I certainly wouldn’t say it’s unrealistic, and we’ll pay close attention to it.”

It wasn’t just Leber who went after Payton though, with Vikings rookie and No. 10 overall pick J.J. McCarthy’s version of events that led up to the draft fueling the discussion.

“Yes, I did think that [I could be draft by Denver],” 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. And it’s both great spots. But I’m extremely excited to stay in the Midwest and play for Coach [Kevin] O’Connell, and it couldn’t have turned out any more perfect.”

That brought out a reaction from the panel, with one host calling the situation “weird.” But McCarthy’s comments don’t disprove Payton’s assertion in light of the coach’s comments.

Broncos, Vikings HCs Traded Compliments Before the Draft

Sean Payton, Kevin O'Connell, Denver Broncos

GettyHead Coaches Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos and Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

Payton and O’Connell recognized the Broncos and Vikings could be in competition for potential quarterback targets leading up to the draft.

“Part of the draft is understanding … other teams sometimes have to be complicit in your plans,” O’Connell told reporters on March 26. “You’re talking about the Denver Broncos with Sean Payton as the head coach, George Paton. I know the type of staff they have there. There’s some great evaluators of talent.

“We know if we feel strongly about the type of players that we’re looking at and we’re evaluating, they probably are feeling similar. And so we got to understand that that is part of it. We’re going to have to compete in ways to add players, at all positions, to our team.”

Payton’s comments were of the same tenor.

“Part of the puzzle if we were looking at our draft board and you looked at the screen and you said team needs, there’s a handful of teams ahead of us where you’d say, ‘Quarterback,’” Payton said to reporters on April 18. “And then there’s a team or two – Minnesota, ourselves, the Raiders – you could argue ‘quarterback.’ And that’s what makes it, this year, a little interesting.”

Both the Broncos and Vikings brass will say they got the quarterback they wanted in the draft all along. That makes the entire ordeal much ado about nothing.