Broncos GM sees 7-8 QB starters in draft but won't force move

Broncos GM won't force a QB pick at 12 (0:42)

George Paton explains why the Broncos won't force a quarterback in Round 1 but will pick the right player at No. 12. (0:42)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos would love to find their long-term solution at quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft, but the team's decision-makers said Thursday they won't "force it."

The Broncos, who released Russell Wilson earlier this year and have not signed a quarterback in free agency, have the 12th pick of the first round, and general manager George Paton said he has already received interest from multiple teams about either moving up in the first round or moving down.

"One thing we know, we're going to get a really good player at 12," Paton said. "We've had teams call to move up, we've had teams call to move back, we have flexibility. But we do know at 12, if we stand pat, we'll get a really good player."

Both Paton and coach Sean Payton were asked Thursday, given their eight-year playoff drought and Jarrett Stidham at the top of the quarterback depth chart, if the Broncos had to select a quarterback in the first round.

"You'd say, man, it sure looks like we have to draft a quarterback, and yet, it's got to be the right fit, the right one," Payton said. "And if you had the tip sheets as to who everyone else was taking, it would be easier to answer that question. ... That's the puzzle here."

"What you don't want to do is force it," Paton added. "Otherwise we'll be in this position next year and the years after. You want to get the right player at 12. Our first pick we've got to hit on, whether it's a quarterback, whether it's a tackle, a receiver, you name it, we need to get an impact player."

Payton added that the Broncos' ability to use their first-round pick on a quarterback, if they remain at No. 12, will be determined by the teams in front of them.

"There's a handful of teams ahead of us where you would say quarterback [is a need]," Payton said. "Then there's a team or two -- Minnesota, ourselves, the Raiders -- you could argue quarterback. That's what makes this year a little interesting."

Paton said the Broncos believe seven or eight quarterbacks in this draft could be potential starters and that some would likely still be available if the Broncos did not use their first-round pick on one.

"I do think it is a good quarterback class. There is seven to eight quarterbacks that we like, who we think can play in the league someday," Paton said. "... But it is a good quarterback class. It's been fun getting to know them, seven or eight of them. We think we can get a quarterback early. We think we can get one mid-rounds. We think there's going to be quarterbacks throughout the draft who are interesting to us."

As a result of the trade to acquire Wilson before the 2022 season -- which included two first- and two second-round picks -- the Broncos haven't selected a player in the first round since cornerback Pat Surtain II in 2021. And given all the coaching turnover since the Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season, the Broncos have just two of their own first-round picks on the current roster: Surtain and offensive tackle Garett Bolles.

Wilson's release brought an $85 million dead money charge against the Broncos' salary cap over the next two years, with $53 million of that against this year's cap. The Broncos have taken a more limited approach in free agency and have not signed a veteran quarterback since free agency opened last month.

The Broncos also don't have a second-round pick this year. After the No. 12 pick, they are not scheduled to select again until No. 76 overall in the third round.