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Denver Broncos' can pair Nik Bonitto with their top pass-rushers after patience pays off

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Nik Bonitto's NFL draft profile (0:41)

Check out the best highlights from Oklahoma LB Nik Bonitto's college career. (0:41)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the last pick of the second round Friday night and Oklahoma outside linebacker/defensive end Nik Bonitto on his radar, Denver Broncos general manager George Paton said he had to wait out plenty of "tense" moments to make the team's first selection.

The Broncos, in the wake of the blockbuster deal to acquire quarterback Russell Wilson last month, did not have a pick in Thursday's first round and didn't have a second-round pick until 64th overall -- the final pick of the round. Heading into the evening, Bonitto was one of their top targets, and the wait to select him was an up-and-down ride that almost forced the Broncos to move up.

"We thought Nik was one of the better pass-rushers coming out," Paton said. "Just the bend, the speed, the burst, very natural. He needs to get a little stronger, but we didn't anticipate him being there so we were fortunate. He will add to our group, we'll have a very good wave with Nik."

"[I was] just getting a vibe from the staff and all the guys that are up there," Bonitto said. "They really made me a priority. They really made me feel like they wanted me. I just had a feeling that if I made it to them, that I would be blessed enough to get picked there and that's what happened."

Bonitto, who finished his career at Oklahoma with 33 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks, had been a priority target of the Broncos throughout the draft wind-up and visited the team's complex in recent weeks. The Broncos have Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory as their top pass-rushers, but they each have injury questions. Chubb hasn't played a full season since he was a rookie in 2018. Gregory is coming off shoulder surgery and hasn't played more than 14 games in any of his four seasons because of injuries and suspensions.

This draft's class of edge rushers was considered deep, and Paton has consistently said he wants to have "a wave of rushers" with the quarterbacks the Broncos will face in the AFC West. Bonitto should contribute quickly in the Broncos' nickel package if all goes according to plan.

Gregory had surgery on his shoulder shortly after signing a five-year, $70 million deal with the Broncos as their top target in free agency. Gregory has not participated in the team's offseason program.

"[Bonitto] is pretty dynamic in what he does," Paton said, "he's just going to make the group stronger. And that's what you need in our division and what you need in this league."

Paton said as the second round unfolded the Broncos were "tempted" to trade up for Bonitto because of a growing concern he wouldn't still be on the board when the No. 64 selection rolled around. They opted for patience.

"We got in a lot of conversations and it just worked out, we didn't have to trade up," Paton said. "We were really close [to making a trade] ... we had a pretty good deal ... but we waited it out."

Paton said the Broncos liked the versatility of Bonitto, who showed he could work from several different spots in the Sooners' defensive front. The Broncos want Bonitto to add strength to be more of a factor in run defense, but his potential as an impact rusher outweighed any of those concerns.

"My p-rush, I feel like is one of a kind," Bonitto said. "I feel like it can definitely add to and complement different guys in the room. Just being able to fit in where I can when it comes to rushing."