ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- All evening Thursday, minute after minute, pick after pick, the Denver Broncos decision-makers kept their eyes on the prize.
Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said the Broncos opened the draft with the intention of selecting University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round. And then the team sweated through each pick before the Broncos couldn't wait any longer and Elway traded two picks to the Seattle Seahawks to move up from No. 31 to No. 26 in order to select Lynch.
“We worked the phones from noon [Thursday] to try to find where we could slide in,’’ Elway said. “We talked to everybody starting at 17 all the way up and finally were able to do a deal with the Seahawks. We were thrilled to be able to do that, and Paxton was still there and we’re extremely excited. He’s a big, athletic, strong young guy that fits us perfectly.’’
Yes, of all of the quarterbacks on the draft board for the Broncos, Lynch is the one who became the guy. And it’s because, in Lynch, they see many of the attributes Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, believes a top-flight passer must have to flourish in the NFL.
“The one thing that we really liked about Paxton is the enthusiasm that he plays the game with,’’ Elway said. “I think if you watch tape, he’s the first down there if they have a long touchdown or whatnot -- Paxton is the first one down there in the end zone to congratulate the guy. He’s involved, so I think we really liked that what we saw on tape. And his enthusiasm and the way he plays the game.’’
Lynch also possesses top-tier arm strength, something he was not always afforded the opportunity to showcase in the Tigers’ spread offense. Then add in that Lynch also has the physical profile the Broncos like -- 6-foot-6 5/8-inches tall, 244 pounds -- and you have a player the Broncos had rated on par with California quarterback Jared Goff, who was the No. 1 pick of the draft Thursday night by the St. Louis Rams.
“It was honestly the greatest feeling,’’ Lynch said of getting the call from the Broncos. “I know the work I have put into this and all the stuff I have done going through this process and meeting all these people and talking to all these people. You just want to get picked and go to a team and get to work. This is a dream come true to me and the Denver Broncos organization is obviously one of the best in the league.’’
The Broncos also like Lynch’s mobility -- he had 288 rushing yards in his three years as a starter at Memphis, including 113 carries and 13 rushing touchdowns in 2014 -- which they believe will translate into a player comfortable in their offense in terms of moving around in the pocket to find a receiver or working the play-action game.
“The thing that’s really exciting is that this guy extends plays,’’ Kubiak said. “He has the knack for making people miss, extending plays, and it’s really hard in this business to coach guys to keep their eyes down the field when they’re moving, and this guy does a great job of that. Big, strong kid, makes all the throws, moves around very, very well and, like I said, very motivated too. That’s one thing I really liked about him when he was here was how motivated he is to come in here and be successful.’’
Lynch also trimmed his interception total in each of this three seasons -- 10 as a freshman, nine as a sophomore and four this past season as a junior -- while also going from nine touchdowns as a freshman, 22 touchdowns as a sophomore and 28 as a junior.
The Broncos also, when they met with Lynch in the weeks leading up to the draft, felt he had answered some of pre-draft questions about his ability to become the face of a franchise, a player who leads the way.
“He’d fit in very well, he did a great job when he was here, and like I said, that was a very big piece of the puzzle,’’ Kubiak said. “I thought it was a great visit.’’