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Broncos take versatile safeties Caden Sterns, Jamar Johnson in fifth round

Paton finishes with seven defenders in 10 picks in his first draft
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Posted at 1:14 PM, May 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 23:13:42-04

ENGLEWOOD -- As the Aaron Rodgers' drama looms over the NFL, if not the Broncos, Denver focused on adding depth and speed on the final day of the draft.

A Yahoo Sports story Saturday indicated that Rodgers has dug in against the Packers, adamant he will not return unless Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst is fired. Rodgers has told sources he remains willing to consider hardline options, including not reporting or even retiring. As long as Rodgers' future remains in doubt, he will be linked to the Broncos since he has listed Denver among his preferred destinations.

Against that backdrop, the Broncos have moved forward this week. They added veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and selected cornerback Pat Surtain in the first round, eschewing Justin Fields. A path exists, it can be argued, to add Rodgers if GM George Paton wants to pursue it. He acknowledged Friday that he would be open to improving the quarterback room, but is comfortable with Bridgewater and Drew Lock competing for the starting job. In that derby, I give Bridgewater a slight edge because of history, last year notwithstanding, of protecting the football.

The Broncos began the final day looking to grow younger and improve the team's overall athleticism. They finished with seven defensive players and three offensive players in Paton's first draft.

As such, Denver snagged two fast safeties for depth and special teams in the fifth round. Denver selected Texas safety Caden Sterns with the 152nd overall pick in the fifth round. Sterns fits the profile of a potential reserve who can contribute on special teams coverage units, which have undermined the Broncos for years. Sterns finished his college career with 172 tackles and five interceptions in 29 games.

"I bring versatility and I can run well. I look forward to learning from (All-Pro and Pro Bowler) Justin Simmons," Sterns said Saturday. "I know I have to clean up my tackling and become more consistent."

Denver followed by selecting Indiana safety Jamar Johnson with the 164th overall pick in the fifth round. He excelled in coverage at Indiana, and delivered a big game against Ohio State. Johnson is an aggressive ballhawk, finishing his career with eight tackles for a loss, 14 passes defensed and seven interceptions.

"I take pride in the ball," Johnson said.

In the sixth round, the Broncos drafted the best athlete not for a position of need, selecting receiver Seth Williams. He runs a 4.4 40, and at 6-3, 211 pounds became a playmaker for the Tigers. He caught 132 passes for 2,124 yards and 17 touchdowns. Part of Paton's strategy this offseason has been to add depth on both sides of the ball that can help on special teams. As it stands, Williams would be competing for a roster spot with DaeSean Hamilton and Tyrie Cleveland.

As Paton finished his last draft, he repeated positions, adding a corner and linebacker. In the seventh round, he picked LSU corner Kary Vincent. He runs a 4.3 40. Vincent played nickel corner and safety for the Tigers, posting six career interceptions. Linebacker Jonathon Cooper followed in the seventh along with defensive end Marquiss Spencer. Cooper was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes, carving out a role as a edge rusher and high energy force on the field and in the locker room.

"The feeling is surreal. They are going to get everything I've got," Cooper said. "I am a happy man right now."

Spencer dealt with injuries that derailed his college career a bit, but he showed he could play inside and outside, and provides bulk at 301 pounds.

BRONCOS 2021 DRAFT

1. CB Patrick Surtain II
2. RB Javonte Williams
3. C Quinn Meinerz
3. LB Baron Browning
5. S Caden Sterns
5. S Jamar Johnson
6. WR Seth Williams
7. CB Kary Vincent Jr.
7. OLB Jonathon Cooper
7. DE Marquiss Spencer

Footnotes
The plan is for offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz to begin his pro career at center. He played guard and center in college. He appears a kindred spirit with Dalton Risner with his Paul Bunyan workouts and attitude. "I’m happy to have him to be part of the family! Seems like a great guy and a great ball player. Love his story and journey and I relate to it a lot." ...

The Broncos had a first-round grade on Javonte Williams, landing him in the second. He will push Melvin Gordon, and is viewed as a young player capable of playing on third down. ...