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The Bo Nix era begins in Denver, and the Broncos also drafted his top target at Oregon

AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — For the first time in his 17 seasons as a coach, Sean Payton has a rookie quarterback to nurture.

Payton’s Denver Broncos took Bo Nix in the first round of the NFL draft. The coach then helped out both himself and Nix by moving up to draft his new QB’s top target at Oregon, wide receiver Troy Franklin, in the fourth round Saturday.

“Obviously watching a lot of Bo Nix, we kept seeing Troy show up on the film,” Broncos assistant general manager Darren Mougey said. “And scouts, coaches, we’ve all had an eye on Troy.”

What 2024 will show is whether the pugnacious Payton can show patience with the growing pains that will greet the former Oregon signal-caller just as they do every other passer making the leap to the pros.

“The challenge is exciting, but it’s still you want good quarterback play,” Payton said. “The two biggest allies to that I believe strongly are good defensive play and a running game. … When you’re playing good defense and you have a running game, your job description is a little bit more palatable.”

And the coach’s nerves are a little less frayed.

Payton famously chewed out Russell Wilson on the sideline in games against the Jets, Chargers and Lions last year. Ultimately, he benched Wilson for Jarrett Stidham for the final two games, a prelude to Wilson’s release this offseason.

Wilson signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency but remains the highest-paid player on the Broncos’ roster in 2024 because they’re on the hook for all but $1.21 million of his $39 million salary next season.

Stidham is due $5 million in 2024, Ben DiNucci is due $985,000 and the Broncos agreed to split Zach Wilson ‘s $5.5 million salary after acquiring the second overall pick in 2021 from the Jets.

As the 12th overall pick, Nix is in line for a four-year, $18.6 million contract with $10 million of that coming in the form of a signing bonus. Contracts for draft picks are predetermined by a formula tied to the salary cap, which will be $255.4 million next season.

Franklin will help Nix’s adjustment.

He caught 23 of his 25 career touchdowns from Nix. He caught 61 passes for 891 yards and nine TDs in 2022, Nix’s first season with the Ducks, and those numbers jumped to 81 receptions for 1,383 yards and 14 TDs last season.

Nix’s numbers were off the charts, too. He threw for 45 touchdowns with just three interceptions last year after throwing for 29 TDs with seven picks in 2022.

Add in his three years at Auburn and Nix started a record 61 games in college, capitalizing on the extra season afforded athletes because of the pandemic.

Nix hopes that maturity gives him an edge as he vies for the starting job this summer.

“I think it will definitely help and for sure won’t hurt,” Nix said. “I think experience is one of the best teachers really in anything. The more you do something, the better you should get at it.”

At 24, Nix is the oldest of the record six quarterbacks selected in the first dozen picks of this year’s draft.

“It’s going to be hard for anyone to break 61 games unless there’s another pandemic because he was able to play five years,” Payton said.

The Broncos trust that makes Nix the most NFL-ready of all the quarterbacks selected this year.

“It’s just a huge honor” being picked by Payton, said Nix, who grew up watching Drew Brees and the Saints. “He could have picked anybody else in this draft and he chose me. …

“I’m just excited to be his guy.”


The Broncos’ third-round pick, Utah OLB Jonah Elliss, has three brothers in the NFL and his father, Luther Elliss, played his final NFL season in Denver in 2004 and served as the Broncos’ chaplain in 2015.


The Broncos selected two second-team AP All-Americans early in the fifth round in Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and Notre Dame running back Audric Estime, who set an Irish record with 18 touchdown runs last season. He had 11 the year before.


The Broncos’ biggest acquisition Saturday came when they pulled off their second trade in six days with the Jets that netted them defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers for a sixth-round pick in the 2026 draft. Franklin-Myers has 17 1/2 sacks in four seasons with the Jets.


The Broncos took two more seasoned players in Round 7. Receiver Devaughn Vele turns 27 in December. He served a two-year Mormon mission before spending five years at Utah. Offensive lineman Nick Gargiulo, who spent a year as a graduate student at South Carolina after graduating from Yale, turns 24 in July.

“If they were younger, they would have gone higher,” general manager George Paton said.



Article Topic Follows: AP - Oregon-Northwest

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