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Sean Payton hints that Broncos might draft a QB higher than expected

If the Denver Broncos want to select one of the top three quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL draft, they will have to trade up from their No. 12 pick.

Then again, Broncos coach Sean Payton might have his own version of the “Big Three” quarterbacks in this year’s class, and he doesn’t care if his rankings are not aligned with the consensus rankings.

“Let’s say, hypothetically, there are six or seven [quarterbacks] that are taken in the first round,” Payton said during an interview with Kay Adams on the Up & Adams show last week. “How many end up hitting on? Two? So are we in love with any of ’em? Or do we just — if you’re not careful, you get on this NFL van, and you’re on the van, and the Internet [influences] and the experts and this like, ‘Oh, this is who you’re supposed to take.’

“Don’t get on the NFL van, just listen to it. Because if we get on the NFL van, we never draft Alvin Kamara. If we got on the NFL van, we start making decisions based on [that]. So you’ve gotta be able to pay attention to the wisdom and the noise on the van, and hear it — as far as it helps us, relative to the information — but if we like one of these guys a lot, then I’m unconcerned where people think we should draft them. Really. Unconcerned.”

That seems to be a Payton’s longwinded way of saying he’s willing to draft the QB he loves at No. 12 even if draft pundits view it as a reach. Reading between the lines, any number of QBs could be deemed a “reach” at No. 12, but Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy might be a name to keep an eye on.

Fans and draft experts don’t have McCarthy anywhere near the top three QBs in this year’s class, but Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh (who coached McCarthy at Michigan) said recently that he would not be surprised if McCarthy is the first QB drafted in April.

That comment from Harbaugh was laughed off by pundits, and it’s possible that the coach was merely hyping up one of his former players. But it might also demonstrate that all it takes is one team — and one coach — to fall in love with a prospect and take him higher than the player’s perceived draft stock.

Payton might not end up falling in love with McCarthy, but if he falls in love with any prospect, we can’t rule out the possibility of the Broncos “reaching” for a QB at No. 12, even if mock drafts have that specific QB going much lower. Buckle up, Broncos Country, this should be a fun draft.

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Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire