The Denver Broncos‘ decision-makers said over and over again in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft they would not “force” a decision at quarterback.

Whether or not the Broncos indeed forced the issue remains to be seen, but what the Broncos did do is make history when they made Oregon’s Bo Nix the sixth quarterback off the board Thursday night. Nix’s selection tied the record of six quarterbacks selected in the first round, set in 1983 when Broncos Hall of Famer John Elway was the No. 1 pick of the draft (by the Baltimore Colts).

Nix’s selection with the No. 12 pick was the highest the Broncos have selected a quarterback in the first round since they drafted Jay Cutler at No. 11 in 2006.

“When you look at their scheme, there’s a lot of concepts, a lot of things I’ve run in the past,” Nix said.

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Nix said he believed the Broncos had some interest in him during the pre-draft windup, but that “you never know until you get the phone call,” Nix said.

“I’ll be in a good situation to learn and grow,” Nix added.

After saying they’d be willing to move up or move down in the first round if the right opportunity presented itself, the Broncos stayed put at No. 12, even as the quarterbacks came off the board at an unprecedented rate. When the Minnesota Vikings moved up from No. 11 to No. 10 to select Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, the Broncos were faced with taking a skill position player, the highest-rated defensive player on their board or the sixth quarterback in Nix.

Nix, with his three seasons at Auburn and two at Oregon, was one of the most experienced players in the draft — 61 games, with at least 10 games played in all five of his seasons. His two seasons at Oregon were a revelation for him with 74 of his 113 career touchdown passes as well as back-to-back seasons with at least a 71% completion rate.

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Coach Sean Payton had said the Broncos’ ability to use their first-round pick on a quarterback if they remained at No. 12 would be determined by the teams in front of them.

“There’s a handful of teams ahead of us, where you would say quarterback [is a team need],” Payton said. “Then there’s a team or two, Minnesota, ourselves, the Raiders, you could argue quarterback. That’s what makes this year a little interesting.”

The Broncos had said, at least publicly, they would be open to a lot of ideas at No. 12 if the board didn’t fall the right way at quarterback.

“Look, I mean, do we have to draft a quarterback?” Payton said last week. “You’d say man, it sure looks like we have to draft a quarterback and yet, it’s got to be the right fit, the right one. And if you had the tip sheets as to who everyone else was taking, it would be easier to answer that question … That’s the puzzle here.”

“What you don’t want to do is force it,” general manager George Paton had added. “Otherwise, we’ll be in this position next year and the years after, you want to get the right player at 12. Our first pick we’ve got to hit on, whether it’s a quarterback, whether it’s a tackle, a receiver, you name it, we need to get an impact player.”

The Broncos have missed the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons with five different head coaches, Payton included, and 12 different starting quarterbacks — running back Phillip Lindsay started a game during the COVID-19 pandemic as the 13th player to start a game behind center overall. They have just two of their own first-round picks on the current roster — cornerback Pat Surtain II and tackle Garett Bolles — and need impact players all over the depth chart.

Nix now joins a quarterback room that includes Zach Wilson, who the Broncos acquired in a trade earlier this week, and Jarrett Stidham, who started the final two games of the 2023 season after Payton benched Russell Wilson. Zach Wilson was the No. 2 pick of the 2021 draft.

The New York Jets, after Wilson’s rocky three-season tenure with the team, had told Wilson and his representatives they would try to find him a new football home.

Wilson, given his on-field struggles — 57% completion rate with 25 interceptions compared to 23 touchdown passes — is a bit of a reclamation project, a fresh start for the 24-year-old. Payton has consistently said he would bring in competition for Stidham as Wilson, and now Nix, are part of that in the short term with Nix the potential long-term solution.