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Apr. 17—George Paton can guarantee that the Broncos get Trey Lance or Justin Fields.

He’ll ultimately make the final call, but already has made the first call to the Falcons. Paton could do the deal if he’s willing to pay the price.

The decision will be Paton’s most critical in his quarter-century NFL career and eventually could determine if he reaches year 30 in the league as the Broncos’ general manager.

G-Man’s 100th day in Denver is Friday. So far, so exceptionally good.

But the Quarterback Question-Quandary lingers.

Paton has Mile High regard for both Fields and Lance. He and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula attended their first Pro Days, which, presumably, would be their only workouts for NFL witnesses. However, each opted for a repeat passing performance — Fields last Wednesday and Lance this Monday.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and director of pro personnel A.J. Durso were dispatched for the follow-ups.

Intriguingly, neither coach Vic Fangio nor president of football operations John Elway has seen either quarterback in person at the Pro Days or in their college football careers. And George hasn’t named an assistant GM, the role he held with the Vikings before coming to the Broncos.

Thus, this is the Paton’s Pick.

An NFL source beyond the Broncos says that George and his offensive advisers continue to debate and dissect the two quarterbacks, but are open to drafting whichever is available.

I prefer Lance, but I believe George gives the slight advantage to Fields. Both perhaps become dynamic, long-term, franchise-type quarterbacks, but the risk-reward results for first-round quarterbacks is problematic.

The Broncos’ GM, coaches and scouts have spent hundreds of hours on a thorough quarterback investigation and researching what eight teams ahead of them in the draft probably will be doing.

Paton promised that the Broncos would be involved in every major deal, “quarterback is on the table” for the draft and the franchise definitely will have “competition” at its most vital position.

The Broncos have started 53 different quarterbacks in franchise history.

Drew Lock is not a cinch lock to be the starting quarterback.

But my opinion is the same as months ago: Lock will open the season as starter with a drafted, developing quarterback (Lance or Fields) or a veteran pick-up as the backup, although Brett Rypien will be in play because coaches and players like him as a Gary Kubiak-type reserve-sideline assistant.

A Broncos-Falcons trade is quite realistic. Paton and Atlanta’s Terry Fontenot are first-time general managers who served in similar capacities as personnel people and scouting specialists in Minnesota and New Orleans. They know each other well, and the two were the finalists to replace Elway in Denver. If Paton had turned down the job, Fontenot would have been hired. He took the Falcons’ offer six days after Paton was appointed.

Fontenot and Paton are trying to accomplish rapid turnarounds with franchises that have been on hard times after Super Bowls. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50; the Falcons should have won Super Bowl 51 before choking late against the Patriots. The Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs since their championship; the Falcons, in the past three years, have finished out of the postseason at 7-9, 7-9, 4-12.

What and who stands between the Falcons and the Broncos are old associates — the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator on the Falcons’ Super Bowl team and rejected Broncos’ coach applicant — and John Lynch, who played for the Broncos and later was mentored for an executive’s position under Elway.

The 49ers own pick No 3. After the Jaguars select Trevor Lawrence and the Jets Zach Wilson, San Francisco will choose from among Fields, Lance and Mac Jones.

Then, the Falcons. They can pick one, but Matt Ryan is still QB one and will be for a while, especially with a massive salary cap number. Atlanta, in desperate need of defense, has been clear that No. 4 is available.

The Broncos probably will compete for the draft choice exchange with the Patriots, the Eagles, the Bears and the Washington Football Team. However, the Broncos possess the best number — 9.

Paton would be able to draft Fields or Lance (but not Jones) if they surrendered 2021’s No. 1, a third-round pick and ’22’s No. 1, while receiving ’21’s No. 4 and a fifth-round pick (Atlanta has three) in return.

Go, George. Guaranteed Giddyup.