Palmer was named as the new host of The Bachelor in September, replacing longtime host Chris Harrison after he stepped down in February 2020.
"There were so many times this season off to the side, I'm going, 'Can he say that? What's going to happen next? Where are we going?'" former Bachelor Palmer, 43, tells PEOPLE. "Producers, myself, we were all on the edge of our seats, and viewers at home are going to get that. There are going to be a lot of moments this year where people that have watched this show for 20 years, they've never seen."
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One of those moments came in the premiere of Echard's season when one suitor bowed out even before limo arrivals because she didn't feel ready to start a new relationship so soon after calling off her own engagement. Two more women went home before Echard, 28, made it to his first rose ceremony.
"I don't know if anybody else has ever had to deal with this much stuff right out of the gate," Palmer says. "It's a good thing he's a big guy because he's got a lot on his shoulders."
But as Palmer, who married model Emily Fardo in June 2020, points out, "There are no rules on The Bachelor."
That means former football player Echard "can set his own course," Palmer continues. "You're going to see that throughout the entire season. He'll make decisions and take risks to get what he wants without any care or consideration as to what has happened before or what we're expecting him to do."
When viewers last saw Echard on the show, he asked Palmer whether he could rescind a rose from Cassidy Timbrook after learning she allegedly had a friend with benefits back home.
"One thing I really appreciate about Clayton is that he's never afraid to ask for help," Palmer says. "I think a lot of men today, and especially football players, are taught to just internalize everything. Do not show weakness. Don't admit when you're confused. It was really endearing for him to come to find me and say, 'Hey, I don't know what to do. Has this ever happened before?'"
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Palmer promises the situation will play out in Monday's new episode, but the drama, of course, continues throughout the season. Previews for the remainder of Echard's season show the Missouri native telling what appears to be his final two women that he "was intimate" with both of them.
"Clayton wouldn't be the first or last Bachelor to ever be intimate in the Fantasy Suites," Palmer says. "How they communicate that to the women and how we should do that is up for debate, but Clayton does not have any problem addressing the elephant in the room or telling people how he feels."
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In fact, Palmer says that on Michelle Young's season, Echard "felt like he didn't open up fast enough" — and wanted to avoid doing the same on his own season. "He played it safe too long, and he feels like he missed out on a great chance at potentially being with an amazing woman in Michelle," the ex-New York Giants player adds.
Having served as the Bachelor himself back in 2004 helped Palmer support Echard, who he calls "my younger, taller, better looking, more athletic brother," through his journey. "It was super nostalgic being back," Palmer says. "I got hit by a tidal wave of emotions on the very first night, seeing women coming out of a limo and meeting Clayton, to the first rose ceremony. All these feelings came back. It was tremendous."
One thing the football analyst never dealt with during his Bachelor reign that Echard has: social media.
"It's so much fun being part of a show that has such a passionate fan base," Palmer says. "It's kind of like playing sports a little bit. Fans are nuts. They're knowledgeable and they tell you what they think. Bachelor Nation is incredible, and they're very, very opinionated. But our fan base and their opinions have led to meaningful change on our show. We're really lucky to have that."
As for whether Palmer will be permanently stepping into the hosting role vacated by Harrison remains to be seen. "If the show wants to have those conversations, I'm totally open and willing to do that," Palmer says. "I have had so much fun doing this. This is like a dream job."
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.