UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Put names to draft picks to judge Broncos’ trades

. . . . with the 5th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select Devon Witherspoon, defensive back, Illinois.

. . . . with the 29th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Bryan Bresee, defensive tackle, Clemson.

. . . . with the 37th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select Derrick Hall, defensive end, Auburn.

And there you have it, Broncos fans.

The final price for Russell Wilson and the primary cost of Sean Payton came straight from the mouth of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In case you don’t recall all of them, here are the specifics of the two acquisitions:

To obtain Payton’s services, the Broncos sent what turned out to be Bresee and their second-rounder next year to New Orleans. (Denver also got a third-round choice in the 2024 Draft.)

To bring Wilson to Denver (along with a fourth-round pick in ‘24), the Broncos gave up three established players—tight end Noah Fant (their first pick in ’19), defensive lineman Shelby Harris (who led the team with six quarterback sacks in ’21) and quarterback Drew Lock—plus five draft choices, who turned out to be:

Charles Cross, the 9th overall pick in ’22, an offensive tackle who is the first Mississippi State player taken in the top 10 of the Draft since 1983;

Boye Mafe, second round last April, a linebacker from Minnesota; and

Witherspoon and Hall. (A fifth-round choice in ’23 was traded to Kansas City.)

It’s easy to forget, or never actually grasp, the full cost of an acquisition when draft choices are part of a deal.

But picks are people, too. Eventually.

And often, they wind up being the more significant part of such a trade.

In the case of Coach Payton, he’ll be worth two players—even if both become stars—PROVIDED THAT Payton eventually gets the Broncos back to the Super Bowl. Or, maybe if he just makes them relevant again.

Wilson, on the other hand, must return to Super Bowl form—whether or not he actually plays in another one—to justify his ultimate price.

In his first season in Denver, as everyone knows, DangeRuss (a play on dangerous that was popularized during his Seattle heyday) was anything but. 

His quarterback rating was the lowest of his pro career at 84.4.  He threw for only 16 touchdowns, against 11 interceptions. He was sacked 55 times for 368 yards in losses (in 15 games), both personal highs. 

It’s way too early to say how Witherspoon and Hall will perform for the Seahawks, though it should be noted that Witherspoon was named Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year for the 2022 season, and Hall, one of Auburn’s captains, was voted the team’s defensive player of the year.

Cross played 99.8% of Seattle’s offensive snaps last season, allowing seven sacks in Geno Smith’s 572 pass attempts (1.2%). And Mafe was on the field for almost 40% of the team’s defensive plays. Fant, meanwhile, was targeted 63 times and caught 50 balls, behind only two wide receivers.

As a result of the Wilson and Payton transactions, the Broncos were without a selection in this year’s Draft until the last choice of the second round, player No. 63. (And that was only because they got Detroit to swap spots, the Lions moving down to 68 but also getting 138 for 183.)

Denver’s selections on Day Two were:

Marvin Mims, wide receiver, Oklahoma;

Drew Sanders, linebacker, Arkansas; and

Riley Moss, cornerback, Iowa.

Mims is small (5-11, 182) but fast, a deep threat as well as one of the top punt returners in this draft. He looks like protection for K.J. Hamler, who is again injured; some analysts think he was a steal at 63.

Sanders was a Butkus Award finalist for Arkansas. His 13.5 sacks suggest he has a knack for getting to the quarterback; those same “experts” think he could develop into a Micah Parsons-type pass rusher. 

Moss, one of Iowa’s captains in ’22, is a two-time, first-team all-Big Ten defender. He played 47 college games, which is more than most draft choices, and ball-hawked 11 interceptions, seventh-most all-time at Iowa.

The team of Paton & Payton (General Manager George and Coach Sean) appears to have made the best of its lot. The three Day Two picks get high grades.

But that’s only part of the story of their first NFL Draft together.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.