ENGLEWOOD | Despite lacking a pick until 30 other teams had plucked 62 prospects off the board, the Denver Broncos landed the kind of breakaway threat that new head coach Sean Payton always employed and enjoyed in New Orleans.
GM George Paton moved up five spots in the NFL draft so the Broncos could select Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims with the final pick of Round 2 and their first selection of 2023, the gemstone of a five-member draft class that exhibits both value and versatility.
“Look, today’s the day where everyone says, ‘We got our guy,’” Payton said over the weekend. “It was hard to predict who our guy was going to be because of where we picked, but we felt really good about the guy we got.”
Russell Wilson’s new deep threat will be counted upon to make an immediate impact with speedy receiver KJ Hamler (torn chest muscle) and dynamic running back Javonte Williams (knee) still on the mend.
The Broncos, who are sticking with the 3-4 defense, also added All-American inside linebacker Drew Sanders and Iowa defensive back Riley Moss in the third round and Boise State safety JL Skinner in the sixth.
Payton and Paton capped their first draft together by selecting Oregon’s 6-foot-4 center Alex Forsyth in the seventh round.
Skinner’s draft stock fell from a projected third- or fourth-rounder after he tore a pectoral muscle while bench pressing ahead of the NFL scouting combine.
“I don’t really consider it a drop,” Skinner said. “I consider it me being placed in the right hands. And the Denver Broncos obviously are the correct hands for me.”
The Broncos traded the second of their two sixth-rounders Saturday to New Orleans for the Saints’ seventh-round compensatory pick they used to select Forsyth and fourth-year tight end Adam Trautman, a third-round selection by the Saints in 2020.
Like all of their draft picks this weekend, Trautman is versatile, in this case as a blocker and a receiving target. Payton said he was thrilled to reunite with Trautman, who becomes the sixth former Saints player on Denver’s roster.
“That was something that was just as exciting as any part of yesterday or today because that was something we were looking for,” Payton said.
The Broncos entered the draft without a first- or second-round pick after acquiring Wilson from Seattle last year and Payton from the Saints this year.
With only a fistful of picks, the Broncos did the bulk of their roster rebuilding in free agency, where they were the league’s biggest spenders, signing 14 players to contracts totally a whopping $242,647,500.
That was only slightly more than the $242,588,236 they gave Wilson, who signed a five-year contract extension on the eve of Denver’s dreadful 2022 season.
Unlike last year, when the Broncos tweeted a faux video of the team drafting Wilson with the ninth pick they had dealt to Seattle, the mood wasn’t as buoyant in Round 1 this time. Nor were there any glimpses of the team’s brass spending the night watching Wilson’s highlights from his decade in Seattle.
There weren’t many high points from Wilson’s horrid first season in Denver, which resulted in a 5-12 finish, another coaching change and the gift of a top-5 draft pick to the Seahawks, who reached the NFC playoffs under his longtime backup Geno Smith.
Seattle used that fifth overall pick on Illinois cornerback Devin Witherspoon on Thursday night and grabbed edge rusher Derick Hall in the second round Friday.
That closes the blockbuster trade that netted the Broncos Wilson and 2022 fourth-rounder Eyioma Uwazurike and sent Seattle veterans Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris and four premium picks, which they parlayed into Witherspoon and Hall, along with tackle Charles Cross and linebacker Boye Mafe last year.
Payton’s priority this season will be straightening out Wilson, and that process may have begun in earnest with the addition of a breakaway threat in Mims to help jumpstart an offense that ranked dead last in scoring in 2022 for the first time since 1966.
“Again, we heard it a million times: ‘We got our guy today.’ All right, half of them are lying,” Payton said. “But, I would say — and I don’t want to speak for George, but — man, I was excited” about Denver’s selections.
“And if you started really at the beginning of it all and you said, here’s free agency, here we are, the draft just ended — I’m really excited. And that’s an honest answer.”