As the NFL draft order takes shape, several teams won’t reap the reward for their poor seasons

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General manager Les Snead famously wore a T-shirt at the Los Angeles Rams’ championship parade 10 months ago mocking his team’s lack of draft picks.

Snead built a Super Bowl winner the unconventional way, out of free agents and trades rather than through the draft. His acquisition of quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions cost him his first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, and he sent two picks, including his 2022 second-rounder, to the Denver Broncos for quarterback hunter Von Miller.

Those moves paid off spectacularly in the Rams’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. That left Snead with a Lombardi Trophy, no picks until the third round of the 2022 draft and the right to gloat about bucking tradition and building a champion his way.

The bill has come due for all of that success.

Miller bolted to the Buffalo Bills in free agency a month later, Stafford has been sidelined by a concussion and neck injury since Nov. 20 and the Rams have followed their championship season with a 5-10 record.

Their Christmas Day showdown with the Broncos wasn’t what the league envisioned when the schedule came out. Stafford was on the sideline, and so was Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson by late in the fourth quarter after he’d thrown three interceptions and taken six sacks for the first time in his career.

Wilson has nosedived this season after the Broncos sent a package of players and premium draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks for the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who is 3-10 as a starter with 12 touchdown passes and 49 sacks in Denver.

So when the Rams were putting a 51-14 whooping on the Broncos, the Seahawks and their fans were relishing in Wilson’s latest wipeout that has turned his trade into the deal that keeps getting better for Seattle.

And the Lions and their long-suffering fan base were lamenting the Rams’ sudden success under Baker Mayfield, who is 2-1 in Los Angeles since being picked off the scrap heap after his release by the Carolina Panthers.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford watches warmups before a game against the Seahawks on Dec. 4, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Rams traded their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks to the Lions for Stafford, who has been out since Week 11 with a concussion and neck injury.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford watches warmups before a game against the Seahawks on Dec. 4, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Rams traded their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks to the Lions for Stafford, who has been out since Week 11 with a concussion and neck injury. (Harry How, Getty Images)

As it stands today, the Seahawks would get the third pick in the 2023 draft from the Broncos along with Denver’s second-rounder, and the Lions would receive the seventh selection from the Rams.

With two weeks left, four of the top 11 draft picks in April would go to teams reaping the benefits of timely trades.

In addition to the Broncos and Rams surrendering their selections, the Philadelphia Eagles own the New Orleans Saints’ first-rounder and the Houston Texans hold the Cleveland Browns’ first-rounder.

The Eagles stand to get the 10th pick as part of a complex draft-night trade, the highlights of which were Philly sending the 16th and 19th selections in 2022 to the Saints for the 18th pick last year along with a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder.

The Browns gave up their first-round pick in 2023 as part of the Deshaun Watson trade, and it’s a high pick after Watson was ordered to serve a long suspension to start the season and Cleveland has stumbled to a 6-9 record.

The Broncos must be kicking themselves for not kicking the tires on Wilson before sending the Seahawks first- and second-round picks this year and next year along with quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris — and then signing Wilson to a $245 million contract before the season.

Instead of solving their long-running quarterback conundrum, the Broncos have only exacerbated it.

With Wilson struggling all season, the Broncos are worse off than they ever were with Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater or Lock under center.

They’re averaging a measly 15.4 points per game. That’s last in the league and third-lowest in the franchise’s 63-year history.

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson gets up after being sacked on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Seahawks own the Broncos' first-round pick, currently No. 3, as part of last spring's Wilson trade.

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson gets up after being sacked on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Seahawks own the Broncos’ first-round pick, currently No. 3, as part of last spring’s Wilson trade. (RJ Sangosti, DP)

At least Broncos general manager George Paton was able to re-enter the first round in 2023 by sending fifth-year edge rusher Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins at midseason for a first-round pick.

The Dolphins, by the way, lost their first-rounder as punishment for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton, so they will sit out the first round in April.

The pick the Dolphins sent to the Broncos was originally the San Francisco 49ers’ selection, and right now it’s the 25th pick thanks to the Niners’ surge. They have won eight straight since stumbling to a 3-4 start that included an 11-10 loss in Denver.

That game stands as the Broncos’ best outing in a spoiled season. Wilson’s terrible transition was a major factor in Nathaniel Hackett’s ouster Monday, when he became just the fifth head coach in NFL history not to make it through his first season.

Snead’s T-shirt back in February was a raunchier version of “Forget them picks.”

With no franchise-changing high draft picks awaiting the Broncos, Rams, Saints and Browns as consolation for their wayward ways, what plenty of football fans would love to forget about are those very trades.

Through Week 16 games. Source: Tankathon.com.

  1. Texans
  2. Bears
  3. Seahawks (from Broncos)
  4. Cardinals
  5. Colts
  6. Falcons
  7. Lions (from Rams)
  8. Panthers
  9. Raiders
  10. Eagles (from Saints)
  11. Texans (from Browns)
  12. Seahawks
  13. Titans
  14. Patriots
  15. Jets
  16. Steelers
  17. Packers
  18. Lions
  19. Jaguars
  20. Buccaneers
  21. Commanders
  22. (Dolphins — forfeited)
  23. Giants
  24. Chargers
  25. Ravens
  26. Broncos (from 49ers)
  27. Cowboys
  28. Bengals
  29. Chiefs
  30. Vikings
  31. Bills
  32. Eagles

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