Analysis: Some NFL teams won’t reap reward for poor seasons

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 Detroit cost him his first-round pick in 2022 and he sent two picks, including his second-rounder, to Denver 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 NFL draft and the right to gloat about bucking tradition and building a champion his way.

The bill has come due for all that success.

Miller bolted to the Buffalo Bills in free agency a month later, Stafford has been sidelined by a concussion and a neck injury since Dec. 3 and the Rams have followed their 15-5 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 Denver 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 Seattle for the nine-time Pro Bowl QB who is just 3-10 with a dozen TD throws 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.

The Lions and their long-suffering fanbase were lamenting the Rams’ sudden success under Baker Mayfield, who is 2-1 in Hollywood since being picked off the scrap heap following his release from the Carolina Panthers.

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

With two games left, four of the top 11 draft picks next April would go to teams reaping the benefits from 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 Saints’ 10th overall pick as part of a complex draft-night trade, the highlights of which were Philly sending the 16th and 19th overall selections in 2022 to the Saints for their 18th overall 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 QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant and DL Shelby Harris — and then signing Wilson to a $245 million contract before the season began.

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 the likes of 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.

At least Denver 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.

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

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

That game stands as the Broncos’ best outing in a spoiled season in which Wilson has thrown just a dozen TD passes and taken 49 sacks, going 3-10 as the team’s starter.

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.

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