NFL front offices live in the present. There are many reasons for this, and job security is chief among them. One bad season, and restless fans (certainly including Denver fans) call for coaches and or GM's heads. That may be our right, but perhaps we'd be wiser to allow our front office to take advantage of other short-sighted front offices and plan for the future.
The best opportunity for this is in the draft. There are many trades that occur in every draft, and most of them are of the variety where one team trades back in the draft to acquire more picks. Judging by the various mock drafts, fans in general like this, because we recognize that we are more likely to get a good player out of two choices than one choice (although we are angered when the traded away pick becomes a star, or at least a valuable player that we've now foregone. We're fans, and we're fickle!) However, the better option of trading back is to not acquire more picks in the present draft, but more valuable picks in future drafts. As most front offices are in a live-for-the-present mentality, they tend to sell their future picks at a steep discount.
Many of you are likely aware of the point value that are proscribed for each position in the draft. For those who aren't, here is a link. These values tend to be well followed. In last year's draft, for instance, there were 18 trades made involving only picks in the 2011 draft. The team trading down (in other words, the one originally with the higher pick), traded away a total of 5024.7* points, and received 5132.8* points in return, which was a profit of slightly over 2%. As trading teams rarely (actually never) had picks who's totals added up exactly, some deviation from even trading was to be expected. In fact, if we ignore the Jaguars trading up to select Blaine Gabbert (oops!), which allowed the Redskins to profit by 110 points, both sides of the ledger become virtually even over the other 17 trades. In other words, these point values are a relatively good proxy for same-year trades.
On the other hand, there were four trades (small sample size, I know, but I don't have the time to go through prior drafts), in which only draft picks were traded, but some picks were in a future year (all 2012 in this case.) For those four, I made the assumption that the 2012 pick would be in the same position as the 2011 pick. For example, when the Falcons traded away their 2012 1st and 4th round picks in the Julius Jones trade, I scored them as if they 27th and 124th overall picks, and not as the 22nd and 118th picks, which they actually became, as it is unlikely a GM would have time to, nor be very successful at, predicting future draft position during a mid-draft trade. Under these rules, the teams trading for future picks profited between 38%, and 158% in pick value, based on the point system.
The 4 trades were:
Cleveland (#6 overall -- 1600 points) to Atlanta for #27 (700 points), #59 (310 points), #124 (48 points) in 2011, and a 1st (assumed to be #27 and 700 points), and a 4th (assumed to be #124 and 48 points.) Cleveland acquired 1058 points in 2011, and 748 points in 2012, which means their 2012 picks were at a 38% profit.
New England (#28 -- 660 points) to New Orleans for 2011 #58 (340 points) and 2012 1st round (assumed #24 - 740 points). This resulted in a 131% profit on the 2012 pick.
New England (#92 and #125 -- 179 points) to Oakland for 2012 #219 (3.8 points) and 2012 2nd round (assumed #48 - 420 points). This resulted in a 140% profit on the 2012 pick.
Philadelphia (#104 - 86 points) to Tampa Bay for #116 (62 points) and 2012 4th round (assumed #116 - 62 points). This resulted in a profit of 158% for the 2012 pick.
(Methodological note: To calculate profit, I assumed that the 2011 points were of equal value, since the 18 same-draft trades showed that was approximately true. Therefore, the profit was the value of the 2012 picks divided by the difference of the 2011 picks, minus 1.)
Accordingly, there is much to be gained in future years if the Broncos are willing to pass a little on the present. Personally, I would look to trade the #25 overall for future selections, unless a player that the Broncos grade at inside their top 15 falls to them. (That's essentially trading #25 for #15 straight up, which is a 46% increase in value, and at the low end of the profit in the 4 deals highlighted.)
* - the chart bottoms out at 2 points for the #224 pick, so I estimated values for picks below that. As these picks all have less than 2 points of value, their precise number matters little in the overall precision.)