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Do The Broncos Shuffle: Draft Related Trades During Denver's Second Two Decades

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     I would once again like to state my appreciation for those MHR members who have taken the time to research college and NFL players in order to create draft and trade scenarios. While time does not permit me to read each and every mock draft that is produced, all of you deserve a pat on the back for your efforts.

     As I mentioned in the first article in this series (which may be found here), I am better at historical studies than I am at predicting future choices. I chose to look into draft related trades as a way of participating in the fascination we all have with that part of the NFL year called "The Draft." It has been interesting to see just how Denver managed to acquire some of the pivotal players in the team's history. Here are some examples: A pick traded to San Diego brought starting QB Mickey Slaughter to Denver. Lyle Alzado was drafted with a pick acquired in a trade with the Patriots. Steve Ramsey and a pick were dealt to the New York Giants to bring in starting QB Craig Morton. Alzado and Morton were key players in Denver's first Super Bowl appearance.

     During Denver's second twenty years, the Broncos participated in twenty drafts. In those twenty drafts, the Broncos were involved in seventy-one draft-related trades, or approximate 3.5 per year. Denver had as few as one in a year (1995) and as many as ten (1984). There were some fairly straightforward trades, as well as some rather creative ones. One of the things that can be noticed during these two decades was a tendency on the part of the Broncos to trade future draft picks for immediate returns. In thirteen different years, twenty-six future draft picks were traded away.


This article will look at Denver's draft-related trades from 1980 to 1999. The final article will address the trades that occurred from 2000-2010.

Take a jump and see what the Broncos have done with draft trades

One way to look at the draft-related trades is to look at how many Denver made each year from 1980 to 1999:

 

Draft Trades By Year
1980 6 1985 3 1990 5 1995 1
1981 3 1986 2 1991 2 1996 3
1982 2 1987 2 1992 2 1997 2
1983 7 1988 2 1993 5 1998 2
1984 10 1989 5 1994 5 1999 3



     When looking at this set of trades, I decided to group them according to what the Broncos gave up in order to acquire the draft choice and/or players they had targeted. These choices are separated into three broad categories: Trading Away Players, Trading Away Current Year Picks, and Trading Away Future Year Picks.  Within each of these broad categories are some smaller divisions -- such as trading a player plus a current year pick for something. There is also a set of three trades for which the terms of the trade were not completely clear. Those three are included at the end. A brief word about the notation being used:

 

(a)When referring to draft picks surrendered, the format is <Year, Round (Eventual overall position)> as in 1980 1st (#20).

(b)When referring to draft picks acquired, the format is <Year, Round (Overall position - Player Position, Player Name (Years Played for Denver))> as in 1983 8th (#197 - QB Gary Kubiak (9)).

(c)When referring to a player acquired, the format is <Position, Player Name, (Years Played for Denver)> as in QB Steve DeBerg (3)

 

TRADING AWAY PLAYERS (26 trades)

Player Traded for Current Year Picks

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1980 P Bucky Dilts 1980 8th (#197 - WR Don Coleman (0)) Colts
1983 LB Rob Nairne 1983 5th (#125 - DB Bruce Baldwin (0)) Saints
1983 T Glenn Hyde 1983 8th (#197 - QB Gary Kubiak (9)) Colts
1984 QB Steve DeBerg 1984 4th (#89 - DB Randy Robbins (8)) Buccaneers
1984 T Kelvin Clark 1984 4th (#96 - pick traded to Cleveland) Saints
1992 WR Ricky Nattiel 1992 7th (#170 - DE Ron Geater (1)) Buccaneers
1993 RB Gaston Green 1993 3rd (#69 - DB Rondell Jones (4)) Raiders
1993 DB Alton Montgomery 1993 3rd (#83 - traded to Cleveland) and 1993 7th (#169 - TE Clarence Williams (0)) Falcons
1994 WR Arthur Marshall 1994 7th (#218 - C Tom Nalen (14)) Giants
1996 RB Glyn Milburn 1996 2nd (#55 - traded to Ravens) and 1996 7th (#236 - P Brian Gragert (0)) Lions
1999 T Jamie Brown 1999 2nd (#58 - DT Monte Reagor (4)) 49ers


While some of these player for current year picks came up empty -- i.e., no record of TE Clarence Williams ever playing for Denver -- the Broncos did hit pay dirt on three occasions. QB Gary Kubiak, C Tom Nalen and DT Monte Reagor all came from trades in which a player was sent elsewhere.

Players Traded for Picks in Future Years

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1983 DE Greg Boyd 1984 8th (#207 - G Winford Hood (5)) Packers
1983 LB Larry Evans 1985 5th (#139 - G Billy Hinson (0)) Dolphins
1984 P Luke Prestridge 1985 10th (#269 - QB Buddy Funck (0)) Patriots
1984 DE Brison Manor 1986 6th (#139 - traded to Giants) Buccaneers
1985 QB Scott Brunner 1986 6th (#152 - TE Orson Mobley (5)) Packers
1986 LB Steve Busick 1987 11th (#299 - DE Steve Roberts (0)) and 1988 7th (#174 TE Pat Kelly (2)) Rams
1987 LB Ken Woodard 1988 10th (#268 - RB Channing Williams (0)) Steelers
1990 TE David Little 1991 8th (#198 - traded back to Cardinals) Cardinals
1993 C Dave Widell 1994 7th (#212 - RB Butler By'not'e (1)) Packers
1994 QB Tommy Maddox 1995 4th (#124 - LB Ken Brown (1)) Rams


This group of trades were largely a bust. Out of nine trades: two were traded to other teams, four were used to pick players who did not make the roster, and two were used on players who were with the Broncos for only a single season. Only one pick -- G Winford Hood -- was with the team for any length of time.

Players Traded for a Combination of Current Year and Future Year Picks

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1980 DE Lyle Alzado 1980 2nd (#42 - DE Rulon Jones (9)), 1980 5th (#136 - NT Laval Short (1)) and 1981 3rd (#75 - traded to Kansas City) Browns
1999 QB Jeff Lewis 1999 3rd (#67 - DB Chris Watson (1)) and 2000 4th (#112 - G Cooper Carlisle (7)) Panthers


There were some good returns on these trades. Denver picked up 2-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXI participant DE Rulon Jones. The Broncos also snagged G Cooper Carlisle for a 7-year stint.

Players and Current Year Picks Traded for Players

There was only one trade of this nature. In 1980, the Broncos traded QB Craig Penrose, their 1980 1st (#20) and their 1980 2nd (#47) to the Jets in exchange for QB Matt Robinson (1).

Players and Future Year Picks Traded for Players

There was one trade of this kind. It came in 1983 when the Broncos traded T Chris Hinton, QB Mark Herrman and 1984 1st (#19) to the Colts for QB John Elway.

Players and Current Year Picks Traded for Players and Current Year Picks

There was one trade of this kind. It came in 1991 when Denver traded G Gerald Perry and 1991 12th (#311) to the Rams for RB Gaston Green (2) and 1991 4th (#89 - WR Derek Russell (4)).

TRADING AWAY CURRENT YEAR PICKS (26 Trades)


Current Year Picks Traded for Current Year Picks

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1982 1982 1st (#9) 1982 1st (#21 - RB Gerald Willhite (7)) and 1982 4th (#106 - WR Dan Plater (0)) Bills
1988 1988 2nd (#54), 1988 4th (#108) and 1988 6th (#164) 1988 2nd (#45 - T Gerald Perry (3)) Vikings
1988 1988 3rd (#81) and 1988 10th (#276) 1988 3rd (#79 - DB Kevin Guidry (1)) Saints
1989 1989 1st (#13) 1989 1st (#20 - DB Steve Atwater (10)), 1989 2nd (#47 - DE Warren Powers (3)), 1989 5th (#134 - DB Darren Carrington (1)) and 1989 9th (#241 - RB Wayne Williams (0)) Browns
1990 1990 11th (#303) 1990 10th (#259 - DE Jim Szymanski (2)) Raiders
1992 1992 6th (#166) 1992 7th (#181 - T Jim Johnson (0)) and 1992 8th (#208 - G Dietrich Lockridge (0)) Jets
1993 1993 1st (#14) and 1993 3rd (#83) 1993 1st (#11 - DE Dan Williams (4)) Browns
1995 1995 4th (#111) 1995 4th (#121 - T Jamie Brown (3)) and 1995 6th (#196 - RB Terrell Davis (7)) Vikings
1996 1996 2nd (#55) 1996 3rd (#65 - RB Detron Smith (6)), 1996 4th (#100 - QB Jeff Lewis (2)) and 1996 7th (#213 - T Leslie Ratliffe (0)) Ravens
1996 1996 4th (#111) 1996 4th (#122 - DB Darrius Johnson (4)), 1996 5th (#159 - WR Patrick Jeffers (2)) and 1996 7th (#235 - RB L. T. Levine (0)) Panthers
1999 1999 5th (#165) 1999 6th (#179 - TE Desmond Clark (3)) and 1999 7th (#218 - TE Billy Miller (2)) Redskins


This was a relatively good set of trades. Denver traded away fifteen picks in their current year and received twenty-two picks in the same year in return. Only three times did the Broncos give up more picks than they received. Seven times they received multiple picks for a single pick. These trades landed familiar names RB Gerald Willhite, T Gerald Perry and TE Desmond Clark. They also brought household names DB Steve Atwater and RB Terrell Davis into the Broncos fold.

Current Year Picks Traded for Players

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1980 1980 12th (#324) RB Don Hardeman (0) Colts
1981 1981 3rd (#75) and 1981 4th (#104) RB Tony Reed (1) Chiefs
1981 1981 8th (#207) TE Emery Moorehead (1) Giants
1982 1982 8th (#216) WR Wade Manning (2) Bills
1983 1983 4th (#87) QB Steve DeBerg (3) 49ers
1983 1983 8th (#199) DB J. T. Thomas (1) Steelers
1984 1984 4th (#96) WR Dave Logan (1) Browns
1984 1984 4th (#105) QB Scott Brunner (0) Giants
1984 1984 5th (#132) TE Eason Ramson (0) 49ers
1989 1989 5th (#125) RB Tony Dorsett (1) Cowboys
1997 1997 2nd (#58) T Tony Jones (4) Ravens


This set of trades would have to be considered a disappointment. Out of eleven trades, only two players were with the Broncos for more than two years -- QB Steve DeBerg (3) and T Tony Jones (4). Eight of the eleven players acquired played for one year or less.

Current Year Picks and Future Year Picks Traded for Players

There were two trades of this type. In 1980, the Broncos traded away 1980 8th (#211) and 1981 10th (#263) to the Cardinals to acquire DB Perry Smith (2). The Broncos made a move in 1986, trading away 1986 2nd (#51), 1986 6th (#139) and 1987 2nd (#55) to the Giants in exchange for DB Mark Haynes (4). Only the Haynes trade proved to be of value.

Current Year Picks and Future Year Picks Traded for Players and Future Year Picks

Denver made one trade of this kind when, in 1984, they traded 1994 3rd (#99) and 1995 1st (#5) to the Falcons in order to acquire WR Mike Pritchard (2) and 1995 7th (#222 - TE Byron Chamberlin (6)).

Current Year Picks and Future Year Picks Traded for Current Year Picks

This was done one time: in 1997, the Broncos traded 1997 3rd (#88), 1997 6th (#191) and 1998 6th (#183) to the Jets for 1997 3rd (#67 - G Dan Neil (8)). In retrospect, this was a good trade.

TRADING AWAY FUTURE PICKS (16)


Future Year Picks Traded for Players

Year Gave Up Acquired Trading Partner
1980 1982 3rd (#77) RB Lawrence McCutcheon (appeared in 6 games for Denver) Rams
1984 1985 3rd (#82) WR Butch Johnson (2) Oilers
1984 1985 6th (#166) LB Stan Blinka (0) Jets
1984 1986 1st (#21), 1986 3rd (#78) and 1987 5th (#139) LB Ricky Hunley (4) Bengals
1985 1986 12th (#328) TE Mike Barber (1) Rams
1987 1988 8th (#220) G Larry Lee (2) Dolphins
1989 1990 4th (#108) DE Ron Holmes (4) Buccaneers
1989 1990 12th (#330) K David Treadwell (4) Cardinals
1990 1991 7th (#173) and a 1992 conditional pick (#222) C Dave Widell (5) Cowboys
1990 1991 8th (#198) DT David Galloway (1) Cardinals
1991 1992 3rd (#81) T Harvey Salem (1) Lions
1993 1994 1st (#18), 1994 6th (#179) and 1995 2nd (#32) T Gary Zimmerman Vikings
1994 1995 3rd (#78) and 1996 5th (#147) DB Ben Smith Eagles


This was, for the most part, a tremendously underwhelming set of trades. The majority of the players did not live up to expectations. Of the thirteen players acquired only Hunley, Treadwell, Widell and Zimmerman stand out as being worth the price paid.

Future Year Picks Traded for Current Year Picks

In two cases, Denver traded future picks for current ones. In 1990, they traded 1991 4th (#88) to the Falcons to acquire the 1990 5th (#111 - G Jeff Davidson (3)). Then in 1998, the Broncos traded 1999 6th (#201) to the Eagles for the 1998 7th (#200 - T Trey Teague (3)).

Future Year Picks for Players + Future Year Picks

There is one instance of Denver trading a future pick to obtain a player and a future pick: in 1989, the Broncos traded 1990 3rd (#80) to the Cowboys for DE Kevin Brooks (0) and 1990 4th (#82 - LB Jeroy Robinson (<1)). This deal turned out to be a bust.

TERMS UNCERTAIN (3)

There were three trades between 1980 and 1999 that had uncertain/unclear terms attached to them. In 1981, Denver received 1981 12th (#321 - RB Mandel Robinson (0)). There is no clear record of what Denver gave up for this pick or with whom the trade occurred. In 1994, the Broncos traded 1994 3rd (#87) to the 49ers. There is no clear record of what Denver received in return. In 1998, Dallas traded 1999 5th (#158 - DE David Bowens (1)) to Denver for "past considerations." Those past considerations were not spelled out.

**********

     Through the 80s and 90s, Denver's horse trading had some hits and some misses and displayed a remarkable tendency to mortgage the future for the sake of the present. Without the Broncos willingness to gamble, quite a number of well-known and beloved players might never have ended up in the Orange and Blue: QB Gary Kubiak, C Tom Nalen, TE Orson Mobley, DE Rulon Jones, G Cooper Carlisle, RB Gerald Willhite,QB Steve DeBerg, TE Byron Chamberlin, and K David Treadwell. And of course, three of the most loved players came through these trades:

DB Steve Atwater

T Gary Zimmerman

QB John Elway