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Saturday, September 4, 2010
Alphonso Smith trade embarrasses Denver

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

What a disaster.

That is the only way to describe the short Alphonso Smith era in Denver.

The Broncos traded the second-year cornerback to Detroit for tight end Dan Gronkowski. He is a former seventh-round pick who was on the Lions’ practice squad for all of two games last year. That is pretty weak compensation for what turned out to be the No. 14 overall pick of the 2010 draft.

Yes, Smith was essentially the No. 14 pick of this draft. On draft night in 2009, Denver fell in love with the small but decorated Smith as he fell out of the first round. Denver apparently stopped the Wake Forest product’s fall at No. 37 when it sent its 2010 first-round pick (which turned out to be No. 14) to Seattle to take Smith. The Seahawks ended up taking safety Earl Thomas with the pick. He was considered a value pick, but the idea of giving up a future No. 1 pick seemed extreme.

Making the decision worse was that Smith never developed. He was twice replaced as the nickel cornerback last year -- including once by an undrafted rookie. Things didn’t get better for Smith this summer as rookies Perrish Cox (fifth-round pick) and Syd'Quan Thompson (seventh-round pick) clearly outplayed him.

The only credit Denver gets in this deal is that it had the guts to admit a major mistake. But that’s it.

The lesson for Denver’s young leadership is that you should never fall in love on draft day. So Smith fell. Big deal. Players fall during every draft. You can’t get everybody, plus, there is always someone else down the road.

Denver traded Smith because they learned Cox and Thompson are better players. It’s a costly lesson to learn.

Also, making this trade a bit embarrassing is that Denver got a tight end who may have been cut in Detroit. One of the reasons why Gronkowski was on the bubble in Detroit was the presence of Tony Scheffler. Yes, the talented player Denver dumped prior to the draft for a late-round pick. Had Scheffler not been traded, Denver wouldn’t need a tight end.

Gronkowski is an interesting prospect, but he can’t be counted on for a big contribution on right away. But today, Gronkowski is Denver’s only consolation for giving up a No. 14 pick.

Brutal.