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An open highway: Why WR Marvin Mims Jr. stood out to the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There are few things worse than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway.

It's one of the last things someone wants during their commute — and it's apparently not a trait the Broncos are too fond of in a wide receiver.

As the Broncos evaluated this year's crop of wide receivers ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, several of the players looked like they were stuck in that sort of gridlock.

"A lot of these receivers, you felt were in rush-hour traffic Monday through Friday," Head Coach Sean Payton said Friday.

While Payton acknowledged many of the receivers whom the Broncos graded similarly were still "fantastic players," second-round pick Marvin Mims Jr. was clearly different on tape. The Oklahoma product, who averaged nearly 20 yards per catch and ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, was impressive enough to lead the Broncos to trade up to select him with the 63rd-overall pick.

"His [film] was one that looked like he was driving on Saturday and Sunday," Payton continued. "He was open, and it was cleaner. And that's because of his speed."

Mims broke out in 2022 with 54 receptions, 1,083 yards and six touchdowns as he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors and led the Sooners in receiving.

"I just think he got better," General Manager George Paton said. "His routes were crisper. They lost some receivers, maybe. Maybe he was the focal point. He wasn't as productive two years ago, but we still liked him. You still saw the speed and the way he tracks the ball and the hands and the toughness in the run game for a guy who's not that big. His transition after the catch on the screens. We just feel, for his size, he's really tough. We saw it both years, but you get better, obviously, the third year."

Paton said the selection of Mims was "absolutely not" a reflection of the Broncos' pending decision on Jerry Jeudy's fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

"I think Mims is going to complement what we have," Paton said. "He'll be a great complement. Again, he's going to compete, but it has nothing to do with any of our receivers."

In addition to Mims' contributions on offense, the Broncos expect him to potentially contribute in the return game.

"I'm really comfortable with it," Mims said of contributing as a punt returner. "It's something I've done for three years, and I'm excited to bring that to the next level if that's my role for the team."

Payton said the Broncos viewed Mims as one of the two "elite punt returners" in this year's draft.

"Everyone's looking for a punt returner," Payton said. "And then when you have a guy like [Special Teams Coordinator Ben] Kotwica and [Assistant Head Coach Mike] Westhoff — we feel like he's one of the best return coaches that's ever coached in the NFL. So, to have a prospect to come in and compete was exciting for us."

And while the Broncos didn't pick until they traded up to the end of the second round, they believe they found a quality player with their first selection of Day 2.

"…Today's the day that everyone says, 'We got our guy,'" Payton said. "And it's hard to predict who our guy was going to be because of where we picked, but we felt real good about the guy we got."


Paton spoke previously about the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group's involvement during the Broncos' free-agency process, and he confirmed Friday that Owner & CEO Greg Penner and Owner Carrie Walton Penner played a similar role during the 2023 NFL Draft. Both Penner and Walton Penner were in the Broncos' war room during the first three rounds of the draft, and Paton said they both contributed to a collaborative process.

"It was outstanding," Paton said. "They'd been there for both days. Yesterday wasn't — I mean, it's fun, it's always great to watch the draft, but when you're not picking … . I mean, I didn't get one call yesterday. That was, you know, pretty lonely. But the owners were there — Greg and Carrie were with us the entire way, very supportive of the trades. They were on board. We met with them earlier in the week, they kind of knew the plan. … It's hard to plan when your first pick's in the third round, but I felt like the plan went as we expected. I think it was really good for them to see their first draft, be a part of it.

"… It was outstanding. And they were part of the collaboration when we were trading and we were discussing the players, Greg had great questions, Carrie had great questions. So, like free agency, ever since they've arrived, it's been outstanding."


Both linebacker Drew Sanders and defensive back Riley Moss possess positional versatility, but Payton confirmed that Sanders will play at inside linebacker and Moss will line up at cornerback.

"Honestly, Sanders, [the] vision might be one [that] varied around the league, because he's a transfer from Alabama," Payton said of the team's new linebacker. "He's played some outside 'backer, he's played some inside linebacker. He had a ton of pressure production last year. Our vision for him is [as] an inside linebacker and four core special teams player who can go and stem down to the outside. We saw so many good traits with him and such good production."

Sanders recorded 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, six passes defensed and an interception as he was named a unanimous All-American for Arkansas in 2022.

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