The NFL draft is always filled with intrigue, and this season, it starts at the top. The Chicago Bears hold the first-overall selection, and with reporting in recent days that the organization is going to likely trade out of that spot, a bidding war could soon ensue for the rights to that pick. With a number of teams, such as the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Carolina Panthers, looking to find their next QB, the Bears could be in a great position to negotiate.
In the coming weeks we will dive deeper into what the Bears could receive in a deal, but for now, here is a look back at the 12 previous times the first-overall pick in the NFL draft was traded.
Baltimore Colts receive: First-overall selection
New Orleans Saints receive: QB Gary Cuozzo
The first time the top pick was traded came in the 1967 AFL-NFL player entry draft. The New Orleans Saints sent the first-overall selection to the Baltimore Colts, in exchange for quarterback Gary Cuozzo. Cuozzo appeared in seven games for the Colts during the 1966 season, making one start, and he threw four touchdown passes on the year.
With the first-overall selection, the Colts drafted defensive lineman Bubba Smith, who would go on to record 52.5 sacks over his NFL career.
Cuozzo started ten games for the Saints in 1968 and posted a 3-7 record. He eventually lost the starting job to Billy Kilmer and was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.
Minnesota Vikings receive: 1968 First-overall selection, 1967 first-round pick, 1967 second-round pick, 1969 second-round pick
New York Giants receive: QB Fran Tarkenton
This one might need some explanation. When the AFL and NFL merger was being discussed, it led to a debate over what team would be picking first in the 1967 AFL-NFL Draft. While it was assumed that the New Orleans Saints, as an expansion team would have the first-overall pick — which as we know they traded to Baltimore — the New York Giants threw a wrinkle into those plans.
How? Because in the discussion of the merger between the two leagues, the Giants actually negotiated for the rights to pick a quarterback with the first selection in either the 1967 or the 1968 AFL-NFL Draft, regardless of their record.
They chose the 1968 AFL-NFL draft and turned around to package that pick for the rights to Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton started all 14 games for the Giants in 1967.
In return, the Vikings received two picks in the 1967 AFL-NFL Draft, the first-overall pick in 1968, and a second-round pick in 1969. In the 1967 Draft they added running back Clint Jones in the first round and WR Bob Grim in the second. In 1969 they added offensive lineman Ed White in the second round.
With the first-overall pick in 1968, they drafted tackle Ron Yary.
Dallas Cowboys receive: 1974 first-overall selection, 1974 third-round pick
Houston Oilers receive: DE Tody Smith, WR Billy Parks
You could make a strong case that the Cowboys got the better end of this deal. In May of 1973, the Oilers traded their first- and third-round picks in the 1974 NFL Draft to the Cowboys for Smith and Parks. Smith recorded 3.5 sacks for the Oilers in 1973 and put together a ten-sack season for the Oilers in 1974, but when you look at how the Cowboys used those two picks, you can see why they came away on the better end of things.
With the third-round pick in 1974, the Cowboys drafted quarterback Danny White, who would start 92 games for Dallas over his NFL career. With Houston’s first-round selection, which was first-overall, the Cowboys drafted defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones, who helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII.
Atlanta Falcons receive: 1975 first-overall selection
Baltimore Colts receive: 1975 third-overall selection, OL George Kunz
This trade changed the landscape of the NFL draft forever. It was the first time a team moved up to draft a quarterback. A week before the draft, the Falcons moved up from the third-overall selection to the first spot to draft quarterback Steve Bartkowski out of California. Baltimore received the third-overall pick, and offensive lineman George Kunz, in the trade. The Colts added to their offensive line, picking guard Ken Huff out of North Carolina third overall.
While Bartkowski went on to start 121 games for the Falcons, including leading them to a 12-4 record during the 1980 season and the NFC West title, both teams probably wonder what could have been.
Because the Chicago Bears drafted Walter Payton with the fourth-overall pick.
Houston Oilers receive: 1978 first-overall selection
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receive: TE Jimmie Giles, 1978 first-round pick, 1978 second-round pick, 1979 third-round pick, and 1979 fifth-round pick.
For the second time in four years, the Oilers were involved in a pick involving the first-overall selection, giving up a player and four picks for the rights to the top pick in the 1978 Draft. However, unlike their previous foray into a trade like this, this move seems to have paid off, as the Oilers drafted running back Earl Campbell.
Campbell would play seven years in Houston, rushing for 8,574 yards and 73 touchdowns with the Oilers.
The Buccaneers did add some talent with those picks, drafting quarterback Doug Williams in the first round, guard Brett Moritz in the second, defensive end Reggie Lewis in the third, and then quarterback Chuck Fusina in the fifth round a year later. Williams led Tampa Bay to the playoffs in three of the four years he was the team’s starter before he left for the USFL. Giles earned multiple Pro Bowl selections during his time with the Buccaneers and was enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor.
This involves two separate trades, so we can break them down this way.
Cincinnati Bengals receive: 1984 first-round selection
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receive: QB Jack Thompson
New England Patriots receive: 1984 first-round selection via Tampa Bay
Cincinnati Bengals receive: 1984 first-round pick, 1984 first-round pick, 1984 tenth-round pick, 1985 fifth-round pick
The New England Patriots wanted to make sure they drafted their choice of wide receivers in the 1984 NFL Draft. So they sent their own pick at 16, a pick at 28 they received from the Raiders in a trade involving defensive back Mike Haynes, and two additional picks to the Bengals so they could come up to the top of the board and receive the first-overall pick, a selection Cincinnati had acquired the previous summer from the Buccaneers.
The Patriots drafted WR Irving Fryar out of Nebraska, making it just the second time a receiver had been drafted first overall. The Bengals added DE Pete Koch at 16 overall, OL Brian Blados at 28 overall, RB Brent Ziegler at 265 overall in the tenth round, and DB Lee Davis in the fifth round the following season.
Indianapolis Colts receive: 1990 first-overall selection, 1990 fourth-round pick
Atlanta Falcons receive: OT Chris Hinton, WR Andre Rison, 1990 fifth-round pick, 1991 first-round pick
Man, imagine if Football Twitter had been around for this one.
Convinced that the quarterback of their future was in the 1990 Draft, the Colts traded Pro Bowl OT Hinton, young WR Rison, and a pair of picks to the Atlanta Falcons for the first-overall selection.
Which they used on quarterback Jeff George, he of the rocket right arm.
Atlanta drafted tight end Reggie Redding in the fifth round of the 1990 Draft, and the following year they added wide receiver Mike Pritchard, using the first-round pick sent to them by Indianapolis.
Oh, and a few years later Atlanta traded for George, when new VP and Director of Football Operations Bill Tobin took over in Indianapolis. As part of that trade, the Colts received a pair of first-round picks, one in 1994 and the other in 1996.
The Colts used the pick in 1996 to add a receiver.
Dallas Cowboys receive: 1991 first-overall selection
New England Patriots receive: 1991 first-round selection, 1991 second-round selection, CB Ron Francis, LB David Howard, LB Eugene Lockhart Jr.
The 1991 Draft had quite the twist before it even got underway. Because Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Notre Dame WR and presumptive first-overall selection, spurred the NFL to sign a then-record deal with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
That left the Cowboys scrambling. Dallas had traded up to the first-overall spot and was negotiating with Ismail’s agents, but when the receiver left for the CFL, the Cowboys drafted defensive tackle Russell Maryland. After the draft, Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson said that Maryland was the player they wanted all along.
The Patriots added USC OT Pat Harlow in the first round, and DB Jerome Henderson in the second round, along with the three players they acquired in the trade.
Cincinnati Bengals receive: 1995 first-overall selection
Carolina Panthers receive: 1995 first-round selection, 1995 second-round selection
This is another move where you can only imagine what the reception would be today.
The expansion Carolina Panthers held the first-overall selection, after picking second in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft, behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, Carolina traded back to the fifth-overall spot with the Cincinnati Bengals, who moved to the top of the board to take ... a running back.
Cincinnati drafted Ki-Jana Carter out of Penn State with the first-overall selection. Despite a tremendous career at Penn State, Carter struggled with injuries. He tore a knee ligament in his first preseason game and missed the entirety of his rookie season. Over four years in Cincinnati, Carter gained just 747 rushing yards, scoring 16 touchdowns.
With the picks the Panthers received, they drafted Carter’s collegiate teammate, quarterback Kerry Collins, fifth overall. Collins helped the Panthers reach the NFC Championship Game in just his second NFL season. Carolina added DE Shawn King with the 36th pick in the draft that year.
St. Louis Rams receive: 1997 first-overall selection
New York Jets receive: 1997 first-round pick, 1997 third-round pick, 1997 fourth-round pick, 1997 seventh-round pick.
The St. Louis Rams limped to a 6-10 record in 1996, and head coach Rich Brooks was fired at the end of the season. The organization hired Dick Vermeil, bringing the former Philadelphia Eagles head coach out of the announcing booth, where he had spent 15 years.
One of the team’s next moves that offseason? Trading up to the first overall spot in the 1997 draft, where they selected Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace. Pace would become a cornerstone left tackle for the franchise, earning seven Pro Bowl nods, three First-Team All-Pro selections, and a Super Bowl ring. Pace was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class.
What did the Jets do with those four selections? They received the sixth-overall selection in the 1997 draft from St. Louis, which they used to trade back again in a move with the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets ended up drafting linebacker James Farrior with the eighth overall pick.
The Seahawks drafted offensive tackle Walter Jones.
New York also traded the third-round pick received in the deal, which was the 67th pick overall, to Denver in exchange for three picks in the 1998 NFL Draft. Denver selected offensive guard Dan Neil with that pick. Seven picks later, however, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jason Taylor.
The Jets did use the fourth-round pick, drafting Mississippi State DE Terry Day. New York then traded the seventh-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for DT Ronnie Dixon. The Eagles drafted QB Koy Detmer.
Atlanta Falcons receive: 2001 first-overall selection
San Diego Chargers receive: WR Tim Dwight, 2001 first-round pick, 2001 third-round pick, 2002 second-round pick
This might be one of the examples, like perhaps the Oilers/Buccaneers trade from 1978, that worked out for both teams. Atlanta moved up from the fifth-overall pick in the first round to the top of the board to draft Michael Vick. In return, the Chargers received WR Tim Dwight and three selections. They drafted Tay Cody, a CB from Florida State in the third round, and Reche Caldwell, a WR from Florida, in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
With that fifth-overall selection in 2001? San Diego drafted RB LaDanian Tomlinson.
Los Angeles Rams receive: 2016 first-overall selection, 2016 fourth-round pick, 2016 sixth-round pick
Tennessee Titans receive: 2016 first-round pick, 2016 second-round pick, 2016 second-round pick, 2016 third-round pick, 2017 first-round pick, and 2017 third-round pick
We now come to the most recent move to the top of the board for a quarterback. In the run-up to the 2016 NFL Draft, the Rams made the aggressive move to come up from 15 to 1 overall, where they drafted California quarterback Jared Goff. They received two late-round picks, one of which they traded away, and the other which they used to draft tight end Temarrick Hemingway in the seventh round.
As for the Titans? They turned those picks into some impressive talent. They then traded the 15th selection with the Cleveland Browns to come up to eight overall, where they drafted offensive tackle Jack Conklin. With the two picks they received in the 2017 draft they added WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith. They drafted DT Austin Johnson with one of those second-round picks, and with the other? They drafted RB Derrick Henry.