The NFL offseason started off with a bang as the Carolina Panthers traded with the Chicago Bears to move up to the no. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The Panthers will now get their choice of player most likely a quarterback. As with any of these trades, fans are always trying to figure out who won the trade. Trading for the no. 1 overall pick does have some history and it can tell us something about this deal.
History Of Trades For The No. 1 Overall Pick
Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1967, there has been a trade for the no. 1 overall pick 13 times (this includes the Bears-Panthers trade). Recently, it has been to pick a quarterback but that was not always the case. In the history of the league, teams have traded up for offensive tackles, running backs, and even wide receivers. For this article, I am going to focus on analyzing the three most recent trades for the no. 1 overall pick. You can see the complete list here but the most recent three I believe give us the most insight into this trade. A quick note, these are only trades that happened before the draft and not after the draft had already started.
1997 New York Jets & St. Louis Rams
In the 1997 NFL draft, the Jets had the top pick until a day before the draft. They traded it to the St. Louis Rams for four picks in the same draft, no. 6, 67, 102, and 207 overall. The Rams would end up taking OT Orlando Pace with the first pick. The Jets would end up taking the following players, OT Walter Jones and DE Terry Day. They would trade the no. 67 and no. 207 overall picks in separate deals with those picks being OL Dan Neil and QB Koy Detmer.
The winner of this trade is clearly the Rams. Orlando Pace helped anchor an offensive line in the year 2000 that set a league record in passing yards and won a Super Bowl. The Jets clearly did not win anything after this trade and even traded away most of those pieces. In this case, the team that got the top pick ended up clearly winning the trade.
2001 San Diego Chargers & Atlanta Falcons
In terms of the history of trades for the no. 1 overall pick, this one is the most fun. The Falcons traded up to the top pick so they could select QB Michael Vick. However, the Chargers got some good compensation in return. WR Tim Dwight was included in the deal along with picks no. 5, 67, and no. 48 overall in the 2002 draft. That no. 5 overall pick was RB LaDainian Tomlinson with the other two turning into DB Tay Cody and WR Reche Caldwell.
Both teams have to be pretty happy about this. Tomlinson is one of the best running backs in league history and Vick was an electric player for the Falcons. Not many times can you say that a trade was a win-win, but I think this is one of those times.
2016 Tennessee Titans & Los Angeles Rams
This is the most recent trade for the no. 1 overall pick. This one gets a little complicated as there were a lot of moving pieces on both sides. Let me simplify it. The Rams got QB Jared Goff. They received some other draft capital in return but those turned into nothing pieces. The Titans received a total of six picks in return. They used those picks to acquire RB Derrick Henry, WR Corey Davis, and TE Jonnu Smith.
This is yet another trade where I feel like both teams are happy. The Rams made a Super Bowl with Goff and then used him as a trade piece to get QB Matthew Stafford which resulted in a Super Bowl win. The Titans got two solid starters for them in Davis and Smith while Derrick Henry became the face of their franchise.
What Does This Mean For This Trade?
The rest of the trades are murkier as to who won or lost. Ultimately a lot of players involved in the trades turned out to be nothing players. After looking over the history of trades for the no. 1 overall pick, I can say two things about this trade.
First, the Panthers are in good shape. In the three most recent examples, no one completely whiffed on the pick. While it didn’t necessarily bring them a Super Bowl, the player was an integral part of the team. As long as the Panthers do their research well and coach up the quarterback, they should have their franchise guy for years to come.
Second, the Bears will likely get one good player out of this but that might be it. Draft picks are always tough to evaluate the value of. It’s the mystery box problem. The draft picks could be anything. They could be the next Hall of Famer! They could be the next face of the franchise! It could also be a flop. The issue is the team has to make the correct pick and then coach that player up. More often than not, the picks become players that are nothing of note. This is not to say that the Bears made a bad trade but history tells us not every one of these picks will be a franchise-altering player.
The history of trades for the no. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft is interesting. It gets even more interesting if you expand to the ones that happened after the draft started. Those trades include Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Bo Jackson, and John Elway. Only time will tell how this trade turns out for both teams.
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