Five times NFL teams traded for the No. 1 pick and drafted a QB
On Thursday, the Rams and Titans announced a blockbuster trade involving the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
The MMQB’s Peter King first reported details of the trade, which has Tennessee sending the first overall pick in the upcoming draft (as well as fourth and sixth-round picks) to Los Angeles for the No. 15 overall pick, two second-round picks, a first-round pick in 2017, a third-round pick in 2017 and 19 animal-style burgers from In-N-Out, or something like that.
It's too early to determine winners and losers of this trade—a few years too early—but one thing is for sure: This swap will be remembered for how the Rams' top pick fares in the NFL. (Don’t believe me? Name the guys St. Louis drafted with picks acquired from the RG3 trade.) And the Rams will reportedly select a quarterback when they’re on the clock.
Is trading up to No. 1 for a quarterback a viable strategy? There's no scientific answer. But we decided to take a closer look at a few previous trades in which a newly–acquired No. 1 pick turned into a quarterback.
2004: Giants acquire Eli Manning
The Giants didn’t trade for the Chargers’ No. 1 pick before the draft, but Manning made it clear he wouldn’t sign with San Diego, facilitating a trade that put Philip Rivers (the No. 4 pick) in California and Manning in the Big Apple. And it worked! For both teams! Manning, of course, has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, making some insanely clutch throws in the process. Rivers has been a rock for the Chargers—he once played in an AFC Championship Game with torn knee ligaments—and if it weren’t for one Marlon McCree fumble, he could have a Super Bowl title of his own.
2001: Falcons trade up for Michael Vick
The Chargers were involved in another big trade ahead of the 2001 draft. In a pre-draft deal, Atlanta swapped its fifth pick for San Diego’s first, and the Falcons selected Vick. The Virginia Tech star dazzled for six seasons, with his electrifying speed often covering up for his inconsistent accuracy. The Falcons were always entertaining, often good and occasionally great, most memorably when they defeated the Packers at Lambeau Field in a wild card playoff game. Vick was sentenced to 21 months in prison after his sixth season with the Falcons for his role in an interstate dog fighting ring, but he eventually revived his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chargers? They do well in these trades. They selected LaDainian Tomlinson with the fifth pick.
1990: Colts go big for Jeff George
The Colts acquired the No. 1 pick from the Falcons to select George, who was erratic at best during his time in Indianapolis. George was 14–35 as the Colts’ starter, and led the team to only to one winning season in four years with the team. George was embroiled in a contract dispute before the 1993 season, and was traded back to the Falcons after that year.
In exchange for the rights to select George, the Colts gave the Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison (a first–team All–Pro in 1990), offensive lineman Chris Hinton (a first–team All–Pro in 1993) and Indianapolis's No. 1 pick in 1991, which the Falcons used to select wide receiver Mike Pritchard. Not a bad haul.
1983: Denver makes its move for John Elway
Another post-draft trade, Elway was selected No. 1 by the Baltimore Colts, and he steadfastly refused to play for them. Had the Colts never traded Elway, he may have become a New York Yankees legend. Instead, Denver shipped aforementioned offensive lineman Chris Hinton (the No. 4 pick of the 1983 draft), backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, and a 1984 first-round pick for Elway, who led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two. Elway then came back to Denver in the front office, signing Peyton Manning (and an incredible defense) en route to winning Super Bowl 50. Good trade for Denver!
1975: Falcons trade for Steve Bartkowski
Hey, the Colts are back! This time, Baltimore traded the No. 1 pick to Atlanta, who picked Bartkowski. The Cal grad had a very solid career, making two Pro Bowls and throwing for at least 30 touchdowns in 1980 and 1982. He held many of Atlanta’s quarterbacking records until they were broken by Matt Ryan. The one problem? Bartkowski was selected one pick ahead of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Randy White, and three picks ahead of Bears legend Walter Payton.
The Colts acquired offensive lineman George Kunz, who made three Pro Bowls and one All–Pro first–team in Baltimore, and Atlanta's No. 3 pick, which Baltimore used to select offensive lineman Ken Huff. Huff played eight seasons in Baltimore before finishing his career with three years in Washington.