The Chicago Bears became the 13th team in NFL history to trade the No. 1 overall pick ahead of the NFL Draft when they agreed to a massive trade with the Carolina Panthers. The deal was originally announced on March 10, but didn’t become official until the start of the new league year – which came on March 15.
The Panthers, who will now get to choose their quarterback of the future, ended up sending wide receiver D.J. Moore to a Bears’ team in need of talent at the position. In 80 games over the past five years, Moore has 364 catches for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns – including three seasons with over 1,100 yards.
In addition to receiving Moore, the Bears will receive the No. 9 overall pick (1st round) and No. 61 overall pick (2nd round) in the 2023 NFL Draft, as well as a first round pick in 2024 and second round pick in 2025. The massive haul gives Chicago what they need right now and helps them build for the future.
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The History of Trading the No. 1 Pick Ahead of the NFL Draft
The NFL Draft is one of the most important events for any team looking to get a leg-up on the competition during the offseason. Not only can teams find talent at a reasonable price, but that talent will likely stick around for at least four years – if teams are smart, they can maximize their roster with limited cap space.
Since draft order is determined by regular season record, the NFL Draft is set up in a way that rewards the worst teams in the league with some of the best incoming rookies. And since the Chicago Bears had the worst record last season, that’s why they were handed the No. 1 pick – at least until they traded it.
While it made sense for the Bears to trade the pick, that isn’t always the case. In fact, only 12 other teams have traded the No. 1 overall pick leading up to the NFL Draft – not including the four teams that traded it during/after the NFL Draft. Let’s take a closer look at those 12 rare instances and how they turned out.
12. Tennessee Titans Trade No. 1 Pick in 2016
The Tennessee Titans finished the 2015 season with a 3-13-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but decided they were better off trading that pick for a massive haul – which they ended up getting from the Los Angeles Rams. The good news is it worked out well for both teams.
In addition to the No. 1 overall pick, the Titans sent the Rams a 2016 fourth-round and 2016 sixth-round pick. The Rams would go on to select QB Jared Goff at No. 1 overall and TE Temarrick Hemingway at No. 177 overall, but ended up trading away the fourth-round pick they received from the Titans.
The Titans received a first-round, two second-round, and a third-round pick in 2016, and a first-round and third-round pick in 2017. They traded the 2016 first- and third-round, but drafted DT Austin Johnson and RB Derrick Henry in the second round. In 2017, they drafted WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith.
11. San Diego Chargers Trade No. 1 Pick in 2001
The San Diego Chargers finished the 2000 season with a 1-15-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Instead of using that pick to draft their player of choice, they decided to trade it to the Atlanta Falcons for a massive haul. The Falcons won the trade, but it wasn’t all bad for San Diego.
The Falcons would end up using that No. 1 overall pick to select QB Michael Vick, who spent six years with the franchise before going to prison for several years. During his time in Atlanta, he had a 38-28-1 record, 11,505 passing yards, 71 passing touchdowns, 3,859 rushing yards, and 21 rushing touchdowns.
The Chargers ended up receiving WR Tim Dwight and three picks – a first-round (No. 5) and third-round (No. 67) pick in 2001, and a second-round (No. 48) pick in 2002. They drafted RB LaDainian Tomlinson and DB Tay Cody with their two 2001 picks, and WR Reche Caldwell with their 2002 pick.
10. New York Jets Trade No. 1 Pick in 1997
The New York Jets finished the 1996 regular season with a 1-15-0 record and were handed the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. Instead of using that pick to draft top talent, the Jets decided they could maximize the pick to fill out their roster by trading it to the St. Louis Rams for more draft capital.
The Jets ended up receiving four picks in the 1997 NFL Draft – a first-round (No.6), third-round (No. 67), fourth-round (No. 102), and seventh-round (No. 207). They went on to trade the first-round, third-round, and seventh-round picks, but they drafted DE Terry Day in the fourth round – he only played one game.
As for the Rams, they made out well with that No. 1 overall pick – drafting T Orlando Pace. He went on to spend the next 12 seasons with the Rams and is one of the best offensive tackles of all-time. He was a 7-time Pro Bowler, one-time Super Bowl Champion, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
9. Carolina Panthers Trade No. 1 Pick in 1995
The Carolina Panthers were one of two expansion teams to begin play in 1995 – joining the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Panthers were given the No. 1 overall pick after drafting second in the 1995 Expansion Draft and decided to trade that pick to the Cincinnati Bengals, essentially moving back four spots.
The Panthers received a first-round (No. 5) and second-round (No. 36) pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, which they used to draft QB Kerry Collins and DE Shawn King, respectively. Collins spent three full seasons with the Panthers and led them to a 22-16-0 record in that time, but King didn’t last long in the NFL.
As for the Bengals, they ended up drafting RB Ki-Jana Carter with the No. 1 overall pick – one of the worst No. 1 picks in NFL history. He spent four seasons with the Bengals and totaled 747 yards and 16 touchdowns during that time. The pick would’ve been much better if he hadn’t suffered from injuries.
8. New England Patriots Trade No. 1 Pick in 1991
The New England Patriots finished the 1990 regular season with a 1-15-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft as a result. They weren’t blown away with the talent available and felt they could maximize their value by trading that pick to the Dallas Cowboys for quite a massive haul.
The Patriots received three players – CB Ron Francis, LB David Howard, LB Eugene Lockhart Jr. – and two 1995 picks – a first-round (No. 11) and second-round (No. 41). They drafted T Pat Harlow with their No. 11 pick and DB Jerome Henderson with their No. 41 pick. Overall, they made out pretty well.
As for the Cowboys, they originally traded up for the No. 1 pick to draft WR Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, but he ended up jumping ship and signing with the CFL before the draft started. Left scrambling, the Cowboys selected DT Russell Maryland – who won three Super Bowls with the team over the next five seasons.
7. Atlanta Falcons Trade No. 1 Pick in 1990
The Atlanta Falcons finished the 1989 regular season with a 3-13-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft – it would’ve gone to the Dallas Cowboys, but they forfeited the pick. Instead of keeping it, the Falcons decided to trade it to the Indianapolis Colts – a bad idea for Atlanta.
The Falcons received two players – OT Chris Hinton, WR Andre Rison – and two picks – fifth-round (No. 121) in 1990 and first-round (No. 13) in 1991. They drafted TE Reggie Redding in 1990 and WR Mike Pritchard in 1991. It wasn’t a terrible haul for Atlanta, but hindsight tells a totally different story.
The Cowboys ended up drafting QB Jeff George with the No. 1 pick and WR Stacey Simmons with the No. 83 pick. George stuck around for four seasons, but was traded to – you guessed it – the Falcons in 1994. The Falcons traded two first-round picks for him, when they could’ve drafted him a few years prior.
6. No. 1 Pick Traded Twice in 1984
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the 1983 regular season with a 2-14-0 record and were handed the No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft. They decided to trade that pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for QB Jack Thompson. The Bengals proceeded to trade the pick to the New England Patriots prior to the draft.
The Bengals received four picks from the Patriots, including two first-round picks and a 10th-round pick in 1984, and a fifth-round pick in 1985. They ended up drafting DE Pete Koch and OL Brian Blados in the first round, RB Brent Ziegler in the 10th round, and DB Lee Davis in the 1985 draft. No one stood out.
As for the Patriots, they ended up drafting WR Irving Fryar with the No. 1 overall pick in 1984. He went on to spend the next nine years with the Patriots, totaling 363 catches for 5,726 yards and 38 touchdowns. He had one 1,000-yard season and one Pro Bowl appearance during his time in New England.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trade No. 1 Pick in 1978
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the 1977 regular season with a 2-12-0 record and were handed the No. 1 overall pick. They, once again, decided to trade the pick, but this time received a much better haul – opposed to receiving a quarterback that led them to a 3-13-0 record in 16 starts – like Jack Thompson.
The Buccaneers received TE Jimmie Giles and four picks – a first-round (No. 17) and second-round (No. 44) pick in 1978, as well as a third-round (No. 78) and fifth-round (No. 133) pick in 1979. They ended up drafting QB Doug Williams, G Brett Moritz, DE Reggie Lewis, and QB Chuck Fusina, respectively.
As for the Houston Oilers, they made out very well after trading for the No. 1 overall pick. They drafted RB Earl Campbell, who played 91 games with the Oilers over the next 7 seasons – totaling 8,574 rushing yards and 73 touchdowns during that span. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
4. Baltimore Colts Trade No. 1 Pick in 1975
The Baltimore Colts finished the 1974 regular season with a 2-12-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft as a result. They ended up trading the pick to the Atlanta Falcons, who became the first team to move up for a QB. Both teams made out well, but they both could’ve done better.
The Colts received OL George Kunz and the No. 3 overall pick in the draft – essentially moving back two spots. They continued to bolster their offensive line by selecting G Ken Huff with the third overall pick. Kunz was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Colts, while Huff spent the next eight seasons with the team.
Meanwhile, the Falcons selected QB Steve Bartkowski with the No. 1 overall pick – who would spend 11 seasons with the team and led them to a 55-66-0 record in 121 starts. Not a bad trade for either team, but they both could’ve drafted RB Walter Payton, who went to the Chicago Bears with the No. 4 pick.
3. Houston Oilers Trade No. 1 Pick in 1974
The Houston Oilers finished the 1973 regular season with a 1-13-0 record and were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft. They decided to trade that pick to the Dallas Cowboys in lieu of proven talent, but likely would’ve been better off saving that pick and drafting one of the top young players.
The Oilers ended up receiving two players in the trade – DE Tody Smith and WR Billy Parks. Smith ended up having 3.5 sacks for the Oilers in 1973 and improved that to 10.5 sacks in 1974. As for Parks, he had 43 receptions for 581 yards and 1 touchdown for Houston, but faded out of the league by 1975.
The Cowboys ended up getting the better of the trade. They received the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 53 (third-round) pick in the 1974 draft – they selected DE Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones at No. 1 and QB Danny White, respectively. Jones had 106.0 sacks for the Cowboys, while White went 62-30 as a starter.
2. New York Giants Trade No. 1 Pick in 1968
The New York Giants finished the 1967 regular season with a 7-7-0 record, but had the No. 1 overall pick in the 1968 NFL Draft due to a negotiation during the AFL-NFL merger. They decided against drafting a player with the pick and ended up packaging it in what was a massive trade to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants ended up receiving QB Fran Tarkenton from the Vikings. He went on to spend five seasons with the Giants and led them to just a 33-36-0 record during that time – throwing for 13,905 yards and 103 touchdowns. He later returned to the Vikings and played well enough to receive a Hall of Fame induction.
Meanwhile, the Vikings received a massive haul for the trade – including the No. 1 overall pick in 1968, No. 2 overall pick in 1967, a second-round (No. 28) pick in 1967, and a second-round (No. 39) pick in 1969. They drafted T Ron Yary, RB Clint Jones, WR Bob Grim, and OL Ed White with those picks.
1. New Orleans Saints Trade No. 1 Pick in 1967
The New Orleans Saints received the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft as an expansion team. They actually had two first-round picks in the draft – the first and the last – but decided to trade the No. 1 overall pick to the Baltimore Colts, while drafting RB Leslie Kelly with the last pick of the first-round.
The Saints ended up receiving QB Gary Cuozzo from the Colts. He only spent one season with the Saints in 1967 and led the team to a 3-7-0 record in 10 starts. He threw for 1,562 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His lack of success resulted in him being traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Colts drafted DT Bubba Smith with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft. He spent five seasons with the franchise and recorded 43.0 sacks during his time in Baltimore. He was also a two-time Pro Bowler who won the 1968 NFL Championship and Super Bowl V with the Colts.
What About the 4 Times the No. 1 Pick Was Traded During the Draft?
When a team decides to trade the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, it almost always happens in the month(s) leading up to the draft – much like what happened in the 12 instances listed above. With that said, four NFL teams have ended up trading the rights to their No. 1 overall pick during or after the draft.
The two most popular such instances were Eli Manning and John Elway. Manning was originally drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2004, but almost immediately traded to the New York Giants. Meanwhile, Elway was originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but almost immediately traded to the Denver Broncos.
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The other two instances were Ernie Davis and Jay Berwanger. Davis was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1962, but almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns. Berwanger was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1936, but almost immediately traded to the Chicago Bears.
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