How many times has the No. 1 pick been traded before the NFL draft?


The No. 1 pick fell into the lap of the Chicago Bears in the final week of the regular season. 

However, unlike a handful of the teams towards the top of the draft order, the Bears were unlikely to address the quarterback position. Hence, some predicted the Bears would be inclined to trade down in the order to obtain more ammunition that would help fill gaps on both side of the ball. And that's just what Chicago did on Friday.

The Bears reportedly dealt the pick to the Carolina Panthers for the No. 9 pick, the No. 61 pick, wide receiver D.J. Moore, a first-rounder in 2024 and a second-rounder in 2025. By doing so, Chicago became just the sixth team in NFL history to trade the No. 1 pick before the NFL draft.

Yes, the No. 1 pick has been traded four other times after the draft, like the San Diego Chargers trading away Eli Manning to the New York Giants. So, let's stick with the instances before draft day.

Here's an account of times when the No. 1 pick was traded before the draft, and a look at how the trade resulted for the receptive team – the team the Bears would hypothetically mimic. 

2016: Rams trade up with Tennessee to get Jared Goff

Tennessee: Rams' first-round pick (2016), two second-round picks (2016), a third-round pick (2016), a first-round pick (2017) and another third-round pick (2017).

Rams: Titans' No. 1 pick (2016), a fourth-round pick (2016) and a sixth-round pick (2016).

MORE: How trading No. 1 pick in 2016 altered Titans franchise

2001: Falcons trade up with San Diego for Michael Vick

San Diego: Falcons' first round (2001), third round (2001), second round (2002)

Atlanta: Chargers' No. 1 overall pick (selected Michael Vick)

The Chargers came away with a steal for Vick, who didn't end up sticking with the Falcons. San Diego drafted Ladanain Tomlinson, Tay Cody and Reche Caldwell from the Falcons' draft selections. They also selected Drew Brees at the top of the second round of the same 2001 draft.

1997: Rams trade with Jets for Orlando Pace

Jets: Ram's No. 6 pick, third-round, fourth-round, seventh-round picks (all 1997)

Rams: Jets' No. 1 pick (1997)

The Jets ended up with Dan Neil in the third round, before they traded him for four other players. Terry Day (fourth-round pick) played one game with the Jets. And finally, their seventh-round pick was quarterback Koy Detmer, who they traded again for a different player (Ronnie Dixon) who played one season for the Jets. 

1995: Expansion Panthers trade to No. 5

Panthers: No. 5 pick, No. 4 pick in the second round (36 overall) 

Bengals: No. 1 pick 

The Panthers selected quarterback Kerry Collins with the No. 5 pick in the draft. Collins played four seasons in Carolina, before he played the last 13 seasons of his 2x Pro Bowl career elsewhere. Defensive end Shawn King (No. 36 overall) played three seasons in Carolina, starting in just two games. 

1990: Colts and Jeff George

Falcons: fifth-round (1990), first-round (1991), Chris Hinton and Andre Rison

Colts: No. 1 overall for Jeff George

This is the ideal trade-down scenario. All you need to do is research Hinton and Rison. Hinton was a 7x Pro Bowl left tackle. Rison, once traded to the Colts, recorded four 1,000+ yard seasons in Indianapolis. The other two picks – Mike Pritchard and Reggie Redding – didn't amount to much, playing in few games. 

The Bears could learn from past trade-down scenarios. In these cases, asking for proven, established players worked out fruitfully. If the Bears try their luck in the draft, it might come back to bite them. 

Come April, we'll see which path Ryan Poles and the Bears' front office decide the franchise will take. 

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