The cost of moving up in the draft has increased significantly throughout NFL history. Twenty-two years ago, it only cost the Falcons a second and third-round selection to move up four spots to select Michael Vick with the first overall pick. Four years before that, the Rams only had to cough up a third, fourth and seventh-round pick to move up five spots to select Orlando Pace with the top selection. These trades are viewed in stark contrast with what it takes to make such a trade nowadays, as a GM would be laughed out of the room if they offered similar compensation in today’s NFL.
If the Bears do indeed decide to part ways with the top pick (which they absolutely should), then a first-round selection in 2024 is the bare minimum starting point for negotiations, as it is essential to maximize their talent while Justin Fields is still on his rookie contract. Over the previous decade, there have been nine instances where teams parted ways with future first-round selections to move up in the draft. While these moves have produced mixed results, it is worth noting that only two players drafted before 2021 are still playing for the team that moved heaven and earth to acquire them.
2014: The Bills trade up for Sammy Watkins
The Bills received the fourth pick (Sammy Watkins).
The Browns received the ninth pick, and a first- and fifth-round pick in 2015.
Sammy Watkins was lauded as an elite receiver prospect leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Bills were enamored enough with the Clemson pass-catcher to cough up a future first-round pick to move up five spots to select him. Watkins flashed playmaking potential during his first few years in Buffalo, but he never lived up to the expectations of being a top-five pick. They dealt him to the Rams in 2017, and he never topped the 700-yard mark again.
While the Browns had an opportunity to knock this trade out of the park with the haul they received, poor drafting plagued the franchise once again. They moved up one spot to select Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert eighth overall, but he was an egregious bust who only lasted two years in Cleveland. To add insult to injury, nine straight Pro Bowlers were drafted immediately after him. They also failed to capitalize the following year, as they located another bust along the interior of their offensive line with the selection of Cameron Erving using the Bills’ first-round pick.
2016: The Rams trade up for Jared Goff
The Rams received the first pick (Jared Goff) and a fourth- and sixth-round pick.
The Titans received the fifteenth pick, two second- and one third-round pick in 2016, and a first- and third-round pick in 2017.
There were two elite quarterback prospects, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, in the 2016 NFL Draft, and the Rams were willing to give up a boatload of picks for a chance to pick between the two. They traded the Titans two first, two second, and two third-round picks over the next two years for the top selection, which they used to select Goff. Saying the University of California product stumbled out of the gates would be an understatement, as he went 0-7 during an uninspiring rookie season. However, the addition of Sean McVay saw him make a massive leap in his second year, and he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2017 and 2018.
With that said, that was the peak of Goff’s career, as his touchdown numbers dipped while his interceptions rose throughout the next two seasons. Los Angeles decided it would be best for a fresh start, so they traded Goff (along with two firsts and a third) to the Lions for Matthew Stafford ahead of the 2021 season. Goff might have had a few solid seasons in LA, but it is safe to say the Rams regretted trading up for the signal-caller when it was all said and done. Meanwhile, the Titans committed highway robbery with the deal, as they selected four future starters on their offense with the haul they received. While only Derrick Henry remains with the team seven years later, he is more than enough to tip the scale in Tennessee’s favor.
2016: The Eagles trade up for Carson Wentz
The Eagles received the second pick (Carson Wentz) and a 2017 fourth-round pick.
The Browns received the eighth pick, a third- and fourth-round pick in 2016, a first-round pick in 2017, and a second-round pick in 2018.
The Eagles also hoped to land their franchise quarterback in the 2016 draft, and they gave up a similarly massive haul to the Browns for the second pick, which they used to select Carson Wentz. Unlike Goff, the North Dakota State product hit the ground running, as he set franchise records for completions and attempts and looked every bit like the player Philadelphia thought they were getting when they traded up for him. He was leading the MVP race in his sophomore campaign before suffering an ACL tear in Week 14. However, the Eagles didn’t skip a beat without him, as they went on to win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles at the helm.
It is fair to wonder whether watching his team with the big game from the sidelines shook Wentz’s confidence, as he never returned to his MVP-level form and only spent three more years in Philly before getting traded to the Colts. In true Browns fashion, they fumbled the bag with the compensation they received in the deal. They failed to locate any long-term starters from the 2016 class with the bounty of picks they received and had similar success the following year. However, they traded down the 2017 first-round selection (more on that later) and received another first-rounder in 2018, which they used to select Denzel Ward, so they at least got something of value out of the move.
2017: The Chiefs trade up for Patrick Mahomes
The Chiefs received the tenth pick (Patrick Mahomes).
The Bills received the 27th pick, a third-round pick, and a first-round pick in 2018.
Teams picking late in round one are rarely willing to give up the necessary draft capital to move up into the top 10. However, these moves occasionally occur when a front office believes they are a player away from winning a championship. The Chiefs held that belief in 2017 when they moved up to select Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The signal-caller may have been raw, but he possessed all the tools to become special, and Andy Reid (and Matt Nagy) was convinced he could get the most out of him. Well, to make a long story short, they were right. Mahomes is not only a human highlight reel but is also well on his way to becoming an all-time great.
While most teams would be clear losers in a trade that netted the other roster one of the most talented quarterbacks in league history, the Bills were at least able to make the most of the picks they received in return. They selected Tre’Davious White with the 27th pick, and he quickly developed into one of the game’s elite cover men. They used the other draft capital to move around the board and eventually wound up with future starters (and standout players) in Dion Dawkins and Tremaine Edmonds. They shored up the quarterback position with the selection of Josh Allen in 2018, which all but eliminated any regret they would have had about passing up on the chance to draft Mahomes. It is safe to say neither team regrets their decision in this case, as it became a rare win-win for both franchises.
2017: The Texans trade up for Deshaun Watson
The Texans received the 12th pick (Deshaun Watson).
The Browns received the 25th pick, and a first-round pick in 2018.
The Texans, who were fresh off the failed Brock Osweiler experiment, were also in the market for a quarterback in 2017, and they had their eye on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. They traded the Browns (shocker) a first-round selection the following year to move up 13 spots to select the dual-threat signal-caller. Watson provided an immediate jolt to Houston’s offense and was well on his way to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award before suffering an ACL tear in midseason. He continued playing at an elite level over the next three years until sexual assault allegations threatened to derail his career.
Houston wound up trading him to the Browns ahead of the 2022 offseason, and they promptly handed him a fully guaranteed, five-year $230 million deal after the deal was complete. He played six games with Cleveland in 2022 and looked like a player who hadn’t played football in two years.
While the Browns’ move to trade for Watson has yet to pay off, their decision to move down the draft boards in 2017 paid immediate dividends. They selected Jabrill Peppers with the 25th pick of the 2017 draft, and he was a solid starter for them for two years before being involved in a package that helped them land Odell Beckham. They also landed Denzel Ward with the first-round selection they received in 2018. While it usually would be safe to say that Cleveland would have preferred to stay pat and select Watson in 2017, the fact that they still landed him and have Ward (albeit minus a few valuable picks of their own) to show for it complicates matters significantly.
2018: The Saints trade up for Marcus Davenport
The Saints received the 14th pick (Marcus Davenport).
The Packers received the 27th pick, a fifth-round pick, and a first-round pick in 2019.
Much like the Chiefs a year prior, the Saints thought they were a player away when they moved up 13 spots to select UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport. Needless to say, they were wrong. The move marked one of the most shocking moments of the draft, as many thought they could have been moving up to select Lamar Jackson (the last highly-rated quarterback available) as Drew Brees’ successor due to the amount of compensation they gave up in the deal. Instead, their target was Davenport, an unrefined pass-rusher who needed a lot of seasoning at the next level before he would provide a consistent impact.
Davenport might not have provided enough juice to get them over the Super Bowl hump, but he developed into a rock-solid pass-rusher throughout his time in New Orleans. While he doesn’t put up elite sack numbers, he has become one of the league’s better all-around defensive ends. Meanwhile, the Packers bolstered their secondary with the selections they received from New Orleans. They packaged the first-round pick they received in 2018 to move up to select Jaire Alexander and pulled off a similar move the following year to draft Darnell Savage. It is safe to say the Packers don’t regret moving down (although they might prefer a do-over if it meant they could address the receiver position to keep Aaron Rodgers civil).
2021: The 49ers trade up for Trey Lance
The 49ers received the third pick (Trey Lance).
The Dolphins received the 12th pick, first- and third-round picks in 2022, and a first-round pick in 2023.
The 2021 NFL Draft featured one of the most talented quarterback classes in recent memory, and five signal-callers heard their names called on the first night of the draft. The 49ers moved up nine spots for an opportunity to select one of the top passers in the class, and they wound up selecting North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (the third signal-caller off the board behind Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson) with the third pick. Lance has yet to make an impression through two seasons, as he was red-shirted during his rookie year and suffered a torn ACL in Week Two of this season. It is fair to wonder if Lance will ever get another chance to start in the Bay, as the 49ers could go forward with Brock Purdy as their starter considering how much success he has had at the helm.
The Dolphins were as creative with the selections they received as they possibly could have been. They used the 12th pick to move up to select Jaylen Waddle and the first-rounder the following year to the Chiefs for Tyreek Hill. These deals prove they recognize the importance of building around Tua Tagovailoa, and the early returns on both moves look promising, as Hill finished second in the league in receiving yards while Waddle finished seventh. They struck a deal again after trading the 49ers’ 2023 first-round pick to the Broncos for Bradley Chubb ahead of the trade deadline this year. It is safe to say they have no regrets about accepting the 49ers’ offer.
2021: The Dolphins trade up for Jaylen Waddle
The Dolphins received the 6th pick (Jaylen Waddle) and a fifth-round pick.
The Eagles received the 12th pick, a fourth-round pick, and a first-round pick in 2022.
The Dolphins immediately began working the phones after receiving the massive haul from the 49ers, as they were looking to move back into the top ten and had more than enough draft capital to do so. They found a taker in the Eagles, who moved down six spots for a fourth-round selection, and another first-round pick the following year. The Dolphins received the sixth pick, which they used to select Alabama pass-catcher Jaylen Waddle, who promptly set a rookie record with 104 catches and provided a massive jolt of lightning to the Dolphins’ passing attack.
The Eagles, who were rumored to be interested in Jaylen Waddle ahead of the draft, landed a star pass-catcher of their own with the 12th pick in Devonta Smith. While he might not have had as much of an impact on the stat sheets through two seasons, he has been just as essential to Philadelphia’s offense. They also packaged Miami’s 2022 first-round selection to move up and select workout warrior Jordan Davis in last year’s draft. The defensive tackle has yet to provide a massive impact on Philly’s defensive front, but he made his presence felt against the run before landing on Injured Reserve midway through the season.
2021: The Bears trade up for Justin Fields
The Bears received the 11th pick (Justin Fields).
The Giants received the 20th pick, a fifth-round selection, and a first- and fourth-round pick in 2022.
Last but certainly not least, the Bears also gave up a massive haul to land their quarterback of the future during the 2021 NFL Draft. Luckily for Chicago, that quarterback turned out to be Justin Fields, who they selected with the 11th pick after trading a fourth-round pick and a first-round selection the following year to the Giants to move up nine spots. The move was originally a last-ditch attempt for Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to save their jobs. Also luckily for Chicago, it didn’t quite work out that way, as they got axed a year later.
Fields was left picking up the pieces of Chicago’s offense, but he did a masterful job of doing so. The Ohio State product carried the offense on his back and established himself as one of the league’s most exciting young playmakers. While he still has to grow as a passer, he should be able to do so as they improve the talent around him and continue to build the offense around his strengths. It is safe to say the Bears have no regrets about trading up for him, as he has shown more than enough promise to warrant the selection.
Meanwhile, the Giants used the 20th pick to select Kadarius Toney, who only lasted one year in New York before being dealt to the Chiefs ahead of the trade deadline this season. They also selected Evan Neal with the first-rounder they received in last year’s draft. The Alabama product may have been a blue-chip prospect, but he struggled to adapt to the speed of the NFL and looked overmatched far too often as a rookie. He still has plenty of time to turn his career around, but the early results are not exactly encouraging.