The Redskins gave up two future first round picks and this year’s second round pick to move up the four spots necessary to select Robert Griffin III. Earlier, I gave some thoughts while looking at the history of trades, the draft value chart, and actual value difference in the picks. I also mentioned then that teams have been willing to give up more for quarterbacks at the top of the draft, because of the perception and importance of the position, compared to other trades.
It is not true, though, that Robert Griffin III is the first that someone that could bring hope or was a “must” move to revive the franchise. Here’s what others have given up to trade to the top of the draft for a passer since the merger.
1970. Cleveland trades star wide receiver Paul Warfield straight up for the #3 pick, to select Mike Phipps. This was a steal for the Dolphins, by the way, because Warfield continued to be great while Phipps never really panned out. Is there anyway, though, that the Rams would have accepted Larry Fitzgerald straight up for the 2nd pick? That’s the equivalent.
1973. Baltimore trades defensive end Billy Newsome and the 86th pick for the 2nd overall to select Bert Jones. Newsome was a young defensive end who had started for three years, and must have been highly thought of at the time, though history wasn’t as kind. Baltimore won this trade, but certainly didn’t have to give up a haul for it.
1975. Atlanta trades the 3rd overall pick and star offensive tackle George Kunz for the 1st overall to select Steve Bartkowski. Kunz was about to turn 28, and had made 5 pro bowls in his first 6 seasons. He would go on to be selected to three more, including a first team all pro in his first season in Baltimore. This would be roughly equal to if Cleveland traded Joe Thomas, coming up on his free agent contract, and the 4th pick to get Robert Griffin III. Definitely a bigger haul than the first two.
1983. Denver trades 4th overall pick offensive tackle Chris Hinton, the next year’s first rounder, and backup QB Mark Hermann for the rights to John Elway. The trade for one of the game’s best and most touted prospects brought in one less future first and one less 2nd round pick than Robert Griffin III.
1985. Atlanta trades the 3rd overall pick and the 30th overall pick to move up to the 2nd overall pick, in the hopes of being able to draft Bernie Kosar. This is one of the funnest, craziest sagas in NFL draft history. You can read about it here. The gist is that Kosar had not originally declared for the draft, but then wanted to enter. There was controversy as to whether he would be part of the regular draft or a supplemental draft. Atlanta made a speculative trade here and gave up their 2nd rounder for the right to take him. Rozelle, though, ultimately ruled Kosar could go in the supplemental to Cleveland if he chose, and then Minnesota traded down to #4, while getting only a 3rd rounder in return (and taking Chris Doleman).
1985. Cleveland trades the 7th overall, the 63rd overall, and the next year’s 1st and 6th round picks to Buffalo for the rights to the first pick in the Supplemental Draft, to draft Bernie Kosar. Cleveland gave up one less future first and a third instead of a second to get in position to take Kosar, confident that the commissioner would rule Kosar could go to the supplemental draft, and he did.
1986. The Los Angeles Rams trade Kent Hill and the rights to William Fuller, along with two consecutive first round picks and a future fifth rounder, to Houston for #3 overall pick Jim Everett, who was holding out. This trade happened after the start of the season and thus had to involve draft picks from 1987 and 1988. The Rams had been a consistent playoff team for a decade, so the value of the firsts was not as high. Fuller, as best I can tell, had never played for the Rams and was part of the USFL dispersal draft. Hill was a good but aging offensive guard who would play two more years.
1990. The Indianapolis Colts trade Chris Hinton, 2nd year receiver Andre Rison, next year’s first rounder, and the #121 pick, for the #83 pick and the #1 overall pick to select Jeff George. Rison was the 22nd overall pick the previous year, and had a decent rookie year, he would break out in Atlanta. Hinton was a star veteran tackle who had made multiple pro bowls, and who Atlanta moved to right tackle. I doubt either was valued as a high (top 5) first rounder, but both could have been valued as mid-firsts. This is probably the biggest haul to trade up before RGIII, but comes up a pick, and probably a high pick, short, plus Indy got a third back also in the deal.
1998. The San Diego Chargers trade Eric Metcalf, Patrick Sapp, #3 overall, #33 overall, and 1999 first rounder for the #2 overall to select Ryan Leaf. Sapp was a young linebacker who would start a total of six games for Arizona, Metcalf was turning 30 and was probably the best punt returner in the game at the time, and they also gave up one future first, instead of two. I doubt the combination of Metcalf and Sapp was valued at a first round pick.
2001. The Atlanta Falcons trade Tim Dwight, #5 overall, #67 overall, and 2002 second rounder for the #1 overall to select Michael Vick. San Diego got Tomlinson, and got way less than what Washington just gave up to move up the same number of slots. A third instead of a second, and only one future second instead of two firsts. Tim Dwight was a decent return man and slot receiver at the time, but certainly not worth more than a second or third round pick.
2004. The New York Giants trade the #4 overall (Philip Rivers), #65 overall, 2005 first rounder, and 2005 fifth rounder, for the rights to #1 overall pick Eli Manning. The last big trade for a quarterback, and the only one in the era of really big contracts. Of course, it’s not like San Diego didn’t have to pay Rivers a fair amount on the other end of the ledger too. Compared to the RGIII deal, New York gave up a 3rd instead of a 2nd, and one future first (which became Shawne Merriman) instead of two.
The values did increase. The higher cost of top draft picks slowed down the trades, but most of these occurred prior to that escalation. The biggest haul before this was what San Diego gave up for the rights to Ryan Leaf at #2, or what the Colts gave up for Jeff George at #1. This current deal dwarfs those by at least one more first rounder. It also seems to me that the price paid has little to do with how the player turned out, though it did likely have to do with how desperate the franchise was to provide hope.