The Trades for Picks that Made the Biggest Impact on the NFL


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With draft day approaching, it seems inevitable that at least a few franchises will partake of some maneuvering in an effort to either land a marquee player or a bevy of draft picks. Just last year, the New York Jets traded with Indianapolis to move up to the No. 3 spot to draft quarterback Sam Darnold. History will be the judge of that transaction as it has been for some of the greatest moves of all time.

1985 - San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers, fresh off of a Super Bowl victory, traded their first, second, and third round picks in the '85 draft to move up to No. 16. Their selection? Wide receiver Jerry Rice. San Francisco got the better end of the deal as Rice wound up in the Hall of Fame and the Patriots, who made the Super Bowl in '85, went 1-15 just five years later.

1978 - Oilers & Buccaneers

Tampa Bay was still a young franchise in 1978 and the Houston Oilers were an afterthought in the AFC. The Oilers gave up their first and second round picks plus two future selections to move up to No. 1 and draft the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner, Earl Campbell. The big running back would lead the NFL in rushing his first three seasons in the league and take the Oilers to back-to-back AFC title games. 

The Bucs didn't make out too bad either. With the No. 17 pick in the first round, Tampa Bay took a quarterback named Doug Williams. Just two years after losing 26 straight games, the Bucs would play in the NFC Championship game.

2001 - Vick, Falcons & LA Chargers

It was just a few years earlier that the Chargers blew it when they selected QB Ryan Leaf with the No. 2 pick in 1998. In 2001, the Chargers desperately needed a quarterback. So did Atlanta. In fact, the Falcons wanted Michael Vick so badly they decided to open up the pick drawer and throw in a couple of players to boot in order to move up to No. 1. 

While the Falcons did get Vick at No. 1, the Chargers made out pretty good too. With the No. 5 overall pick, they took running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who is now in the Hall of Fame. With their own pick of the second round, the Chargers did get their quarterback - Drew Brees out of Purdue who will join Tomlinson in the Hall someday.

1999 - Ricky Williams

It is one of the most famous trades in the history of professional football. New Orleans head coach Mike Ditka went all-in trading away all of the Saints draft picks in '99 to draft Williams in the first round. The results, of course, were not what Ditka and the Saints had in mind. Williams never did pan out and after going 3-13 in '99, Ditka was gone.

On the other end of that trade was the Washington Redskins. How they did not transform the franchise into a dynasty is one of the NFL's great mysteries. They did end up drafting CB Champ Bailey, a future Hall of Famer, and LB LaVar Arrington. Even more mysterious is the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals could have had the same deal but turned down Ditka.

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