The Chicago Bears are on the clock… but will they still be there on April 27?
That remains to be seen.
Chicago appears “likely” to roll with quarterback Justin Fields, which makes it more plausible that the Bears will entertain offers for the first pick. They could stand pat and draft a defensive player, but a trade down to stockpile more picks makes the most sense.
What could the Bears get in return for the No. 1 pick? Well, here’s a look at every trade of the top pick from the last 40 years:
2016: Rams trade up with Titans for Jared Goff
Rams acquire: Titans' No. 1 pick (2016), fourth-round pick (2016), sixth-round pick (2016)
Titans acquire: Rams' No. 15 pick (2016), first-round pick (2017) two second-round picks (2016), two third-round picks (2016, 2017)
With this being the most recent example, it could be the model for what the Bears use when looking for a trade partner. Two firsts, two seconds and two thirds would be great value for a rebuilding team like Chicago, though Ryan Poles might prefer a pick higher than No. 15 in this year’s draft.
2004: Giants trade up with Chargers for Eli Manning
Giants acquire: Chargers’ No. 1 pick (2004)
Chargers acquire: Giants’ No. 4 pick (2004), first-round pick (2005), third-round pick (2004), fifth-round pick (2005)
This trade happened 45 minutes after the pick was made, so the Chargers technically traded the rights to Eli Manning for the rights to Philip Rivers – plus a first, third and fifth. It was solid value considering the circumstances of Manning not wanting to play for San Diego. The Chargers drafted Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman with the 2005 first-rounder from New York.
2001: Falcons trade up with Chargers for Michael Vick
Falcons acquire: Chargers’ No. 1 pick (2001)
Chargers acquire: Falcons’ No. 5 pick (2001), second-round pick (2002), third-round pick (2001)
Who was the first football player picked No. 1 in the NFL draft?
The Chargers didn’t quite get as much for the first pick three years earlier, but the trade worked out for both sides. Atlanta got Michael Vick, while San Diego used the Falcons’ first-rounder on LaDainian Tomlinson and their own second-round pick on Drew Brees.
1997: Rams trade up with Jets for Orlando Pace
Rams acquire: Jets’ No. 1 pick (1997)
Jets acquire: Rams’ No. 6 pick, third-round pick, fourth-round pick, seventh-round pick (all in 1997)
Giving up a Hall of Fame left tackle stings, especially when the return included no future draft picks. The Jets put all their eggs in the 1997 draft basket, which could be a strategy for the Bears to avoid. Spreading out the picks over different years would give the team much more flexibility for future moves.
1995: Bengals trade up with Panthers for Ki-Jana Carter
Bengals acquire: Panthers’ No. 1 pick (1995)
Panthers acquire: Bengals’ No. 5 pick, second-round pick (both in 1995)
How many times has each NFL team made the No. 1 pick?
If you've never heard of Ki-Jana Carter, you probably aren’t alone. The running back suffered through an injury-plagued career and played his final snap in 2001. The Panthers didn’t get a massive return though, and both of their selections (Kerry Collins, Shawn King) played sparingly in Carolina.
1991: Cowboys trade up with Patriots for Russell Maryland
Cowboys acquire: Patriots No. 1 pick (1991)
Patriots acquire: Cowboys’ No. 11 pick (1991), second round pick (1991), CB Ron Francis, LB David Howard, LB Eugene Lockhart
You don’t see a ton of players included in high-end draft pick trades these days, but it could be an option if the Bears choose to rebuild on the fly. Francis, Howard and Lockhart didn’t play much at all in New England, and in hindsight it wasn’t worth moving back 10 spots in the draft, but it’s something outside-the-box to consider over the next few months.
1990: Colts trade up with Falcons for Jeff George
Colts acquire: Falcons’ No. 1 pick (1990)
Falcons acquire: Colts’ first-round pick (1991), fifth-round pick (1990), OT Chris Hinton and WR Andre Rison
Here’s another “player and picks for the No. 1 pick” deal. Hinton was an All-Pro tackle and Rison became an All-Pro receiver. The 1991 pick became No. 13 overall, but the real prize was the two players. Interestingly enough, George was traded to Atlanta in 1994 after four years in Indy.
1984: Patriots trade up with Bengals for Irving Fryar
Patriots acquire: Bengals’ No. 1 pick (1984)
Bengals acquire: Patriots’ No. 16 and No. 28 picks (1984), fifth-round pick (1985), 10th-round pick (1984)
Several teams in 2023 have multiple first-round picks, so this type of trade could be on the table for Chicago. The Bengals didn’t get a ton of value beyond those two firsts, but getting two high-end picks is valuable enough. This type of deal certainly lessens the overall quantity of picks while improving the quality.
1983: Broncos trade up with Colts for John Elway
Broncos acquire: Colts’ No. 1 pick (1983)
Colts acquire: Broncos’ No. 4 pick (1983), first-round pick (1984), QB Mark Herrmann
This trade happened a week after the draft when Elway threatened to play baseball instead of joining the Colts. It put the Colts in a difficult position with little leverage, but they were able to secure the rights to Chris Hinton (remember him from the 1990 section?) plus a future first.