New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has specialized in turning careers around. He managed to do so with Darrelle Revis this past season en route to a Lombardi trophy, and did so two years prior with another former Tampa Bay Buc, Aqib Talib. But reviving the career of Randy Moss in 2007 was his best work of art in that regard, and he did so again, via trade—this one coming on draft day. He acquired Moss for just a fourth round pick, and helped him record the best season of his career, and one of the best ever by a wide receiver.
The moves teams make on draft day determine the state of their franchises for years to come; trade up for a quarterback that doesn’t pan out and you’ll dig your organization in a hole without knowing how to escape it.
Jameis Winston is projected as the best quarterback in this year’s class, and the sure-fire number one overall pick, but Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the hottest name. Mariota has been linked to at least a half dozen teams in the first round including his ex-college coach Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles, and the San Diego Chargers who could part with quarterback Philip Rivers to acquire the prospect. This year’s draft gets interesting on the trade front with the second overall pick. With Mariota on the board, the Tennessee Titans have leverage over teams in the market for a quarterback, and if one of them offers a incredible package, they just might pull the trigger on a trade. In 11 of the last 12 years, a team has traded up in the draft to land a quarterback. And in recent history, the moves haven’t provided the type of reward relative to the risk the teams had hoped. Last year the Browns jumped up for Johnny Manziel and in 2012, the Redskins paid a King’s Ransom for Robert Griffin. Will one team take the risk and make a move for Mariota?
Here are top 10 draft day trades of the last decade.
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10 ‘Hawks trade down and get Wagner – 2012
Unlike most of the other trades on this list, the 2012 trade between the Jets and Seahawks didn’t make much noise on draft day. Seattle traded down four spots in the second round, added a fifth and seventh round pick, and selected All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, though few could have anticipated the Utah State product would develop into such an integral player on Seattle’s defense. On the flip side, the Jets selected wide receiver Stephen Hill with the pick they traded up to acquire. Hill caught 45 passes in two seasons in New York and was subsequently cut.
9 Steelers make move for Santonio – 2006
Pittsburgh traded three picks to the Giants to move up seven spots in the first round to acquire the receiver it envisioned could pair with Hines Ward, and eventually act as his heir apparent. Holmes was a valuable piece for the Steelers offense in four seasons with the club. He had at least 800 yards in each season, and 1,248 in 2009, the only 1,000 yard season of his career. His greatest contribution came in Super Bowl XLIII, where he was named MVP and caught the winning touchdown, sticking his toes down at the back of the end zone in one of the most memorable catches of all time. After stints in New York and Chicago, Holmes is now a free agent.
8 The Pack add a cornerstone piece in Matthews – 2009
Green Bay traded a second and two thirds to the Patriots for the 26th overall pick which it used on Matthews, and a fifth round pick. One of the two third round picks the Packers used to move up was acquired from the Jets in the deal that sent Brett Favre to New York at the beginning of the season. Matthews, a five-time pro bowler, has become the leader of Dom Capers’ Green Bay defense. He was the third USC linebacker selected in the 2009 draft, but has easily developed into the best. The versatile defender has 61 sacks in 85 career games.
7 Legion of Boom begins in Seattle with Earl Thomas – 2009
At the 2009 draft, the Broncos desired an additional second round pick and therefore, dealt away a first rounder in the 2010 draft to make that happen. Denver went 8-8 the following season, and that first round pick they decided to deal for a second turned out to be the 14th overall pick in 2010. The Seahawks plucked Texas safety Earl Thomas, and the Broncos essentially gave birth to the “Legion of Boom.” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock believed Thomas was the prospect with the best chance of resembling future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. And Mayock hit that claim right on the head. Thomas, along with the rest of the Legion of Boom came back to haunt the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
6 Jets grab the 'Sanchize' – 2009
New York dealt its first and second round picks along with three players to move up for what they hoped would be the “Sanchize.” In his first few seasons, Mark Sanchez demonstrated promise, leading some to believe he could play the part. With a strong defense and running game in place, Sanchez made enough plays to help get the team to the AFC Championship game twice, albeit losing both times. However, as the Jets gave him more opportunities with the ball in his hands, Sanchez faltered, and was labeled with the dreaded quarterback term “game manager.” In the end, the USC product is remembered more for his “butt fumble” than anything else.
New York eventually released its 2009 fifth overall pick. After signing with the Eagles last season, Sanchez took over as the starter for an injured Nick Foles and went 4-4, but fell just short of getting the team into the postseason.
5 Ravens move up for Joe Flacco – 2008
Sitting with the eighth overall pick, Baltimore would have had to pay a king’s ransom to trade up for Matt Ryan. Therefore, the team elected to move back to 26, acquire more picks, then use some of that ammunition to trade back up to 18 and get the Delaware quarterback it coveted. With Joe Flacco at the helm and a quality defense in place in 2012-13, the Ravens rode the momentum of a late-upset victory in the divisional round in Denver all the way to a Lombardi trophy in a blackout-ridden night in New Orleans. Matt Ryan is still searching for his first Super Bowl in Atlanta.
4 Falcons go all-in on Julio - 2011
You could make the case that Ryan’s running mate in the “ATL,” Julio Jones, is the NFL’s top pass-catcher. And the Falcons’ brass believed he could be that guy when they jumped 20 spots in the first round in 2011 to draft him. Atlanta traded five draft picks to Cleveland including two firsts, and only one player from the Browns' end still remains with the team. Jones has accumulated 4,330 receiving yards in 49 games in the NFL, and he led the NFC in receiving yards last season with 1,593. Royal Falcon Flush.
3 Jets fly ahead for Revis – 2007
The Jets were sitting at number 25 in the first round hoping Revis would fall to them. But with the cornerback’s hometown Steelers on the board at number 15, New York couldn’t take any chances. The Jets traded their first, second, and fifth round selections to the Carolina Panthers to move up to 14 to snag Darrelle Revis. The acquisition bolstered New York’s defense, giving it a lock down corner that could match up with the NFL’s elite receivers. Meanwhile, Revis etched his name as the league’s premier corner, earning All-Pro recognition four times.
2 Redskins mortgage future for RG3 – 2012
While this trade actually took place a few days before the draft, it's simply too big to ignore.
Washington was slated to pick sixth in the 2012 NFL Draft, but with a desperate need at quarterback and the top two prospects at that position likely to be gone by then, the team made a bold franchise-altering trade. The Redskins sent three first round picks and a second to the Rams for the number two selection. It looked as though Griffin was worth the hefty toll during his rookie season, as he electrified the city of Washington, and uplifted his teammates’ spirits the way Tebow once did in Denver. However, Griffin suffered a gruesome knee injury during the 2012 season, which was exacerbated in a wildcard playoff game against the Seahawks that same season. His career has spiraled from that moment on, and now Griffin faces a make-or-break year with the Redskins in 2015.
1 Brady gets Moss – 2007
After struggling to turn the Raiders franchise around in Oakland, a disgruntled Moss was dealt to the Patriots for what would turn out to be a meagre 4th round pick at the 2007 draft. In 52 games with the Patriots, Moss scored 50 touchdowns, including a record-breaking 23 in 2007. The move revolutionized the Patriots’ offense, giving it a formidable number one receiver who could not only move the chains on third down, but also blow the top off a defense. Despite winning three Super Bowls prior to Moss’s arrival, Brady never had the luxury of a game-breaking receiver with such a skill set. The tandem carried New England to an 18-0 record before getting upset in the Super Bowl by David Tyree’s Giants.
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