A year ago, I wrote that quarterbacks going with the first two picks in the NFL Draft was a pretty unusual thing. From 1967, the start of the common draft, through 2011, it happened just four times. Since then, it has happened two more times, and now will apparently happen in 2016, too, after the Eagles sent way too many draft picks to the Browns for the right to pick second overall. We can save for another day how this was a shrewd move by Cleveland — if nothing else, the Browns do have a history of getting a boatload to move down, including in trades for Sammy Watkins and Julio Jones — and a head-scratcher for the Eagles.
This move also opens up San Diego as the team “in control” of the draft, non-QB edition. The Chargers will now take the first non-QB off the board. Unfortunately, that’s a lot less exciting than it sounds, although it may come with it the ability to extract some trade value, potentially from the Cowboys at #4. Let’s take a look at the six times since 1967 that quarterbacks went 1-2, and who was the first non-QB taken.
- 1971: The Patriots, Saints, and Oilers drafted Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, and Dan Pastorini, respectively. At #4, Buffalo drafted J.D. Hill.
- 1993: The Patriots selected Drew Bledsoe with the first pick, leaving Rick Mirer for Seattle. The presumptive third overall pick would be running back Garrison Hearst, so the Jets were able to convince the Cardinals to send running back Johnny Johnson to New York to move up from #4 to #3. The Cardinals got Hearst, while the Jets took their man, linebacker Marvin Jones.
- 1998: The Chargers gave up the 33rd overall pick and the team’s 1999 first rounder to move up from #3 to #2 with Arizona to draft Ryan Leaf (the Colts, of course, took Peyton Manning with the first pick). This has a similar feel to what the Eagles did because the Chargers traded up to #2 without knowing which quarterback they would get, Manning or Leaf (the trade happened on March 12th). Arizona drafted Andre Wadsworth with the number three overall pick.
- 1999: The Browns, Eagles, and Bengals drafted Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith at 1-2-3. This left the Colts in the power position in the draft, which presumably meant taking Ricky Williams. But Indianapolis shocked the draft community by selecting Miami’s Edgerrin James. That left Washington in the enviable position of having the 5th overall pick but with arguably the top player in the draft still on the board. Of course, the team used that position to extract a the Saints entire 1999 draft (although New Orleans had previously been without the team’s second round pick, having dealt it for Eddie Kennison), along with the Saints 2000 1st and 2000 third round picks.
- 2012: On March 13th — 14 years and 1 day after the Leaf trade — Washington sent a crazy haul to the Rams for the right to pick whichever quarterback Indianapolis didn’t. For Eagles fans, they are surely hoping the third time is the charm when it comes to trading up for the leftover QB. Andrew Luck and RG3 obviously went 1-2 to Indianapolis to Washington, and then the Vikings pulled a ’93 Jets: Minnesota agreed to move down one slot with Cleveland, and received the Browns 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks. The Vikings were set at running back, obviously, but Cleveland was desperate to trade up for…. Trent Richardson.
- 2015: Last year, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1-2 to Tampa Bay and Tennessee; with the third overall pick, the Jaguars stayed put, and drafted Dante Fowler.
Let’s look at how this relates, even if only from a trivia perspective, to 2016 Chargers.
Trading Down: Three of these six situations saw a trade down. The ’93 Jets received a veteran running back for free, given that the Cardinals were trading up for Hearst; the ’12 Vikings picked up a 4th, 5th, and 7th after bluffing that Minnesota was going to allow another team to trade up for Richardson. And Indianapolis certainly could have done what Washington did a pick later, which was received a huge draft haul to move down to #12.
San Diego is likely choosing among Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, or Oregon defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Tunsil or Ramsey are the two favorites, and Ramsey is likely the Cowboys target at #4. It would make a lot of sense for San Diego, if the team is high on Tunsil, to try to get a few picks from Dallas, ala the ’12 Vikings, by bluffing about an interest for Ramsey. There’s also the possibility that a team wants to pull a New Orleans and trade up for Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The other thing to consider is how these non-QB picks have turned out, and it’s been a pretty mixed bag with only one consistent theme: injuries. Hill did make one Pro Bowl for the Bills, but started for just four years for Buffalo and had an underwhelming career for such a high pick (the Bills did manage to send him to Detroit for a first round pick, where he was even more of a bust, as was Buffalo’s pick, Phil Dokes). Hearst was a bust with the Cardinals, mostly due to injury, before resurrecting his career with the 49ers; for the Jets, Jones was a good player who also fell far short of his ceiling due to injury.
Wadsworth finished his career with just 8 sacks in 36 career games, as injuries forced him to retire after just three seasons. James was a great pick at #4, but Richardson was obviously a disaster pick at #3 (although the Browns were able to get a first round pick for him, but that pick didn’t exactly yield great returns, either; it was what Cleveland used to move up to draft Johnny Manziel). Obviously there’s nothing to say yet about Fowler, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.