Once upon a time, teams clamored for elite running backs. And once upon a time, the New Orleans Saints traded EIGHT picks to get one. Ricky Williams to be specific.
It wasn't shocking that they wanted the Heisman Trophy winner, but it was shocking when they gave up six picks in the 1999 draft and two more in 2000 to move up seven spots — from No. 12 to No. 5. Williams wasn't bad in New Orleans (3,129 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons) but would've needed three straight 2,000-yard seasons and three straight playoff runs (19 total wins, one playoff appearance and no playoff wins) to remotely justify spending eight picks.
On second thought, almost nothing could justify that investment.
Though the eight-pick trade was embarrassing in retrospect — especially since the Redskins used those picks to select Champ Bailey and LaVar Arrington, among others — the Saints did get two first-rounders back when they dealt Williams to the Miami Dolphins in 2002.
It was one of the worst trades in NFL history that involved a first-round pick. Here are some others:
Herschel Walker – 1989
AKA "The Trade that made the Cowboys Dynasty"
Teams: Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings
LB Jesse Solomon
LB David Howard
CB Issiac Holt
DE Alex Stewart
RB Darrin Nelson
1990 1st (No. 21), 2nd (No. 47), 6th (No. 158)
1991 1st (No. 12), 2nd (No. 38)
1992 2nd (No. 37), 3rd (No. 71)
1993 1st (No. 13)
RB Herschel Walker
1990 3rd (No. 54), 5th (No. 116), 10th (No. 249)
1991 3rd (No. 68)
Don't bother trying to sort through this mess of a trade that Dallas pulled off in 1989 — just watch the 30 for 30 short: The Great Trade Robbery.
It was the largest trade in NFL history, one that involved six players and 12 draft picks, including two first-rounders. Walker couldn't have done anything to make this trade worth the Vikings' five players and eight picks, but his mediocre two-plus years (2,264 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns) in Minnesota didn't help.
Robert Griffin III – 2012
Teams: St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins
2012 1st (No. 6), 2nd (No. 39)
2013 1st (No. 22)
2014 1st (No. 2)
2012 1st (No. 2)
Robert Griffin III would've needed to become a perennial Pro Bowler and borderline Hall of Famer to make the Redskins' aggressive trade worthwhile. And it seemed like he might be headed that way his rookie year, as he set records for passer rating and TD-INT ratio for first-year players and led Washington to their first home playoff game since 1999. But then, in that 24-14 wildcard loss to the Seahawks, he suffered the knee injury that seems to have basically ended his career.
The Redskins ended up releasing Griffin at the end of the 2015 season, after he had already lost the starting job to Kirk Cousins.
On the other side of the trade, the Rams continued to wheel and deal their picks, eventually using them to acquire Janoris Jenkins, Greg Robinson, Alec Ogletree and Michael Brockers, among others. Though that quartet and others didn't lead the Rams to any division titles, they created a decent roster in exchange for moving down four picks.
Jeff George – 1994
Teams: Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts
QB Jeff George Trade
1994 1st (No. 7), 3rd (No. 83)
1996 1st (No. 19)
In four seasons with Indianapolis, former top-overall pick (1990) Jeff George was never good. In fact, he was terrible, completing less than 60 percent of his passes and throwing more interceptions (36) than touchdowns (31). But that was enough for the Falcons to want him — and pay a king's ransom.
The Colts landed Marvin Harrison with the No. 19 pick in the 1996 draft — which jumped from a second-round to first-rounder after George eclipsed 75 percent of the Falcons' snaps and won nine games in 1995. While George was better in Atlanta (50 touchdowns, 32 interceptions), giving up two first-rounders was outrageous then and still outrageous now.
John Hadl – 1974
Teams: Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams
QB John Hadl
1975 1st (No. 9), 2nd (No. 28), 3rd (No. 61)
1976 1st (No. 8), 2nd (No. 39)
In the middle of the 1974 season, the Packers mortgaged their immediate future for a 34-year-old quarterback who tossed 26 interceptions (15 touchdowns) two years prior. And it was a big reason for misery over the next decade.
Hadl was downright awful in 19 starts with Green Bay, throwing nine touchdowns and 21 interceptions while winning seven games. The Rams used the picks acquire defensive backs Monte Jackson, Pat Thomas and Nolan Cromwell, and win six straight NFC West titles.
Rob Johnson – 1998
Teams: Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Rob Johnson
1998 1st (No. 9), 4th (No. 101)
Before Matt Flynning there was Rob Johnsoning, and the Buffalo Bills got ruthlessly Rob Johnsoned.
Johnson was a fourth-round pick in 1995 and started one total game in his first three years, throwing for a total of 368 yards, two scores and three interceptions. Both touchdowns and nearly all those yards (294) came in a Week 1 start against the Baltimore Ravens, which was enough for the Bills to bet big.
In five years with Buffalo, Johnson threw for more than 1,500 yards once and went 9-17. The Jaguars, meanwhile, took 11,000-yard rusher Fred Taylor with the ninth-overall pick.
Ryan Leaf – 1998
Teams: Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers
KR/PR/WR/RB Eric Metcalf
LB Patrick Sapp
1998 1st (No. 3), 2nd (No. 33)
1999 1st (No. 8)
1998 1st (No. 2)
Lost in the Ryan Leaf fiasco is what the Chargers paid to get him.
Washington State's Ryan Leaf and Tennessee's Peyton Manning were considered the sure-fire top two quarterbacks in the 1998 class, so the Chargers only needed to move up one spot to No. 2 to draft whichever one the Colts didn't. And they gave up two players and three picks to do it, including two first-rounders.
The three picks netted the Cardinals defensive tackle Andre Wadsworth, cornerback Corey Chavous and receiver David Boston, who helped the Cardinals win their first playoff game in six decades. Leaf threw a whopping 33 interceptions in 21 appearances for the Chargers and was out of the league after the 2000 season.