Every year, NFL teams look to either move up or move down on Draft Day depending which prospects are on the board. For some teams, this can help kick off a dynasty or help a team battle for a divisional crown. For others, it signals the beginning of the end for coaching staffs and front offices. These are the most impactful NFL Draft QB trades of the past 10 years.
Buffalo Finds Their Savior
The first of the NFL Draft QB trades to make the list starts with the Buffalo Bills, who for years, were one of the perpetual “losers” of the NFL. Despite boasting one of the most fun “small-town” stadium experiences, passionate Bills’ fans were left hoping that the franchise could finally find their first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly.
After breaking their playoff drought in 2017, the Bills front office felt they needed a change at quarterback. Despite Tyrod Taylor’s successful season leading the team, the Bills realized if they truly wanted to take that next step, they needed to improve the position.
To do this, they would actually do two trades to bring potential MVP Josh Allen to Western New York. First, the team sent long term left tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati along with picks 21 and 185 for picks 12 and 187, putting them in range for a move up in the first round. The Bills, who had taken Dion Dawkins in the second round the prior year, felt comfortable moving Glenn while still being able to protect the new QB.
Next, they partnered with Tampa Bay, this time sending picks 12, 53 and 56 to the Buccaneers to move up to pick 7 and Josh Allen.
The next of the NFL Draft QB trades happened in the same year, when another team from the AFC East made a move to find their next franchise quarterback. This time, it was the New York Jets looking to jump up for whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns passed.
Originally sitting at 6, the Jets swapped first round picks while sending picks 37, 49 and a 2019 second rounder to the Colts in exchange for pick 3 and the opportunity to select Sam Darnold. Unfortunately for the Jets, Darnold’s tenure was rocked by inconsistent play and ghost sightings before being banished to Carolina.
Meanwhile, the Colts were able to revamp their offensive line, drafting both Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith while adding Rock Ya-Sin the following season. Ya-Sin would eventually be flipped to Las Vegas for pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue.
During the 2017 NFL Draft, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs made one of the most shocking and most impactful NFL Draft QB trades in league history. Knowing that the offense was limited with incumbent Alex Smith, the Chiefs knew they needed to make a move.
Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes was becoming a pretty polarizing prospect. He had put up some gaudy offensive numbers but Texas Tech hadn’t exactly won a lot of games with him. The general consensus entering the draft was he would need time to sit back and learn an NFL offense just to have a shot to make it in the NFL.
Undeterred, Reid sent picks 27 and 91 along with a first rounder in 2018 to Buffalo to bring in Mahomes. As most know, Mahomes has been one of the best players in NFL history and the trade for Kansas City has been a stunning success.
Meanwhile, the Bills would use those picks to grab Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds who have both appeared in 2 Pro Bowls.
Sadly, Patrick Mahomes wasn’t the only selection in 2017 to make this list. Earlier that night, the Chicago Bears made one of the most stunning trades in recent NFL history, when they packaged the 3rd overall pick with picks 67, 111 and a 2018 3rd to move up 1 spot in a swap with the San Francisco 49ers.
Unfortunately for Bears’ fans, the team’s selection of UNC’s Mitch Trubisky didn’t pan out as questionable utilization by former coach Matt Nagy and a double doink doomed Chicago.
Meanwhile, the 49ers used the opportunity to completely revamp their defense adding Solomon Thomas and Ruben Foster that year while drafting line backer Fred Werner in 2018.
Throughout their history, perhaps no team has a better understanding than the Baltimore Ravens. From their use of compensatory selections to their valuing of special teams, strong drafting has left the Ravens with a roster consistently able to complete for a playoff position.
In 2018, the team used this strategy to not only find their next QB but to add an extra year of control with a savvy draft day swap.
That year, the Baltimore Ravens were looking for the successor to former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, and jumped into this NFL Draft QB trades with a swap with the then-Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles that positioned the Ravens to add Lamar Jackson. To do so, they sent picks 52, 125 and a 2019 2nd for picks 32 and 132.
Meanwhile, the Eagles would use those picks to eventually walk away with Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox and Miles Sanders, all critical roles for the NFC best 2022 team.
In the 2020 Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers lost a late lead to the previously Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Afterwards, they must have spent some time looking at how the Chiefs got Mahomes and debated if then (and now!) starter Jimmy Garoppolo could be the guy to lead the team to the promised land.
After a disappointing follow-up campaign, the final on our list of NFL Draft QB trades saw San Francisco make a bold jump into the top-3 for the 2021 NFL Draft. This time, they sent the 12th overall pick, a 1st and 3rd in in 2022 and a 1st in 2023 to Miami for the opportunity to select whichever quarterback was passed by the Jaguars and the Jets.
Despite the trade happening a few weeks before the draft, the 49ers would eventually walk away with the raw but talented Trey Lance. After a mostly “redshirted” rookie season, Lance was given the keys to the starting job ahead of this season. Sadly, a knee injury suffered in week 2 ended his year.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins used their ransom to eventually walk away with Jaylen Waddle.
Let us know your favorite NFL Draft QB trades in the comments!