Again, this involves the right to draft a player, to speculate in the hope market, not just land a current star. In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys landed a trio of first-round picks from the Minnesota Vikings in the massive Herschel Walker "Great Train Robbery" deal, but they also dealt four picks of their own in the deal, and by that point, Walker was a legit NFL star coming off a monster 1988 season. The eight total picks the Saints dealt for the right to draft (and marry) Ricky Williams in 1999 were a load, but that deal included a bunch of lower picks, and just two first-rounders. The Williams deal is probably as steep as it gets for a draft pick in the post-merger era.
Even in a quarterback-driven league, no right-to-draft-a-QB deal comes close. Not to the three first-rounders and a second-rounder the Redskins dealt to assure themselves RG3 at No. 2 this year.
In 2001, the Atlanta Falcons moved to the No. 1 spot for Michael Vick, and traded away the No. 5 pick to do so, but used zero first-round picks beyond that point. In the air sickness bag-required category, the Chargers traded their own first-rounder and one future first to draft Ryan Leaf in 1998 and in 1990 the Colts dealt a current and future first-rounder in a package to draft Jeff George at No. 1. Since 1980, according to Elias, this is the first time a team has surrendered three first-round picks to move into the top 5 of the draft.
That says a lot. Because first-round picks are actually more valuable than they've ever been. With more manageable guarantees built into the deals, Andrew Luck will net about $9 million less in guarantees on his rookie deal than JaMarcus Russell did five years ago. Before the new CBA, coaches and GMs quietly groused that the No. 1 pick was the worst reward in sports. As Detroit GM Martin Mayhew said recently, Detroit's "reward" for nailing the Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh high picks has been having to manage a very tricky cap situation.
The Redskins had to give up a lot to get a No. 2 pick that has become more valuable, but they've given up as much as we've ever seen in the process. The questions now are:
1. What happens in the short-term to teams that give up so much?
2. Is it possible for Griffin III to be worth the cost?