The Rams shocked the world last week, when they decided to trade a slew of current and future picks to the Titans in-order to acquire the first overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Just to break it down for you with the help of ESPN.com, Tennessee sent the Rams the first overall pick, along with a fourth round choice (113th, overall) and a sixth round choice (177th, overall) in this year's draft. Los Angeles, meanwhile, traded its first round pick (15th, overall), two second round picks (43rd and 45th) and a third round pick (76th, overall) in this year's draft to the Titans, along with a first and third round pick in next year's draft.
The presumed reason for the massive deal was so the Rams would be in position to select one of the top quarterback prospects--Carson Wentz or Jared Goff--when the draft kicks off next Thursday at 8 p.m.
As a Steelers fan, it's pretty rare to see the team do anything in the first round but wait for its turn and select who it deems the best player available. Pittsburgh has only had two first round picks in the same year in my lifetime (the seventh and 24th selections of the 1989 NFL Draft) and hasn't had a top-five pick since taking Terry Bradshaw first overall in the 1970 NFL Draft.
No top-five picks; no blockbuster deals. In other words, Steelers fans have grown accustomed to being wallflowers on draft day.
But if there was a scenario in-which Pittsburgh was involved in the type of trade that Los Angeles and Tennessee made last week, would you like the Steelers to be the team with the number one overall pick or the one with the bounty of draft choices?
On the surface, it's easy to say that the Titans got the better of the deal. After all, with so many high draft picks both this year and next, Tennessee, a team that hasn't had a winning season in four years and has won a combined five games over the past two, could really infuse its roster with the kind of talent that might turn things around fairly fast.
Trades like the one the Titans and Rams made brings to mind the blockbuster deal the Cowboys and Vikings worked out early in the 1989 season. In October of that year, Dallas star running back Herschel Walker was traded to Minnesota in exchange for the Vikings' first, second and sixth round picks in 1990, as well as five players that were turned into conditional draft choices--the Vikings' first and second round picks in 1991, their second and third round picks in 1992, and their first round pick in 1993--after head coach Jimmy Johnson (who, along with owner Jerry Jones, orchestrated the deal) cut or traded most of them.
The Vikings were considered NFC favorites at that time--perennial contenders--and Walker, who had rushed for over 1,500 yards in 1988, was seen as perhaps the last piece to a championship puzzle.
Unfortunately, as former Vikings' Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan told the NFL Network in 2014, the deal seemed "Ill-conceived" as soon as Walker stepped on the Vikings' practice field: "I mean it was the (sixth) week of the season. We didn't have the advantage of training camp to get the team on the same page. Herschel was not our style of running back. So now do you train 10 guys to one guy's system, or one guy to the other 10?"
Walker was accustomed to running out of an I-formation in Dallas, but the Vikings used a system that featured a split backfield; it just didn't work, as Walker averaged just under 61 yards per game in '89, and Minnesota ultimately lost to the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
As for the Cowboys, who went on to finish 1-15 in '89, they parlayed their bounty (better known as "the great train robbery") into the drafting of Emmit Smith, Russel Maryland, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards and Darren Woodson--five players instrumental in Dallas' three Super Bowl teams of the early-to-mid '90s.
But while the Walker trade transformed the Cowboys into one of the greatest teams in recent memory, the same can't be said for anyone involved in the Saints/Redskins trade of 1999, where the the Saints sent every single one of their draft picks that year, along with their first and third picks in 2000, to Washington in-order to move up from the 12th to the fifth spot in the first round.
New Orleans used the choice to take running back Ricky Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy Award winner.
The Redskins then traded all but two of those draft picks, as well as their own third round pick in 2000, to the Bears in-order to move back up to the seventh spot and select cornerback Champ Bailey. The following year, Washington used the Saints' first round pick to select linebacker LaVar Arrington out of Penn State.
As the Saints' SBNation site, Canal St. Chronicles, points out, only Williams, Bailey and Arrington had memorable careers, while the rest of the players drafted didn't amount to much more than journeymen. And quarterback Cade McNown, the player the Bears drafted with the 12th pick in '99, was simply one of the biggest busts in NFL history, lasting just two years in Chicago, before moving on to the Dolphins and 49ers, where he didn't appear in any games.
As for the Saints, Redskins and Bears (the team that actually wound up with the most draft choices), none of them parlayed their deals into championship success.
So you can see how receiving tons of draft choices can help a team, but it could also lead to a bunch of nothing. The Titans received a lot of picks in last week's trade, but this doesn't mean they will turn them into successful NFL players. After all, this is the same organization that had to use the second pick of the 2015 NFL Draft to select quarterback Marcus Mariota four years after it used the eighth pick of the 2011 NFL Draft to select quarterback Jake Locker.
And what if the Rams' gamble pays off, and either Wentz or Goff turns into a future franchise quarterback? Anyone who watches the NFL knows how vital it is to have an elite-level quarterback running the show. Yes, the Rams, a team that just used the first overall pick to select quarterback Sam Bradford in 2010 and hasn't had a winning season since, has possibly missed out on a chance to fill their roster with young and productive players. But how many voids and gaps would a truly great quarterback make up for?
In hindsight, how many draft picks would you trade away for a Ben Roethlisberger? How about an Aaron Rodgers or a Drew Brees? Sure, much like Bradford, Wentz or Goff could have a pedestrian career and one day wind up on some list of forgotten number one picks.
However, the upside and difference a truly great quarterback can make to a team is just undeniable, and you can see why an organization would gamble so many draft picks away.
At the end of the day, it's too hard to decide which draft day scenario I'd like to see the Steelers involved in, but it's probably best they don't have to worry about either side of the equation.