While we may only be six games into the 2023 season, the Bears and Panthers both have seasons trending in the wrong direction. At this point, it only looks like there are six teams left “competing” for the top pick in the draft. That’s certainly pointing in the direction that the Bears will be holding two picks in the top 5 next season.
That’s something that almost never happens, but it isn’t unprecedented. How have teams in those situations done? Let’s take a look at how often that’s happened in the Super Bowl era. Because the last team that managed to do it prior to the Super Bowl era was the Chicago Bears in 1965 when they had the 3rd and 4th selections and picked Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. While both those players are Hall of Famers, amazingly, it never really helped the Bears in the win column. Hopefully, 2024 will bring different results in terms of wins and losses if the Bears do find themselves in this situation.
1979 Buffalo Bills
The first team in the Super Bowl era that had this opportunity was the Buffalo Bills and it certainly didn’t work out for them at first glance. With the first overall selection, they selected linebacker Tom Cousineau from Ohio State. Cousineau, however, decided to forego the NFL and sign with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Cousineau dominated the CFL for three years before he decided to return to the NFL. The Bills still retained his rights and traded them to the Cleveland Browns for a 1983 first round pick, which they used to draft Jim Kelly (who turned around and went to the USFL before finally joining Buffalo in 1986).
With the fifth overall pick, the Bills selected wide receiver Jerry Butler from Clemson. Butler’s career started off well, but a knee injury during the 1983 season knocked him out for the rest of that season and the 1984 season. Butler returned in 1985 but never really recovered and was out of the league by 1986.
1982 Baltimore Colts
The Colts owned the 2nd and 4th picks in the 1982 draft thanks to trading their QB, Bert Jones, to the LA Rams. With the 2nd pick, the Colts selected Mississippi State linebacker Johnie Cooks. Cooks had a decent career but nothing that ever lived up to the 2nd overall selection. He left the Colts for the NY Giants in 1988 and won a Super Bowl as a backup on the 1990 Giants before finishing his career in Cleveland in 1991.
With the 4th overall pick, they selected Ohio State QB Art Schlichter. If you don’t know the story of Schlichter, it’s a fascinating one. He had gambling issues in college that continued in the NFL. He tallied hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts that led to him being suspended for the entire 1983 season. At that point, the Colts knew his career was doomed and used the first overall pick in 1983 to select John Elway, who refused to play for the franchise and forced his way to the Denver Broncos.
1992 Indianapolis Colts
When you see the Colts twice on this list and how it turned out for them both times, you understand why Peyton Manning was considered the franchise savior when they drafted him in 1998. Not only did the Colts have two top five picks in 1992, they actually owned the first and second overall picks thanks to trading Chris Chandler to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a first round pick the previous season.
With the first overall pick, they drafted can’t miss defensive end Steve Emtman from Washington. Emtman was considered a special prospect finishing 4th in the Heisman as a defensive lineman and winning basically every other collegiate award possible. Shocking many, Emtman ended up being a bust. He spent 6 years in the NFL (3 with the Colts) and tallied a total of 8 sacks.
With the second overall pick, the Colts drafted Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt. Coryatt was a solid player for the Colts, although never spectacular. Injuries derailed the end of his career and he retired after the 1999 season.
1994 Indianapolis Colts
Hey, look, it’s the Colts again! Talk about a franchise that just never could get out of their own way for nearly two decades. In this draft, the Colts had the 2nd and 5th overall picks. At number two overall, they selected running back Marshall Faulk out of San Diego State. Hey, finally a big time selection! Faulk had a strong career for the Colts, but held out for a bigger contract in 1998. Bill Polian would have none of it and traded him to the St. Louis Rams for a 2nd and 5th round pick and of course Faulk was a key piece of the Greatest Show on Turf that won a Super Bowl.
With the 5th overall pick, they selected linebacker Trev Alberts from Nebraska. Alberts professional career amounted to nothing. He was out of the league after 3 years and went into college administration. He’s now the athletic director at his alma mater.
2000 Washington Football Team now known as the Commanders
In this draft, Washington owned the second and third overall pick thanks to Mike Ditka’s Ricky Williams trade previously and a trade up with the San Francisco 49ers.
With the second pick, Washington selected Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington. Arrington’s career got off to a great start, making three Pro Bowls and two second-team All Pros in his first four seasons. Arrington had contract issues due to his agent mishandling his contract that put him at odds with Washington. He also had knee injuries that impacted his productivity and a serious motorcycle accident ended his career after the 2006 season.
With the third pick, Washington selected Alabama tackle Chris Samuels. Samuels played 10 years in Washington and went to 6 Pro Bowls. Samuels had an excellent career and is part of the Commanders Ring of Fame.
2018 Cleveland Browns
The Browns held the first and fourth picks of the 2022 draft thanks to the Houston Texans trading up for Deshaun Watson in the 2017 draft.
With the first selection, the Browns selected Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield who’s career never panned out in Cleveland and is currently starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are already the fourth team he’s played for in his career.
With the fourth selection, they selected Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward has been very good with the Browns, he’s earned two Pro Bowl selections, has 65 career passes defended to go with 13 interceptions. Eighteen months ago, the Browns signed Ward to a $100 million contract extension.
2023 Houston Texans
This past season, the Texans had the second and third picks in the draft. They had the second pick thanks to Lovie Smith’s victory in the final week of the season and traded up from 12 with Arizona to land the third pick.
With the second pick, they selected Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud who is off to a great start and appears headed to becoming the top quarterback in the 2023 class.
With the third pick they selected Alabama edge Will Anderson. Anderson has only tallied one sack through the first five games of the season but is playing quite well. He’s already dialed up 24 pressures and has 20 tackles and is defending the run well also.
It’s way too early to call it a success, but the Texans work in the 2023 draft may end up being the best pair of top five picks in the entire Super Bowl era.