Chargers Pick of Ryan Leaf Was Much More Costly Than Some People Think

Published on January 13th, 2024 2:12 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

NFL Draft Day gamble. Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers had the third overall pick in the draft.

The Chargers wanted one of two guys - Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf.

The Colts had the #1 overall pick and weren't willing to trade it to the Chargers.

The Chargers wanted to guarantee that they got either Leaf or Manning, so they agreed to a deal with the Arizona Cardinals, who had the #2 overall pick.


We don't need to rehash the history of Ryan Leaf in the NFL, as he is undoubtedly one of the biggest draft busts of all time.

What many people don't know, however, is that the Chargers also paid a bundle just to move from the #3 to #2 spot in the 1998 NFL Draft.

The Cardinals could have used a quarterback but they ultimately decided that there was more value in trading down to #3.

In exchange for giving the Chargers their #2 pick, the Cardinals received:

1. The #3 pick in the 1998 Draft, which ended up being Andre Wadsworth
2. The 1999 first round pick of the Chargers
3. The second round pick of the Chargers in the 1998 Draft
4. Eric Metcalf
5. Patrick Sapp

This was an absolute haul, and the Cardinals significantly improved their team by making the deal.

In fact, the Arizona Cardinals would make the playoffs in 1998, while the Chargers were putrid.


According to reports, the Colts' scouting staff were in favor of selecting Ryan Leaf first overall, while the coaches and executives wanted Peyton Manning. The latter group eventually won the argument.

If the Colts had listened to their scouting staff, the Chargers would have looked like geniuses for trading up to take Peyton Manning. Remember: the Chargers were happy taking either Leaf or Manning.

Instead, the Chargers made one of the worst trades in the history of the NFL.

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