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NFL Rams quarterback Sam Bradford

5 NFL QBs who never lived up to the hype 

Almost every NFL quarterback prospect comes with a certain amount of risk, but some of them get so hyped that they get labeled as a "can't miss" propsect. These players almost always get selected toward the top of the NFL Draft the year they come out of college because of the importance that quarterbacks have on the future of a franchise.


While, sometimes, these hyped-up quarterbacks go on to become NFL legends, it doesn't always work out that way. The "can't miss" title doesn't always live up to its name as some of the prospects labeled with it go on to fail. Here are five quarterbacks who never lived up to their extremely high expectations.


Hyped NFL QBs who failed to meet expectations


#1 - Ryan Leaf

San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf

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Ryan Leaf is one of the most infamous players in NFL history to be labeled a bust because of how highly he was rated as a prospect. He shared a draft class with the legendary Peyton Manning, and many scouts believed Leaf was the better quarterback. When the Indianapolis Colts selected Manning, instead of Leaf, with the first overall pick, most thought it was the wrong choice.

Former NFL QB Ryan Leaf tells @CartonRoberts how being labeled a "bust" affected his mental health on.sny.tv/kt7qaYa

Turns out the Colts couldn't have been more right. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest of all time, winning five NFL MVP awards and two Super Bowl rings, while Leaf lasted just 18 games. He has a 4-14 record with 36 interceptions.


#2 - Akili Smith

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Akili Smith

Akili Smith was considered an extremely special talent when coming out of college. His elite athelticism and style of play was supposed to usher in the next generation of quarterbacks.

Throwback: The day we upset UW and the nation realized that @akili_smith was the truth.

UO vs. UW 1997

Look at the footwork.

While mobility became a desired trait for teams in search of a quarterback, Akili Smith never worked out the way the Cincinnati Bengals had hoped when they drafted him third overall. He has won just three of his 18 starts while throwing just five touchdowns and 13 interceptions.


NFL QBs who never lived up to their high expectations

#3 - Cade McNown

Chicago Bears quarterback Cade McNown

The Chicago Bears have notoriously struggled to find a legitimate franchise quarterback throughout the majority of their long history. The Bears are one of the most legendary teams in NFL history for many reasons, but quarterbacks haven't been one of them.


The Bears thought they had found themselves an elite prospect when they drafted Cade McNown. He had all of the tools that teams looked for in a franchise quarterback, but for whatever reason he never blossomed. He lasted just two years with the Bears and posted a 3-12 record before being cut. He never started another game in his career.

#4 - Joey Harrington

Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington

Joey Harrington was a highly-rated quarterback prospect when the Detroit Lions selected him with with their third-overall draft pick. He was mainly their starting quarterback for four consecutive seasons, but failed to show any consistency. He posted a 18-37 record with 60 touchdowns and 62 interceptions.

Oregon - 2002 Fiesta Bowl Throwback

#2 Oregon was controversially left out of the BCS National Title, placing them in the Fiesta Bowl against #3 Colorado

Joey Harrington and the Ducks dominated the Buffs 38-16. Harrington threw for 350 yards & 4 TDs

Harrington was so talented that, despite his failed run with the Lions, two other teams gave him a shot after that as well. He started 21 games split between the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, recording a 8-13 record with 19 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Despite many chances, he never lived up to his potential.


#5 - Sam Bradford

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford was selected as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams after winning the Heisman Trophy for his outstanding performance in college football. While his overall career as a quarterback wasn't as bad as some of the other names on this list, he failed to meet the huge expectations of being the number one overall pick.


Most labeled Bradford a "can't miss" prospect coming out of college and almost everyone expected him to find great success. He jumped around and started with four different teams during his career. His overall production was uninspiring. He finished with a 34-48-1 record across eight mediocre seasons while failing to ever reach his true potential, despite receiving every opportunity to do so.

Edited by
Windy Goodloe
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