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5 Heisman winners who flopped in the NFL ft. Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and more

Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England Patriots
Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England Patriots
Steven Kubitza
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NFL teams are desperate to land their next big star every year in the NFL Draft.

But it does not always work out that way. College football is much different from the NFL and there are numerous examples of winners who ended up flopping in a major way at the next level.

These five Heisman Trophy winners just couldn't live up to the hype once they reached the NFL.

5 Heisman winners who flopped in the NFL

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp
Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp

#5 - Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow is a legend of the Florida Gators football program. He won the Heisman as a sophomore and was a finalist in each of the next two years before heading to the NFL.

There were clear concerns about his ability as a passer at the NFL level. Yet the Denver Broncos still drafted Tebow with the No. 25 overall pick in 2010.

Josh McDaniels was the fiery young head coach of the Broncos at the time and tied his fate to Tebow.

Tebow appeared in nine games as a rookie, throwing for five touchdowns and running for six. He then started 11 games in 2011 and even led the Broncos to a thrilling playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Would that win him the job? No, as the Broncos signed Peyton Manning and traded Tebow to the New York Jets.

He threw a total of eight passes in 2012 with the Jets and was released following the season. Tebow wanted to play quarterback and just couldn't be trusted as a passer.

Tim Tebow announced that he has been released by the Jaguars.He was attempting an NFL comeback playing tight end. https://t.co/H9lcXOOZAL

He got a shot as a tight end with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021 because of Urban Meyer being the head coach. The plan was confusing at the start, didn't pan out, and should be the end of Tebow's time in the NFL.

#4 - Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III won the Heisman in 2011 and was the No. 2 overall pick by Washington in the 2012 NFL Draft. He even made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

So what happened?

Griffin dealt with injuries as a rookie and just never seemed to be the same player following that. Washington famously drafted Kirk Cousins in the fourth round in 2012, seemingly as insurance in case Griffin did get injured.

Griffin gradually lost his starting role and officially lost it to Cousins in 2015. He was then put at the bottom of the depth chart and all the hype surrounding him faded into nothing.

The #Ravens have agreed to terms with former #Redskins and #Browns QB Robert Griffin III. He’s back.

The former No. 2 pick got a shot with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, but once again dealt with injuries and only appeared in a handful of games. He recently spent time as Lamar Jackson's backup in Baltimore, but his days as a starter peaked in 2012 with Washington.

St Louis Rams v Dallas Cowboys
St Louis Rams v Dallas Cowboys

5 Heisman winners who flopped in the NFL

#3 - Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall NFL pick in 2010 after winning the Heisman at Oklahoma in 2008. The St. Louis Rams drafted him with the expectation he would be their next franchise quarterback.

Bradford started all 16 games as a rookie, finishing with 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. Injuries held the former No. 1 pick to a total of six touchdowns in 2011, and he did bounce back the following season.

However, the Rams still only went 7-8-1.

Bradford did not get a second contract with the Rams and that right there represents a major flop. The best season of his career came in 2016 with Minnesota, but it still did not end in a playoff appearance.

His NFL career came to an ugly finish in 2018 as he was benched by the Arizona Cardinals in favor of Josh Rosen.

#2 - Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart won the Heisman in 2004 and decided to return in 2005 for another year at USC. He is a college football legend and was thus drafted No. 10 overall by the Cardinals in 2006.

Leinart was a top pick and finished his NFL career with 18 career starts. He was ultimately put on the bench behind Kurt Warner in Arizona as the veteran found a second wind out west.

8/14/06 – After holding out of training camp for 15 days, 10th overall pick (and presumed franchise QB) Matt Leinart and the Arizona Cardinals finally come to terms on a six-year, $51 million deal. Leinart, the 2004 Heisman winner at USC, would backup Kurt Warner in '06. #RedSea https://t.co/iEo6UcUJxv

The most starts Leinart made during the season were the 11 he had as a rookie in 2006. He managed to throw for 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Injuries derailed his chances of being the long-term answer in Arizona and he was released in 2010.

He made one more start, with the Houston Texans, before his career came to a close.

#1 - Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel was a superstar in the world of college football. He won the Heisman in 2012 and his stock never fell en route to the Cleveland Browns drafting him No. 22 overall in 2014.

Nine years ago today, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman.Johnny Football's freshman year was electric ⚡️ https://t.co/NDvXWOGST0

The pick was criticized from the start and Manzield did nothing to change that narrative in a dramatic, short-lived NFL career. He got a shot to start in 2015 and was eventually exiled after seemingly going to Las Vegas to party, while in disguise, when he was recovering from a concussion.

The situation was so bad the Browns decided to cut Manziel, a first-round pick, after two seasons. He has not appeared in an NFL game since and sits with eight career starts.

That is not what either side had in mind when he was taken in the first round.

It was a sad fall for someone who showed so much promise at the college level.

He also serves as a cautionary tale of how fast college fame can fade away in the NFL. Hopefully, future Heisman winners avoid any scenario similar to what Manziel presented once he became a professional.

Edited by LeRon Haire
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