20 College Football Stars Who Disappointed in the NFL
Since the first NFL draft in 1936, scouts and sports analysts have had the unenviable task of finding a college player with the right physical and mental propensity to thrive in the NFL’s demanding environment. Over the years, many names from college football have been put on a pedestal and proclaimed only to become total disappointments in the NFL ultimately.
Sadly, these 20 former college football stars serve as notable examples of players who were projected to accomplish great things in the NFL but turned out to be complete busts. Whether their failure resulted from poor play, chronic injuries or offensive off-field behavior, they represent the fleeting nature of athletic success.
1. Ronald Jones – Drafted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming from a successful season at USC where he produced 19 touchdowns and an average of 5.9 yards-per-carry, a lot was expected from Jones. The running back was however relegated to special team duties after failing to impress early into his rookie year, and despite his youth, a burst tag is fitting.
2. Dominique Easley – Drafted by New England Patriots
The Patriots drafted Easley as the 29th pick in 2014, but his durability has made him a liability since. Even after signing with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016 and switching to a new position, he hasn’t been any good during the few times he has been on the field during the three years.
3. Sam Bradford – Drafted by St. Louis Rams
The former University of Oklahoma star, the first overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft and 2010 offensive rookie of the year is the perfect example of immense talent with a body not cut out for the NFL. Injuries and inconsistencies throughout his NFL career have since dimmed his once-bright future in the game.
4. Greg Hardy – Drafted by Carolina Panthers
Greg played college football for the Ole Miss before the Carolina Panthers drafted him in 2010 followed by a stint with the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 season. His NFL career though accusations of domestic violence and misconduct shrouded stellar.
5. Tim Tebow – Drafted by Denver Broncos
The former quarterback won many accolades with the Florida Gators including the Heisman Trophy but did not have what it takes to succeed in the NFL. His inaccuracy as a passer contributed largely to his flopping out of the Denver Broncos and other NFL teams.
6. Johnny Manziel – Drafted by Cleveland Browns
The only freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, Manziel was drafted by the Cleaveland Browns as the 22nd overall in 2014. His recurring off-field transgressions coupled with a lack of commitment ended his disastrous NFL career after two short years.
7. Barkevious Mingo – Drafted by Cleveland Browns
The former LSU star had draft analysts salivating at the prospect of signing him for his potential as a top future pass rusher. No sooner was he drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2013 than his success prospects dwindled dramatically. His move to the Seahawks in 2018 may have saved his career.
8. Geno Smith – Drafted by New York Jets
Geno Smith was a star in his college days, but the NFL may only remember him as the guy who briefly replaced Eli Manning as a starter for the New York Giants in 2017, in a move that got the head coach fired. His passing inaccuracy caught up with him during his rookie year and defined the rest of his career as a burst.
9. Derek Sherrod – Drafted by Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers drafted the former Mississippi State Bulldog in 2011 but sadly did not live up to his potential thanks to a broken leg in his rookie year. It took him the entire 2012 season to recover but failed to impress upon his return. He later moved to the Kansas City Chiefs but was cut after one year.
10. Morris Claiborne – Drafted by Dallas Cowboys
Morris Claiborne was named the best defensive back in the country while playing college football for Louisiana State University and was subsequently drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. He endured an injury-plagued five-year spell with the Cowboys before moving on to the New York Jets in 2017 on a one year deal.
11. Jake Locker – Drafted by Tennessee Titans
Faith and family may have made Jake Locker retire after just four years in the league, but he was already a bust in the NFL. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans after an outstanding record with the Washington Huskies but failed to meet expectations due to recurring injuries and spotty performances.
12. Ereck Flowers – Drafted by New York Giants
Following an impressive campaign at the college football level, the New York Giants were convinced that Flowers would bolster their offensive line for years to come. He did not fail to disappoint, getting worse with every season. They had to release him in October 2018.
13. Malik McDowell – Drafted by Seattle Seahawks
Defensive Tackle Malik McDowell became the highest drafted player in the history of the Seattle Seahawks never to play a down for them when the team officially released him on March 2019. The promising talent from Michigan State University got into an ATV accident the summer he was drafted and did not feature in any Seahawk game until his release.
14. Robert Griffin III – Drafted by Washington Redskins
RG3 is yet another example of a college football star whose body betrayed him in the NFL. He was named 2012 Offensive Rookie of the year, but his momentum took a hard turn after he suffered ACL and LCL injuries. He later moved on to playing for Baltimore Ravens as the backup QB.
15. Trent Richardson – Drafted by Cleveland Browns
The former Alabama Crimsons legend turned Cleveland Browns top draft pick could be justified if he blamed Brown’s betrayal for his burst career. Despite his impressive rookie season, he was unexpectedly traded to the Colts a move that sent his life and a once-promising career on a downward spiral.
16. Eric Ebron – Drafted by Detroit Lions
Eric Ebron may have found his revival with the Colts, but he remains a disappointing draft pick for the Detroit Lions whose fans are still sore that he was picked instead of Aaron Donald. The Lions dropped him when they felt that he didn’t do enough to earn his salary, but this move saved his failing career.
17. Dion Jordan – Drafted by Miami Dolphins
The third overall pick in 2013, Dion Jordan, turned out to be the worst draft choice in the Dolphins’ history. The defensive end only started a single game across two seasons due to multiple league violations and failed a team physical which got him dismissed in 2017.
18. Jon Baldwin – Drafted by Kansas City Chiefs
Before the Chiefs drafted Baldwin in 2011, he was already anointed as the full package coming from a successful stint at the University of Pittsburgh football team. The hype did not last long. Baldwin was soon traded to the San Francisco 49ers before moving to the Detroit Lions where he was waived almost immediately.
19. Colt McCoy – Drafted by Cleveland Browns
McCoy enjoyed a prosperous four seasons as a Texas Longhorn quarterback. He had the talent and work ethic, but this proved insufficient in the NFL. He was underwhelming from the start, and it became clear that the third round pick was destined to be a career backup.
20. Mike Williams – Drafted by Los Angeles Chargers
An average of 15.4 yards per catch with Clemson may have got Williams drafted No. 7 overall, but a string of injuries have derailed what ought to have been a dazzling rookie season with the chargers. Labeling him a bust may be somewhat harsh, but Williams has to prove himself and live up to his hype.