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Players Impacted by the Heisman Trophy Curse

Anyone who has been a fan of college football knows of the Heisman Curse or the superstition that the winner of the Heisman Trophy won’t live up to their expected level of success in the NFL.

Players Impacted by the Heisman Trophy Curse
A general view of the Heisman Trophy | Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman in 2022, and though he will return for another year in 2023, NFL expert picks believe he will go No. 1 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Fans will have to wait another year to see if Williams suffers the fate of the curse, but the 2023 NFL season will bring an answer to former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s fate when he is expected to start for Carolina after he won the Heisman in 2021.

Though not all Heisman winners are impacted by the curse, as is the case with running back Derrick Henry and quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Cam Newton, many still struggled in the NFL after high expectations of winning the Heisman.

Ahead are five Heisman Trophy winners since 2010 who have been impacted by the Heisman curse.

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1. Robert Griffin III

Griffin won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and was drafted second overall by Washington in the 2012 NFL Draft. Though he started out strong, leading Washington to an NFC East title while winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, he suffered a knee injury in the playoffs that altered his future success.

Griffin eventually lost the starting job to Kirk Cousins in 2015 after continued struggles, and though he signed with Cleveland following that season, a shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the season, while he finished his final three seasons as a backup.

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2. Johnny Manziel

Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, but after a stellar college career that saw him break multiple NCAA records, he couldn’t cut it in the NFL.

Manziel was drafted 22nd overall by Cleveland in the 2014 NFL Draft, however, his off-field drama overshadowed the little success he had. The Browns released Manziel following the 2015 season, and after taking a two-year hiatus from football, he joined the Canadian Football League.

3. Jameis Winston

Winston became the next in line to suffer the Heisman Curse after winning the award in 2013, becoming the youngest player to do so in his freshman year. Winston returned to Florida State for his redshirt sophomore season. He declared for the NFL Draft after that season and was selected first overall by Tampa Bay in 2015.

Winston set multiple franchise rookie records as a rookie. However, he also led the league in interceptions, and the Buccaneers chose not to re-sign him following the expiration of his rookie contract. Winston was then signed to the Saints as a backup to Drew Brees, taking the starting job in 2021 before losing the job in 2022.

4. Marcus Mariota

The Heisman Curse continued to take its toll on quarterbacks the following year when 2014 winner Marcus Mariota was next in line of suffering. Mariota was drafted second overall by Tennessee in 2015, and though his NFL career looked promising, it took a turn.

After his rookie season, Mariota led the Titans to three consecutive winning seasons, however, he was replaced midway through the 2019 season by Ryan Tannehill. Mariota served as a backup for Las Vegas for the next two seasons before winning the starting job in Atlanta over rookie Desmond Ridder until the Falcons released him following the season. He has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup to Jalen Hurts for the 2023 season.

5. Baker Mayfield

It may be too early to tell if Mayfield has been totally impacted by the Heisman Curse after winning the award in 2017. Mayfield is on his fourth team and is trending in the right direction.

Mayfield was drafted first overall by Cleveland in 2018. He led the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002 in 2020. His time in Cleveland was short-lived, as inconsistent play in 2021 led to him being traded to Carolina in 2022. The Panthers released Mayfield late in the season, resulting in the Rams claiming him to finish out the season. He now has a one-year contract with Tampa, where he will compete for the starting job.

Whether fans are superstitious or believe in curses, there’s no denying some Heisman winners don’t quite live up to the expectations in the NFL. Young will be the latest to try to disprove the theory, and with many NFL odds on how he will do in his rookie season, bettors can get in on the action and make their thoughts known on the Heisman Curse by betting on NFL predictions.

Explore the latest college football lines and NCAA football odds at BetUS! Get in on the action and bet on your favorite college football teams.

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