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NFL Draft: How Heisman Winners Have Fared

Young Heavily Favored for No. 1 Pick

Since the 2010 NFL Draft, 13 of 14 Heisman Trophy winners were selected in the first round. Also, six Heisman winners were No. 1 overall picks since 2010. Quarterback Bryce Young of Alabama, who won the Heisman in 2021, is the NFL odds’ overwhelming favorite to be the top pick on Thursday night (-1600).

With NFL expert picks expecting Young to be the first name called, let’s look at how Heisman Trophy winners have fared in the NFL.

NFL Draft: How Heisman Winners Have Fared
Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide - Sean Gardner/Getty Images/afp

Most Heisman QBs Lack NFL Success

Former Heisman winners have gotten a bad rap in recent years. How can they not when players like Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Baker Mayfield were major disappointments? Could NFL predictions’ favorite for the top pick be doomed before he enters the league?

Heisman running backs have enjoyed the most success. This includes all-time greats like Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders. Ricky Williams, O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Eddie George and Derrick Henry are more notable names.

Quarterbacks have not enjoyed the same success. Only two Heisman QBs led the NFL in passing yards, and it has not happened since Johnny Lujack in 1949. Roger Staubach is easily the best Heisman quarterback in NFL history. Most consider Staubach a top 10 all-time QB. He put the Dallas Cowboys on the map, leading the franchise to two Super Bowls.

Jim Plunkett, Vinny Testaverde and Carson Palmer are the next best. Plunkett won two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP Award. Testaverde and Palmer lack postseason success but rank in the top 16 of career passing yards.

Most quarterbacks who won the Heisman end up being busts in the NFL. For example, Andre Ware is one of the biggest busts ever.

New Generation Shifting Perception?

While most Heisman quarterbacks have not turned out, recent top NFL picks give Young some hope. Since 2010, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow were selected No. 1 overall. Bradford, Winston and Mayfield did not turn out.

However, Newton won an MVP Award and led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. Murray struggled last season but is a two-time Pro Bowler in his four-year career. Burrow is one of the NFL’s top signal-callers right now. In fact, NFL lines have Burrow as one of the favorites to win MVP in the 2023-24 season. Lamar Jackson was also the last pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft. He is another success story as one of the league’s best playmakers and won MVP in 2019.

History tells us Heisman quarterbacks do not pan out at the next level. However, that trend could end with the new generation. Burrow, Jackson and Murray could help turn the tide. Will Young join their company as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL? Following the 2023 NFL Draft, Young could be the sportsbook’s favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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