We’re in the midst another golden age of Heisman Trophy winners and the NFL draft, with seven of the last have gone in the first round and five in a row.
Should Johnny Football go, as expected, in the first 32 picks on Thursday night, this current streak would tie 1952-57 for the second longest streak in draft history, trailing only 1972-81, which saw Heisman nine straight recipients go in Round 1.
Manziel’s NFL future, along with that of last year’s winner, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, have yet to be written. But the 76 men before them have provided highs, including eight Hall of Famers, and plenty of flameouts. Here is a look at the 10 best and 10 worst selections of Heisman winners, since the award’s inception in 1935, one year before the first NFL draft.
He’s just three years into his NFL career, but Newton is already a two-time Pro Bowler and holds the single-season record for most rushing touchdowns by a QB with 14 in 2011. He’s the gold standard for the modern Heisman-winning QB at the next level.
The first primary defensive winner in the award’s history, Woodson has made eight Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro teams, been a NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009) and he has a Super Bowl ring. At 37 and entering his 17th season, he’s a lock to earn a spot in Canton.
Arguably the greatest running back in NFL history, Sanders is third on the all-time rushing list with 15,269 yards, and likely would have finished higher had he he not abruptly retired at 31. Inducted into the HOF in ’04, he made 10 Pro Bowls and was a four-time single-season rushing champ.
The college game’s first 2,000-yard rusher, Allen was the NFL’s first player to have more than 10,000 yards on the ground and 5,000 receiving and at the time of his retirement in 1997, the future Hall of Famer had the single-season record rushing and receiving yards (2,314).
The poster boy for the tearaway jersey era, thanks to this run, Campbell was among the game’s most devastating runners in a relatively short career that saw him carry 2,187 times in 115 games. He made five Pro Bowls, a league MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in ’91.
Dorsett burst onto the NFL scene and produced eight 1,000-yard seasons in eight of his first nine years and became the first player to win a college national title one year and the Super Bowl the next. He also delivered one of the NFL’s seminal plays with his 99-yard TD run against the Vikings on Monday Night Football in 1983.
Before the trial, before the gigs as an actor or analyst, he was the NFL’s first 2,000-yard rusher. Simpson was also the fastest players to 1,000 yards in a season and the fastest to 2,000. He also led the league in rushing four times en route to be a six-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro and a Hall of Famer.
Picked a year before his college eligibility was over, Staubach wouldn’t begin playing until 1969 due to his military commitment. While he didn’t start his pro career until age 27, Staubach would turn into one of the biggest draft bargains for a Heisman winner, making six Pro Bowl teams, winning two Super Bowls and he earned an MVP and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
He holds the distinction of being the only player to win the Heisman on a losing team, but another oddity was that while Hornung won the stiff-armed trophy as a quarterback, he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a running back. Hornung was a two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro and holds the record for most games with 30-plus points, with two.
Drafted by the Boston Yanks, the Lions acquired Walker’s draft rights in 1950 and he went on to become Rookie of the Year that season. In a six-year career he was a five-time Pro Bowl pick, an All-Pro four times and led the NFL in scoring twice. At the time of his retirement, he rattled off his accomplishments to the ‘Detroit News’ and asked, "What else was there to do?"
He’s one of the greatest college players of all time and while his three-year NFL career had its highs — namely a playoff victory in the 2011 season and the advent of Tebowing — history is going to see it as a bust considering the Broncos traded up to take Tebow in the first round. Traded to the Jets in ’12, Tebow attempted eight passes and is now headed to your TV screen on the SEC Network.
Leinart seemed NFL-ready while leading USC to back-to-back national titles, but his first season he threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (11). He threw 20 picks in 29 games for the Cardinals before a stint with the Texans and now the Raiders As of this writing, he has yet to find a home for 2014.
It wasn’t that Dayne was a bad NFL back, totaling 3,722 yards over seven seasons and he ran for 770 yards and five scores his first year in helping the Giants reach Super Bowl XXXV. But he never truly lived up to the hype that surrounded him as the college game’s all-time leading rusher. His carries diminished with the Giants and after a forgettable year in Denver, he ended with two solid years in Houston. Expected stardom simply never happened in the NFL for Dayne.
Salaam got off to a strong start, rushing for 1,074 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie, but he also fumbled nine times and the next two seasons would see him run for 496 yards and three scores, then 112 yards and zero TDs. He attempted a comeback with the Browns in ’99 and played i two games with one rushing attempt.
He won the Heisman after setting a slew of records at Houston as a junior, but never produced in in the NFL, starting six games in four years and throwing for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns to eight interceptions. Trying to resurrect his career in the CFL didn’t go any better as he wrapped things up with a Grey Cup win that came with him on the bench in favor of Doug Flutie.
Sullivan spent four years largely as a backup, making just four starts and he completed 42 percent of his passes in throwing for five TDs and 16 picks. He left the NFL in 1977 to work in insurance and as a tire company exec. Considering what the Auburn product would wind up doing in a Falcons uniform, at least Atlanta didn’t take him the first round.
Griffin has a spot all his own in college football’s Parthenon as the only two-time Heisman winner, but his NFL resume was totally forgettable. He had just seven total TDs in seven seasons, went four years without ever recording a rushing score and never led the Bengals in rushing. His one saving grace was his pass-catching as he averaged 8.4 yards per catch out of the backfield.
Picked by the Rams, who dealt him to the Redskins shortly after the draft for a future first-rounder, all this despite the fact that Washington had future HOFer Sonny Jurgensen at QB. Beban never started in the NFL, appearing in five games and he attempted one pass, ran five times and caught one pass. He retired after two years.
Picked by the Jets, who had already picked Joe Namath in the first round, Huarte was let go before ever taking a snap in New York. He lasted seven years in a career that spanned four cities, but made just one start in throwing for 230 yards, five INTs and one TD.
After just 19 pass attempts with four interceptions and zero TDs as a rookie, the Rams tried to convert Baker to running back. That didn’t work either, as he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and had one score in 58 rushes. He spent 1966 with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos before leaving football to become a lawyer.