The NFL Draft is an event that is nearly as big as actual NFL games. For weeks leading up to the draft reporters publish, edit and republish mock drafts projecting which college star will be taken by which NFL team.
We’ve got nearly 24 hours a day coverage of the draft leading up to the big night. There is on-air talent who has made entire careers about covering the draft. We’re looking at you, Mel Kiper. They’ll wax poetic about how this guy’s skills translate to his new teams’ schemes or how they don’t.
In the end, some guy behind a desk on the set of an ESPN show has no idea how a guy will do in the NFL. That’s determined by several factors including the player himself, the situation with the team he’s drafted to, and how healthy he stays.
Some players drafted at the top of their class flame out after a couple of seasons while others are drafted in those rounds that we don’t watch and stay in the league for a decade. This list is about both those groups. Flip through the list and see who made it.
Josh Rosen’s college career got off to a great start. He was named a Freshman All-American after his first season at UCLA. After that, his stock continued to rise but was often overshadowed by cross-town rival Sam Darnold at USC.
During the draft, he had his Aaron Rodgers moment as he slipped down to 10th and was the 4th quarterback chosen. He had a tough rookie season on a bad Arizona Cardinals team. Following that year came the Kliff Kingsbury hire and the Kyler Murray drama. Eventually, Rosen was shipped to the Dolphins, where he continued to play poorly in relief work. He now “plays” for the 49ers.
Every draft season there’s a quarterback from a school that no one saw play that makes a splash because he has all the prototypical NFL measurables. Sure, Lynch had a nice college career at Memphis, throwing for over 8,000 yards in his 3 years there, but The American is hardly a proving ground for wannabe NFL quarterbacks.
John Elway loves a quarterback that looks like him though. Big and strong, can probably throw through the wind at altitude. Well, it didn’t take long for the Broncos to realize their mistake. In two seasons Lynch played in just 5 games, mostly in meaningless games. He’s now technically a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dwayne Haskins had one hard-to-forget college season at Ohio State. Responsible for bridging the gap between JT Barrett and Justin Fields, Haskins put up record-breaking numbers for the Buckeyes before turning pro. Haskins won nearly every offensive award in the Big Ten and finished third in Heisman voting.
As it turns out, the redshirt sophomore probably should have stayed in school a bit longer. It seemed like a match made in heaven for a kid from suburban DC, but it was anything but. The Redskin franchise was in disarray, and Haskins proved to lack the maturity required to be a starter in the NFL. He was cut by the team after two seasons and signed with the Steelers this offseason.
In the last 10 years, Clemson has turned itself into one of the most important college football programs in the country. They produce as much talent as anybody else, so you’d think an ACC DPOY from Clemson would be a safe pick at #4.
Not so much. Clelin Ferrell was taken 4th overall by the Raiders in 2019 and hasn’t really produced much. In two NFL seasons, he’s totaled 65 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. For a defensive end, that’s not exactly setting the world on fire.
Solomon Thomas played two seasons at Stanford after redshirting his freshman year. He put up pretty good numbers and was named a third-Team All-American for his work his sophomore year. Heading into the draft, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 4th-best end available.
The 49ers clearly disagreed with that assessment and made him the second end taken at number 3. That gamble didn’t pay off as Thomas has just 6 sacks in 4 NFL seasons. The Niners set him free when they declined his 5th-year option. Thomas signed with Las Vegas this offseason.
Corey Coleman was one of the best wide receivers in the country during his junior season at Baylor. HE caught 74 passes for 1,363 and 20 touchdowns on his way to picking up the Biletnikoff Award and a consensus All-American selection.
Injuries stunted any sort of growth Coleman would have made during his time in Cleveland. He missed time with a broken hand twice in two seasons. When he finally got a chance to play, his most memorable moment was dropping a pass late in the fourth quarter that would have helped the Browns avoid an infamous 0-16 season. Since that fateful drop, Coleman has suited up for three different teams and is currently a free agent.
Doctson was a consensus All-American his senior year at TCU. He caught 70 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had scouts drooling with his performance at the NFL Combine, drawing immediate comparisons to Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ he was not. Doctson struggled with an Achilles injury that caused him to miss most of his rookie season. Once he finally made it onto the field he struggled to produce, never totaling more than 550 yards in a season. Now on his third team, Doctson has a total of 1,100 yards receiving.
N’Keal Henry was one of the few in-state kids to stay home in Arizona when he committed to Arizona State. He made his home state proud too, earning All-Conference honors twice and leaving the Sun Devils as one of their greatest wideouts in program history.
The NFL has been a different ballgame for Harry. Through two NFL seasons, Harry has recorded just 45 receptions for 414 yards. Harry missed most of his first season due to injury, and his second season was the Patriots’ first without Tom Brady in nearly 20 years. Harry’s got some work to do if he’s going to prove he’s a professional.
Brooklyn, New York is not the historic home for a high-quality SEC lineman, but that’s exactly where Georgia found Isaiah Wilson. He would go on to start 24 of the 25 games he was eligible for and earned a second-team All-SEC nod in his final season between the hedges.
The goal was for Isaiah Wilson to be plug-and-play on the Tennessee Titans offensive line. He was taken in the first round out of Georgia, a school known for producing quality hogmollys. However off-field issues earned Wilson multiple suspensions and eventually free agency after just one year.
The Florida Gators fancy themselves as a program that can produce elite defensive backs. Vernon Hargreaves was one of those, leaving The Swamp with 3 All-SEC selections and two First Team All-America selections.
Hargreaves was selected 11th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a native of Tampa, this must have been thrilling. However, being put on waivers by the team he grew up cheering for a few years later must have been a crushing blow. Hargreaves spent last season with the Texans where he recorded just his second career interception.
The Robert Nkemdiche hype train got rolling early in his career. ESPN named him “The Southeast’s best high school football prospect since the early 1980s.” Ok, pump the brakes ESPN. He had a fine college career at Ole Miss, picking up a second-team All-American honor after his senior season.
He failed to live up to the hype in the NFL too. In four NFL seasons, the end has recorded just 44 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. Those are not first-round pick numbers. According to the rest of the NFL, they aren’t NFL numbers as he’s been a free agent since 2019.
Trubisky had a nice college career at North Carolina. In his one year as a starter, Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns. Going into the draft, various experts had him ranked between the first and 4th best quarterbacks available.
Apparently, the Bears thought he was a talent they couldn’t risk missing so they traded up to get him. Now, Trubisky has been fine. He can’t really throw but he makes plays with his legs. The real tragedy here is drafted behind Trubisky were Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, two of the best quarterbacks in the league of the next decade. Trubisky will never be talked about like that and the Bears traded up to get him.
John Ross had a good senior season at Washington. He caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. But he blew people way when he ran a combine-record 4.22-second 40-yard dash ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft.
With the 9th overall pick, the Bengals made him the third wide receiver drafted. The numbers tell the story for Ross who has played in just 27 games in his 3-year career. He has a total of 49 receptions for 716 yards and 10 touchdowns. So much for all that speed. He’s going to try to revive his moribund carer in New York this coming season.
Billy Price was a good old-fashioned Midwestern offensive lineman at Ohio State. The Northeast Ohio native won everything there was to win for lineman his senior season in 2017. He was an All-American, the Big Ten Lineman of the Year, and won the Rimington Award for the country’s best center.
Price stayed in a state when he was drafted, traveling down I-71 to Cincinnati where the Bengals took him with the 21st overall pick. Injuries have stunted the progress of Price’s burgeoning career and he’s started in just 19 games in 3 seasons.
Roberto Aguayo was one of the greatest college kickers in the history of the game. Aguayo was so good that he skipped his senior season to enter the draft. As a sophomore, Aguayo won the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in the country.
Drafting a kicker is always risky business. Drafting a kicker in the 2nd round is just asking for it, even when he a local kid and one of the greatest college kickers of all time. Aguayo lasted just 1 season on an NFL roster, after finishing his rookie year with the worst field goal percentage in the league. He’s yet to make an NFL roster since.
Christian Hackenberg peaked in his freshman year of college. He broke all sorts of Penn State Freshman records, and then just sort of plateaued. Heading into the draft after his junior season, Hackenberg was rated as the 5th best quarterback available.
The Jets picked him up in the second round, ahead of future NFL starters Jacoby Brissett and Dak Prescott. It was all pretty much downhill from there. Hackenberg played in a few preseason games for the Jets but never saw the field in regular-season games in two seasons on their roster. He spent time on a few practice squads and a season in the AAF with the Memphis Express.
Rashaad Penny was a beast at San Diego State. He was a consensus All-American and led the nation in rushing his senior season.
Success has not come so easily for Penny in the NFL though. He’s rushed for just 789 yards in two seasons. You know it isn’t going well when the Seahawks bring in a 33-year-old (and formerly retired) Marshawn Lynch to boost their rushing offense Penny is still just 25 years old, but it seems like the league’s leaving him behind.
Rashan Gary came to Michigan to win things, and while he didn’t do that, he did pick up some pretty good individual honors along the way. Playing at both defensive end and outside linebacker, Gary earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Gary was taken by the Packers in the first round and said Gary would be an outside linebacker for them. He didn’t make the impact they were hoping for in his first season. He started 0 games and recorded just 21 tackles and 2 sacks. His second season wasn’t much better although he started 4 games. Gary recorded 5 sacks.
Andre Dillard is a monster who could have played at either of the bigger Pacific Northwest programs, but chose to play at Washington State because his dad played there. It worked out for Dillard as he started every game his junior and senior season and played his way into the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Imagine for a moment your prototypical NFL offensive tackle. He’s probably 6 and a half feet tall, about 330 pounds, right? That’s Andre Dillard. Throw in that he played in a Power 5 conference and you’ve got a first-round tackle on your hands. Unfortunately, Andre Dillard has had his young career marred by injury and he may never make good on all that potential.
There were a plethora of quarterbacks to draft in the 2018 NFL Draft and Sam Darnold was at the top of many people’s draft boards. He was highly successful at the quarterback factory that is the University of Southern California. Darnold threw for over 7,000 yards in two seasons as a starter.
Darnold has turned out to be one of the worst quarterbacks in his draft class, despite being given the most opportunity. Darnold became the youngest opening day starter in NFL history when the Jets put him under center for the season opener. After three dismal seasons in the Big Apple, the Jets have shipped Darnold to Carolina for a chance to restart his career.
10 Players who have overperformed
Dak Prescott was a stud in college. He led Mississippi State to heights they hadn’t seen in a long time, including the number 1 ranking at one point in the 2014 season. Prescott finished his Bulldogs career third in SEC history in total yards, fourth in total touchdowns, and holds 38 Mississippi State records.
Despite all that, Prescott wasn’t chosen until the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the 135th pick overall. The Cowboys should be thanking their lucky stars he dropped that far as they’ve found their franchise quarterback and heir to Tony Romo.
Tyreek Hill’s college resume doesn’t read like many of his fellow All-Pros. Due to off-field issues, Hill played football at three schools of varying levels before turning pro. And while his character may have been in question, his talent never was. While at Oklahoma State, Hill was a member of both the football team and the track team.
Not a lot of guys get drafted out of West Alabama, let alone make All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams. Tyreek Hill is different. The guy landed in the right spot for his talents to be successful and boy he sure has. The former 5th round pick has been named to 5 Pro Bowls, is a 3-time All-Pro, and was named to the NFL’s 2010 All-Decades Team.
Just a few years ago, George Kittle was the 146th overall pick in the draft. It’s utterly amazing that Kittle is considered one of the best players in the NFL. On the other hand, he’s a tight end from Iowa, so we shouldn’t be all that surprised at his success.
To be fair, Kittle put up modest numbers as a rookie, only to set an NFL record for the most receiving yards by a tight end in 2018. Since then he’s gone on to become one of the most productive tight ends in the league despite playing in a run-heavy offense.
Ask anyone in the DMV and they’ll tell you that the University of Maryland is a basketball school. Despite that, there is some incredible football talent coming out of the area, Stefon Diggs included. Diggs was a second-team All-Big Ten performer at Maryland before turning pro.
The Vikings took a chance on Diggs. He was a 5th round pick from a basketball school. He’d done alright at Maryland, but nobody expected him to make the All-Rookie team. 5 years later he’s leading the league in receiving for the Bills and making the Pro Bowl.
Ask any Ohio State fan and they’ll tell you that Terry McLaurin was criminally underrated by the NFL. At Ohio State, he was one of those guys who didn’t put up gaudy numbers but you could count on him on every single play.
McLaurin was selected by the Washington Football Team in the 3rd round of the 2019 Draft and immediately started overperforming considering the chaos going on around him. Despite a mid-season coaching change, countless starting quarterbacks, McLaurin made the All-Rookie Team and has put up over 2,000 yards receiving in two NFL seasons.
At first glance, you might think Darius Leonard is an SEC blue blood alum of South Carolina, but you’d have read his Wikipedia page wrong. Darius Leonard is a product of South Carolina State, an HBCU and member of the MEAC.
Despite his lack of top-level college experience, Leonard was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and has been named All-Pro in all three seasons of professional football with the Colts. Unbelievably, Leonard led the NFL in tackles his rookie year.
Jimmy G may have the Hollywood good looks of a USC quarterback, but he played his college ball significant east of LA. Garoppolo is an Eastern Illinois Panther. He was prolific at the FBS level, winning the Walter Payton Award for best player in the subdivision.
The Patriots, long known for the talent acquisition prowess, drafted Garoppolo late in the second round, yet it appears as though he may have first-round talent. It remains to be seen whether the chiseled jaw of Jimmy G will lead the Niners to glory or not.
Kareem Hunt is a former star of mid-week MAC-tion. Yes, during his college days, you could find the Toledo product doing his thing on Wednesdays and Thursdays instead of the bright lights of Saturday nights. He was one of the best thought, making the All-MAC team twice.
Hunt was drafted in the third round by the Chiefs and immediately took the league by storm. During his rookie season, Hunt was the Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl. He’s now in Cleveland as part of the Browns 1-2 punch with Nick Chubb.
For most non-Power 5 college football players, things like the East-West Shrine Game are important opportunities to show off for NFL scouts. Unfortunately, Judon missed out on that due to injury. The former Grand Valley State player fell to the 146th pick and the Ravens.
Turns out the Ravens got a steal as he made two Pro Bowls with them before signing a free-agent deal with the Patriots this offseason. In four NFL seasons, Judon has 236 tackles and 34.5 sacks. Talk about overperforming.
If you’re a knowledgeable college football fan then you know that some schools specialize in putting up big numbers through the air. Texas Tech is one of those. As of a few years ago, Tech had yet to produce an NFL quality quarterback despite that. Pat Mahomes changed everything.
Yes, Mahomes was the 10th overall pick but he has severely outplayed any draft position that isn’t #1 overall. Even if he quit football today, Mahomes is likely a Hall of Famer. That’s how good he’s been in his 3 seasons as a starting quarterback. Unless you’re drafted at number 1, you’re overperforming.