The annual Heisman Trophy is the most coveted award in college football. First awarded to the best player in 1935, even casual football fans recognize the names of some Heisman Trophy winners, from current superstars like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, and Jameis Winston to NFL retirees like Roger Staubach, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, and Barry Sanders.
But what about the busts? BestOdds looked at every winner of college football’s most prestigious award since 1950 who sought to play professional football and ranked them based on Approximate Value scores, which provides a statistic used for comparison between both offensive and defensive football players. Ties were broken by the number of professional games played by the winners throughout their careers.
The Bottom 15 includes quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. Some left college early to reap NFL rewards—only to reap a fraction of their expected riches—and one didn’t play in the NFL until he was 27. Although too early to call, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith, may join the bottom ranks as well once the season ends. But none of these players fully lived up to their potential as Heisman Trophy winners once they reached the NFL.
Some were injured soon after college, but most simply didn’t perform as well as expected, or their coaches didn’t give them the opportunity to shine. They were heroes who became zeroes, at least in the eyes of their NFL teams’ fans. Almost all of these players pre-date betting on college football but one can imagine their fandom had they not.