50 Top College Football Quarterbacks Who Didn't Pan out as Pros
This is not your typical list of NFL draft busts.
Some of the quarterbacks on this list could be considered busts, but it's really more about success in college as opposed to level of success in the NFL.
For instance, Eric Crouch, while a superb talent for Nebraska a the collegiate level, could not hang around the NFL for a significant amount of time.
The guys on this list were talented college stars, many of them Heisman winners or the best at their position, and yet just did not succeed at the next level.
50. J. P. Losman
Losman was the final quarterback taken in the first round of the 2004 draft, behind Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.
Buffalo picked Losman with their second pick of the first round.
Sadly for Buffalo fans hoping for the second coming of Jim Kelly, Losman couldn't cut it, as he's become a perennial back-up around the NFL and UFL.
Not the place you hope a first-round pick will wind up.
49. David Greene
Remember this guy?
He played at Georgia from 2001-2004, and led the Dawgs to their first SEC title since 1982.
When he left the program, he held the NCAA record for most career wins, a not-too-shabby feat.
He was a solid quarterback that performed at a high level in college, but he could not hack it in the NFL.
He was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft—but was out of football by 2008.
48. Graham Harrell
Harrell was the first NCAA player to post consecutive 5,000-yard passing seasons, and he tied Colt Brennan's mark for career touchdowns with 147.
That's roughly 147 more than he has thrown in the NFL.
He has spent his entire brief career with the Packers in the shadows, never setting foot on the field.
47. Pat White
White had a phenomenal season at West Virginia, including a stellar performance in a victory over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
He is the only quarterback in history to start and win four bowl games in his career, and when he headed to the NFL, he held the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback.
And yet, after just one season with Miami, he was cut, then cut from a UFL team.
He subsequently headed to the Kansas City Royals farm system to play baseball, but retired in 2011.
46. Drew Henson
Given the Big Ten's recent ineptitude against the SEC, Henson had to be given some consideration for this list.
He led the Wolverines to three wins over SEC foes in bowl games, and tied a school record during his time with the Wolverines with four passing touchdowns in a game against Northwestern.
He then went on to play baseball from 1998-2002.
He came back to the pigskin in 2004, bouncing around the league as a back-up, and even serving a stint in NFL Europe.
One wonders what might have been had he stuck with football.
45. Byron Leftwich
Leftwich was drafted seventh in the 2003 draft by the quarterback-needy Jacksonville Jaguars.
They are still quarterback needy, but that's another story.
Leftwich was not mobile and took forever to throw the ball, but he was a big, strong guy, so he was considered a good bet.
Not so much.
He is an injury plagued back-up, who did manage to win a Super Bowl ring with Pittsburgh, but his career is extremely disappointing for someone drafted in the top 10.
44. Chad Pennington
Pennington was not a "bust" as the term is usually used, but he has definitely been a disappointment, through no fault of his own.
He was drafted in the first round of the 2000 draft by the Jets, and became the starter in 2002, leading the team to the playoffs.
However, since then, the poor guy has suffered an inordinate amount of injuries, and he never quite lived up to the potential due to his health.
Of course, it's hard to knock the most accurate quarterback in the history of the game, but when you consider the way Pennington's career should have gone and where he is now, it's a definite letdown.
43. Brady Quinn
Quinn's fall from one of the best in college to backup was particularly fast.
After being drafted in the first round by Cleveland in 2007, he found himself backing up Tim Tebow in Denver last season.
For a man who set over 30 school records in his time at Notre Dame, Quinn's career has, thus far, been less than expected.
42. Gary Beban
Beban was a great ballplayer for UCLA in the '60s, actually winning the Heisman in 1967 over O.J. Simpson.
He was drafted in the second round of the 1968 draft but never got a chance to prove himself, languishing in the shadow of Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen for four years as his back-up.
41. Steve Spurrier
Before he was the "Ol' Ball Coach," Spurrier was a two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida.
He was drafted by San Fransisco in the first round of the 1967 draft, and hung around with the franchise for nine seasons as a punter and back-up quarterback.
A far cry from hoisting that trophy.
40. David Klingler
Houston seems to have one of these guys every so often (see Case Keenum, 2011) and NFL teams never seem to figure out the trend.
Klingler was incredibly good against the level of competition the Cougars faced, managing such feats as 730 yards and eleven touchdowns in one game.
Cincinnati fell for his huge numbers, drafting him with the sixth pick in the 1992 draft.
He lasted only five years in the NFL.
39. Chuck Long
Long was the best quarterback in the history of Iowa football, and carried him tons of hardware following his senior season, including Big Ten Player of the Year, the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards, and finishing second in Heisman balloting.
He was the 12th pick of the 1986 draft, going to Detroit, and hung around the league for only five seasons.
In his best season, 1987, he finished with 2,598 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, but threw 20 interceptions, and never lived up to the potential he displayed at the college level.
38. Alex Smith
You can argue this all you want, but Alex Smith has not had a successful career as an NFL quarterback, especially for being the No. 1 overall pick.
Injury has plagued his career thus far, as has ineptitude in the front office, so it's still too early to label him a bust, but to this point he has not lived up to what is expected from a top draft pick.
37. Steve Fuller
Fuller was drafted in the first round out of Clemson by Kansas City.
It turned out that he was not quite ready for life as a starter, and he wound up with the Bears as a back-up for several seasons.
His claim to fame is the gold record he received for his performance in the Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle."
36. Todd Marinovich
This was more an issue of not really getting to take his own shot than it was of anything else.
From an incredibly early age, Marinovich was prepared by his father to be a quarterback.
After an up and down college career at USC due to coaching, drug use and pressure, Marinovich was drafted by Oakland in the first round of the 1991 NFL draft.
Drafting him that high was questionable, but draft him they did—and they quickly came to regret it.
After three failed drug tests, his NFL career was over.
He has since moved on and opened an online art gallery.
35. Todd Blackledge
Todd Blackledge won the Davey O'Brien Award in 1982, and led Penn State to a national title that same season.
He had a great career for Joe Paterno, going 31-5 as a starter in Happy Valley.
He was picked seventh in the 1983 draft, the same draft that featured John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
The Chiefs picked him up, behind only Elway of the three guys listed, but that didn't pan out.
You know him better for his off-field analysis than for his on-field exploits.
34. Akili Smith
Smith rocketed up draft boards in an unexpected development during the 1998 season.
After two years at Grossmont College, a junior college, he transferred to Oregon for his final season.
In that season he threw 32 touchdowns in just 11 starts for the Ducks.
The Bengals were foolish enough to believe that success would be sustained, and drafted Smith third in the 1999 draft.
Smith's inability to grasp a playbook and accuracy issues led to his departure from the league in 2005.
33. Jim Druckenmiller
Druckenmiller was a disaster for the 49ers.
They drafted him out of Virginia Tech in 1999, 26th overall, with the hopes that this kid with a cannon could take over for Steve Young.
Unfortunately, Druckenmiller could not master the concept of accuracy, and his years in the NFL were about as brief as butter in a hot pan.
After two years with the Niners, they sent him to Miami, who released him the same season they signed him.
32. Dan McGwire
McGwire was a big dude, standing 6'8".
He played college ball for two years at Iowa before transferring to San Diego State, where he put up huge numbers.
The Seahawks drafted him 16th overall in the 1991 draft, well ahead of some guy named Favre, expecting that he would duplicate the level of production that he demonstrated in his final college season.
It was not to be, as McGwire struggled, and Seattle had to pursue another quarterback option just two seasons later.
31. Pat Sullivan
Before Cam Newton came along, Pat Sullivan was the best quarterback Auburn had ever seen.
He won the Heisman in his final season with the Tigers, and went on to be drafted in the second round of the 1972 draft by Atlanta.
After garnering 16 interceptions and five touchdowns for his career, he hung up the NFL cleats.
30. Mike Phipps
Anybody remember Paul Warfield?
He eventually became a Hall of Famer as one of the most explosive wide receivers of all time, averaging over 20 yards per catch for his career.
The Browns traded Warfield for the third pick in the 1970 draft to take Phipps.
He played until 1981, but finished with an ugly 55-108 touchdown to interception ratio.
29. Kelly Stouffer
After a solid collegiate career at Colorado State, Stouffer was drafted sixth overall in the 1987 draft by St. Louis.
He refused to sign his contract in his rookie season, sat it out, and was thereafter shipped to Seattle.
He rose to the height of his career when he took over the starting job in Seattle following injuries to Dave Krieg and Jeff Kemp.
Over the course of the next few years, he dropped down the depth chart, back to third string.
28. Jerry Tagge
Even the Packers screwed up at times.
Tagge was drafted 11th in the 1972 draft by Green Bay, but only lasted three seasons.
He is best known for playing quarterback for Nebraska and winning consecutive titles in Lincoln.
That success ended in the NFL, where he just couldn't hang.
27. Lee Grosscup
Grosscup was a solid college football quarterback, first with Washington and then with Utah.
He was drafted by the Giants with the 10th pick of the 1959 draft.
He wound up playing at numerous locales in his five-year professional football career.
26. Shane Matthews
Shane Matthews is the perfect example of a knock around quarterback who couldn't get a starting job.
After a solid career at Florida for Steve Spurrier's Gators, Matthews was drafted by the Bears in 1993.
He did not see the field for a regular season game until 1996.
He then floated around the league, retiring once in 2005, but came back in 2006 only to retire for the last time in 2007.
25. Tim Couch
Couch set several NCAA records during his time at Kentucky, including most completions in a season and highest career completion percentage.
Sadly, that success never translated to the NFL.
When Cleveland drafted him as their first pick in the 1999 draft, it was hoped that he would be the foundation upon which the franchise could be built.
It was not to be, as he suffered from poor blocking and injury, and was out of the NFL by 2008.
24. Heath Shuler
Shuler is behind only Peyton Manning as the most prolific passer in Tennessee history.
That he was replaced after two seasons by Gus Frerotte in Washington says much about his level of play in the NFL.
For a guy taken third in the draft, he struggled mightily, and never quite hit his stride, falling prey to injury and the inability to make an accurate pass when needed.
He has gone on to a successful career as a politician.
23. Colt Brennan
Brennan was a product of June Jones' system at Hawaii, but he put up some big numbers.
He holds the record for most 400 yards games, as well as most touchdown passes in a season.
And yet, he did not get drafted until the sixth round by Washington in the 2008 draft, and is currently playing in the CFL.
22. Tim Tebow
There are few figures as controversial and polarizing as this guy.
Don't get me wrong, I like Tebow, admire his work ethic and strong faith, and think we need more role models like him in our society.
That said, for a guy who won a Heisman and two national titles with Florida, he sure has a hard time completing a pass in the NFL.
And if we are totally honest, Tebow and the Broncos benefited more from a solid defense and opponent miscues (see Chicago game) than from Tebow's indomitable will to win.
I suppose the rest of his story is yet to be written, but to this point, Tebow's career has not been that great as a pro.
21. Rich Campbell
Campbell played for Cal from 1977-1980.
Following his senior season, the Packers drafted him to start in place of the injury prone Lynn Dickey.
Campbell did not have the tools necessary to hang in the NFL, and after four abysmal seasons was let go by the Packers, and never played for another team.
What a waste of the sixth pick.
20. Gino Torretta
Torreta is a guy who slipped down the draft boards and wound up going in the seventh round.
His NFL career was less than a blip on the radar, as he barely ever saw the field in his five-year career.
After a Heisman winning, national championship career at Miami, this was a major step backward.
19. Rick Mirer
This is the guy, that when he left Notre Dame, held school records for most career touchdowns.
Mirer was the second pick of the 1993 draft, taken by the Seahawks to fill the void left by the ineffectiveness of Dan McGwire.
He set rookie records for attempts completions and yards, but quickly flamed out.
His numbers got progressively worse, and he could not keep the interceptions to a minimum, finishing with 76 interceptions to go with just 50 touchdowns.
18. Ty Detmer
Detmer was not a "bust" in the traditional sense of the word, as NFL scouts saw his issues coming and he dropped down to the ninth round.
However, the man left college at BYU with 59 NCAA records, a Heisman Trophy and all kinds of accolades.
Sadly for him and the Packers, who drafted him, he just wasn't that great in the NFL.
17. Jeff George
Jeff George was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1990 draft.
The Colts drafted him with the expectation that he would lead them to the promised land.
George managed to get himself traded to Atlanta after four years, and bounced around the league after that.
His irascible nature made it difficult for him to get along with just about any coaching staff, and in spite of a 16-year career, he never lived up to the potential in college or the pros that he showed in high school.
16. Terry Baker
Baker won the Heisman for Oregon State back in 1962, becoming the first player from a school west of the Mississippi to do so.
Drafted by the Rams as the first pick of the 1963 draft, Baker suffered from a case of progressiveness.
As a dual threat, he was ahead of his time, and just did not fit into the Rams' offense.
15. Rex Grossman
Grossman sometimes gets a worse rap than he deserves.
As a somewhat undersized quarterback with questionable accuracy, he was not expected to be a world-beater.
Yet, somehow, we call him a bust for being mediocre.
I guess being drafted in the first round does that to you.
While he has shown some potential, particularly in the year he took the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, Grossman throws too many passes to the waiting arms of defenders to ever be a good NFL quarterback.
At best, he is a disappointment.
14. Eric Crouch
Crouch won the Heisman at Nebraska, but was not the best passer in the game, which led to a transition to receiver going into his rookie NFL season.
This did not work out well for St. Louis, who drafted him in the third round of the 2002 draft.
He wound up never playing a down in the NFL, after being one of the most prolific college quarterbacks in the game.
13. Chris Weinke
Weinke may have been 27 years old during his junior season in 1999, but he led the Seminoles to their first undefeated season and second national title.
In his senior season in 2000, he won the Heisman Trophy after leading the nation in passing yards.
The NFL was not nearly so kind.
He has the ignominious honor of being the starter for Carolina during their awful 1-15 season in 2001.
When he officially retired in 2008, he had only two wins to his name in the pros.
12. Michael Vick
Yes, Michael Vick.
The man had a ton of potential, but due to some poor decisions, lost the heart of his career while in prison.
Vick's first few years in the league were filled with promise, as he electrified Atlanta fans every game with his ridiculously athletic style of play.
It's obvious at this point in his career that he will never be the mobile player with a cannon for an arm that he was early in his career.
Yet another shining example of a model citizen, brought to you by the NFL.
11. Danny Wuerffel
Wuerffel won the Heisman in 1996 by virtue of a tremendous season.
His numbers were very good, over 3,600 yards passing, paired with 39 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions.
It's sad, really, when you consider that for his entire NFL career he managed just 12 touchdowns and 2,100 passing yards.
Not technically a "bust," as he was drafted in the fourth round, but definitely an elite college talent that did not pan out on Sundays.
10. David Carr
To be fair, Carr was absolutely destroyed in his first few seasons in the league.
He was the first ever draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2002, after a career as the most prolific passer in Fresno State football history.
He spent his first years in the NFL setting records for most sacks taken, and never really got a chance to prove himself with a talented team.
The Texans did not have the offensive line to protect him, or the skill players to support him.
He has since bounced around the league as a back-up, but did win a Super Bowl ring last season with the Giants.
9. Art Schlichter
Schlichter was the last quarterback for legendary Buckeye coach Woody Hayes.
He started at Ohio State for all four seasons, and left as the school's leader in total offense.
The Colts selected him fourth in the 1982 draft, not realizing that Schlichter's development would be hampered by a problem outside of the sport—gambling.
Schlichter's talent was wasted due to an addiction to gambling that was so bad, it got him banned from the NFL for several seasons.
He never realized his full potential, and the Colts blew that fourth pick.
8. Cade McNown
McNown was yet another failed experiment from the 1999 draft.
After a great career at UCLA, he was drafted by the Bears with the 12th pick.
That proved to be a mistake, as he lasted only four seasons.
7. Joey Harrington
Harrington had a legitimate shot at the Heisman in 2001, and obviously the Lions thought he had the talent to turn around the franchise.
Harrington never lived up to his potential, did not develop into the kind of guy to lead a franchise, and became one of many quarterbacks to struggle during their time in Detroit.
He spent a few years in the league as a back-up before retiring.
Another top five draft pick, wasted.
6. Andre Ware
Ware left Houston after his junior year with all kinds of hardware, including the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien award.
That season, he threw for 4,699 yards and 44 touchdowns and was clearly the best quarterback in the country in 1989.
He was drafted by Lions with the seventh pick of the 1990 draft, pairing him with the 1989 Heisman winner, Barry Sanders.
However, he never panned out in a pro offense, and signed with Jacksonville when their expansion club formed in 1995.
That didn't work out, he was let go before the season began, and has since been in broadcasting.
Another Heisman-to-benches story.
5. Jack Thompson
Thompson, known as "The Throwin' Samoan," played his college career at Washington State.
He left WSU after setting Pac-10 records for attempts, completions and touchdowns.
In 1979, Cincinnati drafted him in the first round and tabbed him to be their starting quarterback.
That didn't work out the way Bengals' staff hoped, and he wound up getting shipped to Tampa Bay, where he lost his starting job to Steve DeBerg.
4. JaMarcus Russell
Russell is one that was just a flat out bust.
The man refused to stay in shape, could not learn the playbook, and could not hit the broad side of a barn.
He was drafted first overall out of LSU in the 2007 draft by Oakland, a pick which they are still regretting.
Russell was let go following an extremely disappointing three-year career, and has not been picked up by an NFL team again.
3. Matt Leinart
Remember that stud quarterback who filled the USC backfield with Reggie Bush and LenDale White during their vacated national titles?
He was drafted 10th overall in 2006 by Arizona but quickly found himself cooling his feet on the bench in favor of the aging Kurt Warner.
The man was easily one of the top 10 best college football players of the last decade, winning a Heisman and contending for another on one of the most dominant teams in the sport.
And yet he finds himself toiling in relative obscurity due to injuries and spotty accuracy at the next level.
2. Vince Young
It may seem a little early to write Young off, but to this point in his career, he has been a pretty significant disappointment.
He provided us with the greatest play in arguably the greatest college football game of all time against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl when he scored the game winning touchdown.
He was drafted that year by Tennessee, third overall.
This proved to be a waste, as his inability to master a playbook and poor throwing mechanics led to his demise.
He has since departed for Philadelphia, where he served as a backup, and it's not likely he will ever start again.
1. Ryan Leaf
Leaf's name has become synonymous with the word "bust."
Following his junior season at Washington State, in which he was a Heisman finalist, he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the second pick of the draft.
They gave up two first-round picks, a second-round pick and Eric Metcalf to trade up and ensure that they would be able to draft either Leaf or Peyton Manning.
You all know how that payed off.
Leaf was a locker room cancer, who never took responsibility and never enjoyed any level of success in the NFL.
After being drafted in 1998, he was out of the league by 2002.
Just this past week, he was arrested on burglary and drug charges.