RG3 and the Heisman Curse

When the 2012 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night, the first pick sure looks like Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III is all the rage. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is expected to go second. But just because RG3 lit it up at Baylor doesn’t mean he’ll do the same in the NFL. Success against Stephen F. Austin does not guarantee success against the New York Giants, and the list of Heisman winners who bombed at the next level is not exactly short. Witness these 10 busts from just the past 25 years. Lotta QBs, just sayin’... —Monty McMahon

Troy Smith The Ohio State QB ran away with the 2006 Trophy, besting Darren McFadden by 1,662 points, the second-largest margin ever. Smith threw for 2,507 yards and 30 touchdowns that season, which ended when his Buckeyes lost to Florida in the national title game. He was a fifth-round pick by the Ravens, who gave up on him after three seasons. San Francisco gave Smith, Troy, a chance to start in 2010, but he failed to outshine Smith, Alex. Now he’s buried on the Steelers’ roster, still waiting to improve his career numbers of 1,734 yards, eight TDs and five picks.

Matt Leinart Leinart is simply one of the best college quarterbacks ever. He was a two-time national champ at USC, won the 2004 Heisman and finished third to teammate Reggie Bush and Texas’ Vince Young in 2005. He completed his college career with 10,693 yards and 99 touchdowns and was Arizona’s first pick, but he has yet to evolve into a legit NFL starter. Having started just seven games since his rookie season, Leinart’s career stat line doesn’t compare to a single year at SC: 3,950 yards, 15 touchdowns, 20 picks.

Jason White The year 2003 was a magical one for White, as he passed for 3,846 yards and 40 TDs, winning the Heisman over Larry Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, the guy couldn’t move. He had reconstructive knee surgery in 2001 and 2002 and the Sooners had to run every play out of the shotgun for him. The NFL wasn’t impressed, and White went undrafted. Eventually, the Titans signed him to their practice squad, but he quit football before ever playing an NFL down, using his “weak knees” as an excuse.

Eric Crouch The kid just wanted to play quarterback. After a highly decorated career running the option at Nebraska, Crouch was drafted by the Rams as a wide receiver, but left the team before ever playing a game. Too short to play QB in the NFL, everyone said. Crouch didn’t listen, attempting to catch on anywhere he could as a QB. He spent time in NFL Europe as a safety after signing with the Chiefs in 2005, but hasn’t been back in the league since.

Chris Weinke At 28, Weinke became the oldest player to win the Heisman in 2000. He threw for 11,000-plus yards in his career, went 32-3 and led Florida State to three straight national championship games. Weinke then went to Carolina in the fourth round of the 2001 draft and started 15 games that season. He only won one of them while throwing for 2,931 yards, 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He’d start only five more games in a career that ended in 2007.

Danny Wuerffel He may have been the best of Steve Spurrier’s system quarterbacks, but Wuerffel was still just that. He put up nice numbers on his way to winning the Heisman in 1996—3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns—and finished his Florida career with 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns, an SEC record. Wuerffel went on to play for four teams in a six-year NFL career, starting just 10 games. He couldn’t find the end zone, but he definitely found the other team quite a bit, throwing for 2,123 yards, 12 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his career.

Rashaan Salaam The Colorado Buffalo became just the fourth player to rush for 2,000-plus yards in a season in 1994, tallying 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns on his way to the Trophy. That got him selected in the first round by Chicago. After rushing for 1,074 yards his rookie season, Salaam fizzled. He wasn’t nearly as explosive as he was in college and couldn’t hold onto the ball—he fumbled nine times in 1995. He bounced around the NFL and even the CFL, but his greatest sin may have playing for the XFL's Memphis Maniax. Career NFL stats: 1,684 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, 13 TDs.

Charlie Ward Ward dominated college football in 1993, winning the Heisman by 1,622 points, at the time the second-largest margin ever. He threw for 3,032 yards and 27 TDs in leading Florida State to their first national title. Unlike most people on this list, he didn’t even give the NFL a shot. Ward essentially demanded some team take him in the first round or he’d go to the NBA (he also played on the FSU basketball team). He didn’t get the guarantee he wanted and made good on his threat, signing with the Knicks and becoming one of the most mediocre NBA point guards of all time. Ward averaged six points and four assists for his career.

Gino Torretta Torretta might be the weakest Heisman winner in history. He won the award in 1992 thanks in large part to his 26-1 career record at Miami. While you can’t argue with wins, Torretta was surrounded by a bevy of talent that probably helped with a few of those victories. The quarterback threw for 3,060 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions his senior season. That got him picked in the seventh round by Minnesota. He played in only two NFL games, going 5-of-16 for 41 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Andre Ware Ware won the Heisman in 1989 as a junior thanks to Houston’s pass-happy run-and-shoot offense. He put up 4,699 yards and 44 touchdowns while setting 26 NCAA records. That was enough to get him drafted No. 7 overall by the Detroit Lions, where he lasted all of four seasons. He started only six games in those four seasons, throwing for 1,112 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

2012 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is all the rage. But just because RG3 lit it up at Baylor doesn’t mean he’ll do the same in the NFL.