From Heisman to Draft: Four Winners Who Didn’t Go First Overall

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Winning the Heisman trophy is one of the toughest tasks in all of American sports. However, for some, despite their heroics at the college level, professional franchises still don’t want to take the risk on them.

Obviously, every winner of the coveted award will get drafted, but not all of them will get taken first overall as one may expect.

Although being the best player of the season, not all Heisman winners have always been as successful in the NFL. In fact, some may even say that certain winners have had better careers in college than they did in the professional league.

Just ask these four standout players who took home the Heisman, only to find themselves waiting longer than expected to hear their names called.

DeVonta Smith – 2020 Heisman Winner, 10th Overall Pick

No one doubted that DeVonta Smith was a talented player during his time as a receiver in Alabama, but some scouts were skeptical about his slight frame. That may be why he slipped to 10th overall – although anyone who watched him torch defenses with his speed and elusive moves knows he’s got the skills to succeed at the next level.

The current Philadelphia Eagles star won the coveted trophy in 2020, and it’s needless to say it was well-deserved. He recorded 117 receptions for 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns.

But, contrary to what most experts predicted, he needed to be drafted first overall. Only managing the tenth spot when the Lincoln Financial Field side called his name. However, he is already proving the doubters wrong.

In his maiden campaign in Pennsylvania, Smith almost secured 1,000 receiving yards throughout the course of the season. In 2022, he would make it into four figures, securing a total of 1,393 yards in both the regular season and the postseason.

The young wide receiver helped the Eagles to reach the Super Bowl last term, but they would leave State Farm Stadium empty-handed. NFL spreads make the reigning NFC Champions the +625 second favorites for the Lombardi for the current campaign. However, the only problem is that the Kansas City Chiefs – the team that defeated them in February – are the +500 favorites.

Lamar Jackson:2016 Heisman Winner – 32nd Overall Pick

Lamar Jackson was undoubtedly one of the most electrifying players in college football during his time at Louisville. Still, some teams hesitated to take a chance on him as the franchise quarterback.

He ended up slipping to the 32nd pick and spent his rookie year backing up Joe Flacco – before eventually taking over as the Ravens’ starter and leading them to the playoffs in 2018.

His ability to run the football and throw the deep ball was questioned, but he overcame those issues in the NFL as he claimed the MVP award in just his second season. After a couple of years off the boil, Jackson is back with a bang this season.

His Ravens are currently sitting at the top of the AFC North after securing seven wins against just two defeats.

Their division is one of the most stacked in the entire league, and topping it at the end of the regular season would be a major statement of intent heading into the playoffs.

Derrick Henry: 2015 Heisman Winner – 45th Overall Pick

Derrick Henry’s college career was nothing short of dominant. In his monstrous junior season alone he rushed for over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns, securing him the Heisman.

However some teams had concerns about his ability to replicate that success on the bigger pitches in the NFL, and he ended up going in the second round.

The Tennessee Titans drafted him 45th overall and initially used him as a backup running back, but broke through in 2018 to devastating effect.

The former Alabama Crimson Tide star is perhaps the best running back in the entire NFL. He led the league in terms of rushing yards in both the 2019 and the 2020 seasons, becoming the eighth member to join the vaunted 2,000 club in the latter of those two. His exploits earned him the Offensive Player of the Year award that term.

However, he is yet to taste team success, and at present, the accolades remain individual. The Titans are currently at rock bottom of an weak AFC South, and he may very well have to secure a money-spinning trade deal if he is to head deep into the playoffs before his career is out.

Marcus Mariota: 2014 Heisman Winner – 2nd Overall Pick

Marcus Mariota was seen as a surefire top pick in the 2015 draft after a standout career at Oregon. Much to the surprise of everyone though, he ended up going second overall, and eventually, being drafted by the Titans.

His NFL career has been somewhat up-and-down, with injuries and inconsistency limiting his success.

Last term, he was replaced as the starting quarterback by the Atlanta Falcons toward the end of the campaign, and this year, he is back up to Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.


  • Sylvia Miller

    Hello everyone, I'm Sylvia Miller & I am a high school football content writer and SEO expert. That s why I'm sharing my knowledge with everyone. Also, I mainly work on high school football and try to show them directly to you

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