Every year, the SEC is well represented in the first round of the NFL draft. Those first-rounders, however, can’t all be franchise building blocks. The best conference in college football has sent its share of busts to the NFL, and these are five of the biggest:
1. JaMarcus Russell, LSU
Team: Oakland Raiders
Selection: No. 1 overall, 2007
Career numbers (31 games, 3 seasons): 354-of-680, 4,083 yards, 18 TD, 23 INT
Career summary: To put it bluntly, the quarterback with a big arm became better known for having a big gut. The first of three Jimbo Fisher quarterbacks to earn first-round status and bust, Russell had the Raiders thinking he’d be a natural fit in Lane Kiffin’s offense based on the deep passes thrown with ease in his LSU highlights. It didn’t work out in Oakland.
After three subpar seasons, the Raiders ultimately cut ties and released Russell. He attempted a comeback in 2013, but did not make an NFL roster.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida
Team: Denver Broncos
Selection: No. 25 overall, 2010
Career numbers (35 games, 3 seasons): 173-of-361, 2,422 yards, 17 TD, 9 INT; 197 carries, 989 yards, 10 TD, 7 fumbles
Career summary: Whether Tebow had a future as an NFL quarterback was a hotly debated topic long before the 2007 Heisman winner and Gators great entered the draft. Tebow fans and the Denver faithful will always have the magic of 2011 to remember, but the highlights of his NFL career end there. His year with the New York Jets as a benchwarmer followed by failed attempts to make the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles rosters indicate that the Tebow experiment is over.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Team: Cleveland Browns
Selection: No. 22 overall, 2014
Career numbers (14 games, 2 seasons): 147-of-258, 1,675, 7 TD, 7 INT; 46 carries, 259 yards, TD
Career summary: His career might not be over, but so far, it has been a disaster with no sign of getting better. On the field, Manziel’s improvisational magic that helped win him a Heisman at Texas A&M didn’t cut it against bigger, faster defenses. Off the field, his behavior did not earn him any brownie points with the Browns coaches or front office.
As a party animal, Manziel has progressed from being the frat boy who can’t say no to a good time to an unstable, violent substance abuser facing legal issues and unemployment. Manziel does not seem serious about finding a new team following his release from the Browns, having been fired by two agents in the offseason.
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
Team: Cleveland Browns
Selection: No. 3 overall, 2012
Career numbers (46 games, 4 seasons): 614 carries, 2,032 yards, 17 TD, 7 fumbles
Career summary: The mix of size and speed Richardson displayed with the Crimson Tide was supposed to translate to the NFL. After a 950-yard rookie season in which he participated in 15 games, things quickly went south for the Pensacola, Fla., native.
In year two with the Browns, Richardson appeared in only two games. He was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, but did not fare much better, ultimately being released. Despite being out of the league in 2015, he is attempting a comeback with the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Derrick Harvey, Florida
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Selection: No. 8 overall, 2008
Career numbers (52 games, 4 seasons): 92 combined tackles, 8 sacks, INT
Career summary: In a draft loaded with defensive linemen, the Jaguars thought they had found the next great pass rusher. Harvey’s grand total of eight sacks in three seasons led Jacksonville to cut its losses and release the former Gator. He played in a total of five games with Denver in 2011, his final season on an NFL roster.