There’s good reason to have the discussion centering around the top two quarterbacks. QB is the sexiest position on the field. It sells jerseys. It puts butts in seats and sells season tickets. But we have a rarity coming this time around.
We have not one, but two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks entering the draft simultaneously. It’s not without precedent. In 2010, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow were both entering the draft with the Heisman pose in their background, but the Winston-Mariota battle is much more pronounced in terms of teams interested in one or the other.
Since the turn of the century, being the Heisman Trophy winner is something cool to have but not necessarily a recipe for success in the NFL. In fact, as things stand, there have been far more misses than hits. Since 2001, there have been 10 Heisman quarterbacks that have entered the NFL. Decide for yourself if the track record speaks for itself.
2001 – The Rams take Eric Crouch of Nebraska in the third round and wanted him to play wide receiver. Good luck with that.
2002 – The Bengals use the first pick on Carson Palmer. While a solid quarterback, his only trips to the Super Bowl have involved someone buying tickets and the only way he gets to Canton is as a guest, not an inductee.
2003 – Jason White won the Heisman at Oklahoma and played another season, giving scouts a better look at how his game could translate to the NFL. He went undrafted.
2004 – The Cardinals take Matt Leinart as Denny Green’s manna from heaven. He never took over the position and retread Kurt Warner revitalized his career by sending Leinart to the bench.
2006 – Troy Smith won the award with Ohio State, but didn’t get drafted until the fifth round by the Ravens and is more of a trivia answer than the answer to the prayers of Ravens fans.
2007 – The Thinker poses that came with God’s favorite Heisman winner, Tim Tebow, were justified at Florida, but some thought he wasn’t worthy of anything but a mid-round pick after a dismal Pro Day and a lackluster Combine performance. Denver thought otherwise and he did what he did at Florida – win ugly. Once Denver got rid of him, he faded away quick.
2008 – Sam Bradford was the last QB to cash in before the NFL opted to make rookies earn their money before having Brinks trucks roll up to their driveway. He won the Heisman at Oklahoma, but did so wearing high school shoulder pads. When he entered the NFL, defenders were able to take him down. The rest is history.
2010 – Carolina had little choice but to take Cam Newton and he has made the playoffs the last two seasons. But he already is showing the signs that the beatings he takes at the NFL level don’t coincide with the lifestyle he wants to achieve. Barring offensive line improvements, Newton’s NFL shelf life may be shorter than it appears in the sideview mirror.
2011 – The Redskins gave St. Louis an embarrassment of riches to get Robert Griffin III. Three years later, they’re in the discussion for drafting Mariota or trading out of the fifth spot to let someone else take him. RG3 has something to prove simply because of the investment Washington made in him.
2012 – Johnny College Football wins the Heisman and the party lasted two years. Now Johnny Manziel is coming out of rehab. The tarnish on the Heisman is a deep, rich bronze.
In the selective memory of the NFL, Winston and Mariota are akin to the hottest girl at college. All the needy teams want them. If you don’t have a lockdown QB, you’re interested.
Two Heisman hotties are in play. Given the 21st century history, let someone else roll the dice.
By the time the Vikings make their pick – whether at No. 11 or not – it won’t be Winston or Mariota. History hints that the Heisman is a college trophy. The Lombardi is a big boy trophy. We’re 15 years into a century where the Heisman has meant nothing at the next level. The Vikings are fine with those picks going off the board somewhere else.
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