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Examining the recent history of Heisman Trophy-winning QBs and their success in the NFL

The history of Heisman Trophy winners includes some of the greatest football players ever, with stars who achieved success at the collegiate level and the NFL. However, winning the Heisman has been far from a guarantee of success at the next level.

For many years, Heisman-winning quarterbacks didn’t go on to achieve success in the NFL. From 2000-’14, 11 of the quarterbacks who took home the Heisman Trophy could be classified as NFL Draft busts. However, the trend seems to be shifting as of late.

Let’s dive into the recent history of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and how they fared in the NFL.

Bryce Young – 2021 Heisman winner

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The last NFL quarterback to win the Heisman was Bryce Young. Selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Young was labeled as a highly advanced passer with one of the sharpest football minds ever. However, the 5-foot-10 quarterback has been a disappointment in his first NFL season with the Carolina Panthers. While it’s too early to call Young a draft bust, his statistics compared to previous rookie quarterbacks suggest he’s on track to be just that. Just keep in mind, he always had limited physical tools and he was thrown into a bad situation with one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL.

  • Status: TBD

Joe Burrow – 2019 Heisman winner

Syndication: The Enquirer
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Joe Burrow was the best quarterback in LSU Tigers history and he’s earned the same title with the Cincinnati Bengals. After a breakout season with the Tigers’ offense in 2019, culminating with a national championship, Burrow was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After suffering a torn ACL in his rookie season, Burrow has already taken the Bengals to the Super Bowl and is one of the highest-paid NFL players.

Kyler Murray – 2018 Heisman winner

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray isn’t anywhere close to being considered an NFL bust. Selected with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Murray (5-foot-10) has overcome concerns regarding his size to become one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL. Already a two-time Pro Bowl selection, Murray demonstrated in 2023 that he still boasts elite athleticism even after an ACL tear in December 2022. The Arizona Cardinals are poised to build around him as their franchise quarterback moving forward.

Baker Mayfield – 2017 Heisman winner

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

There have been moments in his NFL career when Baker Mayfield looked like a high-end quarterback. However, the former Oklahoma Sooners star and 2017 Heisman winner has largely been a disappointment in the pros. Selected by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield has a career 36-45 record as a starting quarterback/ Since 2021, Mayfield’s quarterback rating sits at 84.4 with a 61.4 percent completion rate. Mayfield is serviceable, but he’s a bust when accounting for the value and expectations of his draft position.

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston – 2013-’14 Heisman winners

Syndication: Nashville
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com, Nashville Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston belong together when looking at the recent history of quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy. After taking home the honor in consecutive years, Mariota (Oregon Ducks) and Winston (Florida State Seminoles) were selected with back-to-back picks atop the 2015 NFL Draft.

Related: NFL power rankings

Mariota looked promising in his first two NFL seasons, posting a 93.8 QB rating with a 45-19 TD-INT line. However, issues with his elbow and regression ended his tenure with the Tennessee Titans by 2015. Now a backup quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles, Mariota will likely spend his 30s holding clipboards on NFL sidelines.

As for Winston, the story is very similar. Taken No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he earned a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie with 4,042 passing yards and a 22-15 TD-INT line. He improved the following year, but his production fluctuated. After leading the NFL in passing yards (5,109) and interceptions (30) in 2019 – posting the first 30-30 season in NFL history, Winston has become a spot-starter for the New Orleans Saints. Turning 30 in January, Winston also projects to be a long-term backup.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks who won the Super Bowl

Jim Plunkett, Roger Staubach and John Huarte are the only three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy and the Super Bowl.

How many quarterbacks have won the Heisman?

In NCAA history, 34 quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy. LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels will become the 35th on Saturday.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks: Bust or hit

Reflecting on Heisman winners since the 1950s, here’s how each quarterback fared in the NFL.

PlayerHit or Bust in NFL
Caleb Williams (2022)TBD
Bryce Young (2021)TBD
Joe Burrow (2019)HIT
Kyler Murray (2018)HIT
Baker Mayfield (2017)BUST
Lamar Jackson (2016)HIT
Marcus Mariota (2014)BUST
Jameis Winston (2013)BUST
Johnny Manziel (2012)BUST
Robert Griffin III (2011)BUST
Cam Newton (2010)HIT
Sam Bradford (2008)BUST
Tim Tebow (2007)BUST
Troy Smith (2006)BUST
Matt Leinart (2004)BUST
Jason White (2003)BUST
Carson Palmer (2002)HIT
Eric Crouch (2001)BUST
Chris Weinke (2000)BUST
Danny Wuerffel (1996)BUST
Charlie Ward (1993)BUST
Gino Torretta (1992)BUST
Ty Detmer (1990)BUST
Andre Ware (1989)BUST
Vinny Testaverde (1986)BUST
Doug Flutie (1984)BUST
Pat Sullivan (1971)BUST
Jim Plunkett (1970)HIT
Gary Beban (1967)BUST
Steve Spurrier (1966)BUST
John Huarte (1964)BUST
Roger Staubach (1963)HIT
Terry Baker (1962)BUST
Paul Hornung (1956)HIT

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