Even before a football player hits their final year of college eligibility, many of us football fans and experts try to figure out where that player will be selected in the NFL Draft (when they become available). There are some players who are anointed as first-round talents before even becoming full-time college starters, while others quickly rise from obscurity (a la Joe Burrow) to become a number one overall pick.
Today, we’ll take a look at the players that fall in the former category. The types who were thought to be potential #1 picks at one point had experts believing that they were top-five talents all the way up to draft day. However, these five players slid down the board, with some even dropping out of the first round or the entire draft altogether.
Randy Moss had a bit of a checkered past when it came to his college career, as he originally intended on attending the University of Notre Dame but got into a fight where he was initially charged with a felony. With that, he instead went to Florida State to play for Bobby Bowden, but never saw the field as he had violated his work-release program and was placed in jail for two months.
Moss found a home at Marshall University in his home state of Wisconsin and ushered in the era of the Thundering Herd joining the NCAA’s Division I-A. Moss was seen as an absolute freak with a skill level that perhaps made him the best player in the 1998 NFL Draft and experts felt he could be a top-three pick. However, his off-the-field concerns in his college career caused him to slip all the way to the 21st spot, making the Minnesota Vikings very happy.
Heading into the 2005 NFL Draft, there was a big debate as to who the number one overall pick would be. While some accurately predicted that the San Francisco 49ers would select quarterback Alex Smith from Utah, there were plenty more who thought they would take Aaron Rodgers from Cal. Not only did the 49ers pass on Rodgers, but so did many other teams that day.
Rodgers would indeed end up being the second quarterback taken in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he had to wait until the 24th overall selection to hear his name called. Even then, it was a surprise as Rodgers landed with the Green Bay Packers, who already had Brett Favre on the roster. For Rodgers and Green Bay, though, it all worked out just fine in the long run.
Thurman Thomas was the Most Valuable Player in the NFL in 1991 and a five-time All-Pro. In fact, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame in back-to-back years. That sounds like a resume for a first-round running back, doesn’t it? Well, that wasn’t the case in 1988 as the Oklahoma State product had a knee injury heading into the draft that caused him to slip.
Experts felt that despite the injury, Thomas would end up being a star, and they were proven right. The Bills used their second-round selection (40th) overall to take Thomas, and he would go on to put up over 12,000 career rushing yards and 88 touchdowns total, helping the Bills win four AFC titles.
Notre Dame has produced a lot of NFL talent over the years, but not so much at the quarterback position. Experts felt that things would finally change for the Irish when Brady Quinn became eligible for the 2007 NFL Draft after throwing for 11,762 yards and 95 touchdowns in college. Many felt that he would be the first overall pick, and no later than the top five.
NFL scouts didn’t see the same thing that many television analysts did. Quinn waited until the 22nd overall selection to hear his name called by the Cleveland Browns, but he would end up having a lackluster NFL career. He retired in 2014 and went into broadcasting where he’s found much more success.
Vontaze Burfict had a lengthy NFL career as a linebacker for the Bengals before ending with the Raiders in 2019. The former All-Pro was the top-rated linebacker coming out of high school and originally committed to USC before he became ineligible.
Burfict had a laundry list of issues attached to his name despite his undeniable talent and went undrafted after spending his college career at Arizona State. The Bengals would pick him up following the 2012 NFL Draft, which draft experts felt was the ultimate get, as they had him listed as the most talented linebacker in the class.