Andrew Luck retired this weekend, and the fallout from that decision will play out over the next few months. One thing is certainly clear, the top of the 2012 NFL Draft has become a complete and total bust.
The 2012 draft was hyped as much as any in recent memory. The top six players had separated themselves from the rest of the pack and were each supposed to be franchise-changing talents. Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne went with the first six picks and each were projected as future perennial Pro Bowlers.
What follows is a look at what happened to each of those players and how they failed to live up to the lofty hype that accompanied them approaching the draft.
Luck had by far the most success of his draft mates, as he became a four-time Pro Bowler and guided the Indianapolis Colts to the postseason four times. But when you enter the NFL as the most-hyped “sure thing” quarterback since Peyton Manning, five good seasons won’t be considered a success.
Injuries and franchise ineptitude robbed Luck from reaching his potential. The Colts refused to invest in offensive line help for their most prized possession until it was too late, and it took a toll on his body. Luck was sacked 174 times in 86 career games. Luck will finish his career having completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 23,671 yards, with 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions. His career passer rating is 89.5.
Luck will live on as a cautionary tale of what happens when a franchise doesn’t protect its most valuable asset.
Robert Griffin III
After winning the Heisman Trophy his junior year at Baylor, Griffin opted to turn pro and rocketed up draft boards. Washington drafted him with the second pick and he rewarded the franchise by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and reaching a Pro Bowl in his first campaign. In that first year he completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,200 yards, with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also ran for 815 yards and seven more scores. But that would be the pinnacle of his career.
During the Wild Card round of the playoffs during his rookie year, Griffin tore the ACL and LCL in his right knee. He hasn’t been the same since.
Griffin was mildly effective in 2013, terrible in 2014, benched in 2015 and has bounced around since. He’s still with the Baltimore Ravensthis year as a backup, but the high hopes from his pre-draft hype and rookie year are long gone.
After Richardson dominated college football as a junior at Alabama, everyone was sold on him. He was compared favorably to Adrian Peterson and ticketed to be a sure-thing at running back in the NFL by virtually every NFL scout. A unanimous All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2011, Richardson was big, fast and showed fantastic vision. Then he got drafted and it all went to hell.
The Browns took Richardson with the third pick and they got a completely different person than the guy who owned college football at Alabama. He wound up becoming one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history and Cleveland shipped him to Indianapolis during his second year in the league, in an example of the organizational ineptitude we mentioned earlier. Richardson didn’t record a carry in the NFL after 2014 and finished his career with 2,032 yards and 17 touchdowns on 614 carries (3.3 yards per carry). It’s worth noting that 11 of those touchdowns and 950 of those yards came during his rookie year in Cleveland.
Richardson just wasn’t as decisive a runner in the NFL and his punishing power never materialized. Despite being 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, he often went down like a much smaller back. He had brief stints in the CFL and AAF but hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2016.
How good was Matt Kalil in college? Well, at USC he was such a dominant offensive lineman that he beat out Tyron Smith for the team’s left tackle spot. That forced Smith to right tackle. That’s the same Tyron Smith who has been a five-time All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys. Kalil was clearly the better player in college.
The Vikings selected Kalil with the fourth pick in the draft expecting to have their franchise left tackle for the next 15 years. After a Pro Bowl rookie season, Kalil has been hampered by back, hip and knee injuries during his career. He’s on his third team now with the Texans but he has never become the perennial All-Pro most expected.
At Oklahoma State Justin Blackmon won the Biletnikoff Award twice and was a two-time unanimous All-American. Obviously everyone expected him to be a stud at the next level.
During his last two seasons with the Cowboys, Blackmon caught 233 passes for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns. No, those aren’t typos. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds with 4.46 speed, plenty of athleticism and outstanding hands, he was expected to be the NFL’s next great wideout. Unfortunately, off-field demons haunted Blackmon and he played just 20 NFL games.
The Jaguars selected him with the fifth pick in the draft, and Blackmon rewarded them by catching 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns. That was his only full season. He was repeatedly suspended for his off-field conduct and substance abuse violations, and ultimately his multiple DUIs were too much to get reinstated.
Morris Claiborne was expected to be the NFL’s next shutdown corner after dominating at the position for LSU. He was the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year when he entered the 2012 draft.
The Cowboys traded up eight spots to select him sixth overall believing they had the next Deion Sanders. Unfortunately, Claiborne was a bust. Injuries haunted him along with a lack of aggressiveness on the perimeter. He bounced between starting and reserve roles during his final two seasons in Dallas before landing with the Jets and now the Chiefs.
Claiborne looked like a game-changing shutdown corner coming out of college but has turned out to be nothing above an average coverage man.
It’s truly amazing that each of those six players wound up being busts on some level. Yes, Luck was great when he was healthy, but he never lived up to the hype that accompanied his arrival in the NFL. It’s also worth noting that Mark Barron and Ryan Tannehill were selected with the seventh and eighth picks respectively, and both wound up as serious disappointments as well.
The franchise-changing talents in the 2012 NFL Draft wound up being taken further down the board. Russell Wilson has arguably been the most impactful player taken in that draft and he wasn’t selected until the middle of the third round (75th pick).