By: Zach Hernandez (@Zachhernan)
With the 2017 NFL Draft under two weeks away, I decided to take a look at some current NFL players who were injured coming out of college to see how they’ve panned out. There are plenty of possible 1st-rounders in this upcoming draft with injury concerns. Let’s take a look.
Injured Incoming Players
- Leonard Fournette| RB | Louisiana State – chronic ankle injuries
- Dalvin Cook| RB | Florida State – shoulder
- Malik Hooker | S | Ohio State – torn labrum & hernia
- Reuben Foster| ILB | Alabama – torn rotator cuff
- Corey Davis | WR | Western Michigan – sankle injury
- Mike Williams | WR | Clemson neck injury
- Jonathan Allen | DE | Alabama – shoulder arthritis
- Marshon Lattimore | CB | Ohio State – repeated hamstring injuries
- John Ross | WR | Washington – multiple knee surgeries & labrum tear
- Sidney Jones | CB | Washington – torn Achilles tendon
- Takkarist McKinley | DE/OLB | UCLA – torn labrum & broken glenoid
- Ryan Ramcyzk | OT | Wisconsin – torn labrum
- Jake Butt | TE | Michigan – two torn ACLs
When the draft finally does arrive, most of these players will hear their names called in the first or second round. However, as we all know, not all draft picks pan out as expected. Now let’s take a look at how some notable injured NFL players coming out of college have fared up until now. I will not be including the past two or three drafts, as it is still too soon to come to a conclusion on those players. We took a look at the 2013 draft class last time, so we’ll move on to the 2012 draft.
The 2012 draft will forever live in infamy – at least for 49ers fans, due to the team’s head-scratching selection of Aj Jenkins out of Illinois. Although it was arguably one of the worst wide receiver classes in years, Baalke and Co. managed to select one that would catch zero passes during his time with the 49ers. The Colts were able to snag their QB of the future at #1 overall in Andrew Luck, and Washington decided to mortgage their future and trade up with the Rams to #2 overall to select Robert Griffin III. Let’s start with Luck and see if his college injury impacted his career in any way.
Luck was widely regarded as the #1 prospect in the 2012 draft. After enduring a 2-14 season with Manning still sidelined and a multitude of backup-caliber quarterbacks under center, the Colts were rewarded with their signal-caller of the future. Luck has been hailed as the standard to which QB’s are held against when it comes to being ready for the NFL day one. Tony Pauline (then with Sports Illustrated) called Luck “the most NFL-ready of all the draft-eligible quarterback prospects” and “the best quarterback since Peyton Manning.” While he was nowhere near as athletic as RG3, Luck was considered one of the best pure-passers to come into the league in the past decade or so. Let’s take a look at Andrew’s injury history.
- Fractured finger on right hand
Post Draft Injuries
- Lacerated kidney & partially torn abdominal muscle
Although Luck’s NFL injury list appears short, he has missed some significant playing time due to them. Well, at least in 2015 – Luck only played seven games before his lacerated kidney and abdominal muscle tear sent him to injured-reserve for the rest of the season. He has become the quarterback of the future for Indianapolis, replacing legendary Peyton Manning with quite ease surprisingly. Luck posted career numbers in 2014 – starting all 16 games, 380/616, 4,761 yards, 40 touchdowns, and a 96.5 passer rating. Luck may draw some concerns about staying healthy, but the Colts aren’t necessarily helping. It appears they are almost deliberately ignoring addressing their offensive line – leaving Luck to run for his life. However when healthy, Luck is one of the best of the younger class of QBs, and I’m sure Indy is not letting him go anywhere anytime soon.
Even though Griffin tore his ACL in his right knee three years prior to be drafting, I’ll still include him in here because the injury was still a significant concern entering the draft. RG3 was the #2 overall prospect on most big boards going into the draft. While Luck was widely regarded as the best pure-quarterback in this class, Griffin was easily seen as the most athletic. Running a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine, Griffin was elusive as ever – even with his prior injury. Let’s check out his injury history at Baylor.
- Torn right ACL
- Griffin continued to play after the tear – even completing 11/14 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Griffin was finally pulled when doctors discovered the extent of the injury.
- Mild concussion
- LCL sprain
- Torn ACL, MCL, Meniscus
- Dislocated ankle
- Shoulder fracture
Griffin absolutely tore it up his rookie season – 258/393, 65.6 completion percentage, 3,200 passing yards, 8.1 yards per attempt, 20 TDs, 5 interceptions, and a 102.4 passer rating, making Washington look like complete geniuses for trading up to draft him. Unfortunately, after tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus, Robert was never really the same player. He lacked the elite speed he once had, and his small frame (which was criticized highly coming out of Baylor) was not built for taking a beating. After a slough of injuries, Griffin eventually lost his job to Kirk Cousins. Before you know it, Washington had him only playing the safety on the scout team. Life comes at you fast, doesn’t it? They even kept him inactive on Sundays so they wouldn’t be liable for his injury clause. Robert finally got out of D.C. last year and signed with Hue Jackson’s Browns. However, after only starting one game, yup you guessed it – Griffin was headed to injured-reserve for a fractured shoulder. Griffin is currently a free agent in the NFL.
Coming out of Syracuse, Jones was a force to be reckoned with – 101 solo tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks, 4 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles in 3 years. The Patriots were able to grab the defensive end at #21 overall – making him the fourth DE taken behind Bruce Irvin, Quinton Coples, and Shea McClellin. Chandler was a 2x All-Big East selection (2010, 2011), and at 6’5″ 265, it was easy to see why the Patriots fell in love with him. Let’s take a look at his injury history.
Post Draft Injuries
- None, although Jones was hospitalized for experiencing a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana in 2015.
Jones turned into a certified stud for the Patriots – totaling 36 sacks in four years and 12.5 of those coming in 2015. However, after his encounter with synthetic marijuana turned public the Patriots decided Chandler was no longer in their best interests. On March 15, 2016 New England traded the defensive end to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for OL Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick in the following year’s draft (2016). Chandler then proceeded to start all 16 games for the Cardinals and on March 10, 2017, Arizona signed Jones to a massive five-year, $82.5 million contract. He appears to be a key piece in their defense moving forward.
When LaMichael came out of Oregon, he was thought to be part of the second-tier of running backs entering the draft. Although James was Oregon’s all-time leading rusher, many scouts and executives pointed out that James lacked ideal NFL size – even at his position. At 5’8″ 194lbs, LaMichael was one of the smaller backs in this draft for sure. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers decided to take a second-round flyer on James, selecting him #61 overall. Let’s check out LaMichael’s injury history.
- Dislocated right elbow
- Dislocated left elbow
- Sprained left knee
- Dislocated shoulder
James never really amounted to much while in San Francisco, with his most memorable play being a 62-yard punt return against the Patriots. He did not see the field until week 14 of his rookie season. Looking back, LaMichael was certainly not worth a second-round pick. After James asked for his early release in September 2014, he was released and went on to sign with the Dolphins later that week. He made it onto their active roster after a season-ending injury to LT Branden Albert. However, his time on the field was mainly spent catching punts. James is now currently a free agent.