25 NFL Stars Who Never Reached Their Full Potential

The NFL is a league that has been dominated by a few players for decades. While some of these players have reached their full potential, there are many who never did. Here are 25 NFL stars who never reached their full potential.

The best nfl players not in the hall of fame 2021 is a list of 25 NFL stars who never reached their full potential.

Every guy that on the field in the NFL is a phenomenal athlete. Many of them, though, never achieve their full potential. Sometimes this is due to circumstances beyond their control, such as playing for a bad team or being injured often. Then there are the celebrities that completely derail their own careers.

Let’s take a look at 25 NFL players that never lived up to their full potential. Because we want to concentrate on guys who really showed flashes of potential in the NFL, this list isn’t full of draft flops. In reality, several of them achieved incredible success yet fell short of achieving their full potential. Take a look at the list below, courtesy of The Sportster.

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Robert Griffin III (#25)

RGIII had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history as a rookie, but it was the pinnacle of his career. After a spectacular collegiate season, the Washington Redskins selected Baylor’s first Heisman winner. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and played in the Pro Bowl. However, he tore his knee ligaments, and things went bad from there.

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Griffin would never be the same player after that. It’s a pity, since he seemed to have the makings of a great player. His steady deterioration was caused by a mix of injuries and a bad attitude (via Clutchpoints). Finally, he joined the Baltimore Ravens as a backup quarterback. Griffin’s tale serves as a reminder to young athletes that anything may happen at any time.

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David Carr (number 24)

Carr was never given a shot by the Houston Texans. He was the team’s first-ever draft pick and had the potential to be a fantastic quarterback. In Houston, though, the rookie quarterback had no protection, and things soon deteriorated. Because it wasn’t his fault, Carr compiles this list. He wasn’t like Johnny Manziel or Ryan Leaf in that he didn’t have a bad attitude. In the end, he was let down by the Texans.

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The former Fresno State standout has the most sacks in club history. It’s no surprise that he failed to make an impression after taking so many blows. Carr was, however, the last rookie quarterback to win in his first start, according to USA Today. In the year 2o2, he obtained such uncommon positive statistic. Carr had the potential to be so much more than he was, but he was given a bad hand.

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LeVeon Bell (#23)

Few athletes have squandered their careers as badly as Bell has. The former Steelers running back was on his way to becoming a club legend before squandering it all. He had a significant contract stalemate in 2018 after a pair of drug infractions. This occurred after he was hit with the franchise tag for the second time by Pittsburgh. Bell turned down a $70 million contract and sat out the whole year.

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He joined the New York Jets after missing a season. This also went badly, but it seemed to be excused since Adam Gase was a terrible head coach. The Chiefs eventually opted to take a chance on the volatile talent. He landed in the laps of the Super Bowl winners, but he squandered the chance (via SBNation). Because of his poor attitude, he only got to play in two games before being cut.

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Jones, Adam ‘Pacman’

Jones is becoming a caricature of himself, spending more time in prison than on the field. The former Bengals star, on the other hand, was a real talent. The cornerback’s sophomore season was outstanding, and he seemed to be on his way to becoming a big Titans star. Then there came the shooting event, which caused him to leave the business. His greatest adversary was himself.

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Jones played with the Cowboys for a season but did not contribute to the team’s success. He showed glimpses of his talent throughout his seven seasons with Cincinnati. In 2015, he even made a late-career Pro Bowl appearance (via Bleacher Report). But his arrests and off-field problems kept him from being the athlete and celebrity he deserved to be. It’s a terrible shame since he had all of the physical abilities.

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Josh Gordon (#21)

For the Cleveland Browns in 2013, Gordon was electrifying. This was made much more remarkable by the fact that he was being thrown to by Brandon Weedon. The wideout, however, was unable to maintain his early success. The primary reason was that he made a lot of bad choices throughout his life. Due to drug problems, he only made 11 appearances over the following four seasons.

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After numerous drug usage offenses, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Over the course of his career, he was banned six times, five of them were for drug usage (via Sports Illustrated). The former All-Pro couldn’t keep his hands clean. Fans saw him fail miserably with a number of franchises. He washed out of the NFL rather than becoming a superstar due to his personal vices.

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Daunte Culpepper (number 20)

Culpepper had a successful NFL career, but it might have been much better. Unfortunately, following his finest season, he was sidelined by a severe injury, which put an end to his chances. He seemed to be on his way to become a top-tier passer. In 2004, the three-time Pro Bowler led the league in passing yards. Then he tore his main knee ligaments, and everything went bad from there.

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The All-Pro was never able to fully recover. Before retiring with the Detroit Lions, he bounced about from Miami to Oakland. Culpepper spent the last five seasons of his career as a backup quarterback. He was, nevertheless, very successful for the Vikings when he was at his best. Fans in Minnesota remember him fondly, although with some resentment due to his stifled potential. In his finest season, he passed for nearly 4,700 yards and 39 touchdowns (via The Undefeated).

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Greg Hardy is 19 years old.

Hardy made the Pro Bowl in 2013 after earning a spot as a regular starter for the Carolina Panthers. But then his domestic violence case came along, and he became untouchable. It says a lot when Jerry Jones believes a player isn’t good news. On the meanwhile, he was a negative influence in the locker room, so the Cowboys released him.

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Hardy chose to pursue a career as a professional martial artist after retiring from the NFL. He joined with the UFC and fought under their banner many times. Fans, on the other hand, never warmed up to him and booed him at every appearance (via The Guardian). Hardy’s fall from glory was precipitated by the fact that he was earning less money than he had throughout his football career. The former Ole Miss standout squandered chances and fell short of his true ability.

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Jay Cutler, age 18

Cutler’s career has been a combination of hot and cold spells. He was hampered by a mix of bad coaching and indecisiveness on his part. The Bears recognized him as a future player and signed him to a $124 million deal. They never did, however, decide on an offensive coordinator. Cutler never appeared to be able to grasp a clear scheme since the team seemed to change coaches every season.

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After a successful season with the Broncos, he was selected to the 2008 Pro Bowl. But, as a starter with the Bears, he never quite reached that level again. If it hadn’t been for a torn MCL in his second season with the Bears, Cutler could have made it to the Super Bowl. Although CBS Sports dubbed him the Bears’ greatest-ever quarterback, not every fan agrees. There’s no disputing that he presided over a peculiar period in the franchise’s history.

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Jermichael Finley (#17)

Finley seemed like he was going to be the Packers’ next big thing. However, like with many of the athletes on this list, injuries limited his potential. He had a breakthrough year in 2010, putting him on par with Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The tight end played basketball in college, and his catching skills and ball control demonstrated this. Fans, however, never got to see him at his finest.

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Because he was on injured reserve, Finley was unable to play in the Super Bowl for the Packers. His knees were a major issue, as were at least five concussions. NFL players are subjected to a great deal of punishment, and health problems like these are quite frequent. They accumulated over time, forcing him to retire from his profession (via Zone Coverage). Jimmy Graham was later attempted to replace him by the Packers.

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Daniel Jones, age 16

Jones took over for Eli Manning, a Giants icon. The quarterback, on the other hand, hasn’t lived up to his promise. The former Duke standout is known for his fumbles. However, he was fortunate to escape a lot of heat during his first two seasons (via USA TODAY). That’s because a handful of quarterbacks in the NFC East, including Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz, were much worse.

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Despite this, the Giants selected him with a high first-round selection. Fans anticipated him to be a foundation piece, but he seems to be a stopgap until the next college selection arrives. Josh Allen might have been chosen by New York, but he chose to go to Buffalo instead. The NFL isn’t a forgiving league, and players seldom get second chances. Jones may not be qualified to manage a franchise.

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Dorial Green-Beckham (#15)

We attempted to avoid include draft busts on this list, but DGB is worth mentioning. He really exhibited flashes of his potential and skill, unlike other flops. The problem was that he couldn’t seem to remain on the straight and narrow. Because he was booted from Mizzou’s squad, the warning signals were obvious. Then he joined the Sooners, but just as a scout team member.

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The Titans took a chance on him, and the early indications were promising. In his first season, he started all 16 games and had a good effect on the field. His antics off the field, though, put him on a plane to Philadelphia. He appeared in 15 games for the franchise once again, but he was too much hassle to stay around. ‘A physical freak who couldn’t live up to his promise,’ according to FOX Sports.

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Aaron Hernandez (#14)

Hernandez was a sad and twisted human being who also happened to be a fantastic football player. Make no mistake: the Patriots’ twin threat of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski was incredible. The tight end had extraordinary physical abilities that set him apart from many of his teammates. In 38 games, he scored 18 touchdowns and 175 catches for little under 2,000 yards.

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Nobody should make light of his heinous acts because they were really wicked. However, it’s interesting to contemplate how excellent he might have been from a sports standpoint. Hernandez had a lot of talent, but he couldn’t express it because of his wickedness. “Hernandez was a fantastic player, but it means nothing,” Gronkowski told the Kyle Brandt Podcast (via Yahoo) in 2021.

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Sam Darnold (#13)

The Jets pamper their quarterbacks better than Leonardo DiCaprio treated his 20-year-old girlfriends. Before Gang Green selected Darnold with the third overall selection in 2018, he established a slew of milestones for USC. His talent was undeniable, but his precision didn’t assist him. In his first season, he threw 15 interceptions, followed by 13 and 11 the next two seasons (via Fansided).

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Against the Patriots in 2019, Darnold famously saw ghosts. In his third and last season with the team, things didn’t get any better. But Adam Gase deserves a lot of flak for allowing Darnold to deteriorate under his guidance. He was always under pressure and didn’t have a chance to develop. When Darnold eventually left New York for Carolina, he seemed to be a completely different player.

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Alex Smith (#12)

Smith, unlike the other athletes on this list, is a role model. Fans have never seen anything like how he earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2020. After a horrific leg break in 2018, no one expected him to start games again. The disadvantage was that he was unable to perform at his best. Smith’s career has unfortunately followed this pattern.

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His first several years with the Niners were difficult. With the Kansas City Chiefs, he was able to establish down as a reliable NFL starter. Smith never had a losing season in Kansas City, which persuaded the Redskins to bring him to Washington (via Washington Post). Due to his horrific injury, fans never got to see him play as much as they hoped. We never witnessed what the three-time Pro Bowler had to offer.

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Albert Haynesworth (#11)

Haynesworth, another former Washington player, may appear out of place on this list. After all, he was a 10-year veteran of the NFL before joining the Redskins. But that’s when everything started to go awry. The Redskins swooped in after a pair of successful seasons with the Titans. He was given a large deal, but it did not pay off. Haynesworth lost interest in football and gained weight as a result.

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He had lost his drive and was squandering his remaining talent (via Fansided). The defensive end was a flop who only lasted two seasons with the team. He only appeared in 20 games with the Redskins, but he made an impact by stomping on Andre Gurode’s helmet. It’s unfortunate when a signing like this turns out to be complete nonsense. But that’s how football works sometimes.

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Al Toon is ten.

Toon’s retirement at the age of 29 speaks a lot about his legacy as a Jets icon. For the club, the receiver was both thrilling and effective. In 1992, he was also their leading pass catcher. In eight years, he was diagnosed with nine concussions. For Toon, the writing was on the wall, and he regretfully resigned due to health concerns. He was the second-leading receiver in Jets history at the time.

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Toon has the potential to be the greatest Jets wide receiver in history. However, he recognized that another concussion might alter his life (via Sportscasting). After retiring from football, the three-time Pro Bowler suffered from post-concussive syndrome. He was fortunate in that he was able to handle it, but many other athletes were not so fortunate. Toon was a fantastic player who deserved to be an all-time great.

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Carson Wentz (nine)

Wentz’s career collapsed after a strong start, making it one of the weirdest tales in modern NFL history. In retrospect, the Eagles should not have given him such a large deal after only one excellent season. However, they took a risk and paid the price. His deterioration was unusual in that his productivity decreased. Meanwhile, his errors increased at a time when he should have been at his peak.

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It’s strange since Wentz’s throwing accuracy has deteriorated. Yes, there were significant problems with his Philadelphia cast, but it isn’t the whole story (via Sky Sports). With poor assistance in the past, he was able to attain success. The Eagles eventually trimmed their losses and dealt him to the Indianapolis Colts. Perhaps he’ll find a new lease on life in Indianapolis, but there’s no denying his talent was squandered in Philadelphia.

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Michael Vick, No. 8

Vick was a fantastic quarterback for the Falcons, but he could have done so much more. However, his lawbreaking cost him some of his finest years in the business. The Atlanta Falcons star was convicted of being the ringleader of a dogfighting group and spent time in prison. This was obviously not conducive to a successful NFL career. Vick, on the other hand, returned to the league following his release.

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He was also a standout performer with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, due of his shenanigans outside of sports, he was never able to achieve his full potential (via The Guardian). Vick’s impact on the sport cannot be overstated. Many coaching methods were changed as a result of his skill as a rushing quarterback. Regrettably, he let himself down, costing him the chance to become an all-time great.

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Joe Theismann, No. 7

Alex Smith was in a similar position as Theismann. In addition, the Washington great fractured his leg badly, ending his career. Unlike Smith, there is no doubt about his ability on the field. With the Redskins, he won a Super Bowl and the MVP award in 1983. But there’s a sense that he never lived up to his full potential. In a game against the Giants, Lawrence Taylor fractured his leg.

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To be fair, Theismann was nearing the end of his career. However, a few more years of football might have guaranteed him a spot in Canton. Despite all of his achievements, he was not elected to the Hall of Fame. Because he accomplished and contributed to so many memorable events, the franchise great is in a unique position. He did not, however, achieve the highest tier that he might have.

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DeShaun Watson, No. 6

The Houston Texans have had a string of bad luck, but one thing they got right was Watson’s selection. Watson seemed to be a true franchise quarterback who might lead the team to glory. Then they began selling all of his weapons, and he expressed his desire to leave. However, the Texans’ star got entangled in a slew of sexual harassment allegations. He’s now on the verge of becoming the NFL’s most despised player.

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It’s the most Houston-centric tale you’ll ever hear. Watson had a significant impact on the franchise, but he put them in an uncomfortable situation. Nobody wanted to take the risk of dealing for him while he was being investigated. Meanwhile, the Texans declined to play him due to the same circumstance (via Sporting News). It was terrible that such a talented athlete put himself in a position where he was forced to sit on the bench and embarrass himself.

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5. Tagovailoa Tagovailoa Tagovailoa Tagovailoa Tagova

Fans in Miami were ecstatic to watch Tagovailoa play for their team. Ryan Fitzpatrick began, so they didn’t see him until later in his first season. Then, when he eventually overtook the veteran, he showed a lot of rookie nervousness. Because of his errors, the Dolphins benched him twice.

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The Dolphins were said to be interested in trading Tagovailoa this summer. However, he began his second season as the unquestioned starter at quarterback. The former Alabama star’s situation did not improve. He broke his ribs the following week after making many errors on opening day (via ESPN). His ability is undeniable, yet the NFL is ignoring him.

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Aldon Smith is number four.

Smith’s ceiling was insanely high. In his first season, he had 14 sacks with the Niners, although he never started a game. He went much farther as a sophomore. With 19 sacks, Smith set a new club record for most sacks in a season. They seemed to have a potential Hall of Famer on their hands, but that was not the case. Smith’s personal problems lost him his job and shattered people’ hearts.

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He was busted for a DUI in 2012. Nobody condones such conduct, yet everyone makes errors. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Smith was given a second opportunity with the Raiders, but he committed domestic violence. After that, he was engaged in a domestic battery case, which put a stop to his career (via NBC News). Fans saw his talent, but he lacked the discipline to maximize it.

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Ray Rice is number three.

Rice was in a similar position to Aldon Smith. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Meanwhile, he was instrumental in the Ravens’ Super Bowl triumph in 2012. Rice is the franchise’s all-time leader in a variety of categories. Unfortunately, he ruined his NFL career by knocking out his fiancĂ©e and hauling her out of an elevator unconscious.

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This immediately rendered him unsignable. He had the makings of a franchise legend and seemed destined for the Hall of Fame. Rice, on the other hand, destroyed his image with a single blow. As he quickly found, no one wants to touch a woman-beater. The fact that he couldn’t refute the event didn’t help matters (via ABC News). After cameras recorded the event, the footage went viral. It’s a pity that such a gifted athlete would do such a thing to himself.

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Cam Newton is number two.

Newton did not live up to his full potential, there’s no disputing it. In his first few seasons with the Panthers, the former MVP was spectacular. He established a lot of rookie records, but his brilliance was short-lived. Injuries ruined his career and forced him to retire. It’s a pity, since he had the makings of one of the all-time great running quarterbacks.

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In 2020, he played for the Patriots, and his body failed him. Meanwhile, he made several bad off-field choices that led to the team’s management losing confidence in him. He was released and replaced by rookie Mac Jones (via Boston Globe). Newton had the potential to be a really great quarterback, but he never stayed in the top tier. Nobody could have predicted this following his incredible 2015 season.

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Andrew Luck is number one.

We’re not saying Luck wasn’t a terrific player because he was one of the best in the world. He did, however, resign at the age of 29 and was never able to fully realize his potential. Because their intellect catches up with their arm, many quarterbacks bloom in their thirties. Unfortunately, Luck had so many injuries that he was unable to reach the level of brilliance that would qualify him for the Hall of Fame. That was a genuine tragedy.

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He was still a four-time Pro Bowler in 2014, when he led the league in throwing touchdowns. During his seven seasons in the NFL, though, Luck took an absurd amount of hits. The Indianapolis Colts had a franchise quarterback on their hands. They tossed him away, though, since he was not protected. According to The Ringer, he was hit or sacked 352 times throughout his career.

The best football players not in the hall of fame is a list of 25 NFL stars who never reached their full potential.

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