Looking at high school football recruiting classes is one way to gauge future college talent, and it can even help predict future NFL stars. But there are some years that serve as outliers, with respect to certain positions. One of those is the 2012 class of quarterbacks, which turned out to be a disaster, with most of the top-rated prospects not seeing their careers pan out whatsoever.
Of the 247Sports Composite Top-200 players from the 2012 recruiting class, there were a total of just 10 quarterbacks. Most of the signal callers were ranked in the top in their respective positional rankings, but only three of them were ranked inside the Top-50.
As for where they are now, only two are currently on NFL rosters, two of them have rookie camp invites, and one has a Canadian Football League invite. Not promising.
Six of them ended up transferring from the school they originally signed with, and only four of them were starters for more than a season at their respective schools.
Jameis Winston: Florida State: We all know what happened here. Winston led the Florida State Seminoles to a national championship in 2013, and he took home the Heisman Trophy that same season. After his two years as the Noles starter, he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gunner Kiel: Note Dame, Cincinnati: The former four-star quarterback prospect flipped from LSU to Notre Dame in January before Signing Day in 2012. He ended up redshirtting with the Fighting Irish in 2013, but then transferred to Cincinnati in the spring of 2013. From there, his Bearcat career didn’t quite pan out.
He finished in the top 20 nationally in passer rating in 2014 and 2015. He led Cincy to a 9-4 season in 2014, but he battled his body in 2015, missing two regular season games and then had to sit out of the bowl game due to a personal matter.
By 2016 he’d been usurped by two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. Kiel started three games last season, but was eventually benched in a disappointing 4-8 season that saw coach Tommy Tuberville get fired.
Kiel was not drafted, and has since not joined an NFL team in any capacity. Gieven his lofty ranking, Kiel will go down as one of the biggest QB recruiting busts ever.
Zach Kline: Cal, Oregon State, Butte College, Indiana State, Cal (again), and Fresno State: Kline’s collegiate journey is a unique one. He took a redshirt as a freshman in 2012, and then lost the starting job to future No. 1 overall NFL draft selection Jared Goff in 2013. After sitting behind Goff all season, Kline transferred to Oregon State in December 2013. Just four months later, Kline had a change of heart, and transferred to Butte College in California, before joining Division I Indiana State in 2015.
Ironically enough, in March 2016, Kline announced his return to Cal after almost three years. But with Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb primed to get the start for 2016, Kline transferred to Fresno State in June 2016. With the Bulldogs last season, he threw for just 523 yards and two interceptions.
Cyler Miles: Washington: Miles earned the starting job as a sophomore for the Huskies in 2014, and he threw for 2,397 yards and 17 touchdowns that year. But in the summer of 2015, Miles was forced to retire due to a “chronic hip injury.”
Medical personnel have advised Miles that it would be against his best interest to continue to play on the injury, which has persisted throughout his career.
Anthony Alford: Southern Miss, Ole Miss: Alford’s career is probably the most unique of them all, given how it ended up. Alford began his career at Southern Miss, and in 2012 as a true freshman started in five games, and finished with 664 passing yards and two touchdowns, including 329 yards and six touchdowns rushing. In January 2013, he transferred to Ole Miss, and played on the Rebels’ scout team. He switched to safety in 2014, and left the team early to pursue a baseball career.
Alford was drafted in the 2012 MLB draft by Toronto Blue Jays, and he entered their minor league system in 2015, where he still plays.
In 2015, his first full season in the Jays minor league system, he hit .298/.398/.421 in 107 games, split between Lansing and Dunedin. And he earned top spot on our prospect list a year ago.
2016 wasn’t as kind to him. He hit .236/.344/.378 in 92 games at Dunedin. Being fair to him, he dealt with a couple of injuries, including a concussion.
Matt Davis: Texas A&M, Tyler, SMU: Davis began his career at Texas A&M, where he unfortunately had to back up Johnny Manziel. He transferred to JUCO Tyler (Texas) in 2013, before landing at SMU, where he spent three seasons. During his junior season in 2015, he started in 11 games for the Mustangs, and he threw for 2,259 yards and 16 touchdowns. Following Chad Morris’ first season at SMU, there was optimism surrounding Davis being the starter in 2016. But a torn ACL he suffered in September ended up costing him his senior season. He wasn’t drafted this year, but has since earned a rookie camp invite fro, the Los Angeles Rams.
Tanner Mangum: BYU: Mangum’s career is also a unique one. Although he signed with BYU in 2012, he went out on a two-year Mormon mission in Chile, which he returned from in the summer of 2015. That season he was named Taysom Hill’s back-up, but he earned the starting job after Hill went down with a season-ending injury the first game of the season. He ended up throwing for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns during his freshman year. In 2016, Hill returned for his senior year, and Mangum was his back-up. As he enters his junior season, he’s expected to be the Cougars’ starter in 2017.
2012 recruiting class top QBs
|Player||247 Player Rank||School signed with||Pro career||Career notes|
|Player||247 Player Rank||School signed with||Pro career||Career notes|
|Jameis Winston||No. 15 overall||FSU||Drafted No. 1 overall||Heisman winner in 2013|
|Gunner Kiel||No. 27 overall||ND||Not drafted||Transferred|
|Zach Kline||No. 47 overall||Cal||Not drafted, CFL rookie camp invite||Transferred five times|
|Cyler Miles||No. 105 overall||Washington||Not drafted||Retired in 2015|
|Anthony Alford||No. 113 overall||Southern Miss||Drafted by the MLB||Transfer/baseball|
|Matt Davis||No. 121 overall||Texas A&M||Rams rookie camp invite||Transferred twice|
|Tanner Mangum||No. 123 overall||BYU||Still has eligibility||Two-year Mormon mission|
|Justin Thomas||No. 147 overall||Georgia Tech||49ers rookie camp invite||Three-year starter|
|Connor Brewer||No. 174 overall||Texas||Not drafted||Transferred twice|
|Chad Kelly||No. 177 overall||Clemson||Mr. Irrelevant 2017||Transferred twice|
Justin Thomas: Georgia Tech: Thomas signed with Georgia Tech in 2012, and he took a redshirt that season. After he backed up Yellow Jackets’ starter Vad Lee in 2013, he earned the starting job his final three seasons. He finished his career throwing for 4,748 yards and 40 touchdowns, and another 2,409 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. Thomas wasn’t selected in the 2017 NFL draft, but he earned a rookie camp invite from the San Francisco 49ers.
Connor Brewer: Texas, Arizona, Virginia: Brewer started his career at Texas, where he redshirtted in 2012. He then transferred to Arizona, where he played in just one game in 2014. Following his graduation from Arizona, he transferred to Virginia, where he played in just three games in 2015 and 2016. He was not drafted, and has not been picked up by any NFL teams since.
Chad Kelly: Clemson, East Mississippi, Ole Miss: Kelly’s career got started at Clemson, where he signed in 2012, and his story is an interesting one. Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, was battling for the post-Tajh Boyd starting quarterback job with Cole Stoudt and five-star freshman Deshaun Watson in the spring of 2014. He was later dismissed from Clemson after getting into an argument with head coach Dabo Swinney during the spring game.
Kelly then spent a season at East Mississippi Community College, the setting of Netflix’s Last Chance U, where he threw for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns, won a national championship, and emerged as a four-star JUCO prospect.
From there, he landed at Ole Miss. in 2014, when he was still just an signee there, he allegedly told a bouncer at a Buffalo, N.Y. bar he was going to "get his AK-47 and spray this place.”
He finished his Rebel career with 6,800 yards and 50 touchdowns passing, along with another 841 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Not getting invited to the NFL Combine, paired with a knee injury in 2016 and a subsequent wrist injury, his draft stock dropped. He was finally selected as the No. 253rd overall pick this year by the Denver Broncos, and is one of the most interesting Mr. Irrelevants in draft history.
As you can see, only a handful of these guys including Kelly, Thomas, and Mangum had positive college careers, with Winston living up to, and perhaps exceeding expectations. The others in Brewer, Kline, and Kiel ended up being complete busts. The rest, including Davis and Miles could’ve done more if injuries hadn’t set them back. Alford didn’t pan out either, but being able to sub football cleats for a bat and glove in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays isn’t the worst fallback career. Recruiting rankings are pretty good, but they are far from perfect.