Which Florida Gators flopped hardest in the NFL? One of them won the Heisman Trophy

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun

The NFL has drafted about 25,000 players since Jay Berwanger was the first name called in 1936. When it comes to evaluating them, the Thumper Rule does not work.

Thumper was the young rabbit in "Bambi." His parents told him, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

Alas, Thumper would have to swallow his tongue about Derrick Harvey.

Florida fans remember him as quarterback-eating defensive end. NFL fans do not.

As much as we'd like to say nice things about all 361 Gators who've been drafted, the law of averages says there were bound to be some busts. So we could either avoid the topic altogether or take a bumpy stroll down NFL Memory Lane.

We chose the latter. Hopefully, Thumper will understand.

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Aug 28, 1976; Tampa, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Steve Spurrier (11) in action against the Chicago Bears during a pre-season game at Tampa Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

5. Steve Spurrier

No. 3 pick in 1967 draft by San Francisco.

We've made the argument that Spurrier wasn't as big of bust as many people think, and he wasn't. The Head Ball Coach played 10 seasons and threw 40 touchdown passes.

That's seven years and 22 more touchdowns than JaMarcus Russell managed. Now that guy was a B-U-S-T.

Like many players who didn't pan out, Spurrier went to wrong teams. The 49ers had a Pro Bowl QB in John Brodie. The expansion Bucs surrounded Spurrier with barely-warm NFL bodies.

That said, Spurrier was the Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 3 overall pick. He had 20 more career interceptions than TD passes. He was drafted ahead of eight future Hall of Famers, including luminaries like Alan Page, Gene Upshaw and Bob Griese.

When you have those expectations and those results, you may not be a JaMarcus. But you are a bust.

4. Clifford Charlton

No. 21 pick in 1988 draft by Cleveland.

Charlton terrorized SEC offenses, racking up 25 sacks and forcing 15 fumbles. He was team captain and a first-team All-American linebacker. When time came for the Browns to make a pick, they took only 10 seconds to send Charlton's name up to the commissioner. 

"I'm going to try to be the pass rusher they need," Charlton said. "But I'm not saying I'm their secret weapon, though."

That was fortunate. Like Spurrier, Charlton wasn't exactly put in a position to succeed. Florida used a 3-4 defensive scheme, but Cleveland used a 4-3. Charlton never adjusted and started only one game in two years.

He was a good special teams player, but even that was wiped out when he suffered a torn ACL the final game of his second season. The Browns cut Charlton, and he couldn't catch on with any other teams.

DENVER - OCTOBER 21:  Jarvis Moss #94 of the Denver Broncos leaves the line of scrimmage against Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 21, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 31-28.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

3. Jarvis Moss

No. 17 pick in 2007 draft by Denver.

Moss enshrined himself in UF lore when he blocked two kicks in a 17-16 win over South Carolina to keep the Gators' 2006 national-title season on track. As an NFL prospect, the only thing the defensive end had going against him was failing a marijuana test that year.

"The Broncos aren't going to have any issues with me out of that," Moss assured reporters after being drafted.

Pot wasn't an issue nearly as much as the broken shin Moss suffered six games into his rookie year. Denver's coaching staff also was in turmoil, and Moss never adjusted to the varying defensive systems.

Making it worse, Denver traded up to pick Moss. The package included the No. 21 pick in the same draft, which Jacksonville used to take UF safety Reggie Nelson.

Moss lasted six years in the NFL, but had only one start. Nelson played 12 years, made two Pro Bowls and finished with four more career interceptions (38) than Moss had career tackles.

**FILE**  Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey (91), tackles Ohio State's Brian Hartline (9)  in the first half at the BCS national championship football game in Glendale, Ariz., in a Monday, Jan. 8, 2007 file photo. Harvey ended a 33-day holdout Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008 by signing a five-year, $23.8 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

2. Derrick Harvey

No. 8 pick in 2008 draft by Jacksonville.

Harvey was the MVP of the 2007 national championship game. The enamored Jaguars traded four picks to Baltimore to move up 18 spots in order to draft the can't-miss defensive end.

“I think Derrick Harvey is going to be one of those guys that has a huge impact," ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said.

Think again.

Harvey missed the first 33 days of training camp in a contract holdout. That was the only franchise record he ever set.

Harvey started 32 games in three years and had only eight sacks to show for it. The frustrated Jags eventually tried him at linebacker, but that quickly fizzled.

The blown pick pretty much doomed general manager Shack Harris and coach Jack Del Rio. Jacksonville cut Harvey, who lasted one more nondescript season in Denver.

Sep 17 1988; Gainesville, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Florida Gators linebacker Huey Richardson (90) in action against the Indiana State Sycamores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

1. Huey Richardson

No. 15 pick in 1991 draft by Pittsburgh.

Richardson was an All-American defensive end at Florida, not to mention the first player in UF history to make the SEC academic honor roll four consecutive seasons. But talk about going to the wrong team.

The Steelers didn't really want to draft him, but the three names on their list were taken in the three spots before they picked. They panicked and took Richardson, even though he didn't fit their defensive scheme.

Coach Chuck Noll didn't think Richardson was big enough to play the end and immediately moved him to inside linebacker. That was a disaster. Bill Cowher replaced Noll the next year and moved Richardson to outside linebacker, but he lacked the quickness and explosiveness to play that spot.

"The Huey Richardson pick to me was total insanity," said Tom Donahoe, who became the Steelers' director of football development in December 1991. "It just wasn't going to work, and it didn't work."

Pittsburgh cut Richardson after two seasons. He signed with the Jets but quickly vanished into the NFL ether, finishing his career with zero starts and zero sacks.

But in honor of the Thumper Rule, it must be noted that Richardson got his MBA from Emory and found big success as a Wall Street financial analyst.

So in the game of life, he was hardly a bust.