Ahead of the 2012 NFL draft, everyone could only find the time to talk about one wide receiver: Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.
In three seasons at school, he totaled 253 receptions, 3,564 yards, and 40 touchdowns. His swan song at Oklahoma State before declaring for the 2012 NFL draft consisted of an eight-catch, 186-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece in the Fiesta Bowl.
Though Blackmon declined to hold any private workouts following the conclusion of his collegiate career, his draft stock didn’t suffer any sort of hit. Teams were still smitten with his mix of speed and coordination. He didn’t need the NFL combine. His college resume and performance at Oklahoma State’s Pro Day were enough to ensure his first-round status.
Plenty of squads were linked to him leading into the draft, even those that didn’t necessarily need him. The Minnesota Vikings were badly known to need help elsewhere at the time, but even they were considered a possible landing spot for him.
It was the Jacksonville Jaguars that eventually got him. They traded up to land the No. 5 pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The move was considered a borderline no-brainer at the time. Blackmon, after, had drawn comparisons to Terell Owens and Anquan Boldin. Jacksonville thought it had acquired the next superstar wide receiver.
But things never panned out as planned.
Blackmon turned in a somewhat promising rookie season, during which he racked up 865 yards and five touchdowns. However, he battled myriad off-field issues and subsequent suspensions over the next few years, punishments that stemmed from arrests for driving under the influence and marijuana possession and for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
While Blackmon remained on the Jaguars’ payroll for a couple of years following his rookie season, he would only ever appear in four more games, giving him a paltry 20 appearances for his career. Even now, more than a half-decade since he played his last NFL down, it’s tough to prevent your mind from drifting down the what-if rabbit hole.
Blackmon is only 30 years old; he is technically someone who should still be in his prime. Whether we’ll see him play football again is a different story. He completed the terms of his probation for a 2015 DUI arrest in August 2017, and he remains on the Jaguars’ reserve-list roster, but the NFL had yet to grant him reinstatement as of the conclusion of the 2019 season.