1. Christian McCaffrey – Stanford RB: McCaffrey finished 2nd in the Heisman and all logical thinking would suggest that he would win it in 2016. But, what about the Heisman suggests that there is anything logical about it? Some people think that McCaffrey got messed over in 2015 since he broke Barry Sanders single season total yardage record. The problem for Stanford and McCaffrey is they lose 4 out of 5 Offensive Linemen and 4 year starter at Quarterback Kevin Hogan.
2. Deshaun Watson – Clemson QB: Watson was one of three that was invited to New York City for
the Heisman presentation and he finished 3rd. He is the first Quarterback in the history of the game to throw for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000. Unlike McCaffrey, Watson has a lot of returners at key positions. Even though the Clemson Tigers lost to Alabama in the national championship game, Clemson will begin the 2016 season as the #1 team and Watson could put up similar numbers again.
3. Leonard Fournette – LSU RB: Fournette was the favorite to win the Heisman all season up until the Tigers lost to Alabama. Fournette dropped out of the Heisman race at that point. But, he still ran for just under 2,000 yards in spite of the Tigers’ first game being canceled by a severe thunderstorm. Fournette finished 6th in last year’s voting.
4. Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma QB: Mayfield came out of nowhere to finish 4th in the voting and he lead the Sooners to a playoff berth after they had a really disappointing season in 2014. Mayfield is an exciting player capable of making plays that impress Heisman voters with his running and scrambling ability. Read more about the former walk-on here: Mayfield
5. Dalvin Cook – Florida State RB: Cook is one of the faster and more explosive players in the
country and a threat to score any time he has the ball in his hands. He finished 7th last year, but if he stays healthy he will finish much higher. After rushing for 1,008 as a true freshman, Cook cranked it up last season and ran for just a few yards under 1,700 and 19 Touchdowns. Even though Cook is a speedster with many long runs to his credit, he is a tough runner between the tackles.
6. J.T. Barrett – Ohio State QB: The Buckeyes didn’t get it going offensively until the very end of the year and then they ran over Michigan and Notre Dame. Barrett won’t have Cardale Jones to contend with next season and should start all season. The Buckeyes took some hits from graduation and from players declaring for the NFL. But, their recruiting has been outstanding in recent years. The old saying they don’t rebuild they just reload is relevant here. Barrett only played part time in 2015 but still threw for just under 1,000 yards and ran for 682 yards. As a full time starter in 2016, Barrett should throw for around 3,000 yards and run for over 1,000.
7. Brad Kaaya – Miami QB: Kaaya is now into his third full season as a starter, and probably his last before declaring for the NFL. He has a new coach in Mark Richt and I suspect that may be good for Kaaya and his teammates. Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards as a true freshman in 2014 and then he threw for 3,238 this past season as a sophomore. Top Wide Receiver Stacy Coley decided to return to Miami for his senior season which will help Kaaya out tremendously. The Miami offense returns 9 starters for next season including every Offensive Lineman and 2 very good Running Backs in Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton.
8. Josh Rosen – UCLA QB: One of the more impressive freshmen Quarterbacks we have seen in a while. In his very first game as a college football player, he threw for 350 yards and 3 Touchdowns. On the season Rosen threw for 3,669 yards and 23 Touchdowns. Rosen is a cool customer that excels with the deep ball. I seriously doubt that Rosen will seriously threaten for the Heisman with so many
other stars out there, but he is an outstanding talent.
9. Royce Freeman – Oregon RB: At 6-0, 230, Freeman is a power back. But, he has excellent speed and moves as well. Freeman exploded onto the scene in 2014 like several other Running Backs and ran for 1,365 and 18 Touchdowns. This season witnessed Freeman running wild to the tune of 1,836 yards and 17 Touchdowns. With the unknown Quarterbacking situation, Freeman will probably need to carry the load for a while. Freeman would have to crush the 2,000 yard barrier to have a shot at the Trophy. Freeman is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield with 26 receptions last season good for 348 yards and 2 Touchdowns.
10. Jabrill Peppers – Michigan DB: The last Defensive Back to win the Heisman was Charles Woodson also of Michigan. Woodson returned punts and played some at Running Back and Wide Receiver. Peppers does the same things. For Peppers to have any shot at all, he is going to need to pick off a few passes and return at least one for a score. He’s going to need to score from the Wildcat position, or at Tailback, or Wide Receiver. It’s possible, but Jabrill Peppers is a very, very long shot.
11. JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC WR: The Trojans seem to always come up with a great receiver and Smith-Schuster is just the latest. He was a former 5 star recruit that wasted little time in making an impact at the major college level. Smith-Schuster caught 54 passes as a freshman in 2014 for 724 yards and 5 Touchdowns. The Trojans had a really disappointing season in 2015 and fired their coach midway through the season. But, Smith-Schuster was a force to be reckoned with catching 89 passes for 1,454 yards and 10 Touchdowns. It’s been a long time since a Wide Receiver has won a Heisman
with the last one happening in 1991 when Michigan’s Desmond Howard won it. Before that it was
Tim Brown of Notre Dame who won it in 1987. Johnny Rodgers won it in 1972 as a Wide Receiver and return man. In other words, it’s going to be a tough task for JuJu Smith-Schuster to win the Heisman.
12. Lamar Jackson – Louisville QB: Incredible athlete posing as a Quarterback. Outstanding speed as well as a strong arm make Jackson a guy to keep an eye on next year and the following season. Jackson was another super talented coming in last season and he threw for 1,840 yards. He ran for 960 yards and 11 Touchdowns. This guy has Michael Vick type of talent and he could have a similar impact on Louisville. He doesn’t have quite the arm of Vick, but Jackson has a different gear and he looks like he is running in fast forward while everyone else is on regular speed.
13. Patrick Mahomes – Texas Tech QB: The Quarterback in an offense like Texas Tech’s is going to have big numbers. But, Mahomes is more athletic than most of these type of Quarterbacks outside of Robert Griffin III. Mahomes put up phenomenal numbers last season with 4,653 yards and 36 Touchdowns. But, he also ran for 456 yards and 10 more Touchdowns. Mahomes is 6-3, 220 and an impressive Quarterback.
14. DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame QB: Kizer was forced into starting duties when Malik Zaire went down in the second game against Virginia with a broken ankle. Kizer came in and led the Fighting Irish to a dramatic victory. Kizer is 6-4, 230 with a strong arm and excellent running ability. Kizer passed for 2,880 yards and 21 Touchdowns while running for 520 yards and 10 Touchdowns. The possible problem for Kizer is beating out former starter Zaire and getting the playing time. The Irish have an easier schedule than last season, but they still play Michigan State, Stanford and USC. Notre Dame will have to have a successful season for Kizer to have a shot.
15. Nick Chubb – Georgia RB: Chubb was the top freshman Running Back in the nation as a true
freshman in 2014. But, sadly Chubb was injured against Tennessee during his first carry. In the first 5 games, Chubb had 745 yards and he averaged over 8 yards a carry. Georgia will have a new coach in Kirby Smart and they lost several starters in their Offensive Line. Even if Chubb is fully recovered by the beginning of the season, he is going to need a lot of luck to get back in the race for the Heisman. Next year will no doubt be his last in college football and we should all feel cheated by his injury last year. At 5-10, 220 and with track like speed, Chubb is a job to contain by defenses and he’s a lot of fun to watch for spectators.
16. Joshua Dobbs – Tennessee QB: The Vols were in a boat without a paddle until they inserted Dobbs in the lineup in 2014. Last season, Tennessee got off to a rocky start with a 3-4 record after 7 games. But, they lost in Overtime to Oklahoma. They lost by 1 point to Florida and by 4 points to Arkansas. They even lost by 5 points to national champion, Alabama. The Vols got hot and won their last 6 games to finish with a 9-4 record. Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 Touchdowns while running for 671 yards and 11 Touchdowns. Tennessee has been really young the past 2 seasons and now they have the experience and the talent to make a run at a championship. But, can they compete with the SEC West champion if they were to win the East? An SEC championship would do wonders for Dobbs’ chances of winning a Heisman, or even placing.
17. Greg Ward – Houston QB: Any time a Quarterback runs for over a 1,000 yards and throws for over 2,000, he should get a mention for post season honors. Ward actually ran for 1,108 yards and passed for 2,828 yards. He also scored 21 Touchdowns rushing the football. The Houston Cougars finished the season at 12-1 when they defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the Peach Bowl. They should have enough talent returning to have another great season, but Ward and the Cougars will not sneak up on anyone in 2016. With players like McCaffrey, Watson and Fournette returning there is little chance that Ward wins the Heisman, but he is a good player.
18. Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma State QB: Rudolph came in with the recruiting class of 2014 and was another true freshman that played and he started by the end of the season. He was a sophomore in 2015 and he played well for most of the year while throwing for 3,770 yards and 21 Touchdowns.
The Cowboys won their first 10 games and they climbed in all of the Polls before losing their last 3 games. Oklahoma State’s last winner was Barry Sanders back in 1988.
19. Wayne Gallman – Clemson RB: Gallman decided to come back to school in spite of the fact that he was eligible for the NFL Draft. Clemson had 2 guys rush for over 1,000 yards last season. One of them was Deshaun Watson, but the other was Wayne Gallman. Running for 1,527 yards and 13 Touchdowns, Gallman took some of the pressure off of Watson and he was a star in his own right. The chances are slim for Gallman getting the kind of numbers that would warrant Heisman votes, but he could be considered a candidate before the season gets going.
20. Saquon Barkley – Penn State RB: The Nittany Lion’s freshman sensation of a year ago brought back memories of Joe Paterno’s great Running Backs of yesteryear. Barkley had to fight through injuries, but he still was able to run for 1,076 yards and 7 Touchdowns. That was with missing 2 full games and parts of others, including only running for 1 yard in Penn State’s opener against Temple. Barkley looks like he could be a future star at Penn State and beyond with his 5-11, 225 build and breakaway speed.