If one thing is 100% accurate about this article: this will be the most irrelevant article you will have read in 2017. The best part about a list this early is that we have so much time to discuss what we like and really like about it. So without further adieu I give you the unofficial “2017 Heisman Trophy Favorites.”
*(list is subject to change).
1) Lamar Jackson
The obvious, easiest pick on this this list as the preseason Heisman favorite. Jackson will look to do what hasn’t been done in over 40 years and that’s repeat as Heisman winner. Oklahoma’s Archie Griffin is the only back-to-back Heisman winner and that was way back n 1974 & 1975. Since then only seven Heisman winners played college football the following season after winning the award and only one finished as high as 2nd, Billy Sims (OU) won in 1979.
Although the obvious favorite, Jackson’s biggest hurdle to climb will be the 2016 version of Lamar Jackson. The bar was set so high. So incredibly high. Over 50 total touchdowns and over 5,000 total yards of offense, I imagine nine months of scheming and game-planning against Jackson will put a slight dent in those numbers. However, if Louisville as a team improves to become a top-5 team like they were for a hot minute in 2016, Jackson’s name will be in the Heisman discussion regardless if he’s matching last season’s statistics or not.
2) Baker Mayfield
He’s back! Mayfield, who’s been in college football since 2013, has steadily improved each and every year. After finishing 4th in 2015, and 3rd in 2016, will 2017 be the year Baker Mayfield brings another Heisman home to Oklahoma?
Mayfield has been one of college football’s most sensational players. The scary part is that he has gotten better each and every year. In his three years, Mayfield has improved on completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, TD/INT ratio, yards per attempt and overall passing efficiency. Don’t think for a second that Mayfield will struggle now that Heisman finalist and favorite target Dede Westbrook has moved on to the NFL. In 2015, a WR by the name of Sterling Shephard put up huge numbers with Mayfield. In 2017, 6’5″ – 250 lb WR Mark Andrews is the top returning receiver and could quickly fill the void left behind by Westbrook.
3) Sam Darnold
Cooler than a polar bears toe-nails, this USC quarterback will be the popular preseason bet in Vegas and rightfully so. If Sam Darnold was given the keys to the USC offense to begin the season last year, he would have been invited to NYC. Darnold’s only loss as a starting quarterback in college was his first one, a 31-27 loss at Utah. Since then Darnold has led USC to 9 consecutive wins, 300 passing ypg, 29 TD’s and eight INT’s and one sweet two-touchdown-deficit come-from-behind win in the Rose Bowl against Penn St. Expectations will be sky high in 2017 for both Darnold and USC as they will enter the new season as the hottest team this side of Alabama.
4) Saquon Barkley
There will be a lot of QB’s on this list. It’s generally a QB award particularly as of late. Plus most returning players from last season that carry over any significant Heisman value are at QB’s. That’s because a number of underclass running backs departed for the NFL. The list is quite impressive: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Wayne Gallman, Jeremy McNicholes, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Filling that enormous void of superstar RB will be Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
Nobody at the RB position finished off the season with as big of an impact as Saquon Barkley did. Accounting for 249 total yards and three TD’s in a heartbreaking last second loss to USC in the Rose Bowl should propel Barkley to the top of whatever preseason list for his position. Overall Barkley racked up nearly 1,900 total yards and 22 TD’s. Also working in Barkley’s favor is the success of his team. The Nittany Lions won the BIG-10 and will look to continue similar success in 2017 with Barkley and returning stud QB Trace McSorley.
5) Ed Oliver
the Houston defensive lineman is arguably the best player in college football, offense or defense, and he’s only a sophomore. Oliver will deserve national recognition despite the fact his stats won’t be eye-popping. If Oliver isn’t double and triple-teamed repeatedly, the opposing offenses will be at an immediate disadvantage. Say ‘hello’ to the 2018 #1 draft pick.
6A / 6B / 6C / 6D-Z) Jalen Hurts / Anybody from Alabama
playing for an Alabama team that will certainly be preseason ranked #1 or #1B, Hurts’ Heisman campaign may be handicapped by his own team. Blessed with talent all around him, it’s difficult not to acknowledge everybody else when discussing ‘Bama football.
So to be fair, we should mention the ‘other’ possible Alabama Heisman candidates in the same breath: WR Calvin Ridley is arguably the best WR in college football, RB Bo Scarbrough aka Derrick Henry 2.0 will try to ride the momentum he finished off the postseason with, 2016 #1 overall recruit RB Najee Harris could be in the mix, RB Damien Harris is the top returning rusher for the Tide, and any NFL caliber defensive player who decides to take a couple turnovers back to the house on what is sure to be another upper-echelon defense in college football.
Now back to Hurts who accounted for 36 TD’s and over 3,600 yards for an Alabama team who traditionally doesn’t put up those type of numbers at the quarterback position. The departure of OC Lane Kiffin will be an intriguing storyline going forward, but there’s no denying that Hurts can punish you both with his legs and with his arm…and he’ll only be a sophomore.
7) Luke Falk
One of the best draft prospects gets another year in Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense. Another 4,400 yards and 38 TD’s should be expected from Falk, but the ultimate Heisman judgement will come with the success of his Washington State team who will look to build on the their strong finish to 2016.
8) Deondre Francois
The departure of RB extraordinaire Dalvin Cook puts Francois directly in the driver’s seat and that’s a powerful vehicle he’s commanding. For the past three years, Florida State has finished in the top-4 in recruiting each and every year. Only Alabama has recruited better during that span. Francois contributed a pedestrian 25 TD’s as a true freshman but showed flashes of brilliance reminiscent of former FSU Heisman winner Charlie Ward. Health seems to be the only question to his game as he took an absolute beat down last season.
9) Josh Rosen
Speaking of health, once upon a time Josh Rosen was a sure bet to become a Heisman finalist. That time ago was one year ago today (doesn’t matter which day you’re reading this, it was a year ago). Six games into the season, a shoulder injury later and that’s all she wrote. A healthy and rejuvenated Rosen should be a force in 2017 and bring back the hype that preceded Rosen even before he took a college snap in 2015.
10A / 10B) Jake Browning / Myles Gaskin
just like Hurts for Alabama, Washington has a similarly good problem. Browning was once thought to be a close 2nd in the Heisman race at one point during the season, eventually finishing 6th in the final voting. Statistically Browning finished in the top-10 in efficiency and 2nd in TD’s in the FBS. There’s no reason to believe that Browning won’t have another highly efficient season again in 2017.
What many people didn’t know about Washington is that they were one of the more balanced teams in the country. Soon-to-be junior running back Myles Gaskin ran for over 1,300 yards and 10 TD’s for the 2nd consecutive year in 2016. With defenses keying in on the high-profile Browning, Gaskin could find himself having a huge year while Washington defends its PAC-12 crown.
- JT Barrett: been here, done that. Seems like Barrett has been an outstanding college football player since Eddie George won the Heisman. As long as Ohio State continues it’s strong play in the BIG-10, Barrett will receive a ton of credit for it.
- Quinton Flowers: The small school version of Lamar Jackson, USF’s Flowers threw for over 2,800 yards and 28 TD’s. He ran for over 1,500 yards and 18 TD’s for a Bulls team that finished 11-2. #Flowers4Heisman will be trending all year.
- Shane Buechele: on a bad Texas team, Buechele threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 TD’s. New coach Tom Herman will spark the Longhorns team and make a Heisman candidate out of Buechele like he did Greg Ward Jr. at Houston.
- Derrius Guice: The hard-running RB powered his way to 1,387 yards and 15 TD’s on a team that featured Leonard Fournette which is highly impressive to say the least. Imagine a full seasons workload. Maybe Guice could do what the great Fournette was expected to do and bring home a Heisman to Baton Rouge, LA.
- Nick Fitzgerald: At 6’5″ and 230 lbs, Fitzgerald bullied his way to 1,375 yards rushing and 16 TD’s, leading all SEC QB’s in both. Obviously Mississippi State needs to do better than 6-7 to receive an invitation to New York, but we know all to well how much Heisman voters love a multi-dimensional power-5 quarterback.
- Shea Patterson: Learn the name. Patterson was the #1 recruited QB in 2016. He sat behind Heisman hopeful Chad Kelly at Ole Miss until a knee injury to Kelly sprung Patterson into action. Those games were definitely a learning experience but the potential is there on a team loaded with young offensive weapons.
- Christian Kirk: Now for the obligatory wide receiver who deserves more Heisman publicity than he will probably get, Kirk is that dynamic player that can alter the course of a game with one big play. Along with around 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first two years, Kirk averages 23 yards a punt return and has five return TD’s on his short career. Desmond Howard and Tim Brown, former Heisman winners at the WR position were elite returners just as KIrk has proved to be. Now if only Texas A&M can avoid the end-of-season slide they’ve become accustomed to having, Kirk may be a legitimate contender.