10. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Penn State RB logged 1,076 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 YPC. Those are great number for any RB but the fact that he did this as a freshman and only started 10 games makes it even more impressive. Add in the fact that the Penn State offensive line was atrocious last year and think of what he could’ve done with a better blocking unit.
I have Barkley at No 10 due to the fact that the offensive line won’t be any better this year and having Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State won’t help his campaign unless he has big games against all of them.
9. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Every year, there is one defensive player that has at least some shot at winning the Heisman. This year, it’s Adoree Jackson of USC. Jackson plays cornerback and wide receiver.
While he is projected to be one of the top corners next year, he also contributes on offense, catching 27 passes for 414 yards and two scores. He also is USC’s return man, notching 2 punt return touchdowns last year.
Everyone remembers Charles Woodson’s Heisman season, and this year, Adoree Jackson should have a similar season, but with so many other candidates that will be featured more, it’s hard to put him above No 9.
8. Josh Rosen, QB, CAL
Rosen put up numbers during his freshman year (3,670 – 23 – 11) that are considered great for a QB of any experience. Expect Rosen to take a huge step forward this year and light up opposing defenses.
The issues surrounding Rosen Heisman campaign are things that aren’t in his control, like the fact that there are three outstanding QB’s ahead of him. Also, Heisman winners are usually made in the final 4 to 5 weeks of the season, which is when they start to gain late season hype going into the award ceremony.
Rosen has two early-season tests, one against Texas A&M and another against Stanford. He has one late season game against USC that could propel him up if he plays fantastic but I don’t see him turning heads in that game.
7. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Barrett and Ohio State enter this upcoming season just like the last, with the whole planet hyping them up, but the Buckeyes has lost a lot of their talented offensive players like Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Ezekiel Elliott, and Taylor Decker.
Both of these reasons don’t bode well for Barrett, as he will likely underperform his hype. Don’t get me wrong, he will still be an amazing QB and one of the best in college football, but most Heisman candidates with his amount of hype usually don’t end up winning it. Ohio State’s schedule sets up nicely for a good campaign though, as he has two big games against Michigan and Michigan State late in the season. J.T. Barrett will have a great season, but he will be in the second echelon of Heiman candidates.
6. Greg Ward Jr. QB, Houston
Houston is a good team, and people need to start realizing that. What people also need to recognize is that the driving force behind the 13-1 Houston Cougars was dual-threat QB, Greg Ward Jr.
His passing numbers were good (2,828 – 17 – 6) and his rushing stats were phenomenal (198 – 1,108 – 21). Yes, that’s right, 21 rushing touchdowns for a QB! While you won’t mistake Houston’s schedule for Alabama’s, they certainly weren’t facing cupcake teams. Their schedule included Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Temple, and FSU - They won all of those games. Houston also has a similar schedule for next year, expect they face Oklahoma in Week 1, which should be exciting. Tom Herman should be considered one of the ten best coaches in college football right now and next year, Houston will likely be the dark-horse in the National Championship race.
Greg Ward will be the impetus and will have a good chance at winning the Heisman if Houston has the breakout season and put themselves on the radar.
5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
FSU had a rebuilding season last year, with a lot of their star players from the year prior leaving to go to the NFL. Going 9-3 was exactly what was expected of them with a new QB and a new player for the offense to revolve around, Dalvin Cook. Cook exploded in the 2015 CFP and took over as the star player for the team once Jameis Winston left.
He followed that up by erupting for 1,691 yards and 19 TD’s an average of 7.4 YPC. As he enters his junior year, it won’t be surprising for him to improve those stats even more. Cook will likely build hype in the early games against Ole Miss, Louisville, and UNC. If he has a great game against conference rival Clemson, expect him to shoot up to No. 1 among the Heisman candidates.
With so many other great RBs in college football, it’s hard to put Cook ahead of No 5, but he could easily lead the pack of candidates after the Clemson game.
4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson came second in Heisman voting last year, but led for most of the year until Derrick Henry did what he does best and plowed his way through the Heisman race, dragging Watson behind him.
I would put Watson a lot higher on this list, but Clemson’s schedule doesn’t look like one of a Heisman contender. His biggest game comes at FSU but besides that, he has Louisville and an Auburn team that was terrible last year and should be again this year until they can find a QB. Watson will put up Heisman-like stats, but there are three more guys on this list who will put up Heisman-like stats against better competition.
3. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
The freshman Nick Chubb was a beast, the sophomore Nick Chubb was a beast, and I guarantee you that the junior Nick Chubb will be a beast as well.
Chubb tore multiple ligaments and cartilage in his left knee last year after rushing for 747 and 7 touchdowns on 92 carries - that averages out to an INSANE 8.1 YPC, all in just 6 games. Not to mention he rushed for over 140 yards and averaged 7 yards per carry against Alabama. Yes, Alabama, the defense that’s supposed to be unstoppable. I would put Chubb higher, but the latter half of his schedule isn’t very tough and it would be tough for him to amass the end-of-season hype needed to win the Heisman when he’s playing against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.
Chubb will be amazing next season and will likely be a first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but his schedule and the two guys ahead of him are what will keep him from the trophy.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Since when does rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns not even get you an invite to New York City for the Heisman presentation?
He dropped out of the Heisman race all because of one game against Alabama where he rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown. It was disrespectful not to even invite Fournette to the Heisman Trophy presentation after the season he had. Look at his stats, and then imagine the first game of the season against McNeese State didn’t get cancelled, and then imagine his stats. He easily could’ve have put up 200 yards and a couple of scores against them.
Fournette will come back next year for LSU and likely improve on his previous mark he has set. He already has the hype behind him, and unlike J.T. Barrett, he can absolutely live up to the hype that he gets. LSU’s schedule sets up perfectly too, as they have late season games against Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and of course, Alabama. The Alabama game will be the deciding game in his Heisman campaign. If he does well, he gets it, and if he doesn’t…well he’ll for sure get second.
1. Christian McCaffrey, ATH, Stanford
Breaking the record for most all-purpose yards in a college season is absolutely outstanding. The fact that McCaffrey only started getting real Heisman hype toward the end of the season was the only downside to last season. I would write out his stats but that would take too long, so that’s how good he is! He is truly the most versatile player in college football as he can run, pass, catch, and return. Given how he is always surprising us with new skills, I wouldn’t bet against him playing a little defense, or coaching the team, or being the President of the university.
Do you get my point? The guy can do it all.
Although Stanford has a tough schedule this year, facing teams like USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, and Notre Dame, McCaffrey will have more chances to shine in primetime games. The spotlight will be on McCaffrey all throughout the game and he is a special player in the fact that he can still win the Heisman even if his team isn’t ranked inside the top 15 just due to his rare versatility.