Smart money still puts the trophy in Lamar Jackson’s hands, but the race is suddenly very interesting after a four-turnover performance by the candidate many saw as a “sure thing” entering the season’s final week.
Now, the problem of a lack of a strong alternative remains. But there are more than enough players in the conversation. Anyone on this list could garner an invite to the presentation ceremony, and others like D’onta Foreman, Jonathan Allen, and Dalvin Cook could even be in the mix.
10. QB Sam Darnold (USC)—This Thanksgiving, Clay Helton was thankful for Sam Darnold, the quarterback who saved his job by leading the Trojans to a surprising rebound.
9. WR Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma)—Fans of Mayfield have to love Westbrook but hate his Heisman chances. The incredible receiver could steal votes from his quarterback
8. QB Jake Browning (Washington)—Browning got himself back in the conversation with a big performance against Washington State. There’s little chance he receives serious momentum to take home the trophy, but he has a chance to vie for a trip to New York.
7. QB JT Barrett (Ohio State)—Two straight games completing less than 47% of his passes caps a season where JT Barrett was anything but a reliable passer. That said, he led his team to a victory over the hated Wolverines, and he could be considered for an invite.
6. ATH Jabrill Pepppers (Michigan)—Unfortunately, Peppers is being talked about more for his postgame faceoff with an Ohio State fan than for his on-the-field performance. While I do not believe he has done enough to merit winning the Heisman as a defensive player, the stumbles of Jackson may lead some voters to take a look at the novelty of Peppers and evaluate the trophy as an award he could really compete for—the nation’s best player, regardless of position.
5. RB Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State)—The diminutive running back’s chances took a hit with a 58-yard performance against Colorado State. Still, a contest against Wyoming to get back on track looms.
4. QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)—After the start they suffered through, most counted out Oklahoma. However, Bake Mayfield continues to put up massive numbers and could merit an invitation to Manhattan.
3. QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)—There was no stopping Watson against rival South Carolina. Though he has not been the same as last season, the Tiger could prove a real threat for Jackson.
2. QB Jalen Hurts (Alabama)—The Tide signal caller threw two interceptions against Auburn, a game the Tigers weren’t able to make truly interesting. For voters eager to support a “best player on the best team” type candidate, Hurts could get some support.
1. QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)—Is Jackson determined to make the Heisman Trophy race interesting? Two losses to end the season now places Jackson in a spot where he hopes to be the first Heisman since RG3 with three losses.