There is a loaded class of Heisman Trophy candidates returning, and there is always room for someone (see: Jackson, Lamar or Manziel, Johnny) to come from nowhere to win the prestigious award. This is a race that could come down to the wire and also one that I don’t think we will have any sort of handle on until mid-season.
Others considered: RB Royce Freeman (Oregon), QB Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), RB Kamryn Pettway (Auburn), WR Dante Pettis (Washington), RB Bo Scarbrough (Alabama), RB Nick Chubb (Georgia), QB Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), QB Trace McSorley (Penn State), QB Luke Falk (Washington State), WR Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)
10. QB Deondre Francois (Florida State)—Early in 2016, I saw Francois as a contender for the Trophy. Then, his production really fell off. He is talented enough to be in NYC, though.
9. RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)—Expectations are high for the Nittany Lions’ ball-carrier. He put up massive numbers in 2016.
8. RB Derrius Guice (LSU)—Fournette who? Derrius Guice is a modern-day running back who is a complete and dynamic offensive playmaker.
7. QB Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)—A transfer from Baylor, Stidham looks tailor-made for Auburn’s offense. There is a lot of buzz around the inexperienced yet talented quarterback.
6. QB Jake Browning (Washington)—He led Washington from out-of-nowhere to earn a Playoff spot. WR Dante Pettis returns, and Browning’s numbers may improve from last season.
5. QB JT Barrett (Ohio State)—The receiving corps for the Buckeyes is very inexperienced, and that could hurt Barrett. Nevertheless, he has put up big numbers in his career, and the Buckeyes will be relevant late into the season.
4. QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)—He’s been a contender the last two seasons, and he may be in New York again. Still, I’m not so sure the Sooners are the team they were a year ago.
3. QB Sam Darnold (USC)—The USC quarterback looked really good as 2016 came to a close, and, if he can bring the Trojans to their first Playoff bid, he will enjoy a lot of momentum.
2. QB Jalen Hurts (Alabama)—I pegged Hurts as a more serious contender last season, but I will once again place some chips on the Alabama signal caller. He’s a good player on a great team, and that makes him a contender.
1. QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)—Chatter is surprisingly low around last year’s winner, but he is still the most dynamic player in college football. His team is unlikely to be a serious Playoff contender, and that will hurt. Still, he is the man who must be dethroned, and that secures the #1 spot.