Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, which I’m sure you’re all aware of. I’ve had a lot on my plate these last few days, including finals (which I’m just coming back from two-a-days). So these are coming out a little later than I had intended, but they’re out. So let’s get a look at who I think are the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Now, there may be some guys you think I’m missing even though they’ll have eligibility next year. For example, Lamar Jackson will not be on this list mainly because I think he is going to declare for the NFL Draft. Same with Saquon Barkley. Same with Bryce Love. Because I don’t think any of those guys’ draft stock will be any higher than they are right now. So with that in mind, let’s get into my rankings.
5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston
I’m opening up with a bit of a long shot here. Don’t get me wrong, Ed Oliver is a PHENOMENAL player. In fact, he’s the best collegiate defensive tackle I’ve seen since Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, and Suh, in my opinion, is the best defensive tackle college football has ever seen. In his senior season, he had 12 sacks from the defensive tackle position, a position where he was always facing double teams with opponents knowing what kind of threat he was going in. Ed Oliver isn’t quite Suh, but he’s probably the closest we’ve seen since Suh was a Heisman finalist in 2009. Oliver is always living in opposing backfields and has been getting All-American recognition the moment he set foot on campus last year. He was the first ESPN 5-star recruit to ever sign with a non-Power 5 team and although the coach who signed him, Tom Herman, is at Texas now, Oliver continued to dominate. There are two big knocks against him: the fact he plays defense and he plays outside the power 5 conferences. While Houston is a good mid-major program, they still don’t face the same competition and that matters in the eyes of the voters. He also plays defense, which has only ever had 1 Heisman winner, Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, and even then Woodson played on offense and special teams as well. I think that’s a crime, but it is an obstacle regardless. Try and watch the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, where Houston plays Fresno State. Watch and see what #10 does, I think you’ll see why I have him in the Heisman discussion for next season.
4. Jalen Hurts-QB-Alabama
Hurts is kind of a dark horse. He’s basically a runningback playing quarterback, but the quarterback of college football’s best team is always going to be in the running for the Heisman in some form. Team success is a factor that Heisman voters take into consideration. We’ve also seen some Heisman-caliber moments out of Hurts in the past, such as his 31-yard run for a score in the national championship that would have won the Tide a title had it not been for Deshaun Watson. Which he did as a true freshman. If Hurts takes a step forward as a passer, I don’t think it’s farfetched to think that Hurts could be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. We’ve seen running quarterbacks take the next step in throwing the ball before, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III being prime examples of that. With a coach like Nick Saban, I wouldn’t put it past Hurts to take that step.
3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State
JK Dobbins really exploded on the scene and I had a front row seat for two of the biggest games of his career. I was there when he set an Ohio State freshman debut record with 181 rushing yards against Indiana on opening night, then when he won Big Ten Championship MVP with his 174 yards on 17 carries against Wisconsin, which has arguably the toughest defense in the nation. Watching this guy hit the hole, it’s amazing anyone can ever catch this guy, he has that good a burst of speed. He’s shifty, too. He had one of the best freshman seasons ever by a runningback and I am more than confident in his ability to build on that early success and turn it into a Heisman-caliber campaign.
2. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin
Taylor was basically Dobbins, but on a bigger scale. Taylor was a legitimate Heisman contender this season and was the focal point of the Wisconsin offense despite being a true freshman. With a strong performance in the Orange Bowl, Taylor could not only break the freshman rushing record, but he could become the first freshman to ever rush for 2000 yards. Now imagine the fact that he could get better. Wisconsin will need to get a little better in the passing game to try and take some of the pressure off of Taylor, or else teams will be able to wisen up and start loading the box on them. Taylor himself also needs to improve in the receiving game, though he never got too many opportunities. I think if Wisconsin found a way to open up their offense a little bit, then it could really jumpstart Taylor’s potential Heisman candidacy, which is already really high, as he finished sixth in the final voting and 4th in my rankings.
1. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona
So this is a guy you may not be as aware of, as he was a bit under the radar on the national scene, but he really started gaining notoriety as the season went along. He didn’t become the starter until Arizona’s fifth game of the season against Colorado. In that starting debut he only rushed for 327 yards, no big deal. He rushed for over 200 yards on three separate occasions this season and finished with 1353 yards on 133 carries. Oh and did I mention he’s the quarterback? Granted, Tate’s passing game is practically non-existent, as he rushed for more yards than he threw for (1353 vs 1289). He only threw for over 200 yards once and attempted more than 20 passes only twice. If he can develop more as a passer this offseason, we could see a runaway Heisman performance with how skilled he is as a runner. 1353 yards in only 10 games and 7 starts? That’s pretty damn incredible. He has shown that he is capable of being a good passer, in his starting debut he had a perfect QBR, completing 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards to along with his 327 rushing yards. He just needs to be more consistent.
So those are my premature Heisman rankings for next season. I wouldn’t hold my breath on there being a blog tomorrow, but there’s a reason for that. I’m doing a picks segment for ALL of the bowl games and it may take me a while to do them all. It will likely end up being a two-day process. Doing my usual 12-game blogs usually takes me a little while. This one is about 40. So that’ll be fun. That word count is going to get interesting. So what did you think of my way-too-early Heisman rankings? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 and contribute to my Patreon.