Who’ll be the top 2017 Heisman candidates? Obviously a million things will happen between now and next early December, but here are the players who’ll get the hype rolling.
It never works out.
When trying to figure out a way-early look at a Heisman race and the top candidates, just assume the winner will be someone you’ve barely heard of, if at all.
Sure, last year at this time, Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield were on every list, while Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb, Chad Kelly, Dalvin Cook and J.T. Barrett were supposed to be in the equation, too.
And for the several hours I spent arguing with Tennessee fans about Jalen Hurd not being a Heisman candidate – it’s really, really hard to be a Heisman candidate.
Jonathan Allen, Myles Garrett, Cam Robinson, Mitch Trubisky and Teez Tabor might be the first five players taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, and only Allen sort of received any Heisman recognition.
So much for that Best Player In America theory.
And then there are the Heisman front-runners who’ll leave early, with Watson, McCaffrey, Cook, Fournette, D’Onta Foreman, Royce Freeman, DeShone Kizer, Brad Kaaya all deserving to be on any preseason list – if they weren’t bolting, or likely leaving, for the League of Mercenaries.
The same goes for Luke Falk, Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph – let’s just assume that those three are gone, too.
So again, the 2017 Heisman winner probably isn’t on this list, but at least a few of the finalists will be.
All classes will be what the player will be next season
Five Heisman Deep Sleeper Names – Just In Case
QB Jerod Evans, Sr. Virginia Tech; QB Quinton Flowers, Sr. USF; QB Kenny Hill, Sr. TCU; QB Justin Hebert, Soph. Oregon; RB Mike Weber, Soph. Ohio State
Projected 2017 Heisman Trophy Also-Receiving Votes
10. RB Kamryn Pettway, Jr. Auburn
If the Auburn offense rolls for a full season, Pettway could be a 2,000-yard threat. After ripping up the middle of the SEC season, he’d have made a Heisman run if he was healthy enough to roll against Georgia and Alabama A&M before finishing up against Bama.
9. RB Derrius Guice, Jr. LSU
Leonard Fournette was supposed to be the LSU rushing star, and he was when he was healthy, but Guice led the team with 1,249 yards and 14 scores, destroying Texas A&M for 285 yards and four scores, and Arkansas for 252 yards and two touchdowns in two of the last three games. Ed Orgeron will lean on him early and often.
8. QB Jake Browning, Jr. Washington
Why is he so far down on the list? Washington might not be quite as strong next season, and once again, there’s a big, big problem with the lack of a big early game. At Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State? Whoopee.
7. RB Saquon Barkley, Jr. Penn State
One of the nation’s best all-around backs busted out in Penn State’s Big Ten championship run. While he failed to hit the 100-yard mark over the last four games, he was banged up. However, he came up with just 58 yards on 33 carries against Indiana. Next year, he has to rip it up from the start to generate a national buzz.
6. QB Deondre Francois, Soph. Florida State
Who else thought Jameis Winston II after the 419-yard opener against Ole Miss to start the season? Next year the Seminoles are all his to run, and he’s proven to be tough enough and good enough to handle the work. If he leads the way to a win in the opener over Alabama, look out.
2017 Projected Heisman Trophy Finalists
5. QB Jalen Hurts, Soph. Alabama
Sort of like Deondre Francois’s big moment to start the season in Atlanta against Alabama, Hurts can launch his own campaign with a big performance in a win to kick things off. He probably deserved a whole lot more Heisman consideration in 2016 in an MVP sort of way, and next year he’ll be the signature star of yet another juggernaut of a team.
4. QB J.T. Barrett, Sr. Ohio State
Three problems here. 1) It’s hardly a lock that he chooses to stick around for another year. 2) Ohio State quarterbacks never get any Heisman love under Urban Meyer, and 3) he came up with a win at Oklahoma in 2016, and it didn’t matter in the Heisman race. He’ll get his shot to shine against the Sooners in Columbus early in 2017, too.
3. QB Lamar Jackson, Jr. Louisville
It never seems to work out for the reigning Heisman winner. Whether it’s Jason White, or Matt Leinart, or Johnny Manziel, or Tim Tebow, it’s hard to get it done twice. Voters aren’t too keen on making a player the second two-time Heisman winner, so Jackson has to do everything he did in 2016, only a lot better. That’s asking for too much.
2. QB Sam Darnold, Soph. USC
The hype begins with what he does against Penn State in the Rose Bowl, but he’s got the LA market, he’s got the fan base desperate for the Next Big Thing, and he’ll get all the preseason attention. People will be watching the opener against Western Michigan, and they’ll really be checking out the showdown against Texas, and, of course, the battle at Notre Dame in mid-October.
1. QB Baker Mayfield, Sr. Oklahoma
What more does he need to prove? He finished the regular season as the nation’s most efficient passer, to go along with six rushing scores, coming off a 3,700-yard, 36-touchdown, seven-rushing-score 2015. He knows the offensive system backwards and forwards, he has a good team returning around him, and he should have offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley back. Can he pull off a win at Ohio State on September 9th? Do that, look good in the win, and he’s the front-runner the rest of the way.