2023 Heisman Candidates: Early Top 20 Watch List

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

2023 Heisman Candidates: Early Top 20 Watch List

Heisman Trophy Watch

2023 Heisman Candidates: Early Top 20 Watch List

By

2023 Heisman Candidates: To start speculating early, who should belong on the watch list for the trophy?


2023 Heisman Candidates: Top 20 Watch List

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

Sure you had Caleb Williams on the short list of 2022 Heisman candidates last year at this time, but it wasn’t a done deal he was going to USC.

CJ Stroud and even Stetson Bennett weren’t tough to call, but Max Duggan?

Two years ago no one would’ve put Kenny Pickett on any Heisman list after a 13 touchdown season. In 2000, who thought a wide receiver – even one as good as DeVonta Smith – would win over one of the tremendous quarterback prospects?

Don’t even start with Joe Burrow.

And then there’s the truly crazy part about the 2022 race when it comes to basing any future Heisman predictions on talent. Bryce Young, Michael Penix Jr., Hendon Hooker, and Will Levis – and throw in Anthony Richardson – are all potential top ten overall draft picks, and none of them got to New York this year.

This is always tough to do because of all the stars coming out of the blue. This year it’s almost impossible, and it’s mainly because of the transfer portal.

Just assume a few of the guys on this list will be on a different team by the time it all starts, and a few others will end up being on here after they find a new home.

Who’s going to be Deion’s quarterback running Kent State’s FlashFast style of offense at Colorado?

Really, who’s going to be the quarterback at Ohio State? Alabama? Texas? Who’s going to bomb away for a gajillion yards, and who’s going to rise up out of nowhere and go full Duggan on the season.

Just assume that if you don’t see your guy here, it’s because he’s a mortal lock to leave early for the NFL. If needed, we’ll add those and other stars to the list on the fly.

The goal is getting the early 2023 Heisman call close to the pin – last year we did got two of the four finalists – but there will be some massive misses to go along with easy base hits.

Remember, this isn’t a list of the best players. The Heisman is a popularity contest. It’s about who has the big, splashy moments in the big, splashy games for the big, splashy teams.

2023 Heisman Candidates Watch List: Just In Case

The first ten are the Johnny Manziel/Cam Newton//Joe Burrow/DeVonta Smith honorary list of fliers, just in case one of them rises up and becomes amazing.

20. The Field

There are a whole slew of cop-outs on this list, and it starts with a big one. It’s never a bad call if the betting world gives you The Field.

Again, Duggan, DeVonta, Burrow, Manziel, Lamar, Cam – you never know who’s going to rise up and be a big Heisman thing. It’s guaranteed that at least two players who’ll be deep in the 2023 Heisman race aren’t currently on this list.

19. Brock Bowers, TE Georgia

He’s a tight end, so of course he’s not going to win. He could be a finalist, though, if everything aligns correctly. The hype is going to be off-the-charts as he becomes the cause célèbre for the Best Player In College Football Heisman voting types.

18. KJ Jefferson, QB Arkansas

Like it is for every SEC quarterback, the chances to shine will be there. As is he’s going to be one of the conference’s best all-around playmakers and leaders, and his Heisman stock could go through the roof with slightly better passing numbers and a win over an SEC West big name.

17. DJ Uiagalelei, QB Oregon State

If I put Bo Nix here last season you’d all mock, laugh, and ridicule. And then Nix put up a Heisman-caliber season at Oregon. Uiagalelei might make the same transformation for the Beavers.

16. Georgia starting quarterback

Unlike other top teams later on down the list, the quarterback who takes over Georgia likely won’t have the stats or responsibility to crank up a Heisman-level season. Even so, being the starting quarterback of another national title contender puts you on second base in the Heisman race.

Tennessee and Texas will probably have the nation’s most interesting quarterback fights this spring, but Brock Vandagriff, Carson Beck, and Gunner Stockton are big-time prospects who’ll be worth watching.

Ranking the 86 all-time Heisman Winners

15. Braelon Allen, RB Wisconsin

There are a whole slew of things that could make a Braelon Allen Heisman run go one way or another. Is he really going to stay at Wisconsin? For the moment he says he is. Will the Badgers dominate on the ground under Luke Fickell? Yeah, almost certainly. He’s one of the few backs with everything in place to push for a massive-stat run.

14. Sam Hartman, QB Notre Dame

Can he do what he did for Wake Forest? The veteran bomber knows how to make a passing game roll, and now he gets to do it in South Bend for a team good enough to make a whole lot of noise in the College Football Playoff race. He always had the stats, and now he’ll have the stage.

13. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR Ohio State 

It took an insane set of circumstances and a perfect storm of factors – including a global pandemic that cut the season in half for a slew of key teams – for a receiver to win the Heisman when DeVonta Smith did it in 2020.

Harrison Jr. (not eligible until next year) is a top ten overall NFL draft pick-caliber targets with the ability to be like Smith or, more likely, 2014 Heisman-finalist Amari Cooper. Harrison Jr. might go from ultra-talented to finalist with an unstoppable season.

12. Jordan Travis, QB Florida State

Travis might not be all that big, but he’s got next-level skills and upside. Fortunately for Florida State, this was the wrong year to enter the draft as a quarterback if you’re not a sure-thing first rounder.

The stats will have to boost up a bit, but he’s got the all-around game, five years of experience, and the offense around him to be one of the ACC’s signature stars in a slew of high-profile games.

11. Drew Allar, QB Penn State

Here comes the hype.

The 6-5, 238-pound super-recruit had to wait behind better-than-you-think veteran Sean Clifford – I’ll save that rant for another time – but it’s going to be his team now. Penn State is loaded with young talent, and Allar should be the signature star who leads all of it. 2023 is expected to be the breakthrough season to maybe be what Michigan has been over the past few seasons.

Top Ten 2023 Heisman Candidates

NEXT: 2023 Heisman Candidates: Top Ten

More College Football News