The Way Too Early Heisman Predictions for 2017
“I thank God that I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest, and not on the battlefields of Europe.”
- Nile Kinnick, 1939 Heisman Acceptance Speech
Lamar Jackson has made this year’s race for the Heisman Trophy boring.
The alternative is that it is perhaps the lack of any other viable option that has made it boring. Either way, ever since he started his season by scoring 8 touchdowns against Charlotte, Jackson has had a fairly firm grasp on the Heisman race. A rough night against a strong Houston team does not erase the incredible performances he had against Florida State (5 total TD’s) and Clemson (3 total TD’s). Statistically, Jackson is on pace to break all of Cam Newton’s marks from his 2010 Heisman campaign. He has thrown for 3109 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 6 picks. Jackson also has ran for 1367 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is top 10 in the country in both rushing and passing yards. That is incredible. The Louisville quarterback has reached numbers that few have be able to reach, all while guiding a CFP contender.
With this year’s Heisman race relatively anti-climatic, I thought it would be fun to look ahead to next year’s race.
*Disclaimer: Players considered are those that I don’t think will leave early for the draft. Stats through 11/16*
Honorable Mention: Jake Browning-Quarterback, Washington
It was a huge step for the Washington Huskies under Chris Petersen when they landed Browning, one of the top quarterback recruits in the Class of 2015. He has delivered. After starting last year as a true freshman, Browning has thrown for 2532 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions this year. He’s not the most physically imposing or mobile quarterback, but he can make nearly any throw on the field, and is a large reason why the Huskies are vying for the coveted final Playoff spot going into the last week of the regular season. Although many people will have him near the top of the Heisman rankings going into next year, I believe that three things will ultimately drag him out of the top five. One, his remarkable playmaker, John Ross, will most likely leave early for the draft. That is over 1000 yards and 15 touchdowns which will be very difficult to replace. Secondly, the lack of love the west coast gets for the Heisman. People simply just don’t stay up late enough to watch these Pac-12 stars play (See: Christian McCaffery, 2015 Heisman Race). Lastly, the Huskies play a pretty soft schedule, which we have seen hurt them in the CFP Rankings this year. He’ll have a great year, but isn’t quite the star that will bring the Heisman back to the Pac-12.
Honorable Mention: Christian Kirk- Receiver/Punt Returner, Texas A&M
Christian Kirk is perhaps my favorite player to watch in college football right now. He is a flat out playmaker. As a true freshman, he caught 80 passes for 1009 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns. 2016 has been somewhat disappointing for him. He has 64 receptions for 659 yards and 10 total TDs through 10 games. I believe that 2017 will be a big year for him. The problem with putting him in my top five is that there is a major question mark going into the 2017 season at the quarterback position for the Aggies. Jake Hubenak, the presumed starter, has not quite impressed me to the point to which I can rely on their offense to put up big numbers. I hope he proves me wrong though. I would like nothing more than to see someone in the SEC knock the Crimson Tide off of their throne.
Honorable Mention: Sam Darnold- Quarterback, USC
There is a Heisman contender back at the University of Southern California. I REPEAT… THERE IS A HEISMAN CONTENDER BACK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. After sitting the first three games of the year while the Trojans got off to a 1–2 start, Darnold has brought hope back to LA and stability back to Clay Helton’s job by leading USC to a 7–1 record since taking over. He has thrown for 2161 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 picks in his first 8 starts. However, he will not win the Heisman next year for nearly the exact same reasons as Jake Browning. Life will be tough with JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he does have a slight advantage on Browning with him being in LA. Either way, this may be the second coming of, dare I say, Matt Leinart. Only time will tell.
Honorable Mention: Calvin Ridley- Receiver, Alabama
I nearly throw up every time I have to write about an Alabama player, and spoiler alert… there are two on this list. Whether you have hopped on the Alabama bandwagon or not, you have to respect their greatness, and a large part of their success the past two years has been Mr. Calvin Ridley. In a 2015 National Championship winning campaign, Ridley snagged 89 passes for 1045 yards and 7 touchdowns. Just like his fellow SEC playmaker Christian Kirk, he has experienced a bit of a drop in his stats this year. Through 10 games, he has 50 receptions for 546 yards and 6 touchdowns. His only two 100 yard receiving games have been against Western Kentucky and Kentucky, so basically he’s only gone off against high school teams. I am a lot more confident about Ridley having a comeback year next year than Kirk. A lot of Ridley’s lower stats have been due to the fact that ‘Bama has had to develop a true freshman quarterback along the way in Jalen Hurts. The problem is that I just can’t put a receiver in my top five. A true receiver has not won the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991. Whether he is a true contender or not, expect a huge year out of Ridley in 2017.
5. D’Onta Foreman- Running Back, Texas
Foreman is perhaps the most overlooked running back in College Football right now, mostly because he plays for a team that just yesterday lost to Kansas. Foreman has had a monstrous junior campaign, running for 1613 yards and 13 touchdowns through 10 games. The 6'0", 238 pound bulldozer’s worst rushing total on the year was 124 yards against Kansas State. He is 2nd in the nation in rushing yards and tied for 9th in rushing touchdowns. With what should be an improved passing game under Shane Buechele’s second year at quarterback, Foreman should have another phenomenal year in 2017. We have seen players such as Robert Griffin III win the Heisman on a team that is not necessarily a contender, but it will take a record-breaking year out of Foreman to be able to hoist the Heisman next December.
4. Lamar Jackson- Quarterback, Louisville
I explained earlier why Jackson will win the 2016 Heisman, but now I’m going to explain why he will NOT win the 2017 Heisman. For every winner that has ever looked unstoppable and returned the next season, teams have been able to somewhat contain them. There has only been one two-time Heisman winner in history (Archie Griffin in 1974,1975), and nearly every other returning winner has struggled to even stay in the top five in votes the following season. Jameis Winston won the Heisman in 2013 while leading the Seminoles to the National Championship, but finished 6th in the Heisman voting the following season. Johnny Manziel won in 2012, and returned in 2013 to finish 5th. We may be able to chalk that up to cocaine use though. Finally, I bring up the man himself… Tim Tebow. Tebow won as a sophomore in 2007, got 3rd while Sam Bradford won in 2008, and got 5th in 2009. Whether it is because the hype becomes impossible to live up to or the committee just gets bored of seeing the same person win, repeating has eluded some of the greatest college football players of all time.
3. Jalen Hurts- Quarterback, ‘Bama
I had to take some Prilosec before writing this. I hate Alabama. Jalen Hurts is their quarterback, and as the quarterback of the team that is presumed to be in the Playoff every year until the end of time, you are automatically shoved into Heisman consideration. Hurts deserves it though. As a true freshman, he has thrown for 2032 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions through their 10th game. Number 2 has also ran for 735 yards and 11 TDs as well. Expect him to return next year more comfortable and ready for a Heisman campaign from the get-go. Alabama will most likely start the year #1 in the country, and Hurts should start the year near the top of the Heisman polls.
2. Sa’Quon Barkley- Running Back, Penn State
My second running back on the list absolutely destroyed my beloved Hawkeyes a few weeks ago. Sa’Quon Barkley is an incredible talent. The sophomore out of Coplay, Pennsylvania has done pretty well over the past two years for his home state. In a successful 2015 year, he ran for 1076 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has taken his game to another level in 2016. Barkley has rushed for 1113 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry and catching 17 balls for 291 yards. He has two 200+ yard rushing games this year while being tied for 9th in the NCAA in touchdowns and 16th in yards against a formidable Big-10 schedule. He is the #1 reason why Penn State may just sneak into the College Football Playoff in just James Franklin’s 3rd season at the helm in State College. I almost put him at #1 on this list, and he’ll slide there if the man I have at the top does in fact leave early for the draft. Expect another phenomenal year out of Barkley and the Nittany Lions in 2017.
- Mitch Trubisky- Quarterback, North Carolina
Mitch Trubisky is going to be very appealing to NFL scouts, so he may not be in Chapel Hill a year from now, but for the time being he is my pick to win the 2017 Heisman Memorial Trophy. After sitting behind record-setter Marquise Williams for two years, Trubisky has taken the starting job and sprinted to a potential early round NFL contract in 2016. Trubisky is (deep breath) 11th in passing yards, 6th in QBR, tied for 17th in passing touchdowns, and 3rd in completion percentage. He has thrown for 3004 yards, 22 TD, and only 4 interceptions in his first 10 starts of 2016, all while completing 70.6% of his passes. The element that I think will potentially win him the Heisman is that he steps up in the big games. Arguably his two best performances this year have come against two of the toughest teams he’s faced. He threw for 453 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 37–36 win over Pittsburgh and the very next week threw for 405 yards and had 4 total touchdowns AT Doak Walker Stadium to beat Florida State. The kid has the intangibles to both play at the next level and to win the Heisman Trophy. Although North Carolina will lose Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard, their top two receivers, I believe that there will be enough weapons still surrounding Trubisky in 2017 to maintain the high level that Tar Heel offenses have performed at under Larry Fedora. Also, I would like to give a shoutout to whoever is coaching quarterbacks in Mentor, Ohio, because that city has produced the GOAT (Ricky Stanzi) and Mitch Trubisky over the past decade. Props to the Mentor community for their remarkable contributions to college football.