The Heisman Trophy is one of the most renowned and legendary awards in all of sports, professional or collegiate. Created in 1935, each year it is presented to the best player in college football. Throughout the decades, the recipients have been some of the very best to ever lace up a pair of cleats. It doesn’t always guarantee success in the NFL, but college football is very much its own game, and the Heisman winner always excels in that environment, whether they’re cut out for the pros or not. The winner in the 2017 college football season will embody the same excellence that past Heisman winners have. It’s just a matter of exactly who it’s going to be.
The college game is losing some of it’s best players and biggest stars to the NFL Draft this April. Even so, there is going to be a core of college players ready to step up and fill the void. The talent pool is deep for the 2017 season, which makes the debate even more layered, as to who will take home the coveted Heisman this upcoming season. Certainly at this point, there is no definitive answer, but there some compelling arguments you can make for a number of players in the college football scene these days.
Ranked below are 15 players who could win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season.
15. Jacob Eason
This one might be a bit of a longshot, but Eason put up some pretty good numbers, despite only being a true freshman for Georgia. He’s got a big arm, and his accuracy, which was the main thing he struggled with in his first season, will only improve next year, making him a complete pocket passer in due time. The Bulldogs have enough offensive weapons for Eason to excel, and he should emerge as one of the more impressive college quarterbacks next season, Given all the competition out there, it may be difficult for Eason to capture the Heisman next year, but he does have an outside chance, and is a real contender for the award in 2018. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on for the next few years.
14. James Washington
Oklahoma State is known for producing some great wide receivers, and Washington is next in line on that list. He’s had two stellar seasons in a row for the Cowboys, and will probably be the best receiver in the college game next year. If he’s able to improve on his already-great numbers even further in 2017, he’ll be one of the Heisman favorites without a question. He’s easily the best player on the Oklahoma State offense, and will see a bevy of targets coming his way, no matter what happens. Washington is almost a guaranteed top-half of the first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and will show more reasons why in the upcoming college season. Simply a great player, and the definition of an elite receiver. Expect big things from him.
13. Derrius Guice
The number two running back on the LSU roster, and will be receiving the bulk of the carries for them, now that Leonard Fournette is entering the draft this year. Guice was extremely impressive last season, even though he only carried the ball 183 times. His yards per carry average was borderline amazing, and he’ll get a chance what he can do with a full season of starter reps in 2017. Maybe not the safest pick for the Heisman winner on here, but if everything lines up for Guice, he may be the one that ultimately gets the award. LSU is a running offense, and he’ll be the main beneficiary of that philosophy, now that he’s not behind anyone on the depth chart. We’ll know early in the season if he’s the real deal or not.
12. J.T. Barrett
It seems like the Buckeyes have fielded a dozen quarterbacks over the last few years, and Barrett’s name always keeps popping up as an elite college player. It would be easy for him to get lost in the shuffle, but there’s no question about it; his production is no joke. For 2017, he’s definitely Ohio State’s best option at quarterback, and is a dual-threat, able to both scramble away from pressure, and thread the needle with precision passing. Barrett will not only help keep them in another National Championship hunt, but if he’s able to maximize his production, he could be taking home the Heisman as well. Barrett is exactly the kind of player the award could feasibly go to, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if he’s able to win it next season. When it’s all said and done, Barrett could be considered one of the best players in the history of Ohio State. That’s no small feat.
11. Josh Rosen
Unfortunately, Rosen suffered a season-ending injury in early October last season, which not only cut his season short, but his Heisman hopes as well. He’s only a sophomore at UCLA, and it would be wise to expect a bounce-back season from him in 2017. He’s one of the best young quarterbacks in the college game, and while it may be a leap of faith to say that he’s a confirmed Heisman candidate, he certainly has the raw skills to do so, and could hit the production necessary to make it happen. Of course, he does run the risk of re-aggravating the injury, but it’s more likely that Rosen puts together a full season to show exactly why he’s one of the elite players in the college game. If he doesn’t win the Heisman this year, he could put himself in prime position to do so in 2018, before he likely leaves for the NFL.
10. Calvin Ridley
Following in the footsteps of other great Alabama wide receivers, Ridley is primed for his best season yet with the Crimson Tide. He’s only a sophomore, and with the Alabama offense finding it’s groove as the season went on, there’s no reason to expect that he won’t have his best season yet in 2017. As per usual, Alabama has a ton of weapons all over the field, so defenses won’t strictly be able to zero in on Ridley, who will have the capability to roam around on his routes. He probably isn’t the best receiver in the college game right now from a talent perspective, but on a team like Alabama he could produce as such, and end up winning the Heisman this year. I’d say to keep an eye out for him, but Alabama will be on a ton of nationally televised games so you’ll see him in action regardless.
9. Bo Scarborough
Scarborough was wildly impressive in just 125 carries for the Crimson Tide last season, and he should be seeing the bulk of the carries in 2017. He’ll be running behind that monstrous offensive line again, and will be able to post some elite numbers this year. If Scarborough does end up making a run at the Heisman this year, it may be the result of Alabama’s system moreso than his own individual talent. Regardless, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with if he gets the lion’s share of the touches out of the backfield. Alabama running backs usually are, and it makes sense that Scarbrough would be next in line to produce at the position. He has a chance to have a really monster season ahead of him, just due to the surrounding personnel.
8. Trace McSorley
McSorley and Penn State managed to put together an outstanding season out of nowhere in 2016, despite a shaky first few games. There’s little doubt that the sophomore will be under center again in 2017, and should only improve on his numbers from there. He showed great ability to both improvise with his speed, and have a commanding presence as a pocket passer last season. It was really a surprise to everyone. Given that Penn State has an elite offense on their hands, there’s little reason to believe that McSorley won’t continue to flourish, and become one of the elite players in college football. He’s definitely in the running for the Heisman this season, and the next one as well.
7. Jake Browning
Washington was a revelation last season, as the Huskies enjoyed one of their best seasons in school history. Having Browning under center was a major part of that success, and there may not be a better pure arm talent in the division one game today. Browning tossed 43 touchdown passes last season, and he may be able to match that number again if all goes according to plan. He should play well enough to at least be in contention for the Heisman, but it also depends on how many of the dual-threat quarterbacks perform this year as well. Still, when you can throw the ball like Browning can, you’ll remain in contention, and the Huskies are a good enough team to maximize his output. Don’t sleep on Browning, he may just have his best season yet.
6. Nick Chubb
It was probably a smart decision for Chubb to decline entering he NFL Draft this year, given the amount of quality running backs in the class. This means that he’ll be the most proven running back returning to the college game, and everything is shaping up for Chubb to have a monster season, which will be his last with Georgia. The Bulldogs are a run-first team, and will remain so with a young quarterback in Jacob Eason, which means that Chubb will get ample opportunity to tote the rock, game in and game out. The risk with him lies in sustaining an injury, as it has caused him to miss games in the past. But it Chubb is on the field, he’s one of the favorites to be in real contention for the Heisman, and should produce in spades for this upcoming season, before he departs for the NFL.
5. Jalen Hurts
Hurts won the starting quarterback job at Alabama last season, and produced some great numbers, running the offense with efficiency and poise. This year he’ll look to build upon a successful first season under center, and has the potential to have a standout year. Needless to say, he’s working with some of the best offensive personnel in the college game today. In fact, it would a lot for Hurts not to post impressive numbers. He’s a Heisman candidate for no other reason than his own circumstances, which is a pretty good place to be before even taking a snap. Hurts is a real player, and anyone with such a surplus of weapons playing alongside them is a candidate for the Heisman.
4. Saquon Barkley
Barkley’s performance on the ground was a big reason why Penn State ended up making a run at the playoff last season . The running back almost singlehandedly carried the Nittany Lions’ offense last year, and he’s established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the game. There’s a real chance here for Barkley to have an absolutely monster season in 2017. He’s been building up to it, and if last year was any indication, he is going to get plenty of carries, and should be an even bigger force in the passing game. Barkley is a future first round pick in the NFL, and he may cap off his college career with a Heisman Trophy, which is a pretty good way for any college player to go out. Without a doubt, one of the biggest names to watch during the next college season.
3. Sam Darnold
There are those who believe that Darnold is the best quarterback in the college game right now. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but last year as a freshman he exceeded all expectations under center for USC. There’s no doubt he’s going to have a good year in this upcoming season, and he’s going to be a contender for the Heisman. The Trojans are going to reap the benefits from his quality play, and he’ll establish himself as one of the best arm talents in the NCAA. The sky really is the limit for Darnold, but he may not be a fully formed player by the time this season starts. When he does hit his peak, maybe around 2018, you can pencil him in as a guaranteed first round quarterback selection in the NFL. He’s poised for a big season. Hopefully he’ll fare better in the pros than other Trojan quarterbacks such as Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart who bombed out fairly quickly.
2. Baker Mayfield
Everyone knows that there is a vast distinction between a “college” quarterback, and a “pro” quarterback. Mayfield falls squarely into the “college” categorization, but he’s great at what he does. Returning to Oklahoma for his senior season, he’ll post the numbers necessary to include him in the Heisman conversation, and make plenty of highlight reel plays along the way. It’s unlikely that his skill set would translate to the NFL game, but for the college game, there’s not a better quarterback in the country. Mayfield may not be the odds -on favorite to win the Heisman, but he’s perhaps the player most guaranteed to at least be in the running for it. He’ll have a great year, and keep the Sooners in the National Championship discussion for another year at least.
1. Lamar Jackson
It would simply be foolish not to give the spot to Jackson, who is coming off a Heisman victory last season. He’s the epitome of a dual-threat quarterback, and one of the best college players we’ve seen in a long time. He’s a great arm talent, and has the agility and speed of an All-American running back. A truly unique skill set that will benefit not only Louisville for the next few seasons, but also Jackson himself, as he improves his standing for the NFL Draft, and has to be considered the Heisman favorite for the foreseeable future. There’s no question that the Cardinals offense runs through Jackson, and he has the potential to be one of the best college players of all-time when his time at Louisville is through. He’s easily the most dynamic player in the NCAA at the moment.
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