Although Lamar Jackson was the decisive winner of the 2016 Heisman trophy, the Louisville quarterback will face some stiff competition to repeat next season.
Here is a look at the opening odds (courtesy of Bovada) on a handful of top Heisman candidates for the 2017 season:
|Odds to win 2017 Heisman Trophy|
|J.T. Barrett||Ohio State||6/1|
|Saquon Barkley||Penn State||10/1|
|Trace McSorley||Penn State||10/1|
|Deondre Francois||Florida State||12/1|
|Mason Rudolph||Oklahoma St.||12/1|
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (11/2): The two-time Heisman finalist recently announced he will return for the 2017 season, for which he is eligible because of a recent amendment to transfer rules. Mayfield threw for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns and also rushed for six touchdowns to earn a second consecutive trip to the Heisman ceremony last season. He finished third behind Deshaun Watson of Clemson and winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (6/1): The veteran dual-threat leader for the Buckeyes was in the Heisman conversation for most of last year, but some late-season struggles hampered his candidacy. He still finished with 2,555 passing yards with 24 touchdowns, along with 845 rushing yards and nine more scores. Barrett is bound to put up big numbers for an Ohio State team that should again contend for a playoff berth.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (7/1): The explosive dual-threat quarterback went from Heisman longshot to the runaway winner, as each game became his personal highlight reel. Jackson passed for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, and ran for 1,571 and 21 scores. However, he was fortunate to survive his team's late-season fade as it ended the regular season with back-to-back losses. Moreover, his Heisman stock for 2017 likely took a hit when he was held to 186 total yards and no touchdowns in a 29-9 bowl loss to LSU.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC (9/1): The freshman quarterback was largely responsible for the Trojans' astounding turnaround from losing three of their first four to finishing the season with nine straight wins, topped with a classic Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. He threw for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns, and added 250 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (10/1): The explosive running back was in pre-season Heisman listings last year, and his standout season was a bit lost amid the hype surrounding Penn State’s unlikely run to the Big 10 title. But he delivered, with 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he returns as likely the most accomplished running back in college football to start next season.
Jake Browning, QB, Washington (10/1): Washington's standout quarterback made a late run last season to enter Heisman discussions, though he ultimately wasn't invited to the ceremony despite leading the Huskies to a conference title and playoff berth. The sophomore threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. A poor game against Alabama in the playoffs might have skeweed some public perception against him, but he is destined for another big year and should be in the Heisman mix.
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State (10/1): Similar to plight of USC's Darnold, Penn State's rapid rise to championship-caliber play was largely due to the accelerated progression of McSorley, who navigated the team’s new-look spread offense to massive numbers. The sophomore threw for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns, and rushed for 365 yards and seven scores.
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State (12/1): Francois was Florida State’s opening-day starter last year despite never having taken a college snap, but he soon showed why was the Seminoles’ top choice. He passed for 419 yards in his debut against Ole Miss, and threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns for the season.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (12/1): A season-ending injury to Rosen was at the core of what turned out to be a miserable season for the Bruins. Rosen threw for 1,915 yards and 10 touchdowns before going down against Arizona State. If he returns to full health, Rosen will be one of the most experienced and skilled signal-callers in the country, with a chance at being in the Heisman mix.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State (12/1): Rudolph's handiwork has largely been overshadowed by Mayfield in the Big 12 the past two seasons, but those who follow the program know he has been one of the top-producing quarterbacks in the country the past two seasons. Rudolph completed 63.4 percent of hios passes for 4,091 yards and 28 TDs against just four interceptions. He also dismantled a solid Colorado defense with 314 yards and three scores in an Alamo Bowl victory.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama (12/1): Hurts spent much of his freshman year as the key cog in an underrated Alabama offense that helped the Crimson Tide reach the national title game after an undefeated regular season and SEC championship. He threw for 2,780 yards and 23 TDs, while rushing for 954 yards and 13 more scores. As the quarterback on what will likely be the best team in the country, Hurts is in a strong position to be considered for the Heisman.
Derrius Grice, RB, LSU (15/1): While the plight of teammate Lenoard Fournette grabbed the majority of the headlines, Grice quietly emerged as one of the top-producing running backs in the country. He gained attention with 285 yards and four touchdowns in a Thanksgiving day win over Texas A&M, and finished the year with 1,387 yards and 15 TDs. He should get enough touches next season to put up similarly strong numbers and enter the Heisman conversation.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama (15/1): Scarbrough wasn't Alabama's featured back for most of the season, as he split carries with Damien Harris and ended up third on the team in rushing yards. But he showed observes he might be the best of the Tide’s options with a strong season finished that included a dynamic 68-yard touchdown and 180 yards against Washington in the playoffs, followed by 93 yards and two more touchdowns against Clemson in the title game.
Value pick: Hurts (12/1): The best player on the best team is always given more than a fair look for the Heisman, and the Alabama quarterback is likely to fit that profile next season. He was overlooked much of this season but will now be on the radar of football observers everywhere. If he improves throwing the ball downfield and cuts down on turnovers, he will be right there with Barrett and Jackson as the top dual-threat QBs in the country. This is a pretty lucrative payback on a player who has a real chance.