It seems incredibly early, but Bovada has already posted Heisman futures odds for next year. And you know how the saying goes - what's the point of having odds if you aren't going to bet on them? Actually, I just made that up, but the point remains - it's a good time to have some fun and look at these futures to see what is out there. I'm not suggesting that betting on something as fickle as the Heisman 10 months before it will be awarded, and before some potential contenders have even played their first career snap, is an even remotely sane decision. The potential for fun is high, though, and sometimes that is good enough. (all odds are from Bovada):
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Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (+300): This is hardly surprising. Watson was third in voting last year, and his team played in the National Championship Game last year and has the tools to be even better this year. Since 1999 when Ron Dayne became the third non-quarterback winner in a row, we have not gone two years in a row without a quarterback winner, so voters could be inclined towards another QB this year. If that's the case then Watson has an extra edge in accomplishment and voter support heading into the season. He's a deserving favorite. Of course, it is rare that any player heads into the season as a favorite and is able to run the table and come out with the hardware. There is just too much scrutiny and hype, and the margin for error is so small for the front-runner. I wouldn't bet on Watson at this price, but I have no problem with him being the favorite.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (+400): If McCaffrey played in the eastern or central time zone then he would be going for his second straight Heisman Trophy. He was handicapped last year by playing so many games that wrapped up well after most people out east were in bed. What he did was remarkable, though, and it seems unlikely that teams will have figured out how to slow him down suddenly. There is a risk of injury when a guy does as much as this guy does, and geography is a big handicap again, but on pure freakishness he gets my nod.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (+400): Fournette was in the driver's seat early last year, and at the midpoint it looked like he was going to run away with the award. But then he crashed back to earth - at least in relative terms. He still had an exceptional season. With a very strong recruiting class and more stability on the coaching front, LSU should be poised to be better this year than they were last year. If they are then Fournette could again be in the race. After his faltering last year, though, I perceive him as a clear second option at running back behind McCaffrey.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (+1000): Barrett has the luxury of being the starter for sure this year instead of being mired in uncertainty with Cardale Jones like last year. That will be a big help. This team has lost tremendous talent, though - they have had 14 players invited to the Combine. That means that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Barrett. Talent isn't in short supply because the team recruits so well, but experience is. That makes it tough to view Barrett as the second-best QB contender at this point - though he could certainly wind up being so.
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss (+1200): Kelly had a strong season in his debut with Ole Miss last year, and that team should be talented and offensive again this year. I have a hard time trusting Kelly, the nephew of Jim Kelly, to keep it together for a whole season, though. He was booted from Clemson for his behavior. Then he was arrested outside a nightclub after fighting with bouncers and threatening to return with an AK-47. He's not the most stable individual out there, and in this intolerant age any other problem he encountered would likely derail his campaign. The price isn't fat enough.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (+1200) and Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia (+1400): These are different players, and both are very talented. I group them together, though, because I am not convinced that either controls their own destiny. They need to have very good seasons themselves, and they need Fournette and McCaffrey to falter, if they want to have a chance at the award. I don't see them moving ahead of the top two backs just on their own merit. That makes it tough to bet on either of them.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (+2000): Rosen is freaky talented. He had moments last year of looking spectacular and others of looking like the true freshman he was. He's a year older now, though, so the game should slow down for him a bit. He also has a new offensive coaching staff to work with, and it is an upgrade. He will play second fiddle - at best - in his conference, though, behind McCaffrey, and that will be tough to overcome. He also plays on a team that chronically underachieves, though, and that might not change. It seems to me that his ceiling this year is more of a Heisman finalist than a Heisman winner.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (+3300): This is an interesting long shot. Kaaya is entering his third full season as starter. He has put up good numbers despite playing for a burning garbage heap of a team. The Hurricanes upgraded big time at head coach with Mark Richt, though, and could very likely see the big first year bump that often comes following the excitement of a much-needed and high-profile coaching change. A lot of people remember when Miami used to be good, so they will reward a guy who helps them return close to that after years of darkness. He's worth a look at the price.
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