Going all the way back to the 1998 season, a quarterback or a running back has won the Heisman Trophy as the top college football player in the nation. While quarterbacks have won the lion's share of awards during this time frame by a margin of 13-5, last year's trophy did go to former Alabama running back Derrick Henry.
A quick look at MyBookie's updated futures odds to win this season's Heisman reveals that there are three running backs and two quarterbacks at the top of the list. You could make a strong case for the value in each of these player's odds to win, but in the end only one will produce a winning ticket. Here is a quick breakdown of all five of these Heisman hopefuls along with my top-valued play.
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Leonard Fournette- Running Back, LSU (+300)
Fournette started last season as one of the top favorites to win the 2015 Heisman, and through his first seven games of the year he appeared to be a lock to take home the hardware with an average of 193 rushing yards a game. That all changed in a miserable performance against Alabama in which he was held to just 31 yards on 19 carries in LSU's 30-16 loss. His chances to win officially came to an end the following week in the Tigers' stunning 31-14 loss to Arkansas is which he grinded out 91 yards on 19 rushing attempts.
His overall numbers that season were still very impressive with 1,953 rushing yards on 300 carries, and he left the voters with a solid impression coming into this season by gaining 212 yards on 29 attempts in LSU's 56-27 bowl win against Texas Tech. Working against his chances is all the hype as the favorite and a brutal schedule that once again includes back-to-back games against Alabama and Arkansas later in the season.
Deshaun Watson- Quarterback, Clemson (+450)
Clemson made a run all the way to the College Football Playoff Championship Game in 2015 and a big part of that success can be attributed to the play of Deshaun Watson. He ended the year with 4,104 passing yards and 35 touchdowns while completing 67.8 percent of his 491 attempts. He also added 1,105 yards and 12 scores on the ground as the Tigers' second-leading rusher. This type of talent and versatility almost led to a Heisman Trophy that season with a third-place finish in the final vote.
The Tigers are once again favored to win the ACC title, and MyBookie has them listed as +650 second-favorites to Alabama to win a national title in 2016. Watson should have plenty of chances to impress the voters when it comes to winning this year's award, and his performance in Clemson's road game against conference rival Florida State on Oct. 29 could ultimately decide his fate.
Christian McCaffrey- Running Back, Stanford (+500)
McCaffrey did not start the 2015 season as a Heisman hopeful. However, after breaking the single-season college football record for all-purpose yards as a sophomore at Stanford that year, he finished a close second to Henry in the voting with a total of 1,539 points. This was the fifth time in the history of this award that a Cardinal player was the runner-up. The 6-foot-1, 201 pound back gained 2,019 yards on the ground, 645 yards through the air and another 1,200 yards returning punts and kickoffs.
I really like the value in McCaffrey's odds to win the Heisman this time around. Stanford should be in the spotlight all season long as one of the top favorites to repeat as Pac-12 Champions after going 12-2 last season. This should give him ample opportunity to excel as one of college football's most versatile players.
Dalvin Cook- Running Back, Florida State (+900)
As a freshman, Cook caught some attention as a 1,000-yard back, and he really broke onto the scene as one of the top runners in the nation last season with almost 1,700 yards rushing while averaging 7.4 yards a carry. Florida State relied heavily on its ground game last season, and with some question marks at the quarterback position he figures to be an even bigger part of the offensive mix in 2016.
The one lingering question with Cook heading into this season would be his ability to stay healthy for the entire season. He missed some playing time last year battling both an ankle and hamstring injury, and he will need the full 12 games this time around to impress the Heisman voters given the stiff competition ahead of him on this list.
Baker Mayfield- Quarterback, Oklahoma (+900)
The final Heisman hopeful on this short list could be the most intriguing pick. The Sooners made it all the way to the College Football Playoff last season before losing to Clemson in the semifinal round, and their betting odds to win a national title this year are fifth-best with MyBookie's futures at +800. Mayfield was a big reason for Oklahoma's success last year with 3,700 passing yards and 36 touchdown throws on an offense that was ranked 18th in the nation moving the ball through the air.
Mayfield will have a make-or-break opportunity to really help his Heisman chances early in the season with Oklahoma playing host to Ohio State on Sept. 17. If he does go on to play well in that game and the Sooners remain on track to repeat as Big 12 Champs, Mayfield could easily find himself as the front-runner to win this award.
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