Let’s take a look at this year’s Heisman finalists, and analyze how deserving the candidates were of their respective positions.
Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville Cardinals (1st place – 2,144 votes)
This past Saturday, Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to college football’s most outstanding player. Jackson, only 19 years and 337 days old, not only became the youngest winner of the Heisman Trophy but also won by 620 votes, which was the sixth-largest margin of victory in the history of the trophy. Jackson compiled a number of very impressive achievements this season and was certainly a very deserving recipient of the ticket into college football’s most elite club.
Jackson epitome of a dual-threat quarterback, racking up 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air, as well as 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Jackson was the 2nd player in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 yards and was the first player in a Power 5 conference to do so. Jackson also became the 3rd player in FBS history to pass for 30 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns, and the previous two, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, won the Heisman in landslides as well. Jackson also broke Deshaun Watson’s ACC single-season touchdown record with 51 total touchdowns this season. With all of that being said, Jackson greatly deserves the Heisman.
Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson Tigers (2nd place – 1,524 votes)
While most people might lump Watson and Jackson into the same group, as both are quarterbacks who can pass the ball well with elite running talent, they are by no means the same player. While Jackson is accurately regarded as a dual-threat quarterback, Watson is much more of a pocket passer, despite possessing great athleticism and speed. Watson finished 2nd in the Heisman voting this year, a mild improvement over his 3rd place finish last season, which are the 2 highest finishes in Clemson football history.
Watson was an elite pocket passer this year, recording 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns in the air, but also 529 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. Although other teams have made it to the playoff multiple times, Watson is the only quarterback in FBS history to lead his team to 2 College Football Playoffs. This past Thursday, Watson won the Davey O’Brien award for the second time, only the fourth player in FBS history to do so, and each of the previous 3 eventually went on to win the Heisman. As we know now, Watson was not quite as lucky, but this alone makes him deserving of his 2nd place finish.
Baker Mayfield, QB (3rd place – 361 votes) and Dede Westbrook, WR (4th place – 209 votes)
Let’s get something straight: both Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook were absolutely fabulous this season, however, they unfairly did not get the national media coverage they deserved. A combination of the excellence of Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Alabama, as well as 2 early losses to Houston and Ohio State, drew media coverage away from Mayfield and Westbrook, which severely hurt their Heisman campaigns. Additionally, many people did what I did in this article, which hurt their campaigns as well: clump Mayfield and Westbrook together because they both played for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Mayfield was an extremely efficient passer this season, throwing for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns. Entering the bowl season, Mayfield leads the FBS in Total QBR (91.6), yards per attempt (11.1), and completion percentage (71.2%), the first player to do so since Russell Wilson achieved this feat back in 2011. Mayfield finished 4th in Heisman voting last year and substantially increased his products in all facets of his game, which would justify his 3rd place finish. Despite being a fabulous player, Jackson and Watson were simply in another class, something that Mayfield maybe can achieve next year, as he stated that he was interested in returning to Norman for his senior year.
Westbrook was fantastic this past season, most likely being the best receiver in all of college football. Westbrook and Mayfield really fed off each other’s success, and some of Mayfield’s improvement from last year to this year can definitely be attributed to Westbrook’s brilliance. Westbrook was possibly the most dynamic player in college football, tallying 16 receiving touchdowns as well as leading Power 5 receivers in 20-yard receptions with 26 and in 100-yard receiving games with 8.This past week, Westbrook deservingly won the Biletnikoff Award, awarded to college football’s best receiver, and finished 4th in Heisman voting for his dynamic play.
Jabrill Peppers, Athlete – Michigan Wolverines (5th place – 208 votes)
An argument can be made that Jabrill Peppers was the best all-around player in the FBS this season. While I agree with this statement, unfortunately for Peppers, the Heisman historically has not been given to the best all-around player, it’s been given to the best offensive player. It is quite impressive that Peppers managed to stay in the Heisman race despite having such a minimal offensive role, and I think that this really speaks volumes about the impact he makes on all sides of the ball.
Peppers was easily the most versatile player in the country, being an impact player at a number of different positions on defense (linebacker, safety, defensive back), offense (running back, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback), and special teams (punt returner, kick returner). Peppers racked up 72 tackles and 4 touchdowns this year, a fairly impressive stat-line for a player who splits his stats among a number of positions. Peppers is the first non-offensive player to be invited to the Heisman ceremony since Manti Te’o and was more than deserving of his 5th place finish.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Football Reference, CBS Sports, and NCAA.com. Thanks for reading!
Written by Jason Platkin
Cover Photo Credits: AP Photo