Heisman Trophy Analysis

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)

hi-res-0f9c3c508da7a834e0dfb18a0fddb661_crop_north.jpg
Lamar Jackson, the clear front-runner to win the Heisman for the majority of the season, capped off a spectacular season with the highest award. Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

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)

maxresdefault
Deshaun Watson, a pre-season Heisman favorite, came up just short in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting. Photo Credits: Getty Images

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)

9595432-dede-westbrook-baker-mayfield-ncaa-football-texas-oklahoma-850x560
Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook finished 3rd and 4th in this year’s Heisman voting despite low expectations after a slow start. Photo Credits: AP Photo

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)

57eb09ec665b4-image
Jabrill Peppers lived up to the hype this season, putting together an impressive campaign, in which he finished 5th in Heisman voting this season. Photo Credits: AP Photo

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

Advertisements

Heisman Trophy Watch List 2016

Here are our preseason picks for the Heisman Trophy winner for this upcoming season

The Heisman Trophy, awarded to college football’s best player, is the most prestigious award in college football. Here are our preseason picks for the Heisman Trophy for this season:

 

Co-Favorite: Leonard Fournette (Running Back), LSU Tigers

110514-CFB-Power-Ball-EH-PI.jpg

Fournette was the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy last season before an abysmal performance (19 carries for 31 yards) against the top defense in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide. While that game may have tarnished his Heisman resume, Fournette was simply spectacular last season with the exception of that game; it was the only game where he had less than 100 yards from scrimmage and averaged less than 4.3 yards per carry.

Over the course of the season, Fournette averaged an electric 6.5 yards per rush attempt. In fact, Fournette was so good last season that he was only 1 of 7 running backs (Division I) with at least 200 carries to average 6.5 yards or more per carry. While Fournette’s 22 rushing touchdowns largely powered his performance, he averaged about 0.07 TD’s per carry, which is only a tad high. However, we could attribute his size and athleticism to that. This means that he likely won’t experience regression this year, which is quite good for his outlook.

Fournette’s kryptonite will likely be his offensive line, as LSU only managed to hold onto 3 of their starters. While LSU’s offensive line is likely the weakest part of their offense, Les Miles, LSU’s coach, has consistently had one of the best offensive lines, despite losing key starters to the NFL Draft every year.

 

Co-Favorite: Deshaun Watson (Quarterback), Clemson Tigers

watson-qb-overcome.jpg

Watson was simply spectacular last year, finishing as both one of the best passing and running quarterbacks in the nation. Watson ran a remarkably efficient offense last season, despite missing his best receiver, Mike Williams. Watson finished 9th in passing yards, 24th in yards per attempt, and 5th in completion percentage last season. In addition, Watson finished 13th in passing efficiency and 8th in passing touchdowns, even with an extremely low touchdown rate that is sure to regress next season.

Watson was quite efficient on the ground as well last season. Watson finished 44th in rushing yards among all players, while also finishing 94th in yards per carry. Additionally, Watson finished 37th in rushing touchdowns among all players, while experiencing a horribly low touchdown rate. Next season, Watson’s touchdown rate is sure to regress and should result in a much higher rate (and likely more touchdowns).

Watson only has room to improve this season, as he retained all of his top rushers, receivers, and lineman from last season. As mentioned earlier, Watson was without his best receiver, Mike Williams, who will likely be a 1st-round pick in this year’s draft and will surely boost Watson’s production next year.

 

Don’t count him out: Christian McCaffrey (Running Back), Stanford Cardinals

chi-mccaffrey1127-wre0032331875-20151114.jpg

McCaffrey was easily the best all-around player last year, and possibly of all-time. Last season, McCaffrey recorded 2,664 yards from scrimmage, which ranked top in the nation and 5th all-time behind Smith, Gordon, Sanders, and Allen. In addition to that, McCaffrey broke Sanders’ record for all purpose yards by recording 3,496 all purpose yards last season. To put this into perspective, the next closest player in the country last season only had 2,410 all purpose yards.

In addition to his spectacular play on offense, McCaffrey was among the best in the nation on special teams. McCaffrey had the 5th highest kick-off return average (min 20) and 67th highest punt return average among all returners last season. McCaffrey was much better at punt returns than his numbers would suggest, as many of the leaders only had a few returns last season.

Despite his stellar performance in terms of yards, McCaffrey only scored 13 touchdowns last season (8 rushing, 5 receiving), which is far below that of his peers. McCaffrey’s shockingly low touchdown rate last season is sure to regress in this following one. On the other hand, yards do not typically regress, so next season we can expect McCaffrey to maintain his performance in terms of yards and increase his performance in terms of touchdowns. One concern regarding McCaffrey’s low touchdown rate is that his size played a factor, but he more than makes up for that with his speed and quickness.

 

* Our projected Heisman Trophy winner *

Dark Horse: Dalvin Cook (Running Back), Florida State Seminoles

15.01.01.tw_.emg_.rosebowl.0430.jpg

Cook was one of the best running backs in college football last season, but went largely unnoticed for most of the season, despite his stellar play. Cook was one of the most dynamic running backs in the country last season, as he was 4th in yards per rushing attempt. Out of the 3 players ahead of him, only one of them had 200+ rushes (Cook had 229 rushing attempts last season).

Cook was so spectacular last season that he only had one game where he played poorly (against Boston College in Week 3). That game was his only one of the season when he had under 100 yards from scrimmage and did not record a touchdown. Last season, Cook had the 8th most rushing touchdowns, largely fueled by his week to week consistency. Despite scoring so many touchdowns, his touchdown rate was not very high, which suggests that it should not regress this next season. Cook now has a solid starting quarterback in Deondre Francois, who should only help Cook’s performance next season.

Cook should look for even more success this season, as Florida State hardly lost any important players. In fact, it was Florida State’s weakest draft class in years, as the only crucial player they lost was Jalen Ramsey, who should not impact Cook’s performance at all. A strong recruiting class and a great returning group of starters should equate to even more success for Cook this season.

 

While Fournette, Watson, McCaffrey, and  Cook are run-away favorites to win the Heisman Trophy this year, there are some other major contenders for the award listed below (listed in order of likelihood of winning the award):

Nick Chubb (Running Back), Georgia Bulldogs

Baker Mayfield (Quarterback), Oklahoma Sooners

Royce Freeman (Running Back), Oregon Ducks

Jabrill Peppers (LB / S / CB / RB / WR / KR / PR), Michigan Wolverines

Adoree’ Jackson (WR / CB / KR / PR), USC Trojans

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, heismanwatch.com, Fox Sports, cfbstats.com, and Football Reference. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Photo Credits: heismanwatch.com, Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports, USATSI, Tony Avelar / AP, Taylor Wilder/Emerald