Joe Mixon, RS Junior RB Oklahoma (public image issues)
Calvin Ridley, Junior WR Alabama
Ed Oliver, Sophomore DT Houston
Trace McSorley, RS Junior QB Penn St.
Josh Rosen, Junior QB UCLA
10. Shane Buechele, Sophomore QB Texas
The Longhorns struggled all season after their season opening upset of Notre Dame, but the true freshmen Buechele showed some serious potential with his lively arm and ability to make plays. With new coach Tom Herman taking over in Texas, Buechele should have a chance to put together a big season, especially against Big 12 defenses, if you can even call them defenses.
9. Deondre Francois, Sophomore QB Florida St.
Another true freshman quarterback, Francois led the Seminoles to a 9-3 record and led all freshmen in passing yards with 3,128. With star tailback Dalvin Cook likely heading to the NFL, Francois will likely be asked to do a lot more for Jimbo Fishers offense in 2017, and the Seminoles should be favored to win the ACC.
8. Saquan Barkley, Junior RB Penn St.
One of the best running backs in the Big 10, Barkley will be looking to take Penn State to the next level, after they were left out of the college football playoff, even after winning the Big 10. 1,600 total yards and 19 touchdowns in the best conference in the nation sets Barkley up for a big 2017.
7. Derrius Guice, Junior RB LSU
Leonard Fournette, arguably the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, set the LSU single game rushing record this season with 284 yards against Ole Miss, and added 3 touchdowns. Derrius Guice, Fournette’s backup, ran for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns against a much more talented Texas A&M squad a few games later. In games when Guice was the starter, he averaged over 191 yards. That would have been Heisman worthy had he been the full-time starter. Now that Fournette has declared for the draft, Guice will get the chance to be the RB1 in a run happy offense and will be able to showcase all his skills. Look for monster numbers from the Tigers “backup.”
6. Sam Darnold, RS Sophomore QB USC
USC started this season 1-2, where they were blown out of the water by Alabama 52-6 and suffered a bad 27-10 loss at Stanford. After the Stanford game, Darnold, a redshirt freshmen, was named the starter. USC finished the season 9-3, including a big win over the eventual Pac-12 Champion Washington Huskies. Darnold never looked like a freshman, posting 28 total touchdowns in 9 games and leading the Trojans on an 8-game win streak to end the season, earning a birth in the Rose Bowl against Big 10 champs Penn State. Darnold should have most of his weapons back and will look to build on a very productive freshmen season.
5. JT Barrett, RS Senior QB Ohio St.
Until the loss at Penn State, Barrett was in the Heisman race for most of the early part of the season. Barrett finished the season with 33 total touchdowns and led Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes to their second College Football Playoff berth. The Ohio State captain struggled with this passing at times this season, especially late, throwing for a combined 210 yards in the final two games while complete less than 47% of his throws in both. If the Buckeyes can improve their passing attack, that combined with Barrett’s running ability should earn him a trip to New York.
4. Jake Browning, Junior QB Washington
Browning is used to putting up big numbers. In high school, he set the California career passing yards record with 16,775 and set the national career touchdown record with 229. This past season, he led the Huskies to a Pac-12 title and the playoff, while throwing for 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns, with an additional 4 on the ground. He was in the Heisman race until the Huskies lone loss to USC late in the season, but still ended the season strong. As he enters his third year under center, him and Chris Peterson will look to be just as dominant in 2017.
3. Jalen Hurts, Sophomore QB Alabama
34 total touchdowns and over 3,300 totals yards is a pretty good season for any quarterback, but when a true freshman puts up those numbers while going undefeated in the SEC, its eye opening. Hurts will likely have a more opened up playbook next season and most of his offensive weapons back, so expect a bigger, sexier stat line and the wins to go with it.
2. Baker Mayfield, RS Senior QB Oklahoma
Mayfield was a finalist this year, and has put up monster numbers over his two seasons as the starter in Norman. He’s thrown 74 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions, along with another 13 on the ground, all to go with two straight Big 12 Championships. Remember this kid was a former walk on. Mayfield will lose his top receiver, fellow Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook, but should still put up good numbers, and if Joe Mixon ends up declaring for the draft, he may need to do more with his feet, boosting his Heisman stock.
1. Lamar Jackson, Junior QB Louisville
It will be difficult to replicate what he did this past season, but we can assume Jackson is only going to continue to improve as a quarterback and his running ability will always be there. He’s the reigning winner and the favorite until someone puts on a show and takes that title from him. In case you forgot, 3,390 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes, 1,538 rushing yards (8th in the country), and 21 rushing touchdowns. Video game stats.
Photo Credit: (NCAA.com)