As February wraps up, college football is perhaps the sport furthest from my mind. Signing Day is in the rear-view mirror, spring games are over a month away, and there’s little going on that will impact next year’s race for the College Football Playoff. Or so I thought.
Then news broke last Saturday that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield had been arrested, and I remembered that things can change awfully quick in college. While it’s Mayfield’s first offense, and it probably won’t do much to damage Oklahoma’s chances this year, it could be highly damaging in the popularity contest that is Heisman voting. Just how drastically, you ask? Let’s take an early look at the odds for the upcoming season.
As a bonus gift, let’s also look at what’s in store for last year’s top players in the upcoming NFL Draft.
2017 Heisman Favorites
Lamar Jackson, QB; Louisville: 13/2
Heading into his junior year, the reigning Heisman winner has the chance to join Archie Griffin as the only players in college football history to win the trophy twice. The dual-threat quarterback could do whatever he wanted last season, racking up 30 touchdowns through the air and another 21 on the ground. Jackson and the Cardinals offense were finally shut down by LSU in last year’s Citrus Bowl, but they won’t encounter a defense of that caliber in 2017, giving Jackson a chance to improve on his incredible 2016 campaign.
Sam Darnold, QB; USC: 7/1
The freshman quarterback took the reigns in Week 4 and led the Trojans to their most successful campaign in the post-Pete Carroll era. Now, after passing for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns in 10 starts, the expectations are sky-high for Darnold. With all eyes on their sophomore quarterback, will he be able to live up to the hype, or will he follow in the footsteps of cross-town rival Josh Rosen (UCLA) and crash back to earth in year two?
Bo Scarborough, RB; Alabama: 10/1
Any lead running back for the Crimson Tide always has a chance at claiming a Heisman. The question for Scarborough is: can he show enough to keep Bama’s other talented running backs on the bench? Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs both averaged over 6.5 yards per carry last season, and are deserving of their fair share of touches. Scarborough showed his incredible talent in the playoffs, but if he can’t do it week in and week out, he won’t get enough carries to be a legit candidate.
Jake Browning, QB; Washington: 11/1
Finishing a respectable sixth in voting last year, Browning was the catalyst for a Huskies offense that finished eighth in the nation in scoring. His 43 passing touchdowns destroyed the school’s old record by 10, and ranked second in all of college. While most of Washington’s departures this year will come on defense, Browning will lose his top receiver from 2016, John Ross (1,150 yards, 17 TDs), to the NFL. So someone else will have to step up this season if Browning is going to keep his numbers at a Heisman level.
Jalen Hurts, QB; Alabama: 11/1
You have to be a special kind of player to start as a true freshman for Nick Saban, and Jalen Hurts spent all of last season proving he was of that ilk. After combining for 36 touchdowns and leading one of the most dominant regular seasons in college history, Bama and Hurts couldn’t finish the job in the National Championship, meaning the young QB comes into the season with a ton of motivation.
Baker Mayfield, QB; Oklahoma: 12/1
After finishing top four in Heisman voting in each of the last two seasons, the oddsmakers loved Mayfield to get over the hump this year. But then came the news of his arrest for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. A similar incident with cornerback Jordan Thomas last offseason didn’t lead to a suspension from Bob Stoops, but given the public scrutiny the Sooners have been under in the past year thanks to the handling of Joe Mixon, perhaps Mayfield will receive a slightly harsher punishment?
Even if Stoops looks the other way again, this incident will still be a distraction for Mayfield over the offseason. For example, he’s scheduled to appear in court a day before Oklahoma’s spring game. It’s tough to predict how any player will respond following such a poor lapse in judgement, but for now, the Sooners standout can’t be thought of as the favorite.
- J.T. Barrett, QB; Ohio State: 14/1
- Saquon Barkley, RB; Penn State: 14/1
- Mason Rudolph, QB; Oklahoma State: 14/1
- Deondre Francois, QB; Florida State: 16/1
- Nick Chubb, RB; Georgia: 16/1
- Derrius Guice, RB; LSU: 18/1
2017 NFL Draft Over/Unders
Mayfield and Browning both finished top-six in Jackson’s Heisman season last year. The rest of the top-ten are on their way to the pros. Where are college’s outgoing studs going to be drafted come April 27th? Let’s set some over/unders on draft position.
Myles Garrett, DE (Texas A&M): 1.5 overall O/U
He’s the best player available and would fill a need for the Browns, who own the first pick and have no pass rush (or anything else, really).
Mitch Trubisky, QB (UNC): 2.5 overall O/U
He’s the best QB available and would fill a need for the Niners, who own the second pick and might not have a quarterback on their roster on draft day.
Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida St.): 8.5 O/U
Is picking running backs early en vogue now that Ezekiel Elliott (no. 4 overall in 2016) is a thing? A lot of the top-ten teams – like the Jags (4th overall), Panthers (8th overall), and Bengals (9th overall) – could use an RB upgrade, and Cook has the potential to do Elliott-like things in the pros (depending on what line he’s running behind). The combine will be crucial to whether he or Leonard Fournette is the first runner off the board.
Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU): 8.5 O/U
See above blurb about Cook, then add a little more upside, but subtract by injury concerns.
DeShaun Watson, QB (Clemson): 9.5 O/U
There are serious questions about Watson’s ability at the next level, and he’s as low as number four in some QB rankings. Teams always reach on QBs, though, and someone is going to fall in love with the National Championship MVP’s intangibles (like his play in the title game in back-to-back years). With the QB-needy Niners (2nd overall), Bears (3rd overall), and Jets (6th overall) all picking early, it’s a toss-up whether Watson is a top-ten pick.
Mike Williams, WR (Clemson): 9.5
Williams, who might have been even better than his QB in the 2017 title game, is going to be the first WR to go. Will that be in the top-ten? Chicago and Tennessee both need a no. 1 wideout. But they also need a bunch of other stuff (sorry for using technical jargon) and will probably wait to address their receiver needs. Does the same hold true for Cincy at no. 9 and Buffalo at no. 10?
Chad Kelly, QB (Ole Miss): Mr. Irrelevant (last pick in the draft)
After initially being invited to the 2017 scouting combine, Kelly was shunned by the event due to his criminal record. He briefly flirted with the idea of just showing up anyway. That might be the kind of chutzpah teams are looking for! Or maybe all of the off-field issues will see his name still on the “best-available” list at the end of day three. He’s only projected as a sixth-round pick on CBS’ big-board, after all, even though he has the physical tools to be an NFL starter and is Jim Kelly’s nephew.
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