As we wind down this Heisman Trophy race, we are left with five finalists. Our five finalists for this year’s award are Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook.
This year has been a crazy one for the Heisman Trophy race, ending with no clear-cut favorite to win the award heading into Saturday’s Heisman Trophy Presentation which begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, ATH: Peppers has been nothing short of amazing this season, playing nearly every position on the field. That is what makes him so valuable and qualified for this award. He has not only arguably been the best defensive player on the field this year, but also arguably the best athlete. Peppers totaled 66 tackles this season, with 13 being for a loss. Along with that he has three sacks and an interception. Offensively, he totaled 167 yards on the ground with three touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards a carry. In the return game, he had 21 punt returns for 310 yards and a touchdown as well as 10 kick returns for 260 yards. Stats do not tell the whole story though. Peppers is just everywhere on the field and is a leader.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson, QB: After a slower start to the season than people expected, Watson completely turned it around and led his team to another ACC championship and another College Football Playoff apperance. Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award which is awarded to the nation’s best quarterback. Watson threw for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also did well on the ground, rushing for 529 yards and six touchdowns. Watson has been the backbone of the Tigers and is the reason they are where they are. Jabrill Peppers recently told The Dan Patrick Show if he had a vote, he would vote for Watson. That is a large praise from another finalist.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville, QB: Jackson was the heavy favorite for a while, but three losses and shaky performances have made this more of a contest. Regardless of the losses, Jackson has been an absolute monster this year and statistically, no one compares. That is why he won the Maxwell Award. Although he has a shaky completion percentage of 57 percent he has still had a good season throwing through the air. He has thrown for 3,390 yards with 30 touchdowns. He has been very dangerous through the air, but he might have been more dangerous on the ground. He ran the ball for 1,538 yards and rushed for a whopping 21 touchdowns. He has been an offensive machine getting it done as a dominant dual threat quarterback. This contest was his to lose, but will he?
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB: Mayfield started the season with two losses in three weeks. Since then he has led the Sooners to nine straight wins including a Big 12 championship. The early losses were definitely a big setback, but since then he has been lights out. He has thrown for 3,369 yards this season along with 38 touchdowns through the air. He has completed a staggering 71 percent of his throws. He only has 143 rushing yards, but six touchdowns to go along with it. Mayfield is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football, and maybe the most exciting to watch with his high-energy play.
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, WR: What receiver this season has been more exciting than Westbrook? He has been an absolute force this season, becoming the most electric receiver in college football. Like Mayfield, his first three games of the season were shaky but since then he has been full tilt. Westbrook has had 74 receptions this season for 1,465 and 16 touchdowns. He has done so much for this team that his worth may be more than the man who is throwing him the ball. After the catch he may be the best in the game, and winning the Biletnikoff has proven that he is the best receiver in the game.
What the order should be:
Peppers: As big of a fan as I am of Peppers, he just did not put together the kind of season statistically that the others have on this list. He has been incredibly dynamic and a force on both sides of the ball, but statistically he is just not there. Make that one interception six, and we are talking about a top-three finish, but unfortunately for him one is all he got. It was a great season for Peppers, just not quite there.
Mayfield: Mayfield is a victim of a poor beginning of the season and that is all there really is to it. It was too little too late for him from the start, unless he put up monster numbers. Although his numbers are excellent, they are not monstrous. Fourth place is definitely the spot for Mayfield in the race, being the third best quarterback.
Westbrook: Westbrook in the three-spot makes more sense than Mayfield. Mayfield’s struggles led to Westbrook struggles and that obviously should be taken into consideration. When Oklahoma needed a go-to guy, it was Westbrook. He was the man for this team, putting the weight of the team on his shoulders on several occasions. He continually produced for this team, giving Mayfield the best target in college football.
Jackson: Jackson statistically is the best, but he is not the Heisman Trophy’s best choice. He falls short in multiple ways. Three losses are too many. Not only that, but ending the season with back-to-back losses when your team is in playoff contention, that is unacceptable and I cannot justify giving the award to him in such circumstances. He also lost the head-to-head matchup with Watson. Coming off of back-to-back losses and losing the head-to-head with your biggest competition is just too much to give him the illustrious award.
Watson: Watson is most deserving of this year’s Heisman Trophy. Watson has been a beast statistically and is the leader on the No. 2 team in the country. He has done it all year for Clemson and has numbers that are more than justifiable for him to win the award. Yes, statistically he is not quite at Jackson’s level, but he has done far more to prove he is this year’s winner. Watson should win the Heisman.
How it will play out:
Peppers: Jabrill’s spot should be set in stone. I do not see him moving up from the five-spot.
Westbrook: Being a receiver with his quarterback also in the race, it will be hard to justify him finishing higher than Mayfield. Although deserving of a higher finish, Mayfield will most likely claim the three-spot.
Mayfield: As stated before, Mayfield has the advantage of being Westbrook’s quarterback. This should solidify him in that three spot.
Watson: Watson is the most deserving, but statistically he does not compare to his counterpart Jackson, whose superior stats and electrifying play will most likely stand in the way of Watson winning the award.
Lamar Jackson: This will turnout just like Robert Griffin III. Three losses did not matter, statistically he was the best. That is Jackson this year. He is just too much for the others to handle on the stats sheet, and that is what the voters at the end will take into account.