September is almost here, which means it is time for the 2016 Heisman HYPE Heisman Watch List. This year’s Heisman race should be interesting, particularly with five of last year’s top 10 Heisman votegetters returning (McCaffrey, Watson, Mayfield, Fournette and Cook) and likely to very much be in the Heisman discussion (Heisman HYPE Rule of Three #1). Let’s get to the list. (An asterisk indicates a player previously finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting, and any of the Heisman HYPE Rule of Three (RoT) that apply to a candidate are indicated)
Baker Mayfield*(RoT #1) – Quarterback, Oklahoma
He finished fourth in last year’s Heisman voting while leading Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff. He lost he main target in Sterling Shepherd, but still figures to have another big season.
Dalvin Cook*(RoT #1) – Running Back, Florida State
He broke Warrick Dunn’s Florida State single season rushing record last year, despite suffering a hamstring injury in October. The Seminole offense figures to rely heavily on Cook this year.
Malik Zaire/DeShone Kizer – Quarterback, Notre Dame
This is remiscent of last year’s Ohio State quarterback entry on the watch list. Both Kaiser and Zaire played well last year. If the Irish make a choice and stick with it, whoever starts should definitely factor into this year’s Heisman race.
Nick Chubb – Running Back, Georgia
Chubb was having an outstanding season until he suffered a gruesome season-ending knee injury against Tennessee in October. If he’s back close to full strength and can build on the numbers he put up last year, Chubb should be on the Heisman radar this year.
Lenoard Fournette*(RoT #1) – Running Back, LSU
Fournette looked unstoppable for several weeks last year, to the point where most people were ready to hand him the Heisman. Then he and the Tigers ran into the eventual National Champion Crimson Tide, a game in which Fournette was held to just 31 rushing yards. His season never seemed to fully rebound from that game. With a fresh season, Fournette still figures to be one of the top running backs in the nation and there’s no reason to believe he can’t improve on last year’s performance.
Christian McCaffrey*(RoT #1) – Running Back, Stanford
McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ single season all-purpose yardage record last year and led the nation in yards from scrimmage. He capped off his season with a dominant performance in a 45-16 rout of Iowa in the Rose Bowl. With QB Kevin Hogan gone, the Cardinal offense could be leaning even more on McCaffrey this year (if that’s possible).
Dashaun Watson*(RoT #1) – Quarterback, Clemson
Watson dominated college football last season, leading the Tigers to the National Championship game where he put up eye-popping numbers (478 total yards, 4 touchdowns) in a 45-40 loss to Alabama. Heading into the season, he is the odd-on favorite to win the Heisman this year.
Other intriguing players: Royce Freeman: Running Back, Oregon; Donnel Pumphrey: Running Back, San Diego State; JT Barrett: Quarterback, Ohio State; Samaje Perine: Running Back, Oklahoma
My pick: Christian McCaffrey
I mentioned in above, but it bears reiterating: McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose yardage record last year on the way to a third-place finish in the Heisman voting. With Kevin Hogan gone, the Cardinal will have a new quarterback which could very well lead to more touches for McCaffrey. Derrick Henry broke the running back Heisman drought last year and I think McCaffrey will keep the trend going, breaking the Stanford Heisman runner-up curse.