Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. Odds: 9-2.
The first player in FBS history with at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season has an 18-2 record as a starting quarterback and nearly led the Tigers to their first national title since 1981. Yep, that sounds like the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy (he finished third in the voting last season). Watson also will get his prized target — wide receiver Mike Williams — back from the season-ending neck injury he suffered in last year’s opener against Wofford, joining three other returning receivers who tallied at least 492 yards on the season. Also back is running back Wayne Gallman, who had 1,514 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Really, the only things that could stop Watson’s Heisman campaign here are an injury or the fact that he doesn’t necessarily need to have the ball in his hands for Clemson to score.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Odds: 5-1)
McCaffrey finished second in the Heisman voting last season, and few would have complained had he and not Alabama’s Derrick Henry won it. In fact, his 368-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl against Iowa — a game that took place after the Heisman was awarded — suggested to many that McCaffrey should have won it. His 3,864 all-purpose yards broke Barry Sanders’s NCAA single-season record, and he was the only player to lead his team in both rushing and receiving yardage. Oh, and McCaffrey also threw two touchdown passes last season.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (Odds: 5-1)
Fournette finished the 2015 season with an LSU-record 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns and was last seen rushing for 212 yards and scoring five times against Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl. At one point he rushed for at least 150 yards in seven straight games, the first FBS running back to do that since 2007. His rare combination of size and speed make him nearly unrivaled as the nation’s best pure running back. As one unnamed SEC defensive coordinator told ESPN.com: “You tackle him low, you’re probably going to be concussed. You tackle him high, you may take a ride. And they’re going to force you, in the run game, to make people that don’t like tackling tackle.”
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (Odds: 12-1)
Did you know that they give out an award each year to the best player who started his career as a walk-on? I didn’t either, but Mayfield took home the Burlsworth Trophy in 2015 after completing 68.1 percent of his passes for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns (he also rushed for seven scores).
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (Odds: 12-1)
Cook averaged 7.4 yards per carry last season, more than McCaffrey and Fournette and Henry and Ezekiel Elliott, for that matter. He finished with 1,691 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns despite essentially missing two games with injuries. He had 22 gains of at least 20 yards, the most among Power Five running backs, and four runs of 70 yards or more. Plus, as documented by Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, Cook packed on 10 more pounds in the offseason, likely making him even tougher to bring down and perhaps increasing his stamina.