Ranking The Last Decade of Heisman Trophy Winners

The last ten years of college football have seen some incredible moments and players. And as we churn on towards a new decade it’s important to look back at the past one.

And most specifically in today’s blog, the last decade of Heisman winners.

The thought was brought to my attention by the graphic above by Fox College Football and RJ Young’s list.

Some of RJ’s list I agree with, other parts not at all.

I also discuss this on my podcast Verbally Committed that I host with fellow Couch Guy blogger Mike Gilligan, and with our friend and guest that week, Sam Hardiman.

So let’s break down my list of the last ten Heisman trophy winners.

10) Marcus Mariota, 2014

First things first. This is a list of Heisman Trophy winners. Not who sucked the most. Being in this list at all is damn special.

But with that being said, over the last ten years, it feels like Mariota’s Heisman run was the least special.

Now when taking into consideration this list I am leaving their professional careers out of it. And Mariota hasn’t enjoyed much success since leaving Oregon.

And his stats were incredible, 42 touchdowns and only 4 picks. Uber-efficient.

But he was also playing with that high powered Oregon offense. Which sort of lends it’s hand more towards it was the system not the player. Now Mariota certainly made the engine hum, but if you swapped him with some of the other names on this list how do they fare? And how does he do?

9) Johnny Manziel, 2012

Again sort of surprising to find Johnny Football this far down the list. But if you really think of it, Manziel was more of an icon than a football player.

He was the first player to ever win the Heisman as a Freshman. And if we were to create this list perhaps five years ago Manziel probably ends up being higher here when compared to a Jason White or Mark Ingram.

26 touchdowns and nine picks are not exactly world on fire numbers. He was also up against a very weak Heisman class that season. Manti T’eo finished second in the voting, followed by Collin Klein and Marqise Lee.

And as fun as it was to watch Manziel go into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama on the road. That was really about it. Bama still won the conference title and the Aggies reward was Manziel getting the Heisman and a Cotton Bowl drubbing over Oklahoma.

Stacked up against other Heisman winners though, there isn’t a ton of substance.

8) Derrick Henry, 2015

Perhaps a shock to some to have Henry ranked this low. How can I rank the only other non-QB on this list so low?

He ran for 2,219 yards and 28 TD’s how on God’s green earth is he not higher?

He’s an Alabama running back.

Like Mariota and like a couple of other QB’s I’ll get to in a moment, he’s simply a product of the system. He ran behind a NFL ready offensive line and on the closest to a NFL minor league team you can find.

Again I’m not taking pro accolades into this so how many Alabama running backs have we seen succeed at a Heisman level? It’s a safe bet every year that an Alabama running back will be a Heisman finalist.

7) Baker Mayfield, 2017

You either love him or hate him. I for one don’t care for Baker Mayfield. Perhaps thats my Nebraska fan instincts just not allowing me to root for anyone who puts the words Boomer and Sooner together.

But I’m staying fair to Henry and Mariota, Baker is a product of the system. Find an OU quarterback in the last few seasons since Lincoln Riley has taken over the program and I will show you gaudy stats.

It would not be a shocking development if we had Spencer Rattler hoisting that hunk of metal next December.

And while I’m on my soap box, I am not a fan of his crotch grab against Kansas. Some people call that “competitive fire” I call it stupid. It’s Kansas, you are Oklahoma who cares if they didn’t extend a handshake to you before the game you’re suppose to beat them by 40, it’s an annual tradition.

6) Kyler Murray, 2018

Find an OU quarterback in the last few seasons since Lincoln Riley has taken over the program and I will show you gaudy stats.

Hey that’s what I just said for Baker above.

I give Kyler a slight upgrade because of his legs and extreme athletic ability. Baker was a great story for sure but we gotta admit the type of athletic talent Kyler Murray was.

5) Jameis Winston, 2013

One year after Manziel takes home the Heisman as a freshman, we all collectively said “That won’t happen again.”

Ha, Famous Jameis bursts onto the season and does it and wins a national championship in the process. Making him a worthy inclusion to the top half of this list.

He threw for over 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 picks and took the college football world by storm. And thank god for Jameis or AJ McCarron would have won the Heisman that year, who wants that?

4) Devonta Smith, 2020

Seems shocking to have the first wide receiver to win this illustrious award not near the top right?

And look there is no denying what Smith did late in the season for Alabama and he was more than deserving of the award this year, zero doubt about it.

But when you are building your prototypical wide receiver, you’re perfect, Plato’s ideal plane, wide out. It’s not Devonta Smith. Not even close.

Perhaps his route running and hands. But we’ve all seen the memes online, him standing on the sideline looking like a high school JV freshman body type.

If I am going to have a Heisman at the top of the list, it’s a guy I would no doubt put above other great players. And when it comes to collegiate wide outs of my generation the names Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald come to mind more.

The other part that weighs on me, is for the first few weeks of the season Devonta wasn’t even the best wide receiver on his own team. It was Jaylen Waddle. That’s suppose to be my greatest Heisman of the last decade?

2020 was also a weird season. Does Devonta win the award in a normal year? One where Trevor Lawrence doesn’t contract COVID and has his Heisman moment in South Bend beating Notre Dame on the road. Or one where Justin Fields plays 11 regular season games instead of six. Or one where Zach Wilson plays a normal schedule rather than winning by 40 points against nobodies and week to week we wonder “Is BYU actually good?”

That’s what drops him to number 4.

3) Lamar Jackson, 2016

When you take a step back and look at Lamar Jackson’s season and accomplishment of winning the Heisman in context, it’s absolutely incredible.

I’ve named a few reasons for ranking guys lower so let’s see if Lamar debunks those reasons.

System: LOL, what system? He was at Louisville. You don’t go to Louisville to win Heisman’s. Even Teddy Bridgewater, well regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in college football during his time there, never sniffed the Heisman.

Go ahead and look at the 2016 Louisville roster. I’ll give you a moment while it’s loading to try and name someone else off the top of your head. The basis here is you can’t. He did it all by himself.

There is no Oklahoma or Oregon prolific track star offense surrounding him, or Alabama offensive line protecting him. And no mystique or tradition of his school being invited to New York.

Heisman Competition: Who else was in line for the award? As we’ve seen with a few of these guys, the competition was not very fierce. Not at all the case for Jackson.

Baker Mayfield finished third, a year before he won his first Heisman. Sometimes you see a junior win the award one year, to come back, get invited as a courtesy but finish second or third that year. Kinda like *looks up notes* Lamar did in 2017, when Baker won it…

Also finishing second was Deshaun Watson. Watson put up 41 touchdowns that season for Clemson. Had Deshaun walked away with the trophy, no body bats and eye and honestly he might be ranked in this same exact spot.

Lamar earned this spot, it’s actually honestly incredible there are two people ranked above him.

2) Robert Griffin III, 2011

Shame on RJ Young having RG3 ranked so far back. I can see recency bias snuck into his rankings.

Again take out RG3’s failures as a professional when thinking about this ranking.

He absolutely had it all. Big arm, accurate, fast, elusive, smart. If I am trying to build the absolute, ideal collegiate quarterback it’s RG3.

He completed 76% of his passes that year, which is an outrageous number for anyone in college football. He threw for 37 touchdowns and 6 picks. And he beat out Andrew Luck for the Heisman Trophy that season. And not because he was a good story. He had more completions, yards, fewer picks and the same amount of touchdowns as Luck on fewer attempts.

He also ran for almost 700 yards and 10 touchdowns.

All while at Baylor. I know by now it seems like Baylor every once in a while has a good team. But before RG3 that was not the case what so ever. Baylor was terrible. Baylor was the extra bye week for the Big 12. Think Vanderbilt football today, and you get Baylor before RG3.

What Lamar did at Louisville was spectacular and special.

What RG3 did at Baylor was a downright miracle.

1) Joe Burrow, 2019

I mean this is the logical number one choice. RJ Young is going for clicks, I am going for substance.

I get it, he played on what’s basically a NFL team. Throwing to the OROY in 2020, Justin Jefferson and quite possibly next years NFL OROY Jamarr Chase, while also turning around and handing the ball off to Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

But there is no denying 60 touchdown passes to only six picks. That’s being ridiculously good and efficient. And he also ran for another 16 scores.

And he didn’t put up these numbers in the Pac-12 or Big 12, he did it in the SEC, the SEC West to get more specific.

No there isn’t another choice for number one here. This might be the greatest college football season any one single player will ever, ever have and it’s not really a debate.

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Connor Ryan (@connoryan68/@PodVerbalCommit/@YourFantasy_CGS)



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