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Is Lamar Jackson a Shoo-in for the Heisman?

Jackson has staggering numbers, but longshots are set to emerge. Here’s why backing the prohibitive favorite now may not be a savvy investment.

If you are looking for a blueprint to win the Heisman, Lamar Jackson’s 2016 campaign would be a good place to start.

The sophomore quarterback for the Louisville Cardinals has gone from promising young player to breakout candidate to bonafide superstar in less than a dozen collegiate games over the last calendar year. He has not only powered Louisville into the playoff conversation, but he has put up dizzying statistics on a national stage, including games against the Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles, two of the nation’s best teams.

Consider his five-game stat line from 2016 in a blind resume test against some other high-profile quarterbacks who had stellar five-game starts in previous seasons.

Player Comp % Pa Yards Yards Per Att Pa TDs INTs Ru Yards Yards Per Rush Ru TDs Total TDs
Lamar Jackson 59.4% 1,625 9.6 14 4 688 7.5 14 28
Player A 71.1% 1,411 11 14 0 215 5.1 3 17
Player B 73.2% 1,441 11.7 17 2 135 3.8 2 19
Player C 69.3% 1,285 8.6 11 2 495 6.9 7 18
Player D 80.3% 1,520 10.7 19 1 280 4.7 2 21
Player E 65.6% 928 10.7 12 4 474 6.2 5 17
Player F 81.4% 1,996 9.8 24 0 65 2.4 1 25
Player G 63.8% 1,527 11.7 22 5 178 6.5 4 26

The good news for Jackson is that Players A through E are the last five Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks: Marcus Mariota (A), Jameis Winston (B), Johnny Manziel (C), Robert Griffin III (D), and Cam Newton (E). When compared to these greats, Jackson’s 2016 looks even more impressive. He has more passing yards, rushing yards, yards per rush, rushing touchdowns, and total touchdowns than each of the last five Heisman quarterbacks did at this point in the season.

Despite Jackson’s body of work, history has shown that five games’ worth of production does not a Heisman winner make. Look no further than Players F and G for a sobering reminder.

Player F is 2012 West Virginia’s Geno Smith. After dominating lesser opponents in his first five contests, Smith regressed in West Virginia’s 6th game of that season, where he went 29-for-55 for 275 yards and 1 touchdown in a blowout loss to Texas Tech. The Mountaineers ultimately lost five games in a row, and Smith didn’t get invited to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

Player G is 2015 Seth Russell for Baylor. His red-hot start through five games had him in the Heisman mix in early October, but a neck injury ended Russell’s season just two games later. Baylor was a perfect 7-0 when Russell was declared out for the year, and his 26 total touchdowns through only five games bested any Heisman Trophy winner this decade.

What is clear is that fast starts are important, and even among some legendary Heisman-worthy performances, Jackson’s 2016 version is potentially the best. It’s no surprise that Jackson is currently the clear Heisman favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (-225, meaning you have to bet $225 to win $100).

Whether it’s regression, poor performance, or some significant misfortune, though, Jackson is hardly a shoo-in for the award with seven regular season games remaining. That’s good news for bettors looking for market value in Heisman odds.

Here are two candidates with appealing odds who are worth a closer look.

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