The 2016 Heisman Trophy Candidates By the Numbers

Which Heisman Trophy candidates have a leg up on the competition?

Baseball is starting down its home stretch, the Olympics are in full-force, and the NFL is still in preseason mode. When is there time to think --let alone talk -- about college football?

Well, it's about time to make some. Because the college football season starts in fewer than 17 days, with Hawaii and California set to kick off the new year in Australia.

Our own Aaron Saunders has already detailed four games that could determine the College Football Playoff in addition to explaining why LSU should be a national title favorite and why we shouldn't believe the hype in Houston. Yesterday, Ed Feng continued the anticipation as he through the win probabilities for the Power 5 conferences.

Today, we're talking Heisman.

Who are the favorites? Who does history indicate is most likely to win the hardware? And who could surprise with a huge season and an unlikely Heisman effort?

Let's take a look.

Vegas Says

Who has the best odds to win the award, according to Bovada oddsmakers?

Player Position Team Odds
Leonard Fournette RB LSU 4-1
Deshaun Watson QB Clemson 9-2
Christian McCaffrey RB Stanford 11-2
JT Barrett QB Ohio St. 12-1
Dalvin Cook RB Florida St. 12-1
Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma 14-1
Chad Kelly QB Ole Miss 16-1
Nick Chubb RB Georgia 16-1
Josh Rosen QB UCLA 16-1
Royce Freeman RB Oregon 20-1
Bo Scarbrough RB Alabama 20-1

From just looking at this list, it's easy to see who the favorites are. Fournette, Watson and McCaffrey -- in that order -- are the only players with better than 10-1 odds to win the Heisman. JT Barrett and Dalvin Cook aren't too far behind, but the best of the rest range from 14-1 to 20-1 odds, rounding out the 11 players with the 10 best odds at winning college football's most coveted award.

Among the elite 11, if you will, there are two obvious trends to note. Each of the 11 players are from a power conference school and are either a quarterback or running back. There aren't any wide receivers or defensive players to be seen.

We have to look further down the list in order to find Alabama's stud wideout, Calvin Ridley, who currently comes in at 25-1 to odds. And as far as wideouts or players of any other position go, that's it among the top 20, which is made up of 12 different signal callers and seven running backs. But, if we just take a look at history, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

History Says

Of the 81 award-winners, 41 are running backs and 32 are quarterbacks. That's 50.6% and 39.5%, respectively, for a combined 90.1% of those who call themselves members of the Heisman fraternity.

A mere three wide receivers and five what I'll call other players make up the rest of the balance. Those eight players account for roughly 9.9% of winners and include multi-positional players such as Charles Woodson.

Recently, the numbers have been skewed even more in favor of quarterbacks and running backs. Since the new millennium, the trend has shifted more toward quarterbacks than running backs, as the 16 winners are composed of 13 quarterbacks and 3 running backs.

You guessed it! That's a resounding 100%. Zero wide receivers or defenders have won the award since the aforementioned Woodson did so in the 1997 season.

The only thing different that we can take away from the last 10 years is that 8 out of the last 10 victors have been quarterbacks with five in a row prior to Derrick Henry's crowning this past season. It's even more clear that a quarterback, historically, has a significant advantage to win the Heisman.

With their ability to both control and influence the game like no other position can, it's natural that they are favorites to be named college football's most outstanding player.

That being said, what type of season does a quarterback or running back have to put together in order to come out on top?

Average Season Numbers Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Wins
Pocket Quarterback 4,174.0 37.0 8.7 64.6% 12.1

Average Season Numbers Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Comp % Rush Yds Rush TDs Total TDs Wins
Dual-Threat Quarterback 3,350.5 29.0 7.0 66.2% 1,060.30 17.8 46.8 11.3

As most college football fans know, there are two different kinds of quarterbacks -- so, it only follows that there have been two different kinds of quarterbacks to win the Heisman, especially when looking at recent history.

Since 2000, there have been seven primarily pocket passers to win the Heisman Trophy. What we can learn from those seven players is that you should definitely shoot for 4,000-plus yards if not really close to it. Only two of these quarterbacks had fewer than 3,800 passing yards in their campaign.

These offensive leaders are also required to be efficient with the football by completing way over 60% of their passes all the while putting up big touchdown numbers and minimal interception numbers. But, maybe most of all, they have to be winners. On average, these seven quarterbacks won over 12 games in their respective Heisman seasons.

As for signal-callers of the run-and-pass variety, there has been six since the year 2000. These passers usually don't put up as mind-blowing numbers through the air, with an average of 550 fewer yards and 8 fewer passing touchdowns per season. On the other hand, they have been even more accurate with their passers when they haven't been rushing for over 1,000 yards and tallying a touch shy of 47 total touchdowns.

And, in case you were wondering, nothing changes as it pertains to team success. Dual-threat Heisman winners have amassed an average of 11.3 wins per season.

What about running backs?

Player Att Yds Yds/Att TD Rec TD Ret TD
Derrick Henry 395 2219 5.6 28 0 0
Mark Ingram 271 1658 6.1 17 3 0
Reggie Bush* 200 1740 8.7 16 2 1

As I alluded to, there have only been three running backs to win the award out of the past 16 winners. To say that there is a large enough sample size to analyze averages would be a lie. However, there are a couple trends to take notice of.

The first is the obvious: be an Alabama running back. Why? Because, of the three backs, two -- Henry and Mark Ingram -- played for the Crimson Tide and led their teams to BCS championships. The second is that you have to be the best player on a championship contender. And when I say championship contender I mean, like I said, Henry and Ingram won titles, and Reggie Bush (whose Heisman was technically revoked) was a Vince Young comeback away from a title himself.

But, we know quarterbacks and running backs are the main attraction. What about the others?

In a nutshell, it really isn't definable what a wide receiver, defensive player or anyone else would have to do. It just doesn't happen very often. In the rare instances that it has it's taken an all-around special player. Take Charles Woodson, for example. Woodson had just 231 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns in his Heisman season, but he added a rushing touchdown, a return touchdown, and 7 interceptions at cornerback.

The same kind of thing can be said for fellow Michigan alum Desmond Howard and Notre Dame star Tim Brown.

It remains to be seen whether or not darkhorse Calvin Ridley can find a way to be that kind of special player. He caught 89 balls a season ago for over 1,000 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns. Is it enough, though? Ridley, a freshman, didn't play any other position nor did he return kicks in any way. Even if he improves in a drastic way -- a la Amari Cooper and his amazing 2014 season -- it's unlikely that Ridley can overcome those more qualified by history's standards.

As for those who are, in all probability, ready to compete for the Heisman, there are a good few. Near the top of Vegas' odds board are three that draw similarities to recent winners.

LSU's star running back, Leonard Fournette, is more than capable of racking up Mark Ingram-type numbers, and LSU is a quiet national title contender.

Deshaun Watson already draws comparisons to Cam Newton in the way that he runs and passes his way to victories. The junior quarterback, who placed third in last year's voting, put up over 5,200 total yards and 47 total touchdowns a year ago, so he's more than qualified so long as Clemson keeps up their winning ways.

And, as for Christian McCaffrey, there can't be a better comparison than Reggie Bush. Don't get me wrong -- Stanford needs to win more games. But, if last year's runner-up can tally a few more touchdowns in addition to his over 2,600 yards from scrimmage a year ago, he should find himself in the thick of things once again.

If I had to pick a player who is further down the list to win, based on history, I would go with Baker Mayfield. Sure, I know, he was in the hunt last year and even came in fourth in the voting. But it's the type of player he is, the numbers he managed to put up a year ago, and the team he plays for that have my interest piqued.

Mayfield will be the leader of a top five team in Norman going into the season, and he has the legs and the arm to capitalize on his opportunity in the spotlight. Just a year ago, the quarterback amassed more than 4,100 total yards and 43 total touchdowns while completing 68% of his passes.