Every year the Heisman Trophy is meant to be given to the best player in college football that season. However, not all Heisman Trophy winners are made in the same vein. This article will rank the top five Heisman Trophy Winners of the past ten years.
No. 1 Joe Burrow
Burrow led perhaps the most prodigious offense in college football history. Burrow threw for 5,671 yards, 65 touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 202.0. At the time, Burrow broke the NCAA record for touchdowns and passer rating. But Burrow didn’t just accumulate stats. The Tigers played seven teams ranked in the top ten en route to their championship run.
Many will argue that Burrow’s supporting cast played a crucial role in his success. The early achievements of wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson in the NFL bolster this point. However, Burrow’s relatively high play his first NFL season without a receiver the caliber of Chase and Jefferson proves just how good he is.
Additionally, Burrow won the Heisman trophy by the largest margin in the history of the award. His clear-cut dominance that season is unlike anything we’ve seen in the history of the sport.
No. 2 Kyler Murray
Coming off Baker Mayfield’s 2017 Heisman campaign, Murray had big shoes to fill. The small, but hyper-athletic QB did not disappoint. Murray accumulated over 4,000 yards passing and 1000 yards rushing in 2018. He also broke Mayfield’s record for passer rating set the previous season. Oklahoma’s offense scored above 37 points in every game but one. With Oklahoma’s porous defense, the onus was on Murray to carry the Sooner’s to wins. After losing a close game to Texas early in the season, the Sooners went undefeated in their remaining regular season games. They then defeated Texas in the Big 12 championship to return to the college football playoff.
Murray’s importance to his team’s winning and the large responsibility placed on him slots him at No. 2 on this list.
No. 3 Derrick Henry
While Henry’s position as an RB devalues him in the eyes of many, context is important. In 2015, Alabama did not have the high-powered passing attack it does today. Henry was the bell-cow for Alabama’s ground first attack. Henry accumulated 2,219 yards rushing, which is the sixth most all-time. Plus he did it in the vaunted SEC, against the top defenses in the country.
Henry stands out not only because of his ability to break tackles, but also due to his patience in following blocks and finding cutting lanes. He also possesses good speed for a RB of his size. 70% of his rushing yards came after contact, which shows he was not solely dependent on his offensive line to get him yards.
Henry also played great in the biggest games, posting 158 yards and three touchdowns en route to a championship win over Clemson.
Derrick Henry Alabama highlights never get old 👑
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 5, 2021
No. 4 Marcus Mariota
Mariota had one of the most efficient seasons ever for a college QB. His TD:INT ratio was over ten when the season ended. He also helped first-year head coach Mark Helfrich to a college football playoff and a title game. Mariota had over 4,400 yard passing and 700 yards rushing. He also accumulated 57 total touchdowns on the year.
While it hasn’t worked out in the pros, Mariota’s spectacular 2014 season shouldn’t be forgotten. He would be placed higher on this list, however, his inability to beat Ohio State in the championship game should be held against him. To face-off against a third-string QB and not win has to be a black mark on his 2014 season.
No. 5 Devonta Smith
Smith decided to return to Alabama for his senior season in 2020 even after being projected to go high. And he put together the greatest season ever by a WR. Smith accumulated over 1800 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns. He did this without his co-partner Jaylen Waddle for most of the year, which meant defenses were keying in on him more.
Smith was dangerous in the short passing game, gaining lots of yards after catch. But he was also great at making contested catches and getting behind the defense.
His versatility as a receiver can’t be understated. Plus being the focal point of one of the best offenses in college football history as a receiver shows how much better he was than his receiver peers in 2020.
To read more about potential Heisman winners in 2022, click here, here, and here.
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