Heisman Trophy Rankings: Is Christian McCaffrey The Favorite To Capture CFB’s Top Award In 2016?

With the college football season already under way, it is time to look at who are the leading candidates for the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

The California Golden Bears and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors kicked off the 2016 college football season on Friday night in Sydney, Australia. The Golden Bears (1-0) left the southern most continent ” aka Down Under” with a 51-31 victory, as senior transfer Davis Webb completed 38-of-54 (70.4 percent) passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns. The former Texas Tech quarterback also ran for a score. Webb came into the season with over 5,500 passing yards and 46 touchdowns in 23 games for his career.

While Webb’s showing was certainly impressive, it did come against a Warriors’ defense that was one of the worst in the country last year. And Hawaii dismissed one of its best defensive players, Kennedy Tulimasealii, earlier this summer. Webb most definitely has the ability to enter the Heisman Trophy race down the road, but he will need to put together a couple of impressive weeks as four of the top seven vote getters from a year ago return. Webb and the Golden Bears next face Sand Diego State on September 10.

So, without further adieu, here is at the leading 2106 Heisman Trophy candidates.

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB

McCaffrey finished runner-up to 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry. The Stanford back set a NCAA-record with 3,864 yards of total offense and finished second in the nation with 2,019 yards on the ground. He was also a consensus All-American and was the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year, Pac-12 Player of the Year and Paul Hornung Award winner a year ago.

McCaffrey, son of former NFL Receiver Ed McCaffrey, can do it all. The junior hauled in 45 passes for 645 yards and totaled 15 touchdowns in 2015 – eight rushing, five receiving, and two on returns (one punt return and one kick return). He reached 100-yards on the ground 11 times, which includes three games of 200 or more yards.

Stanford is projected to be one of the top teams in the nation.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB

Watson finished third in last year’s voting. The six-foot-two junior led the Clemson to a historic season in 2015, as the Tigers appeared in their first ever College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Watson became the first ever player to pass for 4,000 yards and run for at least 1,000 yards. He completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns along with just 13 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,105 yards on 207 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

Watson had four, 300-yard passing games and five, 100-yard rushing games. One of his best games came in the National Championship game against Alabama, where he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Watson also added 73 yards on the ground.

Clemson is expected to be one of the top teams in the nation.

3. Leonard Fournette, RB

Fournette was ranked as the No. 1 college football player in the country by the NFL for this upcoming season. The six-foot-one, 235-pound, LSU back finished six in the Heisman voting in 2015.

Fournette had 10, 100-yard rushing games and three, 200-yard games last season. He finished the season with 1,953 yards on 300-carries (6.5 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns. Fournette added 19 receptions for 253 yards and one touchdown.

LSU is expected to one of the best teams in the country.

4. Dalvin Cook, RB

The junior set the Florida State single-season rushing record in 2015, with 1,691 yards on 229 attempts. He scored 19 touchdowns via the ground, with 11 coming on runs of at least 20 yards. Cook also had 24 receptions for 244 yards and one touchdown.

FSU is projected to be one of the best teams in the country.

5. Royce Freeman, RB

The Oregon Duck junior has produced two fine collegiate seasons. The five-foot-11 back rushed for 1,836 yards (6.5 ypc) and scored 17 touchdowns in 2015. He also caught 26 passes for 348 yards and added two more scores.

Freeman reached the 100-yard plateau 11 times. His best game came against Washington State (October 10) when he rolled up 246 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.

6. Baker Mayfield, QB

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2015. The six-foot-one Oklahoma junior completed 68.1 percent of passes for 3,700 yards with 36 touchdowns along with just seven interceptions. He added 405 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Mayfield had six, 300-yard passing games last season. His best game came against Tulsa (September 19), when he was 32-for-38 for 487 yards and four touchdowns. Mayfield also added a season-best 85 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.

Oklahoma is expected to be one of the top teams this year.

7. Greg Ward Jr., QB

The senior Houston Cougar is an electrifying dual-threat quarterback. Ward threw for 2,828 yards as he completed 67.2 percent of his passes. He also led the Cougars with 1,108 yards on the ground and totaled 38 touchdowns (17 via the air). Ward was picked off just six times.

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Ward could help himself immensely with a great performance, and win against Oklahoma on September 3.

8. Adoree’ Jackson, DB/WR

The five-foot-11 USC junior is one of the best athletes in the game and can affect all three aspects of the game – offense, defense, and special teams.

Jackson was one of the best defensive backs for the Trojans last year. He totaled 35 tackles, broke up eight passes and was credited with nine passes defensed. He also had one interception, which he took back to the house, and forced a fumble.

Jackson finished second on USC in all-purpose yards per game with 102.9. He was fourth on the squad with 27 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson also returned two punts for a touchdown.

9. Jabrill Peppers, LB/DB

Peppers possesses similar athleticism and versatility as Jackson. Peppers can contribute in all three phases of the game. He has the ability to play safety, corner, nickelback, and linebacker on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, Peppers rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also had eight receptions for 79 yards. In addition, Peppers returned eight kicks for 223 yards and 17 punts for 194 yards.

10. Josh Rosen, QB

Rosen had a pretty good freshman campaign for UCLA last year. The six-foot-four sophomore completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards along with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had six, 300-yards passing games but is not a threat to run with the ball.

Rest of the top-20: 11. Nick Chubb RB (Georgia), 12. JuJu smith-Schuster WR (Washington State) 13. J.T. Barrett QB (Ohio State) 14. Luke Falk QB (Washington St.) 16. Samaje Perine RB (Oklahoma) 17. Mason Rudolph QB (Oklahoma State) 18.Seth Russell QB (Baylor) 19. Elijah Hood RB (North Carolina) 20. Wayne Gallman RB (Clemson)

[Photo by Jae C. Hong/ AP Images]