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NFL Draft

Who Should Win This Year’s Heisman Trophy?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 22, 2020
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College football in 2020. Never has a season had such chaotic schedules. Never have teams had such depleted rosters. And never has a Heisman race been so… open.

Really: it’s a wide-open Heisman race. Over the month of November, the favorite flipped from Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Alabama quarterback Mac Jones to Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and back to Lawrence again—before bouncing over to Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, that is. We didn’t have a player outside of plus money to win the award until Trask became the running favorite in late November. 

Then Florida lost to LSU. Whoops!

Even then, Jones was still the favorite until last week’s SEC championship game, in which Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith’s dominant 15-catch, 184-yard, two-touchdown performance vaunted him to the top spot after laboring behind the battling quarterbacks for much of the season. 

Smith is anywhere from a -170 to -200 favorite depending on your sportsbook, with Jones his closest contender and Lawrence in a distant third. Of course, the Heisman ballots have already been cast before the January 5th ceremony, so performances in the playoffs won’t affect any voting. We’ll know the finalists by Christmas Eve.

In a weird year with so much movement, I’ll be frank—I haven’t been compelled by any individual Heisman case. I think there are several deserving players and wouldn’t mind anyone from the field getting it—we haven’t even brought up Alabama running back Najee Harris, for goodness sakes!

With no strong Heisman leaning, I turned to the TDN Staff, hoping to get a few arguments for each candidate, which I could ponder before making my pick.

I...kinda got that.


Brentley Weissman

If I had a vote for the Heisman trophy this year, I would give it to Alabama’s DeVonta Smith. Smith has clearly been the most outstanding player in college football this season, being virtually unguardable all season while going up against the best defensive backs the SEC has to offer. Mac Jones has been great this season, but look who he is throwing to. Smith and John Metchie III are future first-rounders, and he has an outstanding offensive line protecting him. I think what Smith has done is more impressive than Jones from an individual standpoint.

The other candidate that deserves mentioning is Florida’s Kyle Trask. Trask has been awesome all season, but his team has lost three games and again, Trask has a ridiculous supporting cast that inflates his production a bit. In a year that has been so unprecedented, how about we break the cycle of giving the Heisman to quarterbacks and just give it to the best overall player? In my opinion, that’s Smith.

Jaime Eisner 

Ah, yes. College football award season. Where we can parse the definition of words to decide who should win a football-player-shaped chunk of metal. It’s a trap that I’m... absolutely falling into right now.

The Heisman is given to the most “outstanding college football player” in the country, which I think is an important definition. The “most valuable versus outstanding” debate will rage on, but I feel the Heisman is specifically an award for the latter, unlike the NFL’s MVP award, for example. With that being said, my vote goes to Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith

Smith leads the nation in receiving yards (1,511) by 318, receptions (98) by 12, and is one of only two players with more than a dozen receiving touchdowns (17). He just dropped a 15/182/2 stat line in the SEC Championship Game against Florida and was an integral piece to the Crimson Tide remaining undefeated en route to earning the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

Beyond the stats, Smith, for my money, is the most explosive player in the country that also makes an impact on special teams. He provides so much value to the best team in college football this season. He finds a way to make an impact and stand out on a team littered with impact players. While Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence will inherently provide more “value” to their team as quarterbacks, Smith was the best player in college football this season.

Alexis Mansanarez

Let’s shake things up. It’s been almost three decades since a wide receiver has won the Heisman trophy. DeVonta Smith is one of three Alabama players in the running, but Smith’s dominant efforts push him past the rest of the competition. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be a quarterback, and sometimes it’s just this simple.

Trevor Sikkema

DeVonta Smith is my Heisman choice simply because there has not been a better player week-in and week-out. His quarterback has had a fantastic season, but there is no denying that a good chunk of his success comes directly off of how successful Smith has been, especially since Jaylen Waddle’s injury. Smith has the most catches in the country, the most receiving yards, and the second-most receiving touchdowns. Every week he is the opposing defense’s top priority in the passing game, and every week he cannot be stopped. His season is not just historic, but Heisman worthy. He is the best player in the country.


If you had forced me to make a pick for a Heisman winner before this exercise, I likely would have taken Smith—mostly because I like breaking the mold of constant quarterback accolades. But I did not expect overwhelming support from the TDN staff for Smith. Despite the success of such quarterbacks as Jones and Trask, it’s clear that our team—which is, of course, oriented on separating individual quality of play from the surrounding context—thinks Smith is truly special.

We did have support for both Trask and Jones, however.


Rob Judin

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask led the entire nation in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, and yards per game. He was No. 8 in completion percentage and No. 5 in quarterback rating. Trask broke numerous SEC and school records throughout this season despite the fact he had no running game to balance out the offense and keep defenses honest. 

He didn’t have the advantage of having an NFL-ready offensive line or a dominant running back. Dameon Pierce led the team in carries with 95 for 443 yards and four touchdowns. Trask had the second-most rushing attempts with 61 for 50 yards and three touchdowns—homeboy ain’t supposed to be running. Teams could put five in the box and stop Florida’s running game easily. 

Florida’s defense ranked No. 62 nationally and gave up 400 yards per game. In their three losses, Florida lost the time of possession battle 100:52 to 79:08, consistently keeping the ball out of Trask’s hands. And in those three games, Florida gave up a total of 1,566 yards, which was an average of 190.33 rushing yards per game, while Florida averaged (drum roll, please) 93 rushing yards per game.

Trask was without Kyle Pitts for three games and still lit it up. He didn’t have the advantage of throwing to one Heisman contender while handing it off to another Heisman contender for an entire season. If you switched Jones with Trask, Jones doesn’t have anywhere close to the kind of season Trask had. If you switched Harris with Pierce, Harris isn’t even sniffing the Heisman conversation. 

Jake Arians

Mac Jones is my pick for the Heisman. If the greatest quarterback season we have ever seen was last year from Joe Burrow, Jones is on pace to have a better season in many ways besides touchdown passes.

I would argue he has done it with less talent than Burrow had, especially with Waddle getting hurt early and filling in with a lot of inexperienced guys other than Smith. He has been the best player on the best team in the country from start to finish with zero dropped games—also at the hardest position in sports. The ‘Bama defense has also been much worse than in past years, so Jones has had to put up more points than Alabama has ever had to in order to win. Other guys on his team are deserving to be in the conversation but neither of their seasons match up to Jones and what he has had to be for this team to be where they are… and that is No. 1 again.


And we even had Kyle standing on the table for Harris, which I appreciated—I also think he has been as impressive, if not more so, than the quarterbacks in this conversation.


Kyle Crabbs

In my eyes, the competition for this year's Heisman Trophy comes down to the Crimson Tide. Alabama's duo of quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith are getting all the publicity, but I'm not so certain I wouldn't cast my vote for running back Najee Harris instead. Harris has logged 27 touchdowns in 11 games this season and been at his absolute best when the Tide needed his steady production out of the backfield.

The Tide's two biggest opponents this year were Georgia early in the season and Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Harris accounted for 407 yards and six touchdowns in those two games combined. Add in a brilliant 200-yard performance in a shootout against Mississippi and a dominating game against the LSU Tigers and Harris has been every bit as impressive as Smith in my eyes. Considering his five-touchdown performance against the Gators as his "Heisman Moment," the steady engine of the Tide offense would get my vote.


We didn’t get a single argument for Trevor Lawrence, which is pretty amazing: the Clemson quarterback is pretty unanimously viewed as a uniquely talented passer and future NFL star. Lawrence has, of course, never won the Heisman trophy—and perhaps he would have this season had he not missed a few games with COVID.

With my personal predilections and the majority of staff backing me, I think I’m officially a member of the DeVonta Smith Heisman train. He has been, quite literally, the most unguardable player in college football for the last couple of seasons combined, and after a massive talent drain from Alabama’s passing game—Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jaylen Waddle—stepped up into the void with astonishing numbers. Give the man his due.

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