Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey failed to capture the 2015 Heisman Trophy, but they're the three front-runners to take home the prestigious hardware next season.
According to Odds Shark, early 2016 Heisman Trophy odds have Watson at 9/2—a slight favorite over Fournette and McCaffrey, each of whom is listed at 5-1. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield trails in fourth at 10/1.
A full list of 2016 Heisman odds can be viewed below:
|2016 Heisman Trophy Odds|
|Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson||9/2|
|Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford||5/1|
|Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU||5/1|
|Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma||10/1|
|J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State||10/1|
|Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss||12/1|
|Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State||12/1|
|Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia||12/1|
|Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon||14/1|
|Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma||14/1|
|Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama||16/1|
|Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee||16/1|
|Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA||20/1|
|Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami||33/1|
McCaffrey—who broke Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season all-purpose yardage record—finished second in Heisman voting last season to Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Watson checked in at No. 3 after leading Clemson to a perfect 13-0 start and the College Football Playoff's No. 1 seed.
All of the three early leaders in the clubhouse also finished bowl season in spectacular fashion—so it's no wonder they're in the driver's seat with the 2016 season on the horizon.
For starters, Watson lit up Alabama's defense to the tune of 405 passing yards, 73 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' national title game loss. Fournette, meanwhile, rolled over Texas Tech's defense and rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns as LSU ran away with a 56-27 Texas Bowl victory.
But most impressive was McCaffrey's Rose Bowl breakout against a notoriously stingy Iowa defense. After flying under the radar early in the season, McCaffrey captured the national spotlight late by compiling 172 rushing yards, 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Stanford's 45-16 romp of the Hawkeyes.
"He's got one of the best one-step jukes in the world," Stanford cornerback Ronnie Harris said, per the Associated Press' Josh Dubow. "Honestly, I'm always star-gazing at him. I'm on the sidelines listening to [defensive backs] coach (Duane) Akina with one eye and with the other eye I'm like, 'What is this dude Christian doing?' He's a spectacular treat."
However, CBS Sports' Chip Patterson was quick to point out early Heisman favorites don't always wind up near the top of ballots come season's end: "Last January, the first seven names listed at the top of the first Heisman Trophy odds board were Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Leonard Fournette, Trevone Boykin, Cody Kessler, Nick Chubb and Paul Perkins. None of those players finished the year as a Heisman finalist or even in the top five of the balloting."
For those in search of Heisman sleepers, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (20-1), Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine (14-1) and Georgia's Nick Chubb (12-1) are all worth a look. It's also worth noting Alabama's Calvin Ridley is the lone wide receiver on the list.
As a true freshman, Ridley totaled 89 catches for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. Although Alabama is set to name a new starting quarterback with senior Jake Coker on his way out following a national title game victory, Ridley has the explosive playmaking ability necessary to improve on his impressive freshman numbers and make a Heisman statement.