6. DESHAUN WATSON, QB, CLEMSON
Deshaun Watson’s return from knee surgery does put a slight damper on his Heisman candidacy, but his continued progress should have him in the lineup for Week 1 and beyond.
Coming off a debut campaign in which he threw for 14 touchdowns against just two interceptions, Watson’s encore is one of the most highly anticipated among all quarterbacks in college football.
He’s an accurate passer, with just enough mobility to pad the stat sheet sufficiently on that end. Watson will also have marquee opportunities to make a splash nationally, facing off against Notre Dame and Florida State in potential Playoff elimination games.
5. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, OHIO STATE
Ezekiel Elliott was the single-person embodiment of Ohio State’s end-of-season surge. His complete domination of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the College Football Playoff final springboard into the forefront of the national stage.
One could certainly make the case Elliott is higher profile than No. 5 in the preseason Heisman pecking order, and I couldn’t disagree. However, Urban Meyer’s track record for prominently showcasing quarterbacks both as runners as well as passers lends to that position commanding more of the spotlight.
To wit, Braxton Miller finished ninth in the 2013 Heisman vote; Carlos Hyde, who cleared 1,500 yards, averaged more than 7 YPC and scored 15 touchdowns, was off the ballot altogether.