Among all of the individual awards in sports, the Heisman Trophy has to be one of the most difficult to predict.
While one of the preseason favorites occasionally wins it, more times than not, a player comes out of nowhere to win the award. Just look at Joe Burrow and DeVonta Smith over the last two seasons, as neither was necessarily on the Heisman radar at the start of the season. Plus, with Smith winning the Heisman as a wide receiver in 2020, there’s no telling what will happen with the award this season.
That’s why we wanted to look at the top betting favorites to win the Heisman in 2021, as well as some sleepers who could come out of nowhere to take home college football’s highest individual honor.
*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook as of July 21
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma: +800
The fact that the leading favorite has a moneyline of +800 is a testament to how wide-open the award is this season. But Spencer Rattler does deserve to be the favorite.
He started to come on strong late in the season and come into his own. Over his last four games, including a blowout win over Florida in the Cotton Bowl, Rattler completed 67% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Keep in mind that this will be his third year in college, even though he didn’t play much in 2019. That means he should be poised to hit the ground running and be at his best, allowing him to put up the kind of numbers that will put him at the forefront of the Heisman conversation.
DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson: +1100
We saw just enough of DJ Uiagalelei last season to see that he’s not short on talent. Clemson may have lost the game he started at Notre Dame, but he threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns in that game, so he’s hardly to blame.
While he’s still a little short on experience, he proved in that Notre Dame game that he won’t be flustered by the big stage. Plus, as Clemson’s quarterback, Uiagalelei will undoubtedly have a great supporting cast around him, which will make it a little easier to lead the Tigers to wins and put up Heisman-caliber numbers.
JT Daniels, Georgia: +1200
The Georgia offense looked completely different last year after JT Daniels took over at quarterback. If he can pick up where he left off, it’s not hard to envision Daniels being a Heisman contender, especially with the supporting cast around him.
Obviously, he’s had a circuitous journey since starting his career at USC. But keep in mind that Daniels was the Gatorade Player of the Year coming out of high school, so there’s no question he has the talent to be a Heisman winner.
Bryce Young, Alabama: +1200
We only saw Bryce Young long enough to throw 22 passes last year. However, we know that he was an all-everything player in high school and we know that he’ll be the starter at Alabama. That’s enough to believe that he can have a breakout season as a redshirt freshman and become a legitimate Heisman contender.
Aside from his lack of experience, the caveat with Young is that the elite receivers Alabama has had over the past two seasons are gone. But there’s always a new contingent of playmakers for the Crimson Tide and we know that redshirt freshmen can win the Heisman, making young a potential contender.
Sam Howell, North Carolina: +1600
After two impressive seasons, even bigger things are expected of Sam Howell in 2021. But after throwing for over 3,500 yards and at least 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, can Howell get much better?
Last year, he completed 68% of his passes and averaged over 10 yards per attempt and still wasn’t among the finalists. Howell’s problem is that most of North Carolina’s top playmakers from last season are gone. He’ll have less experienced backs and receivers around him, which could hinder his Heisman chances despite being one of the most talented and experienced quarterbacks in the country.
Kedon Slovis, USC: +2500
If USC had played a full season in 2020, Kedon Slovis was on pace to put up Heisman-worthy numbers, which is why it’s surprising to see him with such long odds this year.
That being said, interceptions plagued him in big games late in the season. That’s something Slovis will have to clean up to get into the Heisman race. But early in the season, he was unbelievably clutch when the Trojans needed him. If he can get a little more help around him and lead USC back to the Pac-12 Championship Game, Slovis is good enough to work his way into the Heisman conversation.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State: +3000
Purdy entered last season as a Heisman dark horse, so it was a little surprising to see him have a somewhat disappointing season. His numbers haven’t necessarily improved since his breakout season as a freshman in 2018.
On the other hand, he did play a critical role in guiding Iowa State to the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time in school history. Purdy has all of the tools to be an elite college quarterback, not to mention plenty of experience under his belt.
The fact that Iowa State has a stable running game should also help him lead the Cyclones to wins and garner more national attention.
McKenzie Milton, Florida State: +4000
There would be no better story in college football than if McKenzie Milton were to win the Heisman.
It was late in the 2018 season when he suffered a devastating knee injury that could have seriously threatened his ability to walk normally. Fast forward nearly three years and Milton can walk, run, and is going to play quarterback at Florida State this year. Of course, we have no idea how good he’ll be or how much help he’ll get around him from an FSU team that has been mediocre at best in recent years. But Milton threw for over 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017 when he played a full season at Central Florida.
If he can get anywhere close to that level after his injury, Milton could be in the Heisman conversation.
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: +10000
As a deep sleeper for the Heisman, Sanders is an intriguing option. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback, so he’ll put up some good numbers as a runner that should help his case.
He also plays in an offense that is going to allow him to air it out and put up some crazy numbers. Sanders played some of his best football late in 2020, including a 37-34 bowl win over Miami. If he can build on that, don’t count him out of the Heisman race.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin: +10000
Obviously, it’s tough to envision a Wisconsin quarterback putting up Heisman-caliber numbers. After all, the Badgers love to pound the ball on the ground, so they don’t ask as much of their quarterback as other teams. However, Graham Mertz has the most arm talent any quarterback Wisconsin has had in a long time.
He looked masterful early in the season before testing positive for COVID-19 and having his season interrupted. If he can hit the reset button in 2021, Mertz will be an interesting player to watch and a potential Heisman dark horse.
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