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College Football: Breaking Down the Heisman Trophy Finalist's Season, Success & Pro Potential
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7 Dec 2017 06:11 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in the Big 12 Championship Game. (Image Source: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Here’s a breakdown of the three Heisman Trophy finalists:

QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma:

Individual Success: No one has had a better season than the clear-cut Heisman favorite from Norman. Mayfield has accumulated big numbers (4,340 yards), he’s accurate (71 percent), gets the ball down the field (11.76), and is a great decision maker (41 TDs to 5 INTs). He makes plays from the pocket, makes the players around him better, and makes something out of nothing when things break down.

Team Success: Mayfield’s success has translated to team success, as he’s led the Sooners to a third-straight Big 12 title and their second playoff appearance in three seasons. Mayfield went into Columbus and threw for 386 yards and three TDs before he planted (kinda) the flag, had 598 passing yards in the Bedlam game in Stillwater, and connected on seven touchdowns to no interceptions in two games against TCU. That’s 4-0 against top 20 teams. OU’s success backs up Mayfield’s numbers.

NFL Draft: Get ready for the Russell Wilson comparisons. No quarterback prospect has helped his draft stock more over the past two seasons than Mayfield, who is now considered a potential first-round pick.

QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville:

Individual Success: All of Jackson’s numbers are as good or better than last season’s, when he won the Heisman Trophy. His completion percentage is up (56.2 percent to 60.4), as are his yards per attempt (8.66 to 8.74) with fewer interceptions (9 to 6) for a higher rating, and more yards per carry (6.8 to 6.1). Jackson has six 300-yard passing games and nine 100-yard rushing games. It’s hard to repeat but impossible to ignore those Heisman-esque numbers.

Team Success: While the overall record isn’t that different (9-3 to 8-4) it feels very different. Last season, Jackson led the Cardinals to a 63-20 upset blowout over No. 2 Florida State and two weeks later they lost a 42-36 classic in Death Valley at No. 5 Clemson. They were 9-1 in their first 10 games, so Jackson had pretty much locked up the trophy by the time they ended the season with losses to Houston and Kentucky. This season there were no marque wins, they finished 0-2 against ranked teams, and were blown out by Clemson at home, 47-21.  

NFL Draft: The evaluation of Jackson is that he’s a better athlete than he is a quarterback right now. He needs to bulk up, get stronger, and work on his pocket passing. Having said that, he projects as no lower than a Day 2 selection, with some slotting him in the first-round.  

RB Bryce Love, Stanford:

Individual Success: Backing up Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey, Love flashed his big-play ability when he averaged 7.0 yards per carry as a sophomore. This season he did something very few runners do when asked to carry the load and see a major increase in touches. Love was even more effective, picking up 8.3 yards per pop on his way to a whopping 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns. So explosive, Love led the nation with his 12 rushes of 50-plus yards. If not for an ankle injury, which caused the Cardinal to miss a game and slowed him down in others, Love would have put up even gaudier numbers.

Team Success: For a running back, his team’s success isn’t as important as it is for the quarterbacks. Having said that, Stanford’s 9-4 season probably won’t help Love’s cause that much. They were outclassed by USC in Week 2, 42-24, and upset by San Diego State the following week to start the season 1-2, which probably hurt Love in terms of gaining national attention early on while everyone was focused on Saquon Barkley.  

NFL Draft: Probably a better runner than the aforementioned McCaffrey, who was a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, however not close to being the all-purpose talent that the Carolina Panther is. This is a strong running back class, led by the aforementioned Heisman-snub Saquan Barkley, with Love right in the mix as a potential first rounder.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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