Joe Burrow‘s unique path to the Heisman Trophy will never be forgotten, especially in Louisiana and Ohio.

Burrow went from Ohio State backup to mostly unwanted transfer (whoops, Nebraska), and then from solid, unspectacular signal-caller to having the greatest season by a quarterback in SEC history. He joins Billy Cannon as LSU’s only Heisman winners.

There was zero drama Saturday night in New York, as Burrow won the Heisman by the largest margin in history. Given the inevitability of this year’s winner, some who watched the ceremony might have started thinking about the 2020 race.

With that in mind, here’s a way-too-early look at next season’s top Heisman Trophy contenders. Although many non-seniors haven’t formally made their NFL draft decisions, players widely expected to depart aren’t included. If a player has unique circumstances that affect his draft decision, like injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, I included him.

The good news for those not appearing below: Burrow appeared on few if any of these lists a year ago.

Let’s get to 12 candidates for the 2020 Heisman:


He had Heisman-worthy numbers in 2019, and after finishing third to Burrow, will be among the top candidates for the award next fall. The Georgia transfer arrived with incredible fanfare but also some concerns, as he had struggled with accuracy and interceptions in Athens. But Fields blossomed under Ryan Day and the Ohio State coaching staff, completing 67.5% of his passes for 2,953 yards with 40 touchdowns and, most impressively, only one interception. Fields also gained 473 rush yards and 10 touchdowns, and repeatedly converted key third-down situations.

“He just extends plays,” said a defensive coordinator who faced Fields. “All of a sudden, you get everybody covered, you’re blitzing, it doesn’t matter.”

His ability to read defenses should only get better in 2020, as his lone weakness is holding on to the ball too long at times.

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