NFL Outlooks for This Year’s Heisman Finalists

NFL Outlooks for This Year’s Heisman Finalists

On Saturday, the 2016 Heisman Trophy will be awarded to either Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Dede Westbrook, or Jabrill Peppers. Naturally, these names will be some of the most prominent in the next two NFL drafts. The Heisman Trophy has produced some incredible pro talent with recipients like Cam Newton, Charles Woodson, Barry Sanders, and Bo Jackson. It has also produced a lot of duds with Tim Tebow, Troy Smith, Johnny Manziel, and Matt Leinart in the ranks. So what’s the NFL outlook for this years Heisman class? Red Seat Sports has got you covered.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

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College: Lamar “Action” Jackson has been the headlining act of the 2016 college football season. He has torched defense after defense with his legs and deep passes. Jackson finished the season with 3390 passing yards, 1538 rushing yards, and 51 total touchdowns—21 of which came on the ground. Though his production tailed off a little in the second half of the season, Jackson remained an electrifying presence on the field. He is the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

NFL Outlook: Most people are quick to assume that Lamar Jackson’s incredible production will carry over to the NFL. I have a different take. What run-first college quarterbacks have become successful NFL quarterbacks? They have all failed. The talents of Tim Tebow, RGIII, Vince Young, Johnny Manziel, and many more never translated to success in the pros. Even Michael Vick, who had some good years, met his demise. All it takes to stop a running quarterback is a skilled and disciplined defense—which every NFL defense is. Not to mention the injury risk of exposing himself on the run. Lamar has at least another season to prove me wrong and show me he can stay in the pocket and make accurate throws. But this season, Jackson threw a mediocre 57.6% completion rate. He is the quintessential “college-style quarterback.”

Draft Prediction: Lamar Jackson will have another electric 2017 season, but still be a run-first quarterback. However, NFL teams have an insatiable desire to draft quarterbacks. Someone will make the mistake of taking him in the first of the 2018 draft.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

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College: Deshaun Watson has taken the Tigers to two straight College Football Playoffs. This is his second year in a row as a Heisman Finalist. Watson is the best combination of throwing and running ability in college football. He collected 3914 passing yards and 37 passing TDs in 2016. He also tacked on another 524 yards and 6 TDs on the ground. Watson has been a revelation for Clemson over the past three seasons. The Tigers ranked 10th in ESPN’s offensive efficiency and 6th in total yards this year. In one of the highest profile games of the season, Deshaun Watson took down Lamar Jackson’s Cardinals 42-36.

NFL Outlook: Going into the season, many people had Watson as their projected number one draft pick. However, Watson did not make strides many scouts hoped for. Although Watson shows flashes of pinpoint accuracy, he often misses easy throws. On top of that, Watson threw 15 interceptions this season. Despite his struggles, Deshaun still maintains his strong arm and ability to scramble, making him a desirable NFL QB. Watson is expected to enter the draft this year, giving him a couple scouting days and a combine to show improved accuracy.

NFL Draft: Going into the season, some mock drafts had Watson going first overall. Now people are projecting a 2-3 round landing spot for the Tiger. I see him going in the second round, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he went earlier.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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College: Baker Mayfield has been incredible in college. At Texas Tech in 2013, Mayfield became the first ever true freshman walk-on to start a season opener. After passing for a 127.7 rating in his first year at Tech, he transferred to Oklahoma—without telling anyone. No Texas Tech coach. No Oklahoma coach. No one. Mayfield then walked on to his second Big 12 team, commanded the starting job, and passed for the fourth highest passer rating in the country. That brings us to this season, where Mayfield led the Sooners to a Big 12 championship passing for 3669 yards, 38 touchdowns (44 total TDs), a 71.2% completion rate, and a nation-leading 197.8 passer rating (the second highest is 183.9 by a QB from Toledo). Baker Mayfield is the man.

NFL Outlook: Baker Mayfield announced plans of returning for his senior season so the NFL draft will have to wait. Mayfield has incredible accuracy, completing 70% of his passes and throwing only 15 picks during his time at Oklahoma. While Mayfield’s talent is undeniable, scouts have some concerns. When facing pressure in the pocket, Mayfield tends to make frantic decisions—scrambling when he doesn’t have to, throwing the ball away too early, and failing to see open receivers down the field. Mayfield’s weaknesses were clearly displayed in this year’s loss to Ohio State and last year’s loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. To be an NFL quarterback, he needs to establish a stronger pocket presence. These things come with age and experience. Returning as a Heisman favorite, Baker Mayfield can mature as a quarterback next year and prove to NFL scouts he has what it takes.

Draft Prediction: Mayfield’s pocket presence will improve. He’ll be taken late first/early second round of the 2018 draft.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

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College: The AP Big 12 offensive player of the year and Biletnikoff Award winner finished the season with 74 receptions for 1465 yards and 16 TDs on 19.8 yards per catch. Wesbrook’s 16 TDs put him second in the nation among receivers, earning him the nickname “Tede” (Get it? Ha!). His 1465 receiving yards put him fifth in the nation. What’s even more impressive is his production after week three, when he was done nursing an injury. During that nine game stretch, Westbrook averaged an absurd 145 yards and 2 touchdowns a game. Dede Westbrook was Baker Mayfield’s favorite target by far. Oklahoma’s second receiver finished with only 30% of the total yardage Dede accrued.

NFL Outlook: Out of the five finalists, Dede Westbrook has the most to gain from the Combine. Dede stands at only 6’0” and weighs in at a rail-thin 174. Westbrook will not be able to rely on his speed and agility against NFL secondaries like he did in college. He will need to bulk up. If he does this and displays a newfound strength at the Combine, his draft stock will skyrocket. On the upside, Dede is very fast and has incredibly reliable hands. He projects  as a slot receiver in the pros.

Draft Prediction: I see Westbrook bulking up and putting on an impressive show at the Combine. He’ll go in the middle of the 2nd round.

Jabrill Peppers, LB/U, Michigan

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College: Compared to some of these other guys, Peppers doesn’t have an earth shattering stat line. What makes Peppers stand out is his versatility. Jabrill had 66 tackles, 1 interception, 162 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 2 receptions, and 570 return yards. He’s played 15 positions this year alone. Jabrill Peppers as a Heisman finalist is a nod to his athleticism and versatility. Peppers is widely considered the most athletic player in all of college football. This offseason Jabrill clocked a 4.34 40 yard dash—a faster time than any linebacker in the past decade. Peppers stats do not compare to other top defenders—the tackles leader has 165 compared to Peppers’ 66—and his offensive stats don’t compare to anyone. Peppers is an exciting player to watch, but he is the least deserving of the Heisman finalists. Peppers even said that he would vote for Watson for Heisman over himself.

NFL Outlook: Even though Peppers might not have the stats for the Heisman, NFL scouts are salivating over him. His raw athleticism is unparalleled in college football. Peppers can be drafted to play linebacker, safety, or cornerback. He is expected to put up one of the fastest 40 yard dash times at the combine and excel in every other event. Peppers has the tools to be an elite NFL defender.

Draft Prediction: Jabrill Peppers is expected to be one of the first defenders off the board. He will go in the early-mid first round.

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