This article is part of our College Football Picks series.
Heisman Watch: Odds, Favorites, Longshots and Heisman Winner Picks for the 2022 College Football Season
The college football offseason has been filled with movement from players, coaches and even teams themselves. All this off-field drama will lead to some very intriguing storylines for a number of Heisman hopefuls heading into the 2022 regular season. While this award has historically skewed towards ultra-productive quarterbacks, voters are typically drawn to the best overall player on one of the nation's best teams. Therefore, there are a few non-quarterbacks, both on the outside and the other side of the ball, who could make strong Heisman cases this coming season as well.
2022 Heisman Trophy Odds
- C.J. Stroud, Ohio State +275 (PointsBet)
- Bryce Young, Alabama +400 (FanDuel)
- Caleb Williams, USC +800 (PointsBet)
- Bijan Robinson, Texas +5000 (FanDuel)
- Will Anderson, Alabama +4000 (FanDuel)
- Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma +4000 (PointsBet)
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State +5000 (FanDuel)
- Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (FL) +3500 (DraftKings)
- TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State +6000 (FanDuel)
- Quinn Ewers, Texas +4000 (FanDuel)
2022 Heisman Trophy Bets
C.J. Stroud, Quarterback, Ohio State +275 at PointsBet
Stroud has overtaken 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young as the odds-on favorite to win the award this year - and for good reason. The Ohio State quarterback put up near-identical numbers to his Alabama counterpart last season, throwing for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns to six interceptions while completing 71.9 percent of his passes. Quarterbacks have increasingly dominated Heisman voting over the past decade, but Young would likely need to outperform his 2021 Heisman campaign if he wants to become the nation's first repeat winner since 1975. On the other side of the Mason Dixon line, Stroud appears better poised to repeat if not exceed his numbers from last season.
Ohio State lost wideouts Chris Olave and Garret Wilson to the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but this shouldn't hold back Stroud heading into his sophomore season. Stroud already showed what he can do without these two when he put up a comical 573 passing yards, 80.4 percent completion percentage and six touchdowns in a 48-45 Rose Bowl win over Utah. Stroud is set up with everything he needs to pilot another statistically dominant offense in 2022. This includes an immensely talented corps of wideouts headlined by Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who led the Buckeyes in catches and receiving yards last season. Smith-Njigba will likely be one of Stroud's top competitors for the Heisman, and the two should help carry the Buckeyes to double-digit wins and a college football playoff berth (two of the award's unofficial requirements).
Caleb Williams, USC +800 at PointsBet
Offensive guru Lincoln Riley was nothing short of a Heisman-Trophy kingmaker during his tenure as Oklahoma's head coach: Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts all finished in the top two of Heisman voting in consecutive seasons from 2017 to 2019. After following Riley out to Los Angeles via the transfer portal, Williams now looks like the next in line to bask in the quarterback limelight emanating from his head coach.
The former top-ranked quarterback recruit was the real deal after stepping in as Oklahoma's starting signal-caller last season, tossing for 1,810 yards and a 21-to-4 TD:INT ratio along with an additional 381 yards and five scores on the ground. However, the sophomore may need to more than double this eight-game output if he wants to hear his name called in New York this December. Luckily, Williams was just one member of the No. 1 ranked class of transfer that followed Riley to southern California. Throwing to last year's Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison, as well as transfers Mario Williams and Brendan Rice, should help bolster Williams' production at USC.
Six of the eight Heisman Trophy winners during the CFP era have been quarterbacks, but only one of them (Lamar Jackson) did not play for a CFP contender. So, while it's unlikely that USC will be able to compete for a national title in the first season under Riley, Williams may have the natural talent combined with the right situation to flourish in a way similar to Jackson's Heisman-winning 2016 season. No matter what, there will be no shortage of eyeballs to judge Williams' performance, as USC's games should stack up with the best Hollywood has to offer on a weekly basis throughout the fall of 2022.
Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma +4000 at PointsBet
One quarterback's former program is another's perfect situation. Or so said Dillon Gabriel after taking the place of Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler as the Sooners' starting quarterback in 2022. Gabriel faces the tall task of steadying Oklahoma's program after a wild ride on the coaching and transfer portal carousel this offseason. However, it's this set of unique circumstances that makes Oklahoma the perfect situation for the senior quarterback's shot at a Heisman Trophy in 2022.
Gabriel enjoyed a prolific career while starting the past three seasons for UCF, passing for more than 8,000 yards and a 70-to-14 TD:INT ratio over 26 games, before he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone three weeks into the 2021 campaign. After initially committing to UCLA, Gabriel changed course to join up with his former offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby in Oklahoma. His job as a passer won't get any easier as he graduates to the Power 5 level, however, as the Big 12's top teams have become increasingly defensive-minded over the past few seasons. First-time head coach Brent Venables brings a decade-long pedigree as the defensive play caller for Clemson, which should help the Sooners keep pace on this side of the ball. Overcoming the adversities of a season-ending injury and keeping a storied program on track despite the offseason turmoil, all en route to a conference championship and, presumably, a College Football Playoff berth would check all the boxes for the picture-perfect Heisman story.
This story arc seems to have resonated with bettors too, as Gabriel has become an increasingly popular pick to win the Heisman in 2022. Though he was a better value pick earlier in the offseason, this not-so-unreasonable storyline might be enough to capture the hearts and minds of the notoriously narrative-driven Heisman voters come this December.
Will Anderson, Alabama +4000 at FanDuel
While it's widely accepted that someone must be the best player on their own team to win the Heisman Trophy, one could easily make the case that quarterback Bryce Young was actually Alabama's second-best player when he won the prestigious award last season. Edge rusher Will Anderson put together a monstrous 2021 season, including 102 tackles and an FBS-best 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks; yet, he finished last year's Heisman voting just outside the list of four finalists (a group which somehow included No. 2 finisher and fellow edge defender Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan).
How Anderson fell behind any other defender in last year's voting is nothing short of puzzling. Perhaps he was held back by an Alabama defense that didn't quite live up to its annual standards. At the end of the day, the Heisman trophy does carry a strong narrative component that tends to favor offensive players and namely quarterbacks. So, for a defensive player to win the award likely means they both served an indispensable role on a nationally dominant unit while also breaking single-season records that previously seemed insurmountable. Heading into his junior and likely final collegiate campaign, Anderson should have a prime opportunity to achieve both of these lofty standards.
A logical benchmark for individual success could be Alabama's single-season sack record (27) set by Derrick Thomas in 1988. Opposing offenses will be reluctant to shift too much pass blocking help to Anderson's side given the rest of Alabama's imposing defensive frontline, which includes up-and-coming pass rusher Dallas Turner. So long as the Crimson Tide's 2022 defense presumably improves from its lackluster showing last season, this team should be a virtual lock to make the College Football Playoff with Young also under center once again. Anderson will need at least a few factors to break his way, but he has the freakish talent and the right situation to become the first defensive player to take home the Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson in 1997.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State +5000 at FanDuel
Smith-Njigba was one of the most productive wide receivers in college football while playing alongside two future first-round picks in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as the now junior wideout led the Buckeyes in targets (112), catches (95), receiving yards (1,606) and yards per catch (16.9) last season! Smith-Njigba cemented his star reputation with a breakout Rose Bowl performance against Utah earlier this year, and he will now be able to build upon this status as the Buckeyes' undisputed No. 1 receiver. The likely 2023 first-round pick already has an established connection with quarterback C.J. Stroud, and the danger posed by the rest of Ohio State's highly talented, though inexperienced receiving corps - which includes Marvin Harrison Jr along with two former top-receiver recruits in Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming - should be enough to deter opposing defenses from committing too much attention towards Smith-Njigba.
DeVonta Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns en route to his 2020 Heisman campaign, making him just the third-ever wide receiver to take home the award in its 87-year history. Smith-Njigba caught just nine touchdowns last season, so he will need to find paydirt with more regularity to become the fourth member of this exclusive club of pass catchers. The variance that comes along with receiving touchdowns makes this final number difficult to predict for Smith-Njigba, but he has the quarterback, role and surrounding skill talent to make it all come together.