Derwin James is one of the best players in college football, but can the Florida State defensive star win the Heisman?
No defense-first player has won the sport's most prestigious award since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.
The former Wolverine and NFL superstar is the only defensive player to win the award in its history.
There are plenty of huge quarterbacks and running backs, the two most common positions for the award, in contention, including defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. However, one college football expert, Sports Illustrated's Bruce Feldman, thinks James has a chance to break through.
He listed James as a "value pick" at 50/1 odds in his new Heisman column:
I know that defensive players, especially ones not really involved in the offense, have virtually no shot at the Heisman, but … James is special. He is a play-making machine that can be deployed all over the field in a variety of roles. If he has a monster performance and shows he’s the best player on the field in Week 1 against Alabama when all eyes will be on that game, he could give juice to a Heisman campaign. That said, will he then be able to consistently produce enough of the kind of numbers to hold voters attention?
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is Feldman's favorite, and he also likes trendy picks like USC's Sam Darnold, Penn State's Saquon Barkley, and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. He does seem to favor James, at least as a value bet proposition, over Jackson, who is at 8/1 to become the second-ever Heisman winner to repeat.
I'm not sure this is the year that defensive superstars get the love that they deserve from Heisman voters, but I'd love to see it, because there have been at least one or two since Woodson that should have won, or contended more seriously, for the trophy.