On Thursday night, Lamar Jackson won the Maxwell Award, which is given annually to the best player in college football. Deshaun Watson, however, won the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given annually to the best quarterback in college football. In fact, Watson became the fourth two-time winner of the award, joining Ty Detmer (BYU), Danny Wuerffel (Florida), and Jason White (Oklahoma).
Still, how is Jackson the best player in the country if he’s not even the best player at his position?
“They’re spreading the wealth,” former Heisman winner Eddie George said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Listen, both guys are deserving of it. Usually whoever wins the Maxwell wins the Heisman, so that could be a tell-tale sign, but who knows in this? I wouldn’t be surprised if Deshaun Watson wins it because he’s deserving of it. He was phenomenal last year and had a great year this year. I think the one blemish on his record was the loss against Pitt, but his numbers were still phenomenal. When you look at Lamar Jackson, you look at the total being – the arm, his ability to make plays in the passing game, but certainly his legs. He’s been phenomenal running the football.”
Jackson rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. That’s on top of throwing for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns.
“That’s hard to deny,” George said. “Either way, I think it’s going to come down to those two.”
Joining Jackson and Watson are Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and a pair of Oklahoma Sooners: Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook.
One player who never won the Heisman? And who was never even a Heisman finalist? Ezekiel Elliott, who posted back-to-back seasons of 1,800+ rushing yards and 2,000+ total yards at Ohio State. He also carried the Buckeyes to a national title and had 41 touchdowns in 2014-15.
But that’s fine. Elliott surely would have loved to win the Heisman Trophy, but he might be named Rookie of the Year or NFL MVP – or both.
“He (was the) the workhorse for the last two years at Ohio State,” said George, a former Buckeye, “and when he really came on against Wisconsin at the end of his sophomore year, I could see, Okay, this kid is NFL-ready.’ His football IQ is like no other. I had a chance to sit in on a couple meetings with him, and he’s telling the running back coach, ‘Listen, let me move over to this position because this is what the defensive tackle is going to do. I’ll move here, he pulls, it’ll open up a gap over here.’ Who does that as a sophomore? He’s reading the structure of the secondary, doing things that we learned as we get into the NFL. I’m not really surprise by the success he’s having because all of the work is not really done with the football in his hand. We see that, but without the football – in terms of blocking, understanding where to pick up blitzes – he is an asset in all areas.”
Elliott leads the league with 1,285 rushing yards. He is one of just three backs with more than 1,000 and the only one with more than 1,050. He’s also averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and his 12 touchdowns are just one behind LeGarrette Blount for the league lead.
“It’s phenomenal to see the success he’s having,” George said. “He’s on pace to have, what, 1,800 yards as a rookie? It doesn’t hurt that he’s behind one of the greatest offensive lines in the NFL, but certainly even behind a mediocre line, he’ll have tremendous success.”