Examining the Opening Heisman Trophy Odds From the Last Five Seasons

The early 2019 Heisman Trophy odds have been released by Bovada and we’ve already analyzed the odds of the frontrunners for next season’s award.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are the two favorites entering next season, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that Lawrence led the Tigers to a national championship and Tagovailoa was the Heisman runner-up last season.

We went ahead and examined Bovada’s opening Heisman Trophy odds from the last five seasons to analyze where past winners have stood during the January of their Heisman Trophy-winning year compared to the rest of the preseason frontrunners.

Here’s what we found.

The last two Heisman Trophy winners – former Oklahoma quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield – have had exact opposite placement among the initial odds, despite playing the same position for the same school.

Mayfield was the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy with 11/2 odds in 2017, just ahead of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (6-1) and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (7/1).

One year later, Murray wasn’t listed among the 23 players listed by Bovada, which included 13 quarterbacks.

Bovada had a similar disparity in how its initial odds compared to the final Heisman Trophy results in the previous two seasons in which a quarterback won the award.

Heisman Trophy Winner Year School Opening Bovada Odds Opening Rank
Kyler Murray 2018 Oklahoma N/A N/A
Baker Mayfield 2017 Oklahoma 11/2 1st
Lamar Jackson 2016 Louisville N/A N/A
Derrick Henry 2015 Alabama 14/1 T-8th
Marcus Mariota 2014 Oregon 7/2 2nd

 

Jackson, who won the Heisman in 2016, wasn’t listed among the sportsbook’s 13 frontrunners whose odds were released in mid-January of that year. But two years prior, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman after opening with the second-best odds of any player at 7/2, behind only Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (2/1).

Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who won the 2015 Heisman Trophy, split the difference of Mayfield and Mariota’s frontrunner status with the lack of initial odds for Murray and Jackson’s Heisman campaigns.

Henry was tied for eighth in early 2015 with 14/1 odds, while Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (6/1), Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (7/1), LSU’s Leonard Fournette (7/1) and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (15/2) were the clear top four candidates.

This examination of the last five years of Bovada’s opening Heisman Trophy odds tells us – for betting purposes or otherwise – that you’re best bet is to either go with one of the preseason favorites or a player who is completely off the radar, but has the potential to take the Heisman conversation by storm.

There also may be something to be said about preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunners struggling to compete with their own statistical precedents and lofty external expectations from the media.

Here’s a look at the players who had the top three opening Heisman Trophy odds in each of the last five seasons and where they ultimately finished in the Heisman voting. For players who finished outside of the top 10, we listed their ranking in the final Heisman voting as “N/A”.

Player Year School Position Opening Odds From Bovada Opening Rank Heisman Trophy Finish
Bryce Love 2018 Stanford RB 7/1 1st N/A
Jonathan Taylor 2018 Wisconsin RB 8/1 2nd 9th
Khalil Tate 2018 Arizona QB 9/1 3rd N/A
Baker Mayfield 2017 Oklahoma QB 11/2 1st 1st
J.T. Barrett 2017 Ohio State QB 6/1 2nd N/A
Lamar Jackson 2017 Louisville QB 7/1 3rd 3rd
Deshaun Watson 2016 Clemson QB 9/2 1st 2nd
Leonard Fournette 2016 LSU RB 5/1 T-2nd N/A
Christian McCaffrey 2016 Stanford RB 5/1 T-2nd 9th
Ezekiel Elliott 2015 Ohio State RB 6/1 1st 8th
Dak Prescott 2015 Mississippi State QB 7/1 T-2nd N/A
Leonard Fournette 2015 LSU RB 7/1 T-2nd 6th
Jameis Winston 2014 Florida State QB 2/1 1st 6th
Marcus Mariota 2014 Oregon QB 7/2 2nd 1st
Braxton Miller 2014 Ohio State QB 4/1 3rd N/A

 

Using Bovada’s top three Heisman Trophy candidates from the sportsbook’s opening odds, only nine of the 15 frontrunners finished in the top 10. Only four finished in the top five of the Heisman voting.

That tells us that if recent trends continue next season, roughly only one of next season’s early Heisman Trophy frontrunners — like Lawrence, Tagovailoa and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm — will finish among the top vote-getters for the 2019 Heisman Trophy.