2021 Heisman Predictions: Longshots to Add to Your Spencer Rattler Ticket

The 2021 Heisman Trophy is a toss-up. College football expert and handicapper Alex Kirshner gives us his Heisman predictions and picks for this year.
Alex Kirshner
Wed, August 18, 9:31 AM EDT

2021 Heisman Predictions: Heisman Trophy Picks & Odds

The Heisman Trophy is a unique place for college football futures bettors to place their wagers. On the one hand, the returns are great if you win. The consensus 2021 favorite, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, is at +800 instead of the typical -110 or so for a spread pick. On the other hand, there are only a few players with any serious chance to win, because the Heisman is almost exclusively for QBs and running backs on nationally elite teams. Occasionally a megastar receiver like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith in 2020 will crash the party, but Smith was the first non-QB, non-RB Heisman winner since Charles Woodson in 1997. Players outside the Power 5 conferences are also, at this point, entirely frozen out.

If you’re willing to let a sportsbook hold your money for a few months (the Heisman is typically awarded in early December), the Heisman race can be a good place to hunt value. That’s not always true, as some years the favorites don’t get great odds. But 2021’s race is fairly open, and that will translate into bigger payouts for bettors who wind up getting it right. Here are a few players worth considering as value opportunities, with odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

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2021 Heisman Trophy Predictions

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma QB @ +800

There isn’t usually much value to be found in the Heisman frontrunner. Last year, Ohio State’s Justin Fields was just +350. The year before, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was +250. Neither actually won the trophy. Rattler is ostensibly a longer shot than recent favorites, but I think he’s a pretty good bet at this number. Oklahoma should run through the Big 12 and at least be involved in the Playoff discussion until late in the season, which means Rattler will have a shot. He has the most arm talent of any QB in the country, and Oklahoma’s coaching staff and skill position players will give him everything he needs to pile up excellent stats. If he pares back his turnovers a bit, as I think he will, then +800 might even feel like a bargain.

DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson QB @ +1100

Uiagalelei has a cannon arm, and most importantly, he’s the undisputed starting QB for a team that will breeze through the ACC and make the Playoff as long as he’s healthy. There is no reason to think Clemson won’t make light work of its entire schedule after it sees Georgia in Week 1 (more on the Dawgs in a moment), and that will put Uiagalelei in contention after he played well in limited action as a true freshman. He’s a solid No. 2 option after Rattler.

JT Daniels, Georgia QB @ +1200

Zamir White, Georgia RB @ +10000

If you think Alabama is due for a slight step backward and Georgia will win the SEC –– a defensible position, though far from a guarantee –– then it would make sense to try UGA’s QB or starting running back in this spot. Daniels is the much likelier winner of the two, but White is not an insane lottery ticket for the Heisman either. He meets the profile of a featured running back on a potential unbeaten or one-loss team who could get to around 1,500 yards and score a bunch of touchdowns. Beware that the Dawgs have a lot of talented running backs and might deploy a committee approach at times, which would lower White’s value here.

Click here for the latest 2021 Heisman odds

Bryce Young, Alabama QB @ +1200

Obviously, you can do a lot worse than picking the five-star starting quarterback of the best team in the country. Last year, Mac Jones, a QB with far fewer physical gifts than Young, slid into the Crimson Tide’s offense seamlessly and had one of the best passing seasons anyone in college football has ever had. There is no particular reason Young couldn’t do the same thing, though it’s worth noting that Bama has lost a lot from the offense Jones stewarded in 2020. I’m not concerned about Bama’s ability to replenish its running back and wide receiver rooms after the losses of Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, but I have a slightly higher degree of worry about how Bill O’Brien will do replacing Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator. There is a chance that turns out to be silly; Nick Saban has cycled through coordinators plenty of times, and none of that has slowed Bama down much.

CJ Stroud, Ohio State QB @ +1600

Stroud is the likely starting quarterback for the team that is almost certainly going to win the Big Ten and have a great shot at the Playoff. He’s a redshirt freshman and has never taken a collegiate snap in a live game, but the mere fact of his position on this team makes him a factor in the Heisman race. I much prefer him at +1600 than North Carolina’s Sam Howell or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral at the same rate. Howell and Corral are established passers who should be great this season, but neither of their teams will be good enough for them to contend for the Heisman in a meaningful way. (Maybe one will be a finalist, but being a finalist and winning are completely different things.) Does this reveal something silly about the effect a team has on an individual award like the Heisman? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it’s changing.

Justyn Ross, Clemson WR @ +10000

John Metchie, Alabama WR @ +10000

For the most part, this is a boring list of bets. That’s because the Heisman is predictable. Almost all of the time, the only serious options are QBs and running backs on the top teams. But Smith showed last year that a receiver in the right circumstance can win it, too, and Ross and Metchie seem like the best positioned wideouts to garner that consideration this year. They aren’t necessarily the two best receivers in the country, but they are close, and unlike Ohio State’s Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, they won’t need to share targets with one another. If you want to try a long shot for a huge return, these are the receivers worth looking at. If you want to bet on someone other than a QB, running back, or receiver, the best advice is simpler: Don’t.

2021 Heisman Odds

Player Heisman Odds
Spencer Rattler +800
DJ Ulagalelei +1100
Bryce Young +1200
JT Daniels +1200
CJ Stroud +1600
Sam Howell +1700
D'Eriq King +2500
Kedon Slovis +2800
Bijan Robinson +3000
Matt Coral +3500

Full 2021 Heisman Trophy odds here

Bryce YoungHeisman Trophy - Winner
Alex Kirshner
alex_kirshner
Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.
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