If a wide receiver is going to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy, it will likely be Marqise Lee or Sammy Watkins. Both terrific players and offensive game-changers, they put up the eye-popping numbers and should be even better as they enter their junior seasons.
Now the question is: Who is the best bet to win the award?
The answer is Lee without hesitation. The engine that makes that USC offense go, Lee was the reason the Trojans season wasn't a complete failure and the team at least qualified for a bowl game. Although Watkins is fun to watch and great in his own right, Lee is a completely different animal.
Lee Is Cut from a Different Cloth
Before you can begin talking about these receivers as a Heisman candidate, it is important to know just how great Lee actually is. Leading the country last year with 118 receptions, finishing second with 1,405 yards and tied for third with 14 touchdowns, Lee is one of the best receivers this sport has seen in the last 10 years.
Stanford head coach David Shaw said Lee is the best receiver he has seen since Randy Moss. While it is too soon to start building statues and throwing him into the Hall of Fame, Lee does have that type of potential. This is why Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN considers him the third best player on his 2014 NFL draft big board.
Some would say Watkins is the best big-play receiver and is the most dangerous in the open field. Think again.
While Lee plays bigger and has more leaping ability to make those tougher catches downfield, he has also shown he is just as dangerous after the catch and can outrun defenders. He isn't as elusive as Watkins is, but he has more than enough speed to go the distance and is just as a threat to score anytime the ball is in his hands.
Watkins is a little more one-dimensional than Lee, and that will play a huge factor in why the USC receiver is a better Heisman candidate.
Sammy Watkins Must Prove Himself Again
No, this isn't questioning Watkins ability on the field. He has established himself as one of the top players at his position in two short seasons. The problem that he does have is building that much needed momentum to enter serious Heisman discussions.
Watkins had a disappointing season that started with him getting suspended for the first two games. He then missed the contest against Boston College due to a virus and left the bowl game early after suffering a leg injury. Besides missing four games, Watkins also finished three games with only four receptions. In 13 games in 2011, the Clemson star only had three games with four or fewer receptions.
For the first time in his young career, Watkins will be expected to be the No. 1 option in this offense. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is no longer on the team to take away the double-coverage and the running back threat of Andre Ellington has been removed. The coverage will now shift over towards Watkins and his life will get a lot more difficult.
Lee topped Robert Woods last season and quickly became the guy defenses had nightmares about. Showing him different looks and putting multiple guys in his area, Lee still had a season for the ages, and there hasn't been a coverage tried yet that has slowed him down.
The USC receiver has proven he can hold his own as the No. 1 option and has momentum carrying him into the new season. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for Watkins.
Tajh Boyd Factor
The Heisman has become an award for the quarterbacks. No matter what a wide receiver, running back or defensive player does, chances are the award is going to one of the pretty boys.
Don't believe me?
But let's assume one of these two players actually has a chance. It would certainly be Lee. Clemson has a legitimate Heisman candidate at quarterback in Tajh Boyd. Topping more than 3,800 yards in each of the last two seasons and throwing 73 touchdowns in his career, Boyd has solidified himself as one of college football's best.
No matter what Watkins does, much of his production will come off the hand of his quarterback. Whatever numbers he puts up, Boyd is benefiting as well. He is in a lose-lose situation as far as this award is concerned.
As for Lee, well, nobody can even name the USC starting quarterback, and once he's announced, most of the college football world won't know much about him. Lee is in a rare situation, as he doesn't have a legitimate quarterback at the moment, and there certainly aren't any with a big name.
Unless a USC quarterback has a Johnny Manziel-type season, there is no chance at a Heisman, which plays into Lee's favor. Without any type of buzz entering the season, this award is a mountain to climb.
Watkins will benefit greatly having a quarterback he is comfortable with, but statistics show that Boyd has a better chance of going to New York than a wide receiver. Lee can take advantage of not having a star quarterback and earn serious consideration for the award.
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