Calculating Perception

Separating Heisman Contenders

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

At least that is the motto of the most highly sought after individual award in college football. We all know it is an offensive based award, typically given to the best player on a National Title contending team. The correctness of that process can be debated, and is each season.

Raw statistics are usually the foundation of any argument, but those box score figures are much more difficult to compare at the college level than the NFL due to differences in approach on offense. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Enter the concept of Market Share.

I picked up market share from Jon Moore a few years ago. With the variance of collegiate offenses, it makes much more sense than citing simple box score figures for skill position players, namely running backs and receivers.

The 11 names below seem to be brought up more than others. As we all know, a few more candidates might emerge before the season is over. For now, let’s run with this 11.


Passing Market Share total yds MS total TDs % of 20+ yd plays 3rd down Conv % Air Yards
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma 62.02% 63.79% 17.97% 37.50% 46.90%
Deshaun Watson, Clemson 63.29% 62.22% 17.59% 38.89% 49.60%
Luke Falk, Washington St 82.61% 81.40% 14.58% 40.18% 44.10%

How similar are Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson? The difference for the two could come down to which team qualifies for the College Football Playoff. Clemson currently stands undefeated and ranked as the No. 1 team in the country. Watson has come a long way, as many of these figures were much lower earlier in the season. He has played at a high level in recent weeks… But so has Baker Mayfield. His mobility to avoid sacks cannot be put into numbers, but it is a trait Oklahoma has leaned on this season… Luke Falk is an interesting case. We all know Mike Leach heavily sides with the passing game, and it is uncommon to find one facet of the offense (passing, in this case) make up over 80% of the school’s total yardage.


Rushing Market Share rush MS total TDs MS rec yds % of 20+ runs YAC avg
Dalvin Cook, FSU 74.65% 41.67% 7.97% 10% 4.5
Derrick Henry, Alabama 73.16% 54.29% 3.14% 5.42% 3.6
Leonard Fournette, LSU 64.73% 45.95% 6.28% 6.07% 4
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford 60.15% 21.74% 16.52% 4.33% 2.6
Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State 58.21% 35.56% 8.11% 3.64% 3.5
Keenan Reynolds, Navy 30.78% 48.84% N/A 3.85% N/A

I know Derrick Henry is considered the frontrunner at this time, but Dalvin Cook’s season has been more impressive based on these numbers. Consider that Cook still accounts for a higher percentage of the school’s rushing and receiving yards despite missing a game and a half of action due to injury (hamstring and ankle). Add on the fact that Dalvin Cook stands alone in big play runs (10 percent is a huge figure) and yards after contact. The FSU running back is putting up numbers similar to Ezekiel Elliott’s dominant three game stretch to end last year, but for the entire season. Dalvin Cook has been the best running back in the country this season, but might not even be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony… That is not to say Derrick Henry has not been outstanding. He has. I’m an advocate of Henry’s in terms of his NFL projection. It is amazing how his numbers actually improve against better competition (top 25 ranked teams)... Leonard Fournette’s numbers could be higher. There were a couple of games where he barely saw the field in the second half after running over opponents in the first half… Christian McCaffrey’s importance to Stanford’s offense is easy to see. He is their lead ball carrier and one of their most reliable playmakers in the passing game… I’m a big fan of Ezekiel Elliott’s game, but as of now he doesn’t really belong in this group based on production.


Receiving Market Share rec yds MS total TDs YAC avg % of 20+ rec % of Targets Caught
Corey Coleman, Baylor 39.50% 29.85% 8.2 36.07% 67.80%
Josh Doctson, TCU 35.21% 26.42% 3.9 25.32% 72.20%

You all know what I think of Corey Coleman. He is a total stud. Many point out his 20 touchdowns, but the market share of total team touchdowns puts it into perspective a bit better than the raw figure. Baylor scores a lot, and he owns a good, but not ridiculous, percentage of them. As of now, neither Josh Doctson nor Corey Coleman seem to have a realistic chance of winning the award, but there is still time left.

Thanks to NBC Sports’ recent relationship with Pro Football Focus, a few pieces of important data (at least I think so) can now be accessed. That includes: Air Yards, WR yards after catch, Percent of targets caught and yards after contact. The PFF college crew puts in a lot of work, so I thank them for these figures.

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